Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 1 Cor 14:27-28
The more I grow as a christian the more I realize the importance of tongues. It certainly isn’t the most important thing in our christian life, but I think it is much more important then the general treatment of the subject among most Christians. I believe it is one of the ‘foolish things’ that God uses to confound the wise (1 Cor 1:27).
When I was a young teen, I remember going to a large church were my dad had read in the church bulletin that speaking in tongues was not allowed at the church. That night the subject came up at the dinner table. I can’t remember exactly what was said about the subject, but I do remember my dad pretending to speak in tongues and us all laughing about how stupid it was that anyone would do such a thing. We had grown up Presbyterian and had always been in churches where people generally kept to themselves. Never had we heard our preacher talking about the subject and never had I heard anyone do it. But God got the last laugh because it wasn’t too many years later that both my dad and I became filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues!
But it was (and still is) a controversial subject among Christians. Some Christians are vehemently apposed to the idea of tongues. So I went to the bible for myself. And what did I find? I found that there is a lot of error on both sides of the subject, on the tongue talking side and on the non-tongue talking side. But thank God for the Bible. I believe its very clear to the honest reader. I’ll share with you what I have learned and you can decided for yourself. (By the way, it might be a good idea for you to read my previous blog called “The baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues” before you read this one.)
I think the biggest mistake people make when understanding tongues is that they lump the idea of tongues into one use. But Paul says that there are “different kinds of tongues (1 Co 12:10).” Tongues are the same in essence, but they are different in purpose and in use. That’s really easy to see throughout the bible. You’ll notice that in one circumstance tongues was used as a means of speaking a different known language that the speaker had never learned. Such is the case in Acts 2 when the 120 in the upper room received the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in tongues and the crowd responded this way:
And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Acts 2:6-8
Then we see in Acts 10 how Cornelius’ household spoke in tongues. But there wasn’t anyone around to hear them speak in their own languages. No, they weren’t speaking in tongues for that purpose, they were speaking in tongues to magnify God:
For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Acts 10:46
This goes along really well with what Paul says in 1 Cor 14:2:
For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 1 Cor 14:2
See? It’s different. In Acts 2, people understood them in their own language. But at Cornelius’ household ‘no one’ understood them, no one but God that is. They magnified God and spoke ‘mysteries’ in the spirit. Do you see the what I mean by ‘different kinds of tongues?’ Tongues is used for one purpose in one circumstance but a another purpose in a different circumstance.
As far as I can see, here is a list of the uses of tongues found in the bible (not in any particular order):
1 – Speaking in tongues and thereby supernaturally speaking in a language that the speaker has never learned. (Acts 2). This only happens once in the bible. I do not believe this is the primary purpose of tongues. However, I do believe this can still happen and I have heard instances of this happening, although I’ve never experienced it myself.
2 – Tongues and interpretation (1 Cor 12:10, 1 Cor 14:27-28). This is the practice of someone speaking an inspired message in tongues and then someone interpreting that message into a known language. I see this happen quite often. I’ve also done this once myself. This happens only as the the Lord wills (1 Cor 12:11), but we must desire it and yield to it if we would like to experience it in our lives (1 Cor 14:1, 1 Cor 12:31). Not everyone will operate in this gifting (1 Cor 12:30).
3 – Tongues in prayer and worship (Acts 10, 1 Cor 14:2,14-18). This is the most common occurrence of tongues. This is also the type of tongues that is available for every believer. Jesus said that those who believe would “speak with new tongues (Mk 16:17).” If you are a believer you can have this precious gift of speaking in tongues.
Now, lets talk about why I think you should be a ‘tongue talker.’
Speaking in tongues is something that God specifically reserved for us. You won’t find tongues in the old testament. God had reserved this precious gift for the saints living in the last days. And thank God for it, because we really need it. The coolest thing about tongues is that it is a way that we can pray and worship God straight from our spirit without our mind getting in the way. Look what Paul says:
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays. 1 Cor 14:14
This verse tells us a lot. It tells us, #1, that tongues can be used in prayer, and, #2, that when we pray in tongues our spirit is praying directly to God. It’s not a prayer that we can understand with our heads, for Paul says, “my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.” That means that he is praying a prayer to God and that his mind is not involved. Glory to God! How many times have you come to God and not known what to pray for? Or how many times have you come and your mind is so busy that you just can’t get focused? That’s where praying in tongues can come in. The deepest part of you can cry out to God without your fleshly mind getting in the way!
It’s really cool because it is a supernatural way to pray. You are not praying with your own ability, but you are praying by faith with God’s ability. The bible says that when you speak with tongues that you are speaking ‘mysteries in the spirit. (1 Cor 14:2).’ So you are praying about things that your mind knows nothing about! You could be praying about your future, or about a loved one who is in some kind of trouble, or maybe you could be praying about a circumstance that you don’t even know about yet. But God knows about it and is using you and your tongue to pray about it without your bone-head head getting in the way!
Tongues can also be used in praise and worship. I talked about earlier how the people in Cornelius’ house spoke with tongues and magnified God. Jesus said that the true worshipers would worship the Father ‘in spirit and in truth.’ How better to do that than to worship God directly from your spirit, without your mind getting in the way? Paul even said that you can sing with tongues and give thanks in tongues (1 Cor 14:15-16). This has been a great blessing to me in the times when human words could not express my gratitude to God for what He has done.
Finally, tongues can be used as a means of spiritual edification. Praying in tongues will cause you to be built up in strength of spirit, and in faith. Paul says that the person who prays in tongues ‘edifies himself. (1 Cor 14:4).’ Jude also talks about the same thing:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit Jude 1:20
This is something that I do A LOT. Every time I set aside time to pray to God in tongues I sense that spiritual edification. It gives me strength in my christian walk and helps my faith.
Praying with tongues is an integral part of my life. I do it every single day. I can’t stress enough how great a blessing that it has been to me. I think it will be a blessing for you, too.
Now, let me address some of the error that I’ve seen when it comes to tongues. It’s important that we do this because many people have been greatly turned off to this gift simply because they have not seen it used properly. Incorrect use of tongues will cause people to think that we are ‘mad (crazy)’ (1 Cor 14:23).
First Corinthians chapter 14 is a chapter of the bible specifically dedicated to correcting the abuse of tongues. The church in Corinth loved to speak in tongues, but they were out of order. Paul laid down some specific guidelines for the church to follow. It would behoove us to take these to heart.
Speaking in tongues does nobody else any good unless it is interpreted.
Paul makes it clear that when you are in church that you should only speak in tongues out loud when there is someone there to interpret what is said. Otherwise you should speak silently to yourself and to God.
If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 1 Cor 14:27:28
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pray out loud in tongues at home or in some prayer setting. You can do that. Paul is writing this because there were people speaking out loud in tongues during church services. There is no good reason to do that if there is no interpretation. All it’s going to do is bring confusion and cause people to think you are crazy. No, when you are in church, pray in tongues, yes, but do it under your breath so that you aren’t distracting other people.
Paul says that we should use spiritual gifts to edify each other. It’s good to edify ourselves, but at church we should focus on edifying others.
Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts,let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. 1 Cor 14:12
My blog on the baptism of the Holy Spirit goes along well with this blog: “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues”