I believe that one of the most abused gifts of the Holy Spirit in modern history of the christian church is speaking in tongues. Today, we will be studying a deeper level of what it means to use and practice the gift of tongues.
What Is Speaking In Tongues?
The gift of tongues or what we know now as the “speaking in tongues” is a spiritual gift where one is enabled by the Holy Spirit to speak in different known languages. The book of Acts gave us several scenarios where the Apostles used this gifting. There are many people from different places with different languages who listened to them (Acts 2, 10 and 11). The people where amazed because the Apostles were able to speak their native languages which they can fully understand. Some even thought that they were drunk.
In the book of Acts, the Apostles speak in different known languages of men. However, as we can see in the book of 1 Corinthians, we can see there that Christians can also speak in the language of the angels where no one can understand. 1 Corinthians 14:2 further added, “…he utter mysteries for himself.” which means, he is speaking language which is not understandable by men.
Truths About Speaking In Tongues
Speaking In Tongues Is A Form of Speaking To God (v.2)
Here we see that prayer is not the only way of speaking to God. We can also see that speaking in tongues is a way of speaking to God.
In my personal observation, there are three kinds of speaking in tongues that I have learned. One form is for other people to know about Christ. Meaning,people who use this gift uses it to reach other people that they may also know the gospel. The other form is for Church’s edification. If one stands up and speak in tongues, someone has to interpret what he says so that the church may be edified. The last form of speaking in tongues is for self edification. This tells us that if someone speak in tongues and there is no interpreter, such speaking in tongues is only good for self edification.
To summarize what we have just said, there are 3 kinds of speaking in tongues.
1.Speaking In Tongues For Evangelism.
2.Speaking In Tongues For Church Edification
3.Speaking In Tongues For Self Edification
Speaking In Tongues Is Edifying One Self (v.4)
In the event of no interpreter, speaking in tongues can be used to edify one self. The Bible never forbid anyone to speak in tongues and we can definitely do it even without interpreter but Paul made it clear that if we do it that way, we are to do it privately.
As we have mentioned in the previous point, speaking in tongues is speaking to God. If it is speaking to God, then there is no reason why should we not be edified.
I have a pastor friend who practice speaking in tongues for self-edification yet I do not see him practice speaking in tongues in the church for he said, why should he speak in tongues in his church if he doesn’t have an interpreter?
In my case, I must admit that I haven’t experienced speaking in tongues since I do not see that God gave me this gift. However, as Paul said, gifts which includes prophecy and speaking in tongues can be desired. And if the Holy Spirit will give me gifts like these, I would thank God for it and will use it for His glory.
Speaking In Tongues Is Lesser Than Prophesying Unless Interpreted (v.5)
Here we see Paul is again making a statement that speaking in tongues is nothing at all if no one would understand and no one will be able to use it. Going back to what we have discussed, of the three kinds of speaking in tongues, two of its kinds have to be understood by the hearers.
One incident can be quoted in Acts 2, at the day of Pentecost where the Apostles speak in different languages that their hearers where able to understand and since many of them are foreigners. This incident is a picture of speaking an intelligible words, which means understandable by its hearers.
Unless speaking in tongues is not in the form of intelligible words or is not interpreted, it has no value to its hearers but a mere noise. And it is better to keep silent and speak to God alone.
However, if it is in the form of intelligible words or is interpreted, then it is of value to hearers and everybody should take heed on what it says because speaking in tongues was given to edify the Church.
Speaking In Tongues Is A Sign For Unbelievers (v.22)
Acts 2 gives us the whole picture of this point where most of the hearers of the Apostles came from different places with different languages. As the Apostles speak the languages of their recipients, their hearers were amazed on what happened where for all they know, all those Apostles who were speaking to them were Galileans.
And as the Holy Spirit moves in that day of Pentecost. The people from different places and different nations where amazed and perplexed. They even asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12). Yes, there were some who did not believed them and even made fun on them. None the less, about three thousand were added to them that day.
We can see here the original use of speaking in tongues. To let the unbelievers know about God. Even they speak a totally different language, God works in the life of those who knows Him so that He can be known to others.