Baptists And Speaking In Tongues

If there’s anything that can divide a Baptist and a Pentecostal then it’s the topic of speaking in tongues. The difference in doctrinal belief is almost as wide as the difference between Protestants and Catholics. While there is a difference in what Baptists believe about tongues, that difference isn’t quite as extreme as the modern church goer may believe.

Do Baptists believe in the modern gift of tongues as outlined in Acts chapter two? As a Baptist, I’m going to say yes but that answer may differ upon the Baptist you are speaking to(there are after all many independent churches). I can assure you that no bible believing Tongues of FireBaptist rejects the notion of a miracle as it occurred in the Upper Room. However, before we agree to agree, it’s probably expedient to define what we’re talking about when we use the phrase ‘speaking in tongues’.

Let’s take a look at that miracle of Pentecost where tongues were first encountered by the New Testament church:

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? (Act 2:4-8)

The out pouring of the Holy Spirit, as seen in Acts 2, was manifested to the disciples in the form of tongues, or to say it in a more modern way, it was manifested in the form of foreign languages. It was a miracle because none of the speakers were native to the languages being spoken and those gathered were amazed. It was a miracle given not for the believers, but for the unbelievers. Paul reinforces this fact in his letter to the Corinthians:

Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. (1Co 14:22)

This is where the road starts to divide between Baptists and other ‘spirit filled’ denominations. The biblical definition (and usage) of tongues is “a foreign language”. In fact, that definition is further hammered upon in Corinthians where Paul indicates that people who can’t understand are “unlearned” (1 Cor 14:16). In essence, tongues are foreign languages you can learn and it is a miraculous gift given to those who haven’t learned the language through natural means.

Baptists turn at the fork in the road with Pentecostals because of their insistence that tongues is a “heavenly language spoken by angels”. The Scriptures indicate no such thing and Paul, when he mentioned speaking with the tongues of Angels, was talking quite euphemistically. If you wish to debate that point, I challenge you to find me one place in the Bible where anyone speaks in tongues that were not a foreign language!

The absurdity of speaking in tongues as a heavenly language defies every aspect of biblical logic (and rational logic). How, on the basis of First Corinthians 14:5, can you require an interpreter for an unknown language? If you try to do that, you are drifting away from the Bible and into some forum of eastern mysticism.

I know what our holy rollers are thinking at this point: Paul says he will pray in the spirit!

What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. (1Co 14:15)

Spirit, with a lowercase s, means your mind. Plain and simple. Paul refers to the gift of speaking in an unknown foreign tongue, that he doesn’t understand. There is a horrible definition of spirit floating around in the modern church that says your spirit is your mind, will AND your emotions. That is false! Your soul comprises your desires and emotions; your spirit is your mind. Don’t be fooled into thinking the spirit is something mystical.

Paul thanked God that he spoke in tongues more than any other. It was truly a gift he needed since he traveled the world on missionary work. However, he didn’t interrupt church services by blabbering away some nonsense and then waiting for someone to interpret that nonsense. That kind of confusion is not from the Holy Spirit.

As a Baptist, I do believe in the gift of tongues (tongues meaning foreign languages). I have yet to see that gift in practice and, with English as a world language, I think such a gift is needed less now than it was in times past. None the less, God does what he wants where he sees need for the body and, should I see such a gift arise in the modern church, the Scriptures clearly dictate how it should be governed.

Reducing tongues from the “language of angels” to a natural foreign language doesn’t downplay the miracle of Pentecost or the gifts of the Holy Spirit at all. What happened in the upper room, individuals fluently speaking a previously unknown language, was indeed a true miracle that helped birth the foundations of the church. Additionally, there’s great truths there that had their foundations at the Tower of Babel (but that’s an article for a different day).

Being a baptist or any other independent doesn’t dictate that we don’t believe in the speaking of tongues. We just believe that all miracles, speaking in tongues included, are governed in strict accordance to the Bible. The scriptures are a safeguard for all matters of life and the church and we should stand firmly by them.

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