Question: Why do Baptists not believe that Christians can speak in other tongues?
Reply: Baptists are not of one mind when it comes to the issue of speaking in tongues and other miraculous gifts though most are in the same ballpark!. Some are what can be called “cessationists.” They believe that the miraculous gifts fulfilled a specific purpose through the apostles in the 1st century and passed off the scene after their death. Other, like myself, fall into a category that is sometimes called “cautious continualists.” In other words, we believe that all the miraculous gifts are active today, but we also believe that they should follow the pattern you find in the Bible. We would see many contemporary charismatic practices to be contrary to the clear and plain teaching of Scripture. Unfortunately, this is often our experience with certain Pentecostal, neo-Pentecostal and charismatic fellowships. In addition, the prosperity gospel, which is a heresy, is often associated with these same groups. The danger and pain caused by this false teaching is very significant in our own day and time.
As for tongues, I would say look at what 1 Corinthians 14 teaches. There we find that the gift of tongues when exercised within a local church should follow very specific guidelines (vs. 26-40). There should be speaking one at a time, only two or three, there must be an interpreter, women do not engage in the practice, and it should not cause confusion but “be done decently and in order” (v. 40). Some believe that speaking in tongues is a heavenly utterance that has no relationship to earthly languages. I, personally, believe that speaking in tongues is the supernatural ability to speak a language that one previously did not know. That is certainly the kind of tongues we find in the book of Acts. Still, I recognize that there are good, godly brothers and sisters that would differ with me on this issue.
One other issue that receives quite a bit of attention today is what is called “private prayer language.” The fact that something that is private receives so much attention is a bit comical, though the division that it has caused is not. Personally, I cannot find private prayer languages in the Bible. I do not think that it is the best reading of 1 Corinthians 14. Still, there are again good, godly scholars who would differ on this issue and therefore I am more than happy to extend Christian grace and liberty at this point as long as it is not divisive, and does not distract us from our main assignments.
The bottom line for me is, “What is one’s agenda?” If someone has an agenda for speaking in tongues and other charismatic practices, then I find that to be unbiblical and problematic. In fact, if one has an agenda other than the Great Commission than I find their agenda to be unbiblical and problematic. Therefore, for me, what are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to push the charismatic gifts with greater passion and zeal than you are the reaching of lost people? Then you have the wrong agenda and in the long run you will be of much less use to the kingdom of God. You may actually be harmful to it. Therefore, agreeing with Paul, I will not forbid tongues (1 Cor 14:39) but I would much prefer, as does he, that one speak in a language where people clearly hear the gospel of Jesus and are given an opportunity to repent of their sin and place their faith in a Savior who loved them and paid in full the full penalty of their sin. That should be the agenda the drives the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.