Speaking in Tongues… Oh Yes, I Am Going There!

Speaking in tongues can be quite the controversial topic among both non-believers and believers. I had to write a paper about it (and other spiritual gifts) for one of my classes, and in doing so I had to do a ton of research and form my own opinion on the topic. I thought some people who are confused about this topic might be interested in reading this.  If you disagree with my opinion however, that is fine too. I’m not here to force it on anyone, only to educate those who are seeking further education on the topic. I did change it up some from my original paper to make it more understandable to the average reader. Enjoy!

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Spiritual gifts are given to be used for ministry. “Sign gifts” are those which consist of apostleship, healing, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and miracles. “Serving gifts” help us accomplish world evangelism: they contain the “enabling gifts”, which all Christians seem to possess; faith, knowledge, wisdom, and discernment. “Task gifts” are also a type of “serving gifts”, which not every believer has. These gifts are; Prophecy, teaching, exhortation, shepherding (pastoring), showing mercy, ministering, giving, governments or administration, evangelism, and hospitality. (Towns)

“Speaking in tongues”: “The nature of this gift is explained in 1 Corinthians 14 (1) The tongue in which the person spoke was unintelligible, and therefore unedifying to the Christian assembly (vv.2-4); (2) the tongue was not a foreign language (vv. 10-12); (3) The tongue speaker addressed himself to God to whom he probably offered prayer and praise (vv. 14-17); (4) The tongue edified the speaker (v. 4); (5) The tongue speaker lost control of intellectual faculties (vv. 14-15).” (Elwell)

In the first century speaking in tongues was authentication to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem of new groups into the church (as proof of their conversion). However; it is also a gift given to assist you in communicating the deep things of your spirit unto God, and given to help you in worship and praise (Acts 2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6; and 1 Corinthians 14:2). Additionally, in 1 Corinthians 14:22 we learn that Paul believed that tongues were intended to be a sign of judgment for unbelievers.

Before I can explain whether or not speaking in tongues is necessary, I need to explain what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit: The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the act by which at conversion a Christian is placed into Jesus Christ, or the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). “The baptism of the Spirit is our new position in Jesus Christ (non –experiential), and the filling of the Spirit is His power working through us in Christian service (experiential).” (Towns)

While speaking in tongues is a gift to aid in worship and praise, the Bible says that there are more useful gifts to seek after (1 Corinthians 14:4; 12). Also; in 1 Corinthians 12:10; 30, and in 14:26 we see that it is pointed out that not everyone was given the gift of speaking in tongues. Therefore; I cannot see how this gift is necessary evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Are speaking in tongues still valid today? The belief that the “sign gifts” were only meant for the prophets and apostles who first received the Word of God and wrote the revelation by inspiration is called Cessationism. The main reason for this belief is based off of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, “Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.” Their interpretation is, “that which is perfect” is referring to the completion of Scripture. Therefore; they believe these gifts died off with those prophets and apostles.

However; the historic traditional view of the church and of every Bible commentator up until the twentieth century always understood it to mean “the coming again of Jesus Christ” (called Continuationism). Since we will be there in His presence; no longer will these gifts be necessary, and thus, will cease. I believe this interpretation makes more sense, because verse 12 continues with: “For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.”

While the traditional interpretation of this verse holds that it is speaking of the second coming of Jesus, I think it is probably speaking in general of when we see Him face to face. This could be at the second coming, or it could be when we die (whichever happens first. Of course, probably death). 2 Corinthians 5:8: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

Personally, I agree with Elwell, “The attitude toward the gift of tongues held by pastor and people should be, ‘seek not, forbid not.”

Bibliography

Towns, Elmer. Theology For Today. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008. 308-309, 317-318, 296.

Print.

Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. second. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House

Company, 2001. 1137, 1209. Print.

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15 thoughts on “Speaking in Tongues… Oh Yes, I Am Going There!

  1. That was one of the best explanations of tongues I have heard (read) in years. I have been walking with Jesus for twenty-three years now and I have heard all sides of this argument, good job. My father while he was on his death bed I listen to him pray in tongues and he was a man who believed that tongues was only given in the age of the apostles. My mother said oh he is only babbling but I understood him. When he was awake he would tell me had been seeing angels and talking to Jesus. What do you think?

    • Thank you for the lovely compliment 🙂
      In reference to your father, I think he probably was speaking in tongues. I don’t know if you have ever read the book “the boy who came back from heaven” or not. But this boy had a horrible accident where his neck was literally detached from his spine (decapitated from the inside, basically) and stayed in acoma for a couple of months. Once he started recovering it took over a year later before he had recovered enough to speak and interact with others, and his father and brothers heard him talking in another language while the boy did not know anyone was listening, and they actually thought he was talking in his sleep. When they asked him what he was doing he told them he was speaking to God and Jesus.

      When I read this book I did not know yet what my opinion on tongues was. Now I do believe that people can pray in tongues in todays time, I do not necessarily believe it is something of the past, but I don’t believe this is something you will experience a lot of people doing either. It is meant for praise and worship, and if someone is really spiritually worshiping I think it is possible they might experience this and know what is happening, and perhaps some may not even realize they were speaking in another language. The reason this is not considered a “preferred” gift, is because it does not really benefit the church since the on-looker does not know what is being said. Which is why my belief is that if it happens it happens, it shouldn’t be prevented but it is not something someone should put a lot of energy into trying to accomplish either.

  2. If you remember in Acts 2 when those in Jerusalem came because they all heard the sound of a mighty rushing wind, each heard them speaking in their own tongue as the Spirit gave them utterence. Once of the functions of speaking in tongues is to reach across cultures and languages. This happened again in the Azuza street revival of the early 1900’s . It was evidenced back then that the tongue that people were given was the country the Holy Spirit was sending them. I would suggest reading the book, “Fire on the Earth” , by Dr Eddie Hyatt.

    Paul also said the following:

    I thank my God that I speak more languages than all of you;
    (1Co 14:18 MKJV)

    I think that where the danger lies in interpreting the Word of God is that it is a spiritual book and to read a spiritual book with the eyes of flesh, even knowing Greek and Hebrew, and rendering an interpretation based on aquired knowledge is dangerous.

    In John 4 Jesus says that the Father seeks those who would worship Him Spirit and in truth.
    Paul says the following in 1 Corinthians, “Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will sing [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also”(1Co 14:15 AMP)

    I do not necessarily believe either that tongues are the only sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I think that it is also changed lives as is evidenced in the transformation of a group of people huddled in an upper room, terrifed of the Jew, to a people emboldened by the Spirit of Gos speaking about the wonders of God in full view of those whom they were formerly hiding from.

    When one speaks in an unknow tongue it is true he speaks mysteries known only to the Lord. However, to give control of ones tongue over to the Lord is a sign of Christ’s Lordship. We like to use our tongues for many things so to use it to praise the Lord in Spirit and in truth is pleasing to the Father and it is He who seeks a people who would do so.

    On 04/12/2012, as I was listening to worship in my car, I saw a vision of a small group of people with their eyes looking heavenward and their hands stretched towards heaven. I saw a fire resting on the hands on the hands of those worshiping. Then the Lord said when hands are clean and hearts are fully committed, the sacrifice of praises and worship is acceptable to Him and His eyes roam throughout the earth looking for such a people.

    It is good you are doing your own research on the subject. I encourage to see the Lord in prayer over this, however, because it is something that you will need to experience in His presence and with His guidance.

    • In reference to the first paragraph you wrote; whether or not speaking in tongues is meant for man is another controversial topic of its own. I used to be under the impression that speaking in tongues was when someone might preach to many different cultures and people of each language would understand the same words. However; with a closer look I have come to a different conclusion.

      I could try to explain, but it is already said just as well in a commentary by Chuck Smith:

      “And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all of these which speak Galileans? How is it that we hear every man in our own dialect, wherein we were born? And the Parthians, the Medes, the Elamites, the dwellers of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our dialectus [languages] the wonderful works of God (Act 2:7-11).

      Notice that when they understood the languages, these people were not preaching sermons in these languages, nor were their words addressed to men, but it was addressed to God. They were proclaiming the wonderful works of God.

      Somewhere along the line, it has been a mistaken notion that God often speaks to the church through tongues and interpretation of tongues. In I Corinthians 14, Paul says, “If a man speaks in an unknown tongue, he is not speaking to man, howbeit, in the Spirit he is speaking to God divine mysteries, or secrets.” And thus, he tells them that, if in church a person speaks in an unknown tongue, that he should pray that they might interpret.”

      Now, in reference to what you said here, “Then the Lord said when hands are clean and hearts are fully committed, the sacrifice of praises and worship is acceptable to Him “. I agree with this. Scripture encourages us to always search our hearts and make sure that we are pure before we come to God in prayer and in worship. We must always have pure hearts and pure intentions!

      • I would encourage you to lay aside all commentaries and go straight to The Word Himself and begin asking and seeking Him on the subjesct and see what He says to you. I can tell you that I have countless books and commentaries from my studies but I have learned more by asking and seeking the Lord directly for His view on His word. I was looking at a set of commentaries the other day and the Lord really impressed on my heart that He wanted me coming directly to Him for such things and not to search commentaries, not that commentaries are evil. The Apsotle Paul said He counted all as loss that he might know Christ. So, when it comes to interpreting the word of God, the Lord has moved me to seek His perspective. In seeking the Lord regarding His word, I am learning from Him and getting to know Him on a much more personal level instead of about Him.

      • Oh no not me but it was you by tony in his first comment to you. I had no problem with what he was saying till it came to the way he stated his recommendations at you. When he did that it became a personal attach and no longer a debate. He only needed to state what works for him.

      • I see. Perhaps it came across that way but I think everyone has well intentions here. I try not to let my feathers get ruffled over internet debates because sometimes when things are stated over text it is hard to gather someone’s full intentions because you cannot hear the way they say it and all…. Then again, I do not handle conflict very well. Usually I avoid posting about controversial subjects, but sometimes I do get a wild hair up my butt lol.

  3. Just my opinion. It seems to me that many churches and many of man tend to worship god the way they choose to and not the way god wishes or intended to be worshiped. They contend that its a new age, a different time, but that does not mean that god has changed. With that in mind, I would tend to believe that those that worship the lord the way he wants to be worshiped and not the way so many worship god today are more inclined to get signs of being filled with the holy spirit. (utterance).

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