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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Speaking in Tongues

Don Stewart :: If Certain Tongue Speaking Does Not Come from God, Where Does It Come From?

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If Certain Tongue Speaking Does Not Come from God, Where Does It Come From?

The Gift of Speaking in Tongues – Question 21

Some say that if tongue-speaking does not come from God, the source must be Satan. It is indeed possible that some tongue-speaking may originate from Satan. Jesus referred to him as the father of lies.

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44 NASB).

However, there can also be tongue-speaking that originates from the speaker’s human nature. Someone, with the best of intentions, a person can speak out believing that he or she is speaking in tongues. If this utterance is not a gift from God, we do not need to attribute it to the devil, but rather the exuberance of the person speaking. We need to make a few observations about this issue.

There Are Four Possibilities as to Where the Tongues Originate

If one assumes that speaking in tongues is a valid spiritual gift today, then when it is exercised in a congregation there are basically four possibilities to its origin. They can be summed up as follows.

  1. The tongue is an earthly language unknown to the speaker but known to someone in the congregation.
  2. The tongue is a known earthly language or a heavenly language which is unknown to anyone in the congregation. In this case also someone must give an interpretation.
  3. The tongue is a non-rational ecstatic utterance that originates from the mind of the speaker.
  4. The tongue-speaking is demonic and comes from a counterfeit spirit.

Possibility 1: The Tongues Was Unknown to Speaker but Known to a Member of the Congregation

The first possibility is that the tongue spoken is in an actual earthly language that is unknown to the speaker but known by some member or members in the congregation. This is what occurred on the Day of Pentecost. When God sent the fullness of the Holy Spirit to His disciples (Acts 2:1-11) the disciples spoke in at least twelve recognized dialects.

Scripture says the following.

When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language (Acts 2:6 NIV).

This may occur in some special circumstance where a visitor to the congregation cannot easily understand the language in which the service is conducted.

The problem with this idea is that the Apostle Paul said tongue-speaking should not occur in the church unless there was an interpreter present. This is not someone who speaks the language but rather someone who has the supernatural gift of interpreting what the tongue said.

Possibility 2: The Tongue Was Unknown to the Speaker and the Congregation

The second possibility is that the gift of tongues is spoken in a language that is unknown to the speaker as well as everyone in the congregation. This could be a known earthly language or some type of heavenly language. This is possibly the type of tongue speaking that is referred to by the Apostle Paul.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1 NRSV).
Paul Talked of Speaking in Angelic Languages

Paul also said that such speaking is directed at God, not humans.

For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:2 NKJV)

There are those who deny that Paul had in mind angelic languages when he made these statements. They do not believe that Paul meant that people could actually speak in heavenly languages. They think he mentioned it as hyperbole; exaggeration for emphasis sake.

However, the same problem would occur for a congregation if the tongue-speaker spoke in a known earthly language which was unknown to anyone at the church service. An interpretation would be required.

The Tongue Language Requires Interpretation

Thus, this type of tongue-speaking requires an interpretation that must be done publicly. Paul wrote that everything which takes place in the church needs to be done for the building up of the congregation, not the person exercising the gift. He wrote.

Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:4 NRSV).

It was the assembly or congregation that needed to be built up rather than the individual.

Paul also said.

Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue (1 Corinthians 14:19 NRSV).

This shows his desire to speak intelligibly to the believers.

Paul then gave the following emphasis.

But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God (1 Corinthians 14:28 NKJV).

From these statements of Paul we find that this type of tongue speaking is not encouraged for a worship service. The emphasis is on teaching in a language that everyone understands; it is not speaking in languages that people do not understand.

Although the language spoken in tongues may not be known this does not mean that someone rambles on in mindless babbling. The genuine gift of tongues will result in the person speaking some language – whether known or unknown.

Possibility 3: Some May Speak with Religious Emotionalism

It is also possible that some of those who speak with tongues are doing so because of a psychological reason that is unconnected to anything spiritual. This type of tongue speaking has nothing to do with the demonic or the Holy Spirit – it is merely a human attempt to use the biblical gift.

In this case, the person, with the best of intentions, attempts to speak with tongues and the outcome is their own ecstatic babbling rather than the supernatural gift. While the intentions are honorable, the result is not something that is lead by the Spirit of God.

Possibility 4: There May Be Demonic Influence

There is also the possibility that the person speaking in tongues is doing so under some demonic influence. Pagan priests, witch doctors, spiritualistic mediums, and others speak in tongues as part of their frenzied religious rituals.

In the first century world there were temple prostitutes connected with the various pagan religions who would speak in tongues in a ritual preparation. It has been argued that this type of demonic tongue speaking may be the reason why Paul forbade women to speak in tongues in the Corinthian church. He wrote.

Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says (1 Corinthians 14:34 NRSV).

In some sense, women are not permitted to speak.

Paul has made it clear that women could prophesy and pray in the assembly.

But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved (1 Corinthians 11:5 NRSV).

Therefore, his statement concerning women keeping silent may refer to speaking in tongues. He may have said that to keep anyone from mistaking the New Testament gift from the demonic utterances of the pagan prostitutes.

Whatever the case may be, there has been, and continues to be, tongue speaking that is demonically inspired.

No Matter What, the Spirits Should Be Tested

Whenever tongue speaking is exercised, the believers are encouraged to test the spirits. John wrote about this need.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1 NASB).

It is imperative that we test the spirits. This is something that is something which we must do.

There Is the Possibility That the Gift No Longer Exists

Each of these options we have looked at assumes that the gift of speaking in tongues is still valid today. However, this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, if the gift of tongues is no longer a valid spiritual gift, then all tongue speaking can be attributed to either emotionalism or some demonic source.

Summary – Question 21
If Certain Tongue Speaking Does Not Come from God, Where Does It Come From?

If the gift of speaking in tongues is still a valid spiritual gift then any tongue speaking that takes place can be placed in one of four categories.

It is an earthly language that is unknown to the speaker but known to someone in the congregation. In this case, the person in the congregation can testify to the miraculous nature of the gift.

There is the possibility that the tongues are a known earthly language but unknown to anyone in the assembly that has gathered. To make any sense of what has been said, it would require an interpreter. Some argue that the tongues exercised in the churches were an unknown heavenly language. If this is the case, then an interpreter was certainly needed.

Another option is that the speaker is self-generating the words rather than speaking by means of the Holy Spirit. While the person may have the best of intentions, his or her words come from their own heart and mind and not from the Lord.

The last possibility is that the tongue-speaking is demonically inspired. Indeed, there were pagans who spoke in tongues long before the time of Christ. This tongue-speaking was connected with religious rituals. This type of tongue-speaking still takes place today. Consequently, this is why the leaders of the church are told to judge or evaluate everything.

Of course, there is the possibility that God has withdrawn this particular spiritual gift. If the gift is no longer valid for use in the church today, then all tongue speaking is a result of demonic activity or self-generation. The key is to test everything by the Scripture.

Were the Tongues in Scripture Known Languages? ← Prior Section
Didn't Paul Have a Number of Good Things to Say about the Gift on Tongues? Next Section →
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