By Patrick Hawthorne
Speaking in tongues…Glossolalia…Praying in the Spirit… I’ve heard all the explanations for why it does not exist today. Yet, I speak with tongues so therefore I know that it still exists. No matter what anyone says to convince me that tongues are not for today, they will fail. I’m not meaning to sound rude but for someone to try and convince me that speaking in tongues is not for today is the equivalent of telling a pilot in midflight that planes cannot get off the ground.
“Well, those tongues are of the devil!” That is my favorite because it implies that those who speak in tongues are doing the devils bidding. Funny thing though; I’ve never heard a demon possessed person magnifying and glorifying God. As a matter of fact, the Word says that none can call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit. So, to clear up any confusion, “Jesus is my Lord.” There, we have just settled that tongues are not of the devil.
I make light of this because I know it is a really difficult subject to understand. Especially, 1 Corinthians 14:22-23. “Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 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?”
Wow! Is that a heck of a contradiction or what? If the Bible is correct – which I fully believe it is – then it must be our understanding that is wrong. Would you agree with that? Truthfully, if you don’t understand what Paul is saying here, it is easy to think that he is contradicting himself in a really, really bad way. So, let me see if I can clear this up.
Where so many have failed to understand the subject of speaking in tongues and whether or not it is for today is because they have failed to see that the Bible speaks of four (4) separate operations of tongues. I know that may sound surprising but bear with me because this is a bit lengthy. I will have a follow up post to go into more detail as to the “why” of speaking in tongues.
Again, from the Word, there are four distinct operations of tongues. Two are for personal edification and two are for public ministry. The two that are for personal edification involve man speaking to God while the other two involve God speaking through man to man. Let’s start with the personal edification. I will let the Word do the explaining.
- Tongues for personal edification (Man to God)
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. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. (1 Corinthians 14:2-4 underline mine)
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 20-21 underline mine)
- Tongues for intercession (Man to God)
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (not expressed in words.) 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 underline mine)
Now, let’s look at tongues for public ministry (God through man to man)
- Gift of Tongues with Interpretation (God through man to man)
“…to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:10-11 underline mine)
13 Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? 17 For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. (1 Corinthians 14:13-17 underline mine)
- Tongues for a sign to unbelievers (God through man to man)
Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. (1 Corinthians 14:22).
Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we HEAR, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” (Acts 2:7-12 underline mine)
Now, let’s get back to 1 Corinthians 14:22-23. “Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 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?”
Again, this sounds like a contradiction. However, after looking at the four operations of tongues, there is no contradiction at all. In verse 22, Paul is referring to tongues in which the believer hears in their own language. However, in verse 23 he is referring to tongues spoken in a church setting that must be followed up with an interpretation. He continues this thought with verse 24 by saying that prophecy convinces and convicts (Also see verse 1.)
You must remember that Paul was speaking to the Church at Corinth. These people were operating in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit but were very unorganized. Because of their “fly by the seat of their pants” approach to the gospel, they were introducing much confusion into the body.
I will go into greater detail in my next post. Until then, be blessed.