Home > Apostasy, Charismatics, Heresy > Speaking in Tongues: Sign of the Corinthian Confusion

Speaking in Tongues: Sign of the Corinthian Confusion

Dr. Mike Johnston

The subject of tongues is one of the most controversial topics in the Bible and I’ve been on both sides of the debate. In the past three decades of ministry I’ve seen it divide families and destroy churches as each side marshals its most compelling arguments and experiences into a bevy of name calling and insults that are both unwarranted and unchristian.

And it got them nowhere!

Please hear me. The issue before us isn’t whether or not tongues is or was a Spiritual gift since it is presented in that context some eighteen times in Scripture. What many of us want to know is: what were they? and are they still valid?

These questions can only be answered if we are willing to trade our theology texts and preconceived notions for the unwavering, unemotional, and unchanging teachings in the Word of God.

This tract does that by utilizing a fool-proof method of unbiased study.  While I’m not sure if you will agree with my conclusions, I do know this. You will remember the facts associated with this topic for a long long time. Are you interested?

Honest Biblical Hermeneutics

Rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) is a command Bible students should take very seriously. That’s where hermeneutics- a fancy word for the science of Biblical interpretation- comes into play. Without it we find ourselves gulping the same cup of spiritual soup most cults and their duped disciples drink from.

While there are a couple dozen hard and fast rules involved in this discipline, we can boil them down to two categories:  First are the empirical rules: the Bible alone—not our denominational texts or emotional experiences—is our only acceptable source of authority. Second, are the exegetical rules: the context of any passage studied, including original setting, writer, recipients, circumstances, word definitions, and a few other things, will determine what is meant in every situation.

The Law of First Mention

One of the laws of hermeneutics we’ll be using in our study of tongues is called the Law of First Mention (or the law of original usage). As the name suggests, it teaches us that the first time something appears in the Bible defines it throughout.  This rule keeps us from manipulating the Bible to our own advantage by assigning alternative teaching to previously established truth.

The Holy Spirit

In understanding Spiritual gifts (charisma), like tongues, we must first know something about the Holy Spirit from Whom they originate (1 Cor. 12:4, 11).

In the Old Testament,  during the Dispensation of the Law, the work of the Holy Spirit was different than it is today. He didn’t permanently indwell individuals (Psalm 51:11), He filled and empowered them for specific tasks, then departed upon completion (Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; Ezek. 3:24).

Power before Pentecost

After Christ’s resurrection, but prior to His ascension, He had not yet sent the Helper or  Comforter (Holy Spirit) to guide us and abide with us forever (John 14:16-18; 16:7). However, in His absence the disciples would still require spiritual anointing for ministry.

One day while they were hiding from the Jews, Jesus appeared and he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost (John 20:22). This carried them through until the new dispensation of grace and the formation of the church and its spiritual gifts made possible through . . .


The Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Charismatics use this term as a kind of “second blessing” that must be tarried for or otherwise sought subsequent to salvation. However if the Bible is our Guide we find this just isn’t true. While we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), nowhere are we commanded to be baptized by Him. Every born again believer has already been baptized in the Holy Spirit once and for all. In fact, it is impossible to be a Christian without this supernatural event. Paul wrote: For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body . . . and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). This is the way we became permanently seated together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6) and glorified forever (Rom. 8:30).


John the Baptist was the first person to use this phrase: I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than   I . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3:11). But Jesus alluded to this in His great teachings on the Holy Spirit (John 14-16) without fully revealing the extent of it until the day of His glorious ascension: He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Acts 1:4-5). And they were, 10 days later on the Day of Pentecost.

Pentecostal Tongues

Pentecost was one of three annual feasts that all male Jews were required to attend. On this particular day, some scholars estimate as many as one-hundred thousand were on hand as the first 120 believers were baptized into the Body and filled by the Holy Spirit simultaneously. Luke describes His arrival vividly for us: And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).


            Since this is the first mention of tongues, the Law of First Mention defines them and their use: the miraculous ability to preach the gospel in a specific language and dialect they had never learned (Acts 2:11).  If you know your Bible you will see that this was the direct fulfillment of the Lord’s teaching prior to the resurrection, that new believers would possess several sign gifts including speaking with new tongues (Mark 16:17).

Glossa or Gibberish?

The Greek word for tongues is glossa and is used 50 times; over half of which refer to “the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations” (Thayer).  There is absolutely no way you can misconstrue the Greek word glossa (tongues) to mean the kind of nonsensical gibberish passing for tongues in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles today. None! I believe the confusion surrounding tongues would completely evaporate if Christians would simply let the Bible say what it is saying.

The Purpose of Tongues

Everything God does is with purpose (Eph. 1:11). Tongues are no different; they were a sign to unbelieving Israel (1 Cor. 1:22; 14:22; see Isa. 28:11-12). My friend, lest we forget, Israel was chosen to herald God’s goodness to the world and Jesus was the promised Messiah of a glorious coming kingdom. However, knowing they would reject Him, the Lord Jesus instituted a parenthetical group known as the church (Matt. 16:18) to carry on His message up until she is removed (John 14:2-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-17).

Two facts stand out in the five major passages dealing with tongues (Acts 2; 19:6; 1 Cor. 12, 14; and Mark 16:17): They were always “known languages of the world”, and unbelieving Jews were in view as a sign: Acts 2 tongues are given to validate Peter’s message–Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 10 confirms Gentile salvation which Jews would otherwise reject. Acts 19 validates the conversion of some of John’s disciples. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, they signify

Messianic fulfillment to unbelieving Jews attending services at Corinth. Please listen my friend. Nowhere does the Bible state that speaking in tongues is a test of salvation or sanctification  as maintained by some groups. While the gospel of John was written specifically to show people how to be saved (Jn. 20:30-31) not one mention of tongues. And while God surely wants all Christians to be spiritually mature, 1 Cor. 12:29-30 clearly implies that not all will speak in tongues. To spin the purpose of tongues in another direction is disingenuous, or worse devious.

The Corinthian Chaos

It’s a bit ironic. Much of what we see passing for spirituality in the church today has been adopted from the antics of the most carnal church in the New Testament: the Corinthians. Paul the converted Rabbi, had become an apostle, missionary, evangelist-church planter preaching and teaching multitudes of Gentiles in multicultural settings (Rom. 11:13).

On his Second Missionary Journey all his skills and gifts were tested when he landed in Corinth for a year and one half. It was the capital of the Greek province of Achaia, located on a narrow isthmus 50 miles west of Athens, and served as the major sea trade route between Asia and Italy. By the time Paul penned his first letter to the church,  Corinth was a cosmopolitan melting pot for some 400,000 diverse residents. The Jews had captured the banking industry from the heathen priests which of course brought about a constant influx of Jews into the city where tongues, the sign to unbelieving Jews, were necessary and used extensively to prove God was moving in the Gentile community.

Occult Practices

The confusion about tongues in Corinth is easy to understand when you analyze their indigenous make-up. Besides Greeks and Jews, people of all nationalities, languages and dialects lived there or passed through. As a result, Corinth was religiously pluralistic and steeped in idolatry (1 Cor. 12:2) which ultimately morphed into an occult mecca where soothsayers, diviners, and spiritists filled the streets along with 1000 temple prostitutes who facilitated wild orgies at the altar of the sex goddess Aphrodite.

Ecstatic Utterances

Unintelligible prayer “tongues” was common in the Corinthian community but it is not orthodox or Christian. It is a desperately faulty ruse built upon one verse-1 Cor. 14:14- by practitioners that stubbornly ignore its lack of Scriptural support and occult link. Aside from heretics like Montanus, it was not seen in church until the 1900’s (order New Age Charismatic Corruption).

When the gift of speaking in previously unlearned languages surfaced in Corinth, the reference point for those who heard it was tied to idolatry in two ways: To those who were natives of the area, it sounded like the same old gibberish they heard from occult worshipers at the altar of Aphrodite’s temple. But to Gentile visitors who were ignorant or unsaved it appeared as the ranting of rogue madmen (1 Cor. 14:23).  So, in order to maintain authenticity and edification God instituted the gift of interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12:10, 30; 14:5, 13, 26-28).  Let me illustrate.

Let’s suppose you speak French and attend a multi-cultural Jewish-Gentile fellowship. One morning a gentleman across the aisle begins to preach in German which to you sounds like “gibberish.” However, if someone in the congregation can translate that German into French, you will be edified (1 Cor. 14:5, 13).


The gift of tongues is the miraculous ability to preach the gospel in a specific language and dialect previously unknown by the speaker (Acts 2:11). Corinth was the only church that had a problem with it. As you can see, their confusion stemmed from their multicultural worship and long history of occult experiences. Those today claiming that ecstatic utterances are the same tongues we find in the Bible are doing so at the expense of sound exegesis and a long history of orthodox truth. What passes for tongues, interpretation of tongues and the word of knowledge today is linked to soothsaying and divining in Israel (Deut. 18:14). When tongues are studied in context utilizing the recognized laws of hermeneutics and spiritual wisdom, we believe the serious student of Scripture will quickly see how real Biblical tongues explains itself.

  1. February 22, 2013 at 6:09 am

    Reblogged this on Latter Times News.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a reply (vulgarity and viciousness will not be posted)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: