By Akin Ojumu

Many of us come from denominational backgrounds where we’ve been taught a lot of things erroneously. To this day, a vast number of us continue to struggle to disentangle and disengage ourselves from all those things we used to know that are wrong. As a result, when we read the Bible, we fail to believe the texts staring us in the face without realizing it.

Instead of proper exegesis (which is interpreting Scripture within its proper context and allowing the texts to guide us to conclusion) we engage in eisegesis (i.e., we subconsciously inject our own ideas and preconceived notion into the text, and we make it mean whatever we want).

Sadly, this subjective way of interpreting the Bible was how many of us were raised as Christians. And this is what’s at play here with the issue of the Gift of Tongues.

Nothing I say here will change a mind that’s already made up on what he/she believes. I’ll only advise you to take off the blinders next time you read the Bible.

Now concerning the Gift of Tongues, this is what the Bible says.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the COMMON GOOD.” (1 Corinthians 12: 7).

None of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is given to Christians for personal edification or individual aggrandizement. They are all given to be used to edify others. Tongues are not prayer languages we use in our prayer closet. There is no single instance in the Bible where people prayed in tongues like we do today.

The Greek word translated “tongues” literally means “languages.” True gift of tongues is manifested as spoken human languages. They are not unintelligible or gibberish. When the Christians spoke in tongues in Acts 2, they spoke human languages they had never spoken before and had no reason to be able to speak. But what they spoke was understood by the unbelievers who heard them.

“Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.” (1 Corinthians 14:22).

Tongues are real and intelligible languages for the purpose of communicating God’s Word in another language. The Holy Spirit gives the gift of tongues as a sign to unbelievers. Everywhere the gift is properly used in Scripture, it is an evangelistic tool for witnessing to unbelievers.

Tongues aren’t baby babbles or something that sound gibberish to others and can only be understood by God. Having the gift of tongues is when someone is able to speak a foreign language that he doesn't ordinarily speak or understand.

“When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)

When Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 6:7 not to pray like the idolaters do, He was actually referring to a common practice of “speaking in tongues” among pagan worshipers. In the KJV the word used for babbles is “vain repetitions.” Vain repetition (i.e., empty phrases or babblings) is an Aramaic phrase which is onomatopoeic in character. 

Another rendering of Matthew 6:7 would sound like, “When you pray, do not be saying bata bata bata.” Jesus was telling them not to engage in meaningless and mechanically repeated phrases, which is a reference to pagan modes of prayer. 

Yet, this is exactly how people speak in tongues today. It’s various forms of, “Bata bata bata, bata bata bata, bata, bata, bata” or “shaka shaka shaka, shaka shaka shaka, shaka shaka shaka.”

“Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?” (1 Corinthians 14:6-19).

Without interpretation, tongues, in and of itself, are of no use to anyone.

“If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God” (1 Corinthians 14:27–28).

There are clear instructions on how to exercise the gift of tongues. Tongues are not allowed to be spoken without interpretation. Whenever someone speaks in tongues, there must be someone else present to interpret.

Stick with the Bible and what it says contextually, and you won’t go wrong. Theological confusions and doctrinal errors are the results of men abandoning Scripture and reading their own ideas and opinions into Biblical texts.


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