(1 Corinthians 14:22)

by Kevin V. Rutherford


There are many religious people today who believe that God is still giving men the ability to speak in tongues.  The Bible teaches that such claims are false.  The Scriptures specifically identify a point in time at which the ability to speak in tongues would no longer be given to men.  That time has past.

Some who claim to have the miraculous gift of tongues will speak in gibberish to prove their point.  They will then claim that the strange sounds just heard are simply “an unknown language,” or the “language of angels.”  Speaking in a tongue (language) which no one understands won’t do anyone any good. When the apostles spoke in tongues on the Day of Pentecost it is very clear that they spoke in languages people would understand (Acts 2:4-11).  The purpose of tongues was to be able to preach the Gospel to those who did not know the speaker’s language.  In addition, those who spoke a message in a language that was not understood were rebuked by Paul (1 Corinthians 14:5-9).  Paul said, “So likewise, ye except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken (1 Corinthians 14:9)?”

While some may speak in gibberish in hopes of convincing you of their ability to speak miraculously in tongues, others may refuse to prove their ability. They may simply respond with, “Because you are an unbeliever I cannot perform the miracle of speaking in tongues in your presence.”  The problem with this excuse is clearly set forth by Paul.  By inspiration he wrote, “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not (1 Corinthians 14:22).”

Speaking in tongues along with other miraculous gifts has fulfilled its purpose.  The purpose of the miracles as performed by Christians was to confirm the preaching of the Word of God (Mark 16:17-20: Hebrews 2:1-4).  They were presenting an inspired message that was different from what the Gentiles knew and which was a fulfillment of that which the Jews knew.  For this reason, the Gospel was met with much skepticism.  To prove that the message they were speaking came from God they were given the ability to perform miracles.  That ability was necessary during the time in which the New Testament Scriptures were still being revealed.  Now that they are completed, we confirm our preaching by showing where it is found in the pages of the New Testament. Because miraculous gifts (including tongues) have fulfilled their purpose, God no longer gives them to men.

God told first century Christians that the time would come when He would cease giving miraculous gifts to men (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).  In this context Paul is showing the church that there is something more important than miraculous abilities.  That which is more important is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).  Love is more important because it will outlast miraculous abilities (1 Corinthians 13:8).  Love will even outlast faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13). Paul makes it very clear that the miraculous ability to speak in tongues will cease (1 Corinthians 13:8).  The key is to figure out when that would be.  The only way to do that is to examine the context

In verse nine Paul speaks of partial knowledge.  Partial knowledge refers to that time period before the New Testament Scriptures were completed.  Verse ten then speaks of a time when that which is complete (perfect) will come.  The complete is contrasted with the partial in the context.  The partial refers to incomplete knowledge (Scriptures).  The complete then refers to the time when the Scriptures were fully revealed.  When that time came miraculous abilities among men would cease.  The New Testament Scriptures were completed by the end of the first century.  Miraculous gifts would cease when the New Testament Scriptures were completed.  Therefore miraculous gifts ended by the end of the first century.

Based on a study of Scripture it becomes very clear that God has given no one the ability to speak miraculously in tongues (languages) one has not studied. To speak in another language today you must study that language. - KVR