THE GIFT OFTONGUES
First of all I’m not a cessationist, I believe that many of the spiritual gifts are still operating today. But neither am I an extremist, we have need to be balanced, especially when participating in the supernatural. There is a great divide on this issue. On one hand you have those who see the extremes and disbelieve all of it because of the abuses. On the other hand you have those who make the spiritual gifts a measurement of proof that one is spiritual. The fact is, some of the most unspiritual acting people and teachings comes from those claiming to be Pentecostals who are under the influence of the Spirit.
The baptism of the Spirit came first to those in the upper room where tongues of fire appeared along with the gift. If one insists that tongues must be the sign proving the Spirit is received, then they need to include “tongues of fire” as a continuing event as well. Since the first time tongues was given to multiple saints at the same time the fire (shekinah glory ) was seen over their heads.
When we see the tongues first being used, it was at Pentecost. The apostles had already spoken in tongues in the upper room. Acts 2:4 and then Peter proceeded to explain what had occurred. The miracle of tongues was that those who spoke them did not know the language but those who heard understood them in their own language vs.8,11. There was no interpreter. So tongues were a known languages but unknown to those who spoke it. They spoke in languages of their day, not ancient ones, not an unknown one. This is the only biblical example we have of what was spoken as a tongue.
Acts 2- There are some who claim nowhere does it actually SAY that they SPOKE in
known foreign languages but it was the hearing of the tongues in the ear only. The
text does in fact state they did speak in other languages and even gives details to attest
to this fact.
V.7 states “How can this be if they are Galileans? They heard in their own language, the point being made is they were Galileans and did not speak in the tongue they were now speaking, since they did not know it. V. 11 we hear them speaking in our own tongue. It is not the gift of translation (as in hearing) but tongues- speaking. (interpretation of an unknown language 1 Cor.12:10 of a tongue is another spiritual gift). It was the Holy Spirit who spoke through them; it was a miracle of languages being spoken by those who did not know them, not a miracle of hearing. It was the reversal of the the tower of Babel's effect, where their languages were confused so they may not understand each other (Gen.11).
If tongues were only heard and not spoken there would be no reason for there to be an interpretation for the assembly.
1 Cor.14 are the instructions used to correct the Corinthian church from their misuse of this gift. It is just as pertinent today as it was then. Tongues are a gift in Greek Charisma meaning grace gift. If it is of grace it cannot be earned so we cannot demand it or even seek it because everything of grace is freely given, God distributes his gifts as he wills, (1 Cor.12:11) He chooses who will have a certain gift, He decides which he sees to be best for us. We as individuals are never encouraged to pursue a specific gift. As an assembly we are to pursue the best gifts which from Paul's view are to build up the body. (1 Cor.12:31) Paul is just as concerned over the motivation to exercise the gift correctly (in love) as the gift itself.
There is no such thing as an unknown tongue. The word, unknown, appears in italics indicating it is an addition to the text to try and explain something that the translators thought it said. If it is a tongue it has to be known since the word means language and languages are for communication. Our example is the fact that the tongues spoken at Pentecost were the languages of men. They understood what they were saying in their own language. (Acts 2:5) They are not some ecstatic utterance that no one knows. God is a God of revelation and communication to man to reveal himself. 1 Cor. 12 states this gift of languages as “kinds of tongues” vs.10 and diversities of tongues” vs.28. The word is glossa in Greek means a language used by a particular people that distinguished it from other ones. The word for “kind” and “diversities” in Greek is yenos which means a race, stock, family, nationality. All this points to it being the language of man.1 Cor. 14:1-5 Paul uses the Greek word glossa meaning tongue; Luke uses this word and further defines it as being a dialektos (Acts 1:19; 2:6,8; 21:40; 22:2; 26:14), a word which in every case refers to the language of a nation or a region (cf. Arndt, p. 184).
In 1 Cor.12:10 Paul mentions the word glossa and then talks about the interpretation of languages. The word for language in Greek is hermeneuo which means translation ,which shows it is not several syllables repeated fast but to give understanding. Paul quotes in 1 Cor.14:21 and the prophecy of Isa.28:11. With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people.” God is saying he will speak to the people of Israel through the tongue of the Assyrian proving that this is a language. God does not give a gift which would be unknown to the one using it and to others hearing it. It would do no good at all since God's word is for communication. Heb.1:1 tells us “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” Would God who has given us such a revelation of himself by His Word, now give us something unknown to be used by his people?
1 Cor. 12:10 “...To another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.” Which is the ability to speak various languages that one does not know.
Paul argues according to the following in 1 Corinthians 14:1-19: (v.2) One who speaks in a tongue does not speaks to man but to God. (v.4-5) Paul demonstrates the inferiority of tongues, and demonstrates that tongues do not edify the body but themselves, unless interpreted. (v.6) Paul says they are useless to others; that even if he spoke in a tongue it would profit no one, as it is better to have a revelation or teaching. (vs.7-8) Paul demonstrates that by itself, the gift of tongues is unintelligible to the listener so it only benefits those who understand. (v.9) Paul outlines the purpose of tongues and prophecy. (vs.10-11)Paul details the procedure for the exercise of tongues and other such gifts of the Spirit. So if they are to allow the gift it is to be done a certain way, (v.12) toward others not for the self .
In 1 Cor.13:1-3 Paul says “Though I speak with… we find the expression “the tongues of men and angels.” This appears inside the bigger theme of love. Paul is saying, “If I had the ability to speak all the languages on earth and in heaven and didn't have LOVE I'd be a noisy gong.” Tongues of men are known languages (as in Acts 2). Paul is making a contrast of ability and motive. He doesn’t expect the Corinthians to speak in angelic languages any more than they would burn their bodies. It is a figure of speech in using something no one knew about. Does anyone speak in an angelic language? What would be the purpose in that? He’s showing the need to have the spoken word understood. Even when angels came to earth they communicated to men in man's own languages. We do not find any mention of “angel talk” elsewhere in the Bible? Having said this, it is apparent there is an angelic language as angels do communicate and probably do so in a superior way. So if a person had the ability to speak in an angelic language there would be no way to prove this as it is not a known language among men. Paul makes this clear in 1 Cor.14:10 that it is the language of men.
There is the possibility Paul is referring to what he later explains in 2 Cor. 12:4. When he was “caught up to Paradise, and heard unspeakable words which it was not possible for a man to utter.” This pure language of the angels in heaven may be what he had in mind. The language which he had been permitted to hear, and man is unable to speak.
The New Testament gift of tongues is said to be a sign for unbelievers (1 Cor.14:22). This is how it functioned at Pentecost, as a sign to the unbelieving Jews. The purpose of the languages spoken to the crowd was for ministry to others (1 Cor.12:1-30; 1 Pet. 4:10), it was not for the benefit of the speaker as it is being used today.
Tongues is the most inferior yet one of the most noticeable of gifts in the church. In 1 Cor. 12 it is last on the list but it also is to be carefully used. Paul said to prophecy was a greater gift 1 Cor.14: 5. That if there is any gift to be yearned after it would be to prophecy. Why? Because it builds up the church. Paul says “not all speak in tongues.” If one is seeking tongues for their own spiritual gift or the evidence of being saved they may be seeking a gift that God does not want them to have as they may become open to a counterfeit experience. It is quite easy to mimic others who use this gift out loud regularly. If tongue’s are a sign for the unbeliever, for those in the world, as Paul clearly lays out, then how can they be used as a test of salvation or spirituality (such as the baptism of the Holy Spirit) for those inside the Church? The Bible never credits this meaning to this gift as this has become a Pentecostal tradition that needs reform. And the way it is used today as a test of one's spirituality is the last thing Paul meant when he taught about this. For to use this in this manner is not to have love which he said ones gift is useless without.
Jesus never spoke in a tongue and He only mentioned it once. John the Baptist who was filled with the spirit from his mother's womb (Lk.1:15) Scripture never indicates he spoke in another tongue either.While John's ministry was before Pentecost, he by example shows one can be filled with the Spirit and not have this spritual gift.
What about praying in tongues? All believers have the same equal access to God, by His Spirit. All believers are helped by the Spirit in prayer The only tongues that is another kind of language we find in Scripture apart from human language is that of the Holy Spirit-- described in Romans 8:26, when He communicates our needs to the Father- it is with internal groaning's that are inaudible, and cannot be uttered (spoken). Romans 8:26-27. The Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how to pray as we should; but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as he pleads for us in harmony with God's own will.” It means he is alongside us facing us, making plain what we cannot express in our heart. This does not mean he takes us over to speak another language. While this should not rule out praying in another language it still needs to follow the scriptural rules for use.
In 1 Cor.12:22-23 Paul tells us the weaker members of the body are necessary and even those with less honor we should esteem giving greater honor to them. This implies those who are less gifted are to be made equal because they are necessary to the health of the church. Just as Paul's previously explained that the members are human body parts, some of which seem insignificant or non useful, yet they are there for a reason, they are necessary. It seems more often than not, the weaker member is given a greater gift so that God will receive the glory.
Right in between both the listing of the gifts in Chpt.12 and the use of them in chapter 14 is chpt.13, which is about the motivation of the gifts and in everything we do, Love. Love is not puffed up. Certainly to look down on people who do not exercise your gift or tongues is not love. Those who speak in tongues do not practice a superior communication with God. Paul even states if we have all the gifts but not love we are nothing, we are like a loud sounding instrument making only noise. Something to really think about before one takes their spiritual position of salvation based on a gift. I heard my pastor once say, “ Gifts are not toys to play with but tools to build with.” How true; if they are not building up the body by the knowledge of Christ what exactly are they doing ?
Bibles Guidelines for speaking in Tongues
1 Thess.5:19-21 “do not quench the Spirit. do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.”
1 Cor.14:39 We are not to forbid or say it is wrong to 'speak in tongues. With this as our theme lets look at how tongues are to function.
1 Cor.14:2 “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.” Paul states the fact that if the tongue is unknown to the speaker and to those who hear it; is a mystery. Vs. 4 He edifies only himself of which the gift is not functioning for its purpose. Vs. 5 He wished that all spoke in tongues but more sothat they prophesy, for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in a tongue unless he interprets, that the church may receive edification.” This is the purpose of gifts to build up the body. The word church is found 9 times in this Chapter which seems to point at this gift being used in the assembly and not in a private prayer closet. Although this should not exclude its functioning in a Christian's private life. What this is addressing is its correct public use.
1 Corinthians 14:4 He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church. This is a spiritual building up of the individual, which one of the possible meanings is that Paul is explaining that the person with the tongue understands the meaning, of the particular “tongue” spoken but “the church,” the congregation, does not until it is interpreted.
Paul says for it to be significant it must communicate, it must be a language vs.11 therefore if I do not know the meaning of the language I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.” It must be understood for edification; love will benefit others. This is why in vs.13 Paul says to pray that he may interpret.
Both tongues and prophecy were to be limited in number and done in order. They are not to be done collectively by the Church. Though some claim this i s a prayer language. If so it is to be be silently practiced.
There must be an interpreter present vs.27-28 “If anyone speaks in a tongue let there be two or three at the most, each in turn and let one interpret, if there is no interpreter let him keep silent in the Church and let him speak to himself and to God,” as vs.4 says “one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.” Notice, there is order as each speaks in turn. There must be a known interpreter present if you are to speak it out loud. If no interpreter is present then you are to speak to yourself and keep silent in the Church or pray that you may interpret. This shows it was a language since it needed translation. To not do this would bring confusion. 1 Cor.14:23: “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”
V.10-13 “There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.”
Here Paul identifies tongues as a language spoken in our world. So a tongue can be an ancient language but it is one mankind spoke.
V.12-13 “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” The one speaks in this other language should pray to interpret it or make sure there is someone among them who can interpret it.
1 Corinthians 14:14 “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.” To pray in an unknown tongue, means that the “tongue” the person is speaking is an unknown language to them in prayer. To know what the spirit is saying it must be interpreted.
V.15 Here Paul compares praying and singing in another language. I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with understanding,and “I will sing with the spirit” (a tongue) and I will also sing with understanding.” they are to sing with the understanding (the interpretation can be known to one who spoke a tongue).
V.16 “Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit” If you pray for some one they need to hear an interpretation or how would they agree? (say amen).
Vs.19 “ Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding that I might teach others also than 10,000 words in a tongue.”Paul is addressing not being able to interpret when someone is speaking. It is contrasted with I’d rather communicate one sentence than go off with a whole lot of gibberish which no one understands. (Which is often what we see today isn't it?).
1 Cor. 14:23-25 “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.”
Paul puts an ungifted person (uninformed) with a charismatic in the same category. The people who have the gifts of the spirit should exhibit them in such a way so that the unsaved will become convicted and want to be saved and the ungifted will also want to desire the gifts to honor God. But when they see what goes on today it is the very opposite. We should pursue the gifts to be used but not have their usage obstruct the giver of the gifts.
1 Cor.14:33-34 “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” (could be a reference to women in the assembly exercising gifts, speaking in tongues?) This is the rule of conduct for the churches.
1 Cor.14:37-40: “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Paul admonishes the church that if some thinks of themselves as spiritual persons they will follow his instructions and act spiritual by obeying. This is a command from the Lord, not just his opinion. If not, he can continue to be without the right knowledge and continue exercising gifts and he is then unspiritual. “Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. “God is a God of order not disorder, if the gifts are not practiced the way the Apostle Paul states then they are out of order.
While the debate inside the Church goes on about the perpetuity of spiritual gifts today. We can at least know when they are functioning correctly. Otherwise we need to question their source, and the affect on the church and the world that watches.