Is Speaking in Tongues A Genuine Gift?
Like so many people I admit that the first time I heard that some believers speak in other tongues I was weirded out. Of course as I Cor. 2: 14 says, the natural mind does not understand spiritual things. Tongues? What's that? Some kind of fanaticism? I sure didn't want that label. And of course nobody wants to be deceived.
Still I kept running into people whose faith was steadfast, genuine, deep, and I discovered that they regularly prayed in tongues privately. How could that be if this is just fanaticism or an emotional experience. That sparked my interest.
Thank goodness I had sense enough to go the Bible and the Author and Finisher of my faith and find out what this mysterious gift is about. I discovered the following:
PAUL SAID HE THANKED GOD HE SPOKE IN tongues more than everyone (I Cor. 14: 18). Hmmm. Now why would Paul want to speak in tongues and be thankful that he did? Must be some value in it.
YES, IT IS A MYSTERY. He that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men to God, for no man understand him, but in the spirit he speaks mysteries to God, Acts 14:2. Well, I liked that! A private prayer--not to men but to God--inspired by the Spirit of Truth. . . . for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself makes intercession Rom. 8:26. I reasoned, who knows how to pray as we ought all the time? Not me.
IT IS A SECOND FORM OF PRAYER. "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." I Cor. 14:15. I really love to pray and sing praises to God, but I run out of words from my natural mind. I know Jesus often prayed all night. I have never done that. After I thank Him and praise Him and bring my petitions before Him, my prayers barely last five minutes. After that it becomes "vain repetition," which I am sure is boring to God. But with this other language, I could pray and song as long as I wished. What a delightful thought!
THE BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT DESCRIBED IN ACTS 1 IS NOT THE SAME AS THE GIFT OF tongues described in I Cor. 12 where Paul says, "Do all speak with tongues?" This verse underscores the fact that Paul's private prayer language is not the same as a public message in tongues which must be interpreted for the benefit of the group. Wow. A public message straight from the Spirit of Truth for the benefit of believers? I certainly liked that idea. Who wouldn't? Then Paul lays down restrictions for public speaking in tongues but he is careful to add, "Don't forbid speaking in tongues." It's clear that he wants others to pray in this other language in private to God alone (I Cor. 14:39). This speech is clearly under the control of the believer. Besides that, the Holy Spirit is a Gentleman and He does not interrupt.
IT IS EDIFYING: One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. I Cor. 14: 4. How can it be edifying if I don't understand what I'm saying? Because in this language which bypasses my natural mind, I can trust the Holy Spirit to pray perfectly to God alone. I don't know about you, but I cannot build up another person's faith if I'm not edified. So I began to see this is an important tool for ministry.
THE LANGUAGE CAN BE BOTH KNOWN TO MEN OR UNKNOWN. Paul describes speaking with the tongues of men or of angels, in I Cor. 13: 1. And in Acts 2: 5-6 the people from many nations heard all 120 believers, including Jesus' mother Mary, speaking in languages and understood them to be magnifying and praising God.
THE PUBLIC GIFT OF TONGUES CONVINCES UNBELIEVERS I COR. 14:22. An example of this is the Japanese war bride who went to the altar to pray with her husband, however she always prayed to Buddha and other pagan gods. Then one day she overheard a man praying quietly in his prayer language beside her. Startled, she asked him, "How did you know that?" He didn't know what he had said, so she explained: "You just called me by my full Japanese name, which nobody in America knows, not even my husband. Then you said, 'You have tried Buddha with no answer. Why don't you try Jesus?" Needless to say, this woman asked Jesus into her heart. I want that kind of ability to bless others.
JESUS FORETOLD THIS GIFT. (actually He commanded the apostles to be filled with the Holy Ghost) And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." verses 4 and 5 of Acts I .
WHEN BELIEVERS RECEIVED THIS baptism throughout the book of Acts, they clearly spoke in other tongues: And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2: 1-4; 10:47: 19:2).
THIS IS SEPARATE FROM THE SALVATION EXPERIENCE: Acts 19:1-6: He said unto them, Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. So the apostles laid hands on these baptized-in-water believers and then they spoke in tongues.
THE INDWELLING GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT EVIDENCED BY SPEAKING IN TONGUES IS NOT AUTOMATIC when a believer receives Jesus as Lord (which certainly involves a work of the Holy Spirit). Jesus said one must ask the Father: So how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask .... asks whether He will not much more give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him Matt. 7: 11. Yes I know many will argue that we receive the Holy Spirit at the new birth, and I agree. Our spirit is reborn, joined to the Spirit of Christ. However, scripture indicates there is a measure of this wonderful gift. Jesus had the Spirit without measure. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. John 3:34. (Notice this involves speaking the words of God). Who wouldn't want a greater measure of God's Spirit? I began to see a need to ask the Father for more His Spirit. But is this really for me?
THIS GIFT IS NOT JUST FOR THE APOSTLES. The gifts of the Holy Spirit did not pass away with them. Historically they have always been in operation. That which is Perfect (Jesus) has not yet returned the second time. Wisdom, prophecy, and tongues will not be necessary when Jesus returns but until then we "see through a glass darkly." The promise of the Holy Ghost is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2: 39. Well that's me. I am called to serve the Lord, and I don't want to miss anything the Lord has for me.
Having searched the scriptures to see if these things be so as the believers did in Acts 17: 11, I found there is good scriptural reason to ask the Lord for this gift. But how do I know my gift is the real thing if I don't understand what I'm saying? My seeking experience was somewhat hilarious. I shall give an account on my next blog.