Do Not Forbid Speaking In Tongues
As I am writing today’s Bible study on the proper use of the gift of tongues, I can already hear both my Pentecostal/Charismatic brothers and sisters and my barely Charismatic and non-Charismatic brothers and sisters rummaging around in their garages to get a rope to string me up! There will be those that will feel that what I have to say either goes too far or not far enough. That is okay! Recently I had two different people in my own church complain the same way. To one I was too Charismatic, and to the other I was not Charismatic enough. To me that confirms that I am right where I should be. I am on a quest for the radical middle. However I hope to show you where and why I am taking the stands I am taking concerning this gift.
The Purpose of the Gift of Tongues in the Modern Church.
In looking at the gift of speaking in tongues, (This gift is called glossolalia in the Greek), a person needs to discern that there are two very different aspects to this gift. There is the evangelistic aspect of this gift which is the public use of tongues and the interpretation of those tongues and the private use of this gift in prayer. Not discerning this factor causes much confusion concerning this gift and thus the improper application and in some cases prohibition of the gift in a public church service.
The evangelistic use of the gift of tongues in today’s church.
According to the Apostle Paul in the book of 1 Corinthians chapter 14, the gift of tongues is a sign for unbelievers. (1 Cor 14:22) It is a sign that causes what I call the astonishment factor. When someone who is not a believer sees this gift in operation coupled with the gift of interpretation it causes them to strongly consider that “God is with you” as the Apostle Paul puts it. This reaction bypasses the intellectual defenses that many people place against the gospel and speaks directly to their heart which ultimately needs to be spoken to because faith comes from the heart and not the intellect.
The caveat to this gift is that it must be done in decency and order. Outbursts of this gift without an interpretation in a public service in not in order. The Apostle specifically states that they must be interpreted if it is in a public service otherwise the person with this gift needs to stay silent and speak to themselves and to God. Another consideration to take into account is that if an unbeliever comes into your public meeting and all of you are speaking in tongues, it will just look like chaos and they will call you crazy. There is no way to interpret everyone’s tongues at once. Not only that but even though the scripture talks about singing in the spirit and praying in the spirit, it will still look crazy if you do it corporately in a public service. If you want to do it together in a private meeting or by yourself with your family then by all means do it, but if it is in a public meeting with those that don’t understand or believe then my dear Charismatic friends, please don’t. You do not want to put up a roadblock in front of them by thinking you are out of your mind. The gift of tongues in a public setting is supposed to be interpreted period!
The private use of the gift of tongues.
Praying in tongues or praying in the spirit is beneficial to the life of the believer. In the book of Jude it tells us that we build ourselves up by praying in the Spirit. In Romans chapter 8 it tells us that when we do not know how to pray, then the Holy Spirit prays through us with groanings that cannot be uttered. Praying in unknown tongues allows us to pray in a manner that causes us to draw on the power promised to us by Jesus when He said we would be endued with power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. (Acts 1:8) The Apostle Paul said that He would pray with the Spirit and pray with his understanding. He would do both. He was giving the same instruction to the believers in Corinth.
Speaking in tongues privately is also giving thanks to God. Paul also says that when people are speaking in tongues they are giving thanks to God. (1 Cor. 14:16-17) I cannot think of one person who would be opposed to a person giving thanks to God. So when you are praying or singing in the Spirit, you are doing things that are spiritually beneficial for you.
The Proper Use of the Gift of Tongues
When it comes right down to it, the gift of tongues is the least of the gifts. It is the highest regulated and the least effective of all the gifts. Pentecostals and Charismatics have made more of it than it should have been. It became a source of pride and spiritual elitism for many, yours truly included at one point in his life. The Apostle Paul exhorted us to seek after spiritual gifts but especially that we would prophecy not speak in tongues. I personally believe that this gift is available for any believer for private use. However our focus is not to be on our private spiritual life, but the be used for the benefit of others thus it is the lowest of all the gifts. That does not mean to not use it, or to avail yourself of the strength that comes from praying and singing in the Spirit, but it means that your goal should not be to just build yourself up, but your goal should be that you are used by God to build others up.
Do Not Forbid The Speaking of Tongues In Church
I believe that is why Paul instructed the church not to forbid the speaking of tongues in the church. Both because of it’s evangelistic power and for the strength that it brings the believers in their private spiritual life. Thus I must also say to my non-Charismatic and barely Charismatic churches, If you are forbidding the speaking of tongues in a public service, you are in direct contradiction to the word of God. The Bible clearly states that when we come together that we are to have a song, a teaching, a revelation and a tongue and interpretation. It is clearly meant for our public services and to come to any other conclusion is to drastically twist the clear instructions of the scriptures with caveats.
So my friends, regardless if you agree with me or not, you are called to love. On that we all agree. So put those ropes away and leave them for another day. In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love.