Today we’re going to continue talking about speaking in other tongues, which is certainly a biblical topic. You can find it from the lips of Jesus in Mark 16. You can find it throughout the Book of Acts. You can find it in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.
And speaking in tongues is something that millions upon millions of Christians around the world today would say they’ve experienced and experience on a regular basis during their prayer and devotional times.
And those who are within this ‘tongue talking camp’ are often trying to persuade all the rest of us that it is God’s will for us too to speak in tongues and that we should be praying that God would give us this ability. I’ve listened to those people and, lo and behold, it happened to me too back in 1976. So I’m in that tongue talker camp!
Love over Speaking in Tongues
Whether we agree or we disagree, I must say, first of all, we need to remember that we should love each other. Right? Paul wrote about the importance of love right in between two chapters in 1 Corinthians about speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts. I think there’s probably a reason that this chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, is right in between those two chapters!
Speaking in tongues can be a very divisive issue, but it shouldn’t be. It’s not more important than loving each other.
But, again, I speak from my own experience: once it’s happened to you, it’s such a blessing. Once you’ve experienced the blessing of being able to speak in a language you’ve never learned—by the power of the Holy Spirit—and you discover that you can use that in your daily prayer life, you just want to share. You want other people, other Christians, to experience that blessing.
Didn’t Paul Say That Not All Speak in Tongues?
Now, those who would object to the idea that speaking in tongues is for every Christian have some Scripture to support their objection. Usually they’ll go to 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 where Paul asks some rhetorical questions.
All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? – 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 (emphasis added).
The answer to these rhetorical questions is obviously no. And so folks will point to this passage and say, “See, not all speak in tongues! Don’t try to persuade me that this is something for me.” Well, remember that we don’t want to base our whole theology on just one verse of Scripture. We need to take what the whole Bible says on this subject.
What the Whole Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues
Jesus said that one of the signs that will accompany believers is that “they will speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). He didn’t say a small percentage of believers or anything like that. He didn’t say a few. He said “those who have believed” (vv. 17).
One the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the early church (see Acts 2), 120 people all spoke in other tongues, on that day. And people heard them speaking in their own languages. If you asked the question that day, “Do all speak in tongues?” the answer would have been “Yes!”
Now there’s other places in the Book of Acts just like that. For example, look at Acts 19, years and years after the day of Pentecost. Paul is laying hands upon some new disciples. And when he does, the Holy Spirit comes upon them, they begin speaking in tongues and prophesying and it seems to indicate that they were all doing that. So if you asked the question that day, “Do all speak in tongues?” they would have said, “Yes!”
Reconciling 1 Corinthians 12 with the Rest of the New Testament
So how can we possibly reconcile this? Well, those within the Pentecostal/charismatic camp will tell you that although speaking in tongues is speaking in tongues, there are different uses of speaking in tongues.
There is a speaking in tongues that is used as prayer to God and there is a speaking in tongues where God speaks through an individual to give a message to a gathering of believers. And the latter is what Paul is clearly talking about in 1 Corinthians 12:30 when he asks, “Do all speak in tongues?” He’s asking this question in the context of how God uses different people in public ministry to edify the entire church.
So you could attend a Pentecostal/charismatic church and perhaps everybody, or the large majority of people, can speak in tongues any time that they so desire as prayer to God. But not all of them will be used by God to be given that gift of tongues where suddenly the Holy Spirit anoints them to speak out in tongues. If this public ministry of tongues takes place, the accompanying gift of the interpretation of tongues must be present also. The reason is so that people will know what the Holy Spirit has just said to that congregation.
Here’s the reason we can come to this conclusion. There were people in the Corinthian church Paul was correcting, because they were speaking out in tongues publicly in their gatherings and no one was interpreting what they said. And so Paul responded by asking, “Well, what’s the point of that? You’re all coming together speaking in tongues and nobody knows what anybody’s saying. There’s no interpretation! People who don’t speak in tongues are confused” (See 1 Corinthians 14).
Publicly Speaking in Tongues Requires an Interpreter
So if you’re speaking publicly in tongues with no interpreter, you’re not really walking in love towards others. This is not according to God’s order. If there’s no interpreter, then you should just speak in tongues at home!
In the case of the Corinthian church, you might be wondering: if God wanted to give a message to the congregation, why would He ever give someone the gift of tongues and not give someone else the accompanying gift of the interpretation of tongues? Well, the answer is that of course God wouldn’t do that. God would not anoint someone to speak in tongues without there being an interpretation when it’s the gift of tongues given by the Holy Spirit to edify the congregation. But yet the Corinthians were speaking in tongues and there was no interpretation. How was that possible?
They were using what charismatics and Pentecostals often refer to as their prayer language, which is not really a biblical phrase, but it’s a biblical concept because of what we read in 1 Corinthians. Paul says, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). So he was a major tongue talker.
But because the Corinthians were talking in tongues like crazy, he continues:
However, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue (v. 19).
So speaking publicly in tongues without an interpretation is what Paul is emphasizing in this passage. Do that at home! (And that’s a good word for all folks who speak in tongues!)
As you pursue the truth on this subject, think about the above explanation when you read 1 Corinthians Chapter 12:30. Make sure you take the context into consideration. Don’t let this verse rob you of something that perhaps (and I believe not even perhaps) God would love to do for you.
Okay, there’s more information about speaking in tongues on our website. These are just Little Lessons! Thanks for joining me. God bless you.