Before I became a Christian in my early 20’s, I had never heard of speaking in tongues. Needless to say, my first experience hearing a church do this was a shocking one. I don’t know exactly what was going through my mind during that moment, but I probably looked a bit like a deer in headlights. I’m sure it would have been a worthy blackmail photo opportunity.

But over time as I have worked through the scriptures, I’ve developed a solid conviction around the subject. Throughout the NT we find several references to speaking in tongues. The question that many believers have is “Is the gift of tongues for the church today, or did it cease after the Apostles?”

Let’s address a couple of the most the common objections:

If speaking in tongues is still available, then why don’t we see the church picking up serpents or drinking any deadly poison as Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18?

One of the scriptures that is most widely used on the subject is from Jesus in Mark 16, where he says that one of the signs that will accompany those who believe will be, “They will speak in new tongues”. However, v.18 follows with some other unusual signs that can appear confusing.

Mark 16:17-18 (ESV)
17  And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18  they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

If we look through the scriptures we can find examples of the early church doing everything in v. 17-18 except pickup up serpents and drinking deadly poison. The closest example we have was when Paul was bitten by a viper in Acts 28:3 and didn’t suffer any kind of harm. This was clearly a miracle of God’s protection, but read the news and you’ll hear stories of God protecting believers from harmful situations all the time.

This leads me to believe that the scripture is more talking about believers having a level of dominion over nature, which is in line with what God intended for man’s role in Genesis 1:26, and God’s protection. Therefore, I believe this passage is confirmation from Christ that speaking in tongues IS available to believers today.

The gift of tongues was available while the Apostles were around but no longer exists today.

This is the belief held by those who have adopted the theology of cessationalism(A big word that means the belief that the spiritual gifts experienced by those in the early church have ceased and are no longer available). The belief is based on a text from the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 13:8 (ESV)
8  Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

This is believed to confirm the temporary nature of these gifts, but when you look at the context, it is speaking in light of eternity:

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (ESV)
8  Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
11  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Each portion that I have emphasized above reveals that Paul was talking about the eternal nature of love. It was also making the point that we will no longer need spiritual gifts in eternity. The purpose of the gifts was to be used for unbelievers(1 Corinthians 14:22) and as a way of communication to and from God, as you also see in 1 Corinthians 14.

I believe that tongues is an important gift available but often neglected by believers today. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:5 “I wish you all spoke in tongues”. If this is unfamiliar territory, keep an open mind and let the scriptures guide you in what you deem acceptable in the church.

For those of you who have skipped to the end of this blog for the short answer, here’s for you: Is speaking in tongues still available today? Yes.

Like this blog? You may also enjoy: “Is Church Really Necessary?”

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