The Pentecostal or Charismatic movement has as one of it central beliefs, that men and women speak in tongues today as they did in New Testament. This "speaking in tongues" is a supposed manifestation of Holy Spirit in individual's life. As some of my charismatic friends tell me, it is evidence (or proof) that individual has been baptized with Holy Spirit. It is a supposed gift of Spirit. The conclusion is, then, that one who "speaks in tongues" is a true Christian, and all others are suspect!
Does Bible really teach this? Let's take a thorough look at this subject to see what Bible actually teaches on subject of speaking in tongues.
(For purposes of this article, when it is given as - speaking in tongues -, I am referring to Biblical meaning; and - "speaking in tongues" -I am referring to Pentecostal/Charismatic meaning.)
I think that it is unfortunate that when Bible was originally translated into English that Greek word which really means "languages" was translated "tongues." However, we who live today have enough information available to us to determine difference. No serious Bible scholar would deny that this word really means languages. The apostles were given ability to speak in unknown (unknown to them) languages. This ability was given to them for specific purposes. Let's examine purposes for apostles to be able to speak in tongues.
God gave apostles ability to speak in tongues for following purposes:
Signs - as credentials from God, "A man approved of God." Wonders - effect on witnesses, "They were amazed." Powerful miracles - energy manifested, "He healed them." Gifts of Spirit - The source of energy. They established authority of sign worker. Speaking in tongues, as well as other gifts - healing etc., were given so that people being taught about Christ would know that men spoke with authority. Think for a moment how much we today are caught up in recognition of authority. When someone does something that we do not think they should be doing, our common reaction is, "Who gave you authority to do that?" If someone was to come to your home today and start teaching you a different doctrine (or gospel), you may ask, "By what authority do you teach these things?" In other words, who sent you, and why should I listen to you? The same is true back in New Testament days. People were naturally skeptical. There were many people professing to be Christ at that time. God wanted people to know, beyond a doubt, that these men spoke with authority - His authority! "Truly signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds." (2 Corinthians 12:12)
It confirmed Word of Lord. Not only did these gifts prove that apostles spoke with authority, but they confirmed that Jesus was speaking truth. Because apostles (with exception of Paul) had been with Jesus during His earthly ministry, and were taught by Him, they (the apostles) taught others truths that Jesus had taught to them. These truths then, were confirmed to be such by miracles - including speaking in tongues - that apostles performed. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at first began to be spoken by Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Hebrews 2:3,4)
Thus we see that these signs, wonders, and miracles were for expressed purpose of showing by what authority - authority of God -the apostles spoke; and to confirm that teachings of Christ - through apostles - were truly Word of God.
The authority of apostles being established, and Word of God being confirmed, New Testament writers have given us a written record of these events and teachings. This written record has been preserved by God and passed down from generation to generation so that we may have it today. Therefore, is it necessary for God to confirm again authenticity of His word? Is it impossible for us who are living today to accept by faith that Bible is Word of God? Is anyone who "speaks in tongues" today denying that Bible is Word of God? If not, then why must they feel compelled to confirm it again to us?
Let's look at sign of tongues specifically to see how it confirmed Word of God.
"And they went out and preached everywhere, Lord working with them and confirming word through accompanying signs." (Mark 16:20) This passage is last verse of book of Mark, and is really a summation of what apostles did after Jesus ascended into heaven. It plainly - and truthfully - states that signs performed by apostles confirmed Word of God.
"And they were all filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4) "And when this sound occurred, multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language." (Acts 2:6) "And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born." (Acts 2:8) "... we hear them speaking in our own tongues wonderful words of God." (Acts 2:11) (To save space we have selected just these passages. Please read Acts 2:1-13) This ability - to speak in languages unknown to speaker - was fulfillment of promise which was made in Acts 1:8: "But you shall receive power when Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to end of earth." In other words, in Acts 1:8 Jesus promised apostles that they would receive power to witness of and for Him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to end of earth. This power is given to them in Acts 2 in form of being able to speak in languages and dialects that they - apostles - had never been trained or schooled in.