Kinross Christian Fellowship

Chapter 5

The Value of Speaking in Tongues

Having received the Holy Spirit by faith, you may, only if you desire, ask the Lord to give you the new language of the Spirit. Some may ask the question, must I speak in tongues? The answer is, as far as I can gather from the Bible, and obeying nothing beyond what is written 1Corinthians 4:6, then no, certainly not. It is possible and permissible to be filled with the Spirit without speaking in tongues. On the other hand, everyone baptised in the Spirit is potentially able to speak in tongues - or to use any of the other gifts. Although it may be considered of great value to your future Christian life - as will be seen in the next chapter - one of the immediate advantages to you, in connection with the Baptism in the Spirit, is that it will confirm in a supernatural way that you have indeed been filled with God's Holy Spirit. However, getting stressed out because seemingly one cannot receive the gift of tongues, or indeed any gift, is not the same as eagerly desiring. A line from a song, Rest in the peace of His promises, and wait on God. It is also essential to remember that although it is the Holy Spirit who supplies the words, it is you who must speak them.

Alternatively, some people - as we have seen in our own Fellowship - have a supernatural experience when baptised which did not include speaking in tongues. Others do. The simple answer is: we kust cannot put God in a box - He has no limitations (especially man-made), and He is Sovereign.

If you desire the gift of tongues, you may find it helpful to begin praising and thanking the Lord for His goodness to you. You may become aware after a time that either you have difficulty in speaking your own language, or that new and strange sounding words will come to your mind. It is at this point that a step of faith is needed. No-one can speak two languages at the same time, so the moment comes when you must pass from the familiar to the unfamiliar. You may wonder at first if you are making the words up, but be assured this is certainly not the case. It is the Holy Spirit Who is controlling your life and the words are from Him. As you begin to speak you will find that the Holy Spirit goes on supplying the words. You will probably feel a little strange at first as this is strange, new territory, but the more you continue to speak in tongues, the more you will become convinced of the reality of the experience. Ultimately, it is between God and you, and the decision might be made to forget ways and means and simply ask!

History and dogmatic men have ensured that Glossolalia is a phenomena which can cause some difficulties, usually created by a lack of understanding. Yet what it is, is extremely KISS. It is in the use of it, that it has become anything but KISS. And it seems to be becoming even more UNKISS, if you'll forgive me. (KISS, as KCF folk will recall, is an acronym for Keep it simple, Saint.)

Perhaps unfortunately, with the growth of the so-called charismatic movement, there has been a lot of interest shown on the part of the media. We may watch on television a meeting where people are speaking in tongues. (As mentioned earlier, this is something that I believe should never happen.) The camera will tell the story the producer wants to tell, which usually means sensationalism, and he or she will pick out individuals who appear to be in a trance-like state and who then start speaking in some incomprehensible language. The viewers cannot sense anything of the atmosphere and very little of the circumstances in which it has happened.

Unfortunately, of late, the circumstances seem to be contrived for publicity, with extreme behaviour actively encouraged. The resulting impression is often of something rather weird and out of control - spiritually, emotionally and practically; and brings no glory or honour to our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have allowed the cameras in obviously have felt it right to do so, but my own view is that the gift - or indeed any of the gifts - isn't given to be displayed before a largely unbelieving audience whose only interest is one of curiosity, and entertainment. They should be used to further the Kingdom of God, not to titivate the media, or for the entertainment of unbelievers.

A quick look at the subject of speaking in tongues, commentating on both negative and positive views.

Negating The Negative Outlook: gibberish, contrived and made up, ecstatic emotional outburst.

a It is not gibberish - it is not something made up by the individual. It is some form of language either known or unknown. Paul in 1Corinthians 13 says, If I speak human or angelic languages;

Languages of the earth and languages of heaven.

With regard to the former, on many occasions the language unknown to the speaker has been recognised by someone who has previously learned the language, or is a native speaker. This phenomenon may have quite startling results, as one may imagine.

b Over forty years ago, John Sherrill, an American author, investigated the subject of the Baptism in the Spirit and speaking in tongues - he wrote the result of his findings in the book, They Speak with Other Tongues. He records several instances where known languages were spoken by people who had never learnt the language, for example, Hebrew, Arabic, Polish and Mandarin Chinese. He decided to conduct an experiment and made tape-recordings of people speaking in tongues. These recordings were taken to a group of language experts. In the middle of the tapes unbeknown to the linguists, he inserted two examples of complete gibberish. Sherrill tried to get it sounding as much as possible like the tongues on the rest of the tape. The linguists could not identify any of the languages but they made some interesting observations. Some of the languages were structured like modern poetry and certain language patterns could be clearly heard. They had the form of real language with a variety of sound combinations and infrequency of repetition which was virtually impossible to reproduce by deliberate effort. The two examples of gibberish were immediately identified as being mere noise! The linguists also made the observation that there are 2,800 known languages and dialects in the world today - without including languages which have disappeared. The language experts between them, only knew a tiny fraction of these languages, so the odds against them knowing any of those on the tape were enormous. Which confirms a very important fact: Tongues is not necessarily Glossolalia, needing another's interpretation, but may be a modern or ancient, non-spiritual language that the speaker has never learned or understood.

c It is not an ecstatic utterance. This phrase is an unfortunate translation in the New English Bible for speaking in tongues, and has been taken up by others. It fosters the impression that speaking in tongues involves some kind of extreme emotional experience. This is contrary to the facts. While speaking in tongues a person is in complete control - if they're not, that is not the
fault of the gift or the giver, but of the receiver. We may or may not have emotional feelings when speaking - as on any other occasion.

2 Reinforcing The Positive Outlook; from God, not understood by speaker who is nevertheless edified, a trumpet call to announce a message from God, and so much more.

a The question is sometimes asked, What possible use can it be to talk in a language you don't understand? In Paul's letter to the Corinthians virtually the whole of Chapter 14 is devoted to the subject of tongues and he deals with usage both in private and in public. The two places where tongues will be spoken are very clearly distinguished and they have a different purpose in each case. As regards private use he gives the following guidance (References from 1Corinthians 14).

i The tongues are directed towards God and not towards men.
Verse 2

ii The speaker doesn't understand what he is saying and there is no interpretation. Verse 14

iii The one who speaks in tongues 'edifies' himself, i.e. he is strengthened. Verse 4

b It appears straightforward that tongues are a means of communication from the human spirit, through the channel of the Holy Spirit, to God. The mind is not involved in the sense that it does not understand what is being said. What then is the value?

Sometimes in prayer we find we are unable to pray effectively for something or someone with the depth of understanding we need. As mentioned previously, Romans 8:26 helps us, In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. As we speak in an unknown language the Spirit of God prays through us.

Many awkward problems have been solved as prayer in the Spirit has been offered. I have found that sometimes after speaking in tongues, a new understanding has arisen about a matter for which I have been praying. You may ask the question, How do you know that you are actually praying about the problem? The answer can only be that we are taking a step of faith. Also there is often an inner witness that somehow the Holy Spirit is interceding through us. I wonder how many situations could be resolved if we used the gift God has given us?

c Speaking in tongues can also have a purely personal value. As we have already seen, Paul says that tongues edify.

They have the effect of strengthening the one who is speaking. Many experience, on occasions, a sense of renewed freedom and joy as they speak. In personal worship also, when our own language becomes inadequate, the language of the Spirit can enable us to freely express ourselves.

d It seems to be reasonably clear from the Scriptures that any Spirit-filled Christian has the potential to speak in tongues for their own personal edification. There are, however, those who object to this, quoting Paul's words,
1Corinthians 12:30 Do all speak in tongues? which in the context of
the chapter has the implied answer, No. However, we must be careful to distinguish between the gift of tongues mentioned there, and speaking in tongues in connection with the Baptism in the Spirit. The former refers to the use of tongues in public worship - their use is restricted and there should always be an interpretation.

The latter use of tongues is for personal benefit. Paul clearly distinguishes between the two in, 1Corinthians 14:13 - 19. Therefore the person who speaks in another language should pray that he can interpret. For if I pray in another language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise, if you praise with the spirit, how will the uninformed person say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you may very well be giving thanks, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in other languages more than all of you; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, in order to teach others also, than 10,000 words in another language.

(Singing in the spirit was addressed previously. And as Paul mentions it in the previous sentence, it seems logical that praise with the spirit [in the context of these verses] refers to audible spoken prayer, not sung as a spontaneous outbreak of the congregation moved by the Holy Spirit. One would not, I think, anticipate the 'uninformed person' expecting an interpretation of singing. Although always bearing in mind - very seriously - that God is Sovereign and that He will do what He will do without seeking our permission.)

e As regards public use the following should be noted from 1Corinthians 14

i The tongues aren't directed towards God but are directed by the Holy Spirit towards the people in the congregation. The person speaking in tongues is delivering a message from God for the building up of the Church. So also you—since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to excel in building up the church. (1Corinthians 14:12).

ii Although the tongues aren't initially understood they become comprehensible when interpreted. In fact Paul insists that they are not to be heard in public without an interpretation. Tongues with interpretation would appear to become the equivalent of prophecy. Greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets. 14:5. Why don't we get the message straightaway in a language we understand? Tongues are like the trumpet call referred to in 14:8. They alert us to the fact that God is going to say something. By the time the interpretation comes we are ready to receive His message.

iii The tongues are not for the benefit of the one giving the message in tongues - when interpreted, they become a gift to the Church.

iv To avoid confusion the use of tongues in a meeting is restricted - If any person speaks in another language, there should be only two, or at the most three, each in turn, and someone must interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, that person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God. 14:27,28

Sometimes the message will have a general application, but at other times the Lord speaks directly to certain individuals. An example: Caroline speaks of a message that was for her. I can remember an occasion when I was considering emigrating to Australia and was uncertain what to do - I went to a Sunday morning meeting and someone 'spoke in tongues'. Then an interpretation was given which said, "The way you are thinking of going will lead to spiritual bankruptcy - don't go:" The message continued in this vein and was absolutely applicable to the situation in which I found myself.

That is not to say, of course, that we must get all our guidance from spiritual gifts, but they can act as a pointer - or a seal - on what we've already been shown. The tendency with speaking in tongues, as with other of the spiritual gifts, is to go to one of two extremes.

For example; some ignore it completely.

To these Paul says 14:1 Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and …14:39 do not forbid speaking in other languages.. As we have seen it can be of tremendous value privately and publicly, and both the individual and the Church is the poorer if we neglect the gift of tongues.

At the other extreme there are those who would abuse the gift by using it unwisely. To these Paul says 14:40 But everything must be done decently and in order.

One last point that seems to be ignored by those who have great difficulty with the use of tongues, and perhaps think that it is somehow the fault of that 'trouble-maker', Paul. Look at the first mention of this gift in Mark 16:17. It is our Lord Jesus Christ speaking, "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues."

N.B. Some translations, particularly the NIV84, eagerly desire spiritual gifts






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