An Outline on Speaking in Tongues
by Danny André Dixon
Consider 1 Corinthians 14:22:
‚Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers.‛
One should not misunderstand the intent of this verse to mean that unbelievers would
appreciate the presence of tongues or that they would even understand tongue
speaking. The connection of this passage to the Hebrew Scriptures’ statement about the
reality of tongues is brought out in verse 21 Isaiah 28:11-12 reveals that Jeremiah had
various critics who did not give attention to his proclamation of the word of the Lord.
The consequence of their rebellious attitude was that God would speak to them in the
tongues of those who would take them into captivity (Keil and Delitsch, p. 7). The
prophecy basically suggests this: ‚When you hear people of foreign tongues speaking,
you will know that God’s word is as he said it would be.‛ This would be true even
though the Israelites would not particularly understand the languages of their captors.
The parallel thought is flipped somewhat in its occurrence in 1 Corinthians 14. There the
message is this: ‚The presence of those speaking in tongues that you don’t know or
understand will be evidence that what I said through my servant Jeremiah is true.‛ Jim
McGuiggan summarizes the passage in Isaiah in this way: ‚The foreign tongue would be
God’s way of getting the attention of the unbelieving people‛ (McGuiggan, 152).
Speaking in tongues, then, should have been a negative sign for unbelievers, signifying
their poor condition of unbelieving. It implies that whenever or wherever a strange
tongue is spoken, peoples’ unbelief is there. Consequently, the presence of speaking in
tongues in the world would be evangelistic evidence to discerning unbelievers (!) that
God was working and speaking through his people on the earth.
I believe the Scriptures teach that all spiritual gifts are available to Christians today. I’ll
cover that further along this position paper. There is a list of spir