Speaking in Tongues
"I am very confused as to why people think you do not have the Holy Spirit within you if you haven't spoken in tongues. ... I can't find anywhere the Bible says you have to speak in tongues." "Must I speak in tongues to be saved?" "Is speaking in tongues proof that you're a believer?" Similar questions are commonplace among Christians having contact with Pentecostals or some in other Charismatic churches.
Before taking a deeper journey through the topic of Biblical tongues, let's make some foundational points scripturally clear.
#1. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit lives in every believer:
John 14:15-24 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" 23 Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
#2. You are saved through believing (faith), not by any of your own works or actions. All subsequent good works stem from God having made you a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
#3. Not every believer spoke in tongues in the times of the Apostles:
In the book of Acts, which provides a description of what happened and not necessarily prescriptive teachings, Scriptures show both tongues speakers and non-tongues speakers. While some spoke in tongues shortly after coming to faith, there are also many instances where people believed and received the Holy Spirit, yet there's no hint of immediately following tongues. (Consider the Samaritan converts in Acts 8:14-17, the Cushite eunuch in Acts 8:38, even Saul after his conversion in Acts 9:17-17, and converts of Asia Minor in Acts 13:44-52).
Many questions remain: So why all the emphasis on tongues by some Christians? What are tongues? What purpose do tongues serve? Should a Christian want to speak in tongues? Are tongues-speaking Christians somehow better than believers who don't?
One of the greatest proponents of all believers' speaking in tongues is word of faith leader Kenneth E. Hagin. Without broadly considering the doctrine he holds to, his article entitled "Seven Reasons Why Every Believer Should Speak in Tongues" provides what he considers the best seven reasons for speaking in tongues. I'm going to use Hagin's seven points as a basis for examining what the Bible teaches about this subject. Each new point will begin with the reason numbering followed by an excerpt from his original article. Rebuttal will follow.
My summary of Hagin's Seven Reasons (Outline)
#1. Everyone filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in tongues. It's a first evidence or proof of baptism of the Holy Spirit.
#2. The Apostle Paul commands believers to speak in tongues in their worship of God and in their individual prayer life - the latter a means of spiritual edification.
#3. Speaking in tongues gives Christians continual awareness of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence. This will change the way you think and live.
#4. Speaking in tongues removes any possibility of selfish prayers, a means of always praying for the right issues and results.
#5. Speaking in tongues helps you trust in God more fully and to better exercise faith.
#6. Praying in tongues enables you to pray for issues you aren't even aware of and to pray for the right result on matters we are aware of.
#7. Speaking in tongues enables you to tame your tongue and submit your entire being to God.
The Word of God teaches that when we are filled with the Holy Ghost, we speak with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives utterance. Speaking in tongues is an initial evidence, or sign, of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: "And they were all FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST, and began to SPEAK WITH OTHER TONGUES, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). End Note 8
The book of Acts doesn't prove that God commands or enables all believers to speak in tongues. Acts is a book of history, a narrative book, showing what happened at the beginning of the infant Christian Church. It accurately portrays what happened to those early believers, in their specific circumstances. It doesn't make their experience prescriptive or compulsory for all following believers. Apostles, such as Paul, made many prescriptive statements to clarify and expound on Jesus' earlier teachings. Those statements show what's normal for the church until Jesus' return. Consider the preceding verses of the Bible passage Hagin extracted one verse from:
Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
If all later believers have to speak in tongues, as those at Pentecost did, a major question follows. Why wouldn't similar and consistent interpretation oblige all believers to have the sound of a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire resting on them too? Pentecost was a unique instance specific to the beginning of God's Christian Church.
Second, yet of first importance, we need to understand what everyone present would have understood tongues-speaking to be. Three key Greek words are: laleo, heteros, glossa - speak, other, tongues.
Using the standard Bible interpretation practice, that Scriptures best interpret Scriptures, context becomes important. The verses immediately following and directly associated with the same event at Pentecost clarify Acts 2:1-4:
Acts 2:5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians-we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God."
"... We hear, each of us in his own native language (v. 8b)..." Yes, the Greek reflects this clearly. Idios, gennao, dialektos - own (personally belonging to oneself), native (coming from ones' own parent), language (language or speech coming from a specific nation or region).
While the Greek word "glossa" can legitimately translate as "tongue," like all words with multiple meanings translators do better to present it with common meaning. This word, as used in Acts 2:4 and similar passages, as proven from Scriptures and extra-Biblical writing of the period, is a synonym for language. In fact, Acts 2:11 bookends this account by again noting the listeners heard them speaking in their "own glossa" or "own language." Notice that some newer translators now commonly present this same word as "languages" when it appears in Revelation (see Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15 in ESV and NIV).
God, being an orderly God, created languages with structured arrangement. Every language we are aware of, including every time God speaks in Scriptures or angelic being speaks in Scriptures, show that all speech has patterns making it recognizable as speech and not some random noise. This patterning is why we can program computers to recognize that someone is speaking. We should justly question anyone making nonsensical and repetitious sounds, without language patterns, and claiming it to be a (perhaps unknown) language. Most that passes as the modern gift of speaking in tongues is nonsensical phrases and sounds strung together in non-language patterns. One study, by linguist William Samarin at the University of Toronto, does assign some language patterns to the practice but only for reasons uncharacteristic to speaking in a new or previously unknown language:
It is verbal behaviour that consists of using a certain number of consonants and vowels[...]in a limited number of syllables that in turn are organized into larger units that are taken apart and rearranged pseudogrammatically[...]with variations in pitch, volume, speed and intensity. (William J. Samarin, 1972, Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism. New York: Macmillan. p. 120)
[Glossolalia] consists of strings of syllables, made up of sounds taken from all those that the speaker knows, put together more or less haphazardly but emerging nevertheless as word-like and sentence-like units because of realistic, language-like rhythm and melody. (William J. Samarin, 1972. "Sociolinguistic vs. Neurophysiological Explanations for Glossolalia: Comment on Goodman's Paper", Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 11 (3): 293-96. JSTOR 1384556)
Again, tongues-speaking as commonly practiced today are either fully non-language gibberish or babble reassembled using parts and/or cadence of the speaker's native or known language. (Another linguist and psychological anthropologist, Felicitas Goodman, confirms that the speech of these modern tongues speakers reflects patterns of speech in the speaker's native language. See Felicitas D. Goodman, 1969, "Phonetic Analysis of Glossolalia in Four Cultural Settings". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 8 : 227-35. JSTOR 1384336). This is not speaking in a new language with intent to express meaning and convey understanding. Language means something - the word and the action.
A final thought, on this first Hagin point, tongues (or languages) are not an automatic first sign of Baptism of the Holy Spirit. As previously noted about 1 Corinthians 12:29-30; Paul makes clear all believers don't necessarily speak in tongues. He even stresses that he'd rather they prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:5), having previously noted that both tongues and prophecies will stop (1 Corinthians 13:8). If tongues are necessary for believers why would God have them stop? God gives His gifts, of which tongues (languages) are one, solely as He chooses for the purposes and times He chooses (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Nowhere do Scriptures show, or even hint at, every believer compulsorily having the same special gift.
The early church fathers, not surprisingly, spoke about speaking in tongues. By the fifth century they uniformly commented that this gift had long since stopped. In other words, they no longer saw it practiced by believers in the churches of their day and region. For example:
"In the earliest times, 'the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues,' which they had not learned, 'as the Spirit gave them utterance [Acts 2:4]'. These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away. In the laying on of hands now, that persons may receive the Holy Ghost, do we look that they should speak with tongues? Or when we laid the hand on these [new believers], did each one of you look to see whether they would speak with tongues, and, when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so wrong-minded as to say, These have not received the Holy Ghost; for, had they received, they would speak with tongues as was the case in those times? If then the witness of the presence of the Holy Ghost be not now given through these miracles, by what is it given, by what does one get to know that he has received the Holy Ghost? Let him question his own heart. If he love his brother the Spirit of God dwells in him." (Augustine of Hippo, lived circa 354-430, Homilies on the First Epistle of John 6.10).
"This whole place [i.e., I Corinthians 14 and its treatment of tongues] is very obscure; but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place." (Chrysostom, lived circa 347-407, Homilies on I Corinthians, 29).
Chrysostom later adds his understanding of why the gift of tongues was given to the early church:
"The Corinthians thought that speaking in tongues was a great gift because it was the one which the apostles received first, and with a great display. But this was no reason to think it was the greatest gift of all. The reason the apostles got it first was because it was a sign that they were to go everywhere, preaching the gospel." (Chrysostom, lived circa 347-407, Homilies on I Corinthians, 35.1).
I could cite many other early church Fathers in debating when this gift stopped (at least in known practice). Speculation over when tongues stopped becomes secondary to another clear message in their writings. They uniformly understood the gift of tongues, while practiced, was speaking in other genuine languages. These were foreign languages belonging to other people groups. Speakers and listeners could learn them naturally, yet here God gave unlearned supernatural ability. The message spoken had meaning and understanding by translation or innately to a native speaker. End Note 1
The early church fathers didn't see a difference between what took place in Acts 2 (at Pentecost) and later speaking in tongues including the gift event spoken of in 1 Corinthians. Further they saw both as a fulfillment of Isaiah 28:11. They understood 1 Corinthians 12-14 because of Acts 2 and Isaiah 28:11, both passages speaking of human foreign languages. End Note 2 There's no hint in any of their writings that they understood possibility of two types of tongues-speaking, one being earthly languages and the other some heavenly unintelligible gibberish or babblings. They saw only a simple difference between public and private tongues-speaking. The first needed an interpreter or a listener's natural understanding; the second had none. The latter wasn't for the church since no interpretation was possible and it wouldn't have value for the congregation's benefit.
Early church writer John Chrysostom, while granting that all the believers in Acts 10 and 19 spoke in tongues, also noted that 1 Corinthians 12:30 showed no expectation of every Christian to speak in tongues. This didn't lead him to argue for two types of tongues-speaking, as though different, one public another private. Rather he consistently understood tongues-speaking in Acts as the same miracle as that in Corinthians. End Note 3
Early church fathers occasionally spoke about the "tongues of angels," as they addressed 1 Corinthians 13:1. Their teaching implied this ability was the exception and never the rule. Further, any angelic language would be similar to a human language with an understandable message and possibility of interpretation. If one was to accept that modern tongues-speaking is an unknown language or perhaps angelic language, they show themselves unintelligible in another way. Separate self-professed translators, claiming God-given gifting of interpretation, consistently offer "translations" that are different from one other. This isn't minor variations which are common to different translators by choice of synonyms; rather the entire substance of their translation is different. Inability consistently translate provides evidence that tongues are not real languages with meaning. This has led some Pentecostals to claim that people shouldn't evaluate their tongues-speaking like a normal language because it's "spiritual" and not "rational," affirming that their "language" isn't a true foreign language:
"Charismatics are not disturbed by linguists who claim that glossolalia has no observable language structure, for if such were the case, speaking in tongues would not be spiritual but rational speech. (J.R. Williams, article "Charismatic Movement," in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)."
Making tongues into non-language opposes what the Bible shows, namely tongues-speaking as viable and understandable languages, plus it contradicts the early church's understanding of this gift.
Modern tongues speaking - glossolalia - came on the scene in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901. Its initial association was Pentecostalism but it later extended into the broader charismatic movement. The credited co-founders of the movement were holiness preachers Charles Parham and his student William Seymour, an African-American preacher. Parham, specifically, decided that speaking in tongues was first evidence that someone had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostal churches consider the "Azusa Street Revival" under Seymour, in Los Angeles, the birth of their global movement. Not only did it include widespread glossolalia, there were anecdotal reports of fire resting on participant's heads and miraculous healings.
These early Pentecostal teachers and followers, ostensibly all who then spoke in tongues, believed they were speaking in genuine foreign human languages (xenoglossia). They believed an interpreter could unquestionably translate their speech or that a native speaker of that language would understand. Some early members of this movement were so sure of this they traveled to foreign countries and tried to use their tongues-speaking to share the gospel with non-English peoples. These tries all ended in failure resulting in much disillusionment. Regardless, for many decades belief that this new tongues-speaking featured legitimate human languages persisted in Pentecostal groups. Some began to alter their doctrine to match experience, abandoning the idea of tongues as real languages. Here they violated a key feature of proper Biblical interpretation: "Interpret personal experience in the light of Scripture and not Scripture in the light of personal experience." End Note 4
Most Pentecostals and Charismatics have effectively altered their original doctrine in a second area as well. When this 20th century movement began, they believed God's gift would come spontaneously and with full ability. This gifting would happen following the laying on of hands and prayer or as a spontaneous first sign of filling with the Holy Spirit. This, they believed, followed the pattern shown in Scriptures. Yet, in practice, their claimed supernatural gift is often the result of human efforts. Here it's self-induced, faked, and founded on mimicked patterns and behavior. In fact, in some settings, they offer formal classes to teach how to speak in tongues or how to perfect tongues-speaking. The formula enabling a believer to receive this experience has a typical format. For example, it often includes a captivating and dynamic leader promoting the experience. Second, there's commonly a personal life-crisis (heightening the seeker's desire for this experience). Add to this a stressed and dogmatic reasoning highlighting personal need to speak in tongues and a supportive or group presence increasing peer pressure to speak in tongues. Finally, and very importantly, all of this takes place in an intensely emotional atmosphere. One study, decades ago, showed that even people of no religion or non-Christian religion could have the same experience under similar conditions. A separate similar study showed that non-Christians can learn to mimic this behavior and practice it undetected among Pentecostals. Other studies show that former Pentecostals, including those who abandoned the Christian faith, keep their ability to speak in this fashion. This is far from a supernatural and God-granted genuine Christian gift. It's a created experience built on self-expectation and peer-pressure rather than God's Spirit. Consider these words of declared encouragement by two Pentecostal authors:
You may start off with a little baby language, but just keep on. Remember when your children were small they started out with a very small vocabulary, and then as they added new letters to it, they were capable of making more words. The same thing is sometimes true of your Spirit language. The Spirit can only give back to you what you give to him, so put those extra sounds of the alphabet in and see what he does with them! Don't keep on speaking a baby language, but allow the Holy Spirit to develop a full language in and through you. (Charles & Frances Hunter, Why Should "I" Speak in Tongues???, 1976, Page 188).
This taught and developed non-miraculous experience has nothing, I repeat, nothing in common with Scriptural tongues-speaking.
Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians to continue the practice of speaking with other tongues in their worship of God. He also encouraged them to speak in tongues in their individual prayer life as a means of spiritual edification, or building up. The Bible says, "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself . . ." (1 Cor. 14:4).
Paul also stated in First Corinthians 14:14, "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, MY SPIRIT PRAYETH, but my understanding is unfruitful." Notice he said, "My spirit prays."
The Amplified Bible reads, "My spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays . . . ." God is a Spirit. When you pray in tongues, your spirit is in direct contact with God, who is a Spirit. When you speak in tongues, you are talking to Him by divine, supernatural means. End Note 8
Since Hagin repeatedly appeals to 1 Corinthians in support of his views, commonly quoting a single verse apart from context, we must look at all Paul said in this key passage. Apart from a single reference in the gospels (Mark 16:17), every mention to speaking in tongues appears in two other places. The historical narrative of Acts (Acts 2:1-11; 10:44-47; 19:1-7) has many short accounts and the longest passage is 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14.
1Cor. 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Paul opens this passage by clearly noting there are various gifts and service - meaning that different people have different gifts and different ways of serving God. Speaking in languages of other people groups and interpretation of languages of other people groups are two such related gifts. He implies unlearned abilities and spontaneous gifts from God, also the historical example in the Acts Pentecost account.
1Cor. 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and mall were made to drink of one Spirit.
While God baptizes every believer into the one body of Christ, and everyone drinks of the one Spirit of God, Paul's opening statement (v. 4-11) stands. There's a God-given diversity of gifts and service within this one body.
1Cor. 12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
Paul stresses that believers with one gift cannot claim they have no need of the other believers and their gifting. His overall passage implies a difference of gifts not everyone sharing the same. God alone, the giver of these gifts, decides the gifts that make up the church.
1Cor. 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
In the continuing passage Paul shows that some gifts will cease. This signals that God gives out His gifts for the church irrespective of time. Not every gift must exist at the same time; rather God gives gifts as necessary through time to complete Christ's one body. Christ does have multiple bodies; for example, in the apostles' day and another now. There's one body inclusive of all-time. If God decides He only needs one or a few people with a particular gift, perhaps at only one period of time, that's His choice. He knows exactly what the completed body looks like and what's necessary for its perfect completion.
Where did Paul show that at least some gifts end? See verse 28 in the continuing passage, when he says "first apostles." Jesus personally appointed specific individuals as His apostles. An apostle is "one who is sent" with emphasis on the sender. Our resurrected Lord directly called and sent every "apostle of Jesus Christ." The earliest church understood and knew this standard. With John's passing (of Revelation fame) the era of the apostles ended, their purpose complete, and their part in the body of Christ finished. They were part of the church's foundation, built on the cornerstone of Jesus himself. No one needs to set Jesus' cornerstone again, equally no one needs to lay again the foundation of the apostles (see Ephesians 2:20).
1Cor. 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
There's nothing in this passage that mandates or obligates God to continue all other gifts either. By His choice, as He sees fit for the church, any of these gifts may exist or stop in various places or times throughout history. When we "desire the higher gifts" we properly desire the gift that God wants for us here and now, what He wills and not what we will. Our prayers are always to see His will done, His plan carried out, in the manner He chooses.
1Cor. 12:27b And I will show you a still more excellent way. 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1Cor. 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1Cor. 13:8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Prophecies will pass away, tongue will stop, and knowledge will pass away. Paul makes clear there are limits in time and duration to God's gifts. What he didn't clearly settle was when they would end; that didn't matter. This passage's goal wasn't to concentrate on the temporary; rather to focus on the everlasting...
1Cor. 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
God wants His church to concentrate on faith and hope and especially love. Then, as God wants and grants, any following spiritual gift will be properly and well used. Every believer can pursue love - every believer! We can grow in God's love and actively find ways to exercise His love daily. And yes, every believer can desire God's other spiritual gifts, but on this second account, our fervent wants can find no fulfillment by self-effort. All the desire in the world cannot force God to give me a gift He doesn't want, or need, me to have.
1Cor. 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
After setting faith, hope, and love, as our primary focus, Paul makes clear that any want for spiritual gifts should begin with the top one. And, no, it wasn't tongues. Given the heightened focus on tongues in some churches you'd think that Paul's words were "pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may speak in tongues." But this isn't true. He said "especially that you may prophesy." Paul's continued example makes it clear that speaking another language, through a supernatural gift of God, is useless someone understands it. Implicitly this means that a person who naturally speaks that language will, of course, understand - they being a natural interpreter. Plainly, he makes clear the gift of supernaturally speaking another language is useless unless someone present can interpret that language. The goal is always to have your listeners hearing and understanding the meaning and intent in God's word. Any exercise of this spiritual gift forgetting God's purpose of having listeners who and hear and heed is useless. Paul continues this thought...
1Cor. 14:6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
If no one understands it's like "speaking into the air," a futile exercise that doesn't build up God's church. Words with meaning are the focus in God's church. In this brief passage (v. 6-12) Paul uses both the Greek words "glossa (v. 6&9)" and "phone (v. 10&11)." The first means languages (yet typically translated "tongues"). The second means sounds (yet typically translated "languages" - and validly so for this second one because he narrows the sounds as language by using the word "laleo (v. 11)," a human speaker). Both his Greek "glossa" and "phone" were speaking of understandable human languages, each spoken and understood. And listeners finding understanding is the whole reason for them in the church!
From Paul's words we can see there were people in the Corinthian church with a strong focus on speaking in tongues. It appears some spoke in tongues without reason, with no one able to understand them or benefit from what they were saying. Paul, who personally could speak in tongues, a gift received from God, makes clear how he and everyone genuinely having it should use it. His list goes like this:
#1. (Top of the list) If you speak in tongues and don't understand what you're saying, ask God to give you understanding.
#2. Praying in a tongue from your spirit, with understanding of your mind, is "unfruitful" or useless.
a.Therefore, pray with your spirit and with your mind (with understanding), even as you sing with your spirit and your mind.
b.Give thanks in a fashion that "outsiders," or someone without the gift, can also say "Amen" by understanding what you are saying.
#3. It's not enough personally to "be giving thanks well enough," rather it serves no purpose because others aren't "being built up."
1Cor. 14:13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Paul, who traveled widely into many areas having local languages and dialects, noted that He spoke in tongue more than everyone at Corinth. God gave Him exactly the gift he needed to reach as many people as possible. He made clear that his speaking in other languages was in control of his mind with a purpose of teaching others. The sentence he used to say this does so by contrasting example. He would rather speak 5 words with purpose and meaning and understanding than 10,000 words without. For perspective, ten thousand Greek words includes all of 1 Corinthians (6829 words) and Galatians (2230 words) and 2 Thessalonians (823 words) and you'd still have to throw in another 118 words! What can you say in five words of substance? Far more than in 10,000 words without understanding or meaning!
1Cor. 14:20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, "By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord." 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
Childish thinking is all about "me, me, me." Paul demands that believers stop being childish and mature in their thinking on the use of spiritual gifts including languages. He cites from Isaiah 28:11, here including the words translated as "strange tongues" and "lips of foreigners." The matching Hebrew words are "'acher lashon" and "la'eg safah." The Hebrew word for tongues can be the physical item (see Judges 7:5). It can also be a tongue shape (such as a tongue of water or bay, see Joshua 15:2, 5, or a tongue of gold or bar, see Joshua 7:21, 24). Yet, when used about humans speaking, the immediate context here, it always references language (as it first appears in the Law, see Genesis 10:5, 20, 31; even Deuteronomy 28:49). The first Hebrew phrase means "other languages" or "foreign languages." The second means "strange lips" or "foreign lips." Here Paul's Old Testament citation makes clear that God was fulfilling this old prophecy in having people speak His truth using foreign languages.
The purpose of speaking God's truth in a foreign language is:
"for unbelievers" not "believers" - this was God's supernatural means of spreading His word quickly to unbelievers of many tribes, tongues and nations.
In contrast, God's gift of prophecy is:
"for believers" not "unbelievers" - this was God's gift to build up and strengthen the faith of His people.
Church gatherings were to strengthen and teach believers, to prepare them to go out and share God's word. Paul used this contrast with purpose. Gifting on display in church's gathering should be prophecy rather than languages, the latter focused on reaching the lost outside the church. He even ends his thought by noting that God will still convict an unbeliever or outsider who happens to enter the church using His word in prophecy. This brings him full circle to 1 Corinthians 14:1 where he states prophecy as a greater gift than languages.
1Cor. 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
Chaos should never characterize gatherings of God's people (see also 1 Corinthians 14:40 and Colossians 2:5). Biblically, order and purpose should belong to everything the church does. Churches have a duty to regulate what happens in each worship service. If the church recognizes a believer's gift of speaking in a foreign language and if there's someone to translate, allow them to speak. If there's no translator they must keep silent.
The way many modern churches exercise their claimed gift of tongues is far different. People regularly rattle off long ecstatic expressions of sounds with no interpreter. They rarely restrict tongues-speaking to two or three at most; often it's crowds all at the same time. The mark of a translator is the ability to accurate express the original's meaning and intent. Here too, the rarely offered "translator" gives a message unknown and unrepeatable to the original wording. In fact, the "translator" would struggle and fail to repeat what the speaker originally said.
1Cor. 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
Orderliness extended beyond the gift of languages, so too prophecy. Similarly, the church was to enforce a maximum of two or three speakers. Paul then gives further qualifications:
#1. "The spirits of the prophets are subject to prophets." Prophecy, like tongues, was under control of the one speaking. This doesn't reduce the Holy Spirit's involvement; it shows the Holy Spirit so moves as enable the speaker to remain in control. There was to be no out-of-control prophets or people speaking in tongues.
#2. Those present are to "weigh what is said." This need of scriptural examination remains true when anyone teaches or preaches in the church. Let those present weigh everything spoken, whether in prophecy or translated from another language, and compare it with God's revealed and written word. No tongues speaker or prophet of God will fear this. If moved and enabled by His Holy Spirit they won't speak word that contradict, take away from, or add to, that spoken by His authenticated prophets and apostles (Old Testament and New).
1Cor. 14:33b As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
Continuing Paul's thought that everything should be orderly, he reminds them God entrusted men with leadership in the church. The church's men were to speak up and confront false prophecy or teaching error in the church (and not a wife in place of her husband). This duty especially belongs to the elders who God entrusted with safeguarding the flock (Hebrews 13:17). End Note 5
1Cor. 14:36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.
Recognizing and following what Paul taught in this chapter is compulsory for the church, "a command of the Lord." A speaker's failure to follow, or accept it, means the church is to not recognize them. The church isn't to ban speaking in languages or prophesying, but they are to test and regulate it. Exercising these spiritual gifts must be orderly and under the speaker's control. Tongues must be translatable, understandable, language. And always, the church must test the words against God's revealed word. Anyone claiming to exercise teaching spiritual gifts must be willing to submit to this Biblical test and standard. If they don't, or the elders judge their words as error, the church must not recognized them or allow them to speak further in God's church.
A third reason people should speak with other tongues is that speaking with tongues keeps us continually aware of the Holy Spirit's indwelling Presence. Not only is speaking with tongues the initial sign or evidence of the Holy Spirit's infilling, but continuing to pray and to worship God in tongues helps us to be ever-conscious of His indwelling Presence. And if you are conscious of the indwelling Presence of the Holy Ghost every day, that is bound to affect the way you think and live. End Note 8
Scriptures show tongues were an early sign for some believers, but not all believers. Again, as shown in the previous points, God grants His gifts to whom He pleases for His purposes and not necessary every gift to all believers. You won't see Paul saying, examine yourselves to see if you're in the faith - by speaking in tongues you know you have the Holy Spirit's infilling. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian church, did tell them to examine themselves, to test themselves, to see if they were in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Pride of actions or gifts received was the basis of this testing; rather obedience to Jesus Christ. Believing in and living out the true gospel is evidence that you have the Holy Spirit's infilling (see also 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:4-10), in contrast to embracing "a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4)."
Believers "are conscious of the indwelling Presence of the Holy Ghost every day." This isn't because of tongues or gifting, rather because the Spirit causes us to cry out to God our Father (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15-17). In Romans 8:16, Paul assures that God's Spirit testifies directly to our spirit that we are children of God and co-heirs with Jesus. One clear way that He does so is through enabling us to increasingly show the fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives (Galatians 5:22-24). God's fruit of the Spirit keeps us from conceit, or claiming ourselves superior, or envying others, because of what God is doing in us or in them (Galatians 5:26). Something that's guaranteed to "affect the way you think and live" every day isn't speaking in tongues or exercising any other spiritual gift, it is daily fixing your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 2:10).
Speaking in tongues eliminates the possibility of selfishness entering our prayer life. For instance, if I pray a prayer out of my own mind and out of my own thinking, it may be unscriptural. It may be selfish.
Paul wrote to the Church at Rome, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought. . ." (Rom. 8:26). He didn't say we didn't know how to pray, because we are instructed to pray to the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:23-24).
But just because I know how to pray doesn't mean that I know what to pray for as I ought. So Paul said, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself [Himself] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26).
The Holy Ghost is not going to do our praying for us. He is sent to help us pray. Speaking with other tongues is praying as the Spirit gives utterance. It is Spirit-directed praying. And it eliminates the possibility of selfishness in our prayers. End Note 8
Hagin claims praying in tongues is better because...
#1. It removes selfishness from your prayer life
#2. It's not necessary to learn how to pray properly or how to ask God for the right results - just pray in tongues.
#3. Holy Spirit caused prayers, not from "my own mind and out of my own thinking," is His "helping" me to pray.
As noted in the last section - looking at 1 Corinthians 14:13-19 - God wants us to have understanding behind the words we speak and pray. How can we choose to ask "according to his will" if we don't consciously come to understand His will? If the Holy Spirit just automatically enables us to pray in tongues instantly making every request "according to his will" John's words would become redundant...
1John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
James affirms John's words by noting that believers ask in faith and that we do so without doubt. We consciously form our requests, acting out of our faith.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Later, James makes clear that many believers consciously make requests with wrong motives. The Holy Spirit doesn't just throw out our words and replace them with a petition full of correct motives (automatically, they claim, if we pray in tongues). Rather the Holy Spirit, using God's word, convicts of sin to teach us to have correct motives leading to pray properly.
James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Shortly later, James stresses prayer...
James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.2 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
James made clear we personally pray in the face of suffering. And while elders can come pray and anoint, they pray out of faith with the sick person who sent for the elders. All consciously pray in faith. Notice James' example of a righteous man praying prayers of "great power." This wasn't someone speaking in tongues; it was Elijah praying in the Jews' everyday language. He prayed out of faith, according to God's will, and God publicly and dramatically granted His what he asked.
Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles End Note 6 - a people of many varied languages - was a unique example. Unless God specifically gave them the gift of speaking in tongues, the disciples (apostles) would have normally prayed as Jesus taught them:
Luke 11:1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." 2 And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation."
The template for praying that Jesus taught His disciples was:
#1. Direct. Speak to the Father directly.
#2. Specific. Included specific known and expressible needs.
#3. Reflective. This mandates remembrance and understanding (considering personal sins and sins others committed against you)
#4. Willful. Expresses personal desire and understanding to avoid temptation and possible sin.
Jesus spoke this prayer in the language He and the disciples commonly used every day. If God intended all believers to speak most prayer or the best prayers in other languages don't you think Jesus would have at least mentioned it?! Luke's account on Jesus speaking about prayer didn't end with what we commonly call "The Lord's Prayer." He gives another example...
Luke 11:5 And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 7 and he will answer from within, 'Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything'? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and sit will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
This second example shows that prayer is intentional and persistent. Jesus' own passionate example of prayer - at the most pivotal time in all history - showed him praying to the Father in everyday words, not in tongues. The Holy Spirit indisputably filled Jesus and as our perfect example His pattern is chief (John 13:15).
Luke 22:39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation."
Why is the Holy Spirit necessary for all believers' prayers?
Rom. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Simply put, believers fall short in our prayers. We don't pray perfect prayers, often wrestling with what to ask for or how to ask. It's here the Holy Spirit intercedes or aids our prayers - He helps us. He doesn't replace our personal need to pray and to learn what to pray, rather He adds extra to our prayers guaranteeing that they be "according to the will of God." His "groanings too deep for words" have nothing to do with the gift of speaking in languages. Languages by definition are words. This wording pictures an internal deep-seated passionate involvement in our prayers - from the gut or heart.
Jesus' disciples normally had the Holy Spirit speaking through them, enabling them to give defense for what they believed and to share His gospel. In this the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in common and understandable words:
Matt. 10:17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Prayer, praying in the Spirit, is part of the whole armor of God. Believers always pray "in the Spirit," meaning the Holy Spirit always helps our prayers (as defined in Romans 8:26-27). Those prayers, over time, grow in clarity and understanding. Our prayer's frequency should multiply; our specific prayers for "all the saints" should increase. And we should consciously remember what we should be praying about (see Paul's example in 6:19-20 below).
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times zin the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I gam an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Thinking and understanding are part of believer's everyday life, whether teaching, serving, or praying. Speaking languages without understanding doesn't help me or my listeners to become unselfish or to set aside other sin in my life. It should be our constant wish to find greater understanding of God's word and His teaching in every part of our life. Speaking so others can understand holds them higher than ourselves - this is a cure for selfishness.
Phil. 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
2Tim. 2:7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
A fifth reason believers should speak with tongues is that it helps them learn to trust God more fully. It builds one's faith to speak in tongues. The Bible says, "Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20).
Speaking in tongues stimulates faith and helps us learn how to trust God more fully. For example, faith must be exercised to speak with tongues because the Holy Spirit supernaturally directs the words we speak. You see, we don't know what the next word will be-we have to trust God for that. And trusting God in one area helps us learn to trust Him in another area. End Note 8
Jude made clear that people were abandoning the true faith because they didn't know the "faith that was once for all delivered to the saints," meaning God's word. They followed "ungodly passions," and were lacking the Holy Spirit. In contrast, he notes believers growing in the "most holy faith" and "praying in the Holy Spirit." The first requires understanding and growing knowledge of God's word (Colossians 2:6-8), the second comes from having the Holy Spirit live within us. As noted in the previous section, prayer is with intent. Prayer doesn't change God (who cannot change, see Malachi 3:6), it changes us. Praying in the Holy Spirit means consciously learning from God how to apply and live out His word. Every believer prays in the Spirit, who lives in us, to guide us into all truth (Ephesians 2:18; John 16:13).
God builds up our faith by our trusting in His word, His revelation (Hebrews 11:1-40), and not through speaking in some other language. We're not to believe every spirit, rather to test the spirits. I can only do this if I understand what they are teaching. Unintelligible words that I can't understand could be speaking lies or blasphemy against God. Only if someone interprets or I have personal understanding of the meaning of those words, I can do what I'm commanded to do, "test the spirits." This is a command given by an apostle of Jesus and "whoever knows God" listens to His apostles. By judging everything spoken against God's revealed word, "we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error."
1John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (See also 1 John 2:18-21)
Again, trusting in God more fully comes from hearing, believing, and putting into action God's word. In my day-to-day life, the Holy Spirit's leading doesn't mean I sit around hoping He will make me do something (without planning or understanding or reason). Rather, I trust the Spirit will continue to change the way I think so I will make good plans according to God's will. Living by faith includes making plans and living them out "as the Lord wills (James 4:13-15)." So too, I willfully form my prayers to give Glory to God and to seek His face and too seek His help. This is not through some blind faith that God will have me utter exactly the right words in a language I don't know expressing subjects I don't understand.
The Bible shows the Holy Spirit wants to gives us understanding, not to make us speak or do anything without understanding. When the Holy Spirit teaches the thoughts of God it's so "we might understand" and then communicate those truths to others, helping them (specifically believers) to understand:
1Cor. 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
1Cor. 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
Trusting God joins tightly with obeying what God has spoken through His servants (see Isaiah 50:10). Understanding the spoken message is integral to a listener's obeying. For the speaker it's making sure that everything spoken has clear and understandable meaning. The example of God's Word shows His people always speaking and praying in such a fashion. The few mentioned Biblical instances of speaking in tongues also follow this pattern.
If God stimulates faith by speaking in tongues, why does God repeatedly show us that true Christian belief is living by faith and not sight? Why do so many in the modern tongues movement want to receive this gift - or believe they need to receive this gift as proof of their salvation? They do so because they want exactly that, physical and immediate proof. For them, slowly increasing evidences of the fruit of God's spirit in one's own life are inadequate. They want immediate and supposedly incontrovertible proof now. God blesses His people through faith, through believing, apart from proof (though not without evidence) or using our five physical senses (taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing).
John 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
2Cor. 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Rom. 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
1John 4:20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1Pet. 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
If you look to tongues as proof of your salvation your faith is lacking - ask God to increase your faith that you may believe without sight.
John 6:30 So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?
On the subject of faith versus sight, consider how gifts would impact even unbelievers. If, as claimed, believers can have and use these gifts at will - wouldn't they become unquestionable proofs that God exists? These would become testable proofs of God's existence and presence in His saints. Rather than believing by faith that God exists (Hebrews 11:6), I could trust in my physical senses. If every believer could instantly speak in an unlearned language at salvation, everyone could rest in this heavenly sign as unconditional proof. In an exaggerated form, imagine that believers could all immediately walk on water on God granting them salvation. Wouldn't this be testable by our sight and by our touch - physical proof versus belief? This goes against God's whole emphasis that we believe and walk by faith. Jesus prominently noted that it's an "evil and adulterous generation" that seeks a sign (Matthew 12:29; 16:4; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16, 29; 1 Corinthians 1:22). While God can and does use signs for various purposes, they're not to replace faith so they will never be universal or commonplace. Take note that even the distinguished Apostle Paul, who God supernaturally used many times to heal people, couldn't heal everyone (see 2 Timothy 4:20). This shows exercise of God's gifts is by the Giver's will, solely at His determined times.
2Cor. 4:18a ...as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
Jesus never said, "By speaking in tongues all people will know that you are my disciples." He did say "By this ['that you love one another', see prior verse] all people will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:35)." This emphasis makes all believers focusing on loving one another far more important than everyone trying to speaking in tongues. This explains why Paul clearly placed love as the greatest (1 Corinthians 13:13) in his discussion on gifts and speaking in tongues (in 1 Corinthians 12-14).
A sixth reason every believer should speak in tongues is that it provides a way for you to pray about things that you wouldn't think to pray about or aren't even aware of. We already know that the Holy Spirit helps us pray for particular situations when we don't know how to pray about those situations. In addition, the Holy Spirit, Who knows everything, can pray things through us for things about which our natural mind knows nothing. End Note 8
Scriptures examined in the previous sections show the Holy Spirit is, indeed, trying to teach us to pray and be aware of issues we might naturally not be aware of. Yet it's unfounded conjecture believing the Holy Spirit does this by speaking in tongues. Passage after passage shows the Spirit guiding our understanding, helping us consciously to inform our minds of God's will. Empty repeated phrases should never fill our prayers - meaning words without meaning.
Matt. 6:7 "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Followed by the Lord 's Prayer!)
Every commanded Scriptural prayer includes specifics, in other words, specific we're consciously to be aware of and pray about.
When the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in our prayers, it's not to pray in place of us. His intervention is to give us the right words to ask correctly for what God is guiding us to ask (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit fixes up our prayers making them acceptable to a Holy and Perfect God. But always, even when we struggle to pray, we are consciously to try knowing the Spirit will aid us.
1Th. 5:17 pray without ceasing,
A seventh reason why every believer should speak with tongues is found in James 3:8. "But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison," Yielding your tongue to the Holy Spirit to speak with other tongues is a big step toward being able to fully yield all of your members to God; for if you can yield your tongue, you can yield any member of your body to God.
Speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. God has given us this wonderful spiritual gift to bless us, edify us, and refresh us throughout our lives on this earth. Let's receive what God has provided and enjoy the benefits of speaking in tongues! End Note 8
Hagin previously said or suggested everything in raised in this seventh point. As we've seen in verses I've already provided, God didn't provide speaking in tongues or other languages as a magic solution to provide self-control. Taming one's tongue, or restraining the flesh in any other area, comes from learning and knowing God's word and then applying with the help of God's indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit guides us into God's truth (John 16:13).
The context of the given James 3:8 isn't speaking in tongues. James 3:1 begins by talking about teaching. Teachers speak God's word, teachers explain God's word, teachers help provide application for God's Word. In summary, teachers make clear God's original meaning and intent. This requires speaking clearly in the language of the listener. If I, as an English speaking teacher, travel to the heart of China and start speaking, apart from an interpreter, my teaching would be in vain. Paul made clear the gift of speaking in tongues or foreign languages was the same. God supernatural provision of this language gift was for a purpose - so the lost would understand.
Immediately some say "what about a heavenly prayer language?" Even if the Holy Spirit, for some reason, enabled me to babble ten thousand words in a language I didn't understand, it does nothing for teaching me God's truth. It also does nothing for enabling me to better live out God's word, or preparing me to serve others. In fact, I wouldn't even be able to say "Amen." All through Scriptures the common, corporate agreement to prayer offered to our God is "Amen." Not only does the word say I agree with the prayer's intent, it implicitly states "God's will be done," as every prayer always is to see His will. Even if those ten thousand words were lofty and deserved praise for our Lord God, how would I know and justly say "Amen!" Paul echoes this idea in 1 Corinthians 14:16. End Note 7
Tongues isn't an "initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit." As Acts shows, God gave it to some believers, by His will and choice, for a specific purpose. Not all believers spoke in tongues. This wasn't their choice; it's the choice of the Giver! I must stress this. By definition it's only a gift when granted freely by the Giver's choice. If I can demand or compel someone to give me something, it's not truly a gift.
I find it ironic and contradictory that many churches which promote speaking in tongues as "initial evidence" of salvation actually hold classes for teaching people how to speak in tongues. Others don't do this formally but encourage non-tongues speakers to watch and copy those who do. There's not a hint in the pages of Scriptures that God's gift of tongues required learning or imitation to discover how to do this. Every case mentioned in Scriptures saw it spontaneously granted by God with full abilities instantly. Likewise, each Scriptural example featured immediately understood languages.
Do I desire to speak in tongues? Most certainly! If God wished to grant me the supernatural ability to speak His truth in a language I haven't learned, I would see it as a blessing and opportunity. Obviously, if He granted me such ability, it would be with purpose. Everything our God does is with purpose. End Note 9 On a side note, God not granting me this gift doesn't absolve me from the need to share His truth with others as opportunity arises. This remains true even when I'm in countries or areas that I can't speak the language. God in His wisdom often provide opportunities to still do the same using ordinary and commonly available means, such as translators with learned ability. While, I think, it would be far easier for God to grant the gift of tongues, God never promises His people easy - only that He will enable us in the manner He wants.
As for "the benefits of speaking in tongues," to paraphrase Paul - "stop thinking like children." God never intended His true gift of speaking in tongues to provide personal benefit; it was to benefit those who hadn't heard His glorious gospel. Oh that all God's church could speak in unlearned tongues to spread His word. But, if God hasn't granted you that gift, He's still set the opportunity of sharing His gospel in the language you have, or the opportunity to learn a new language to go elsewhere. No matter how God does it, He will be glorified! And we should never second-guess God on which is the best or necessary way - let alone demand of God that He should do it the way we think is best.
1. Consider Irenaeus, lived circa 130-202, Against Heresies 5.6.1; Hippolytus of Rome, lived circa 170-235, Apostolic Constitutions 8.1; Hegemonius, circa mid-4th century, Acta Archelai or Acts of Archelaus 37; Gregory of Nazianzen, lived circa 329-390, The Oration on Pentecost 15-17; Ambrosiaster, writing circa 366-384, Commentary on Paul's Epistles, see his comments on 1 Corinthians 13:1; John Chrysostom, lived circa 349-407, Homilies on First Corinthians 35.1; Augustine of Hippo, lived circa 354-430, The Letters of Petilian, the Donatist 2.32.74; Leo the Great, lived 390-461, Sermons 75.2; and implied by Tertullian, lived 155-240, Against Marcion 5.8; Origen, lived circa 185-254, "Preface," De Principiis or On First Principles 3.1
4. See http://www.bibleistrue.com/qna/qna62.htm for more detail.
5. More on roles and authorities: http://www.bibleistrue.com/qna/qna78.htm
7. See also 2 Corinthians 1:20; Galatians 1:5; Ephesians 3:21; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 5:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 25; Revelation 5:14; 7:12; 19:4; 22:20-21.
Excerpt from Kenneth E. Hagin's article entitled "Seven Reasons
Why Every Believer Should Speak in Tongues:
Article by Brent
MacDonald, ©2017 LTM/DTI
used by the author in this article are from the ESV