Tongues

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“Teaching moment!” - Mark Heger

A few months back I was at the Heger’s group and was leading them through some of our CRC/Wired training. During the training Mark interjected a few “teaching moments”. These were specific times that Mark used real life examples for “teaching… and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

This Sunday during the 1st service we had a great teaching moment. During ministry time we had a corporate tongue which is the first time we’ve had that in an actual church service. I wanted to take the opportunity to share a few points on tongues and the gifts in general.

 

A note on the Gifts

We are a Continuationist or Charismatic church. It means we believe that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 are given to every generation. They should be practice and sought (as is appropriate) in accordance with Scripture. Two of the gifts listed are tongues and interpretation of tongues.

Tongues

I must say that tongues has a terrible PR. I’ve discipled some guys and taught them about the gifts and the general feeling I got from there was “the gifts are great… but I don’t want tongues.” When people think about this gift often times they picture themselves losing control and babeling on like a crazy person. The other image that comes to mind is a TV preacher, asking for money and *gently* pushing people over.

Poor tongues! They didn’t ask to be so misconstrued. So… teaching moment...  this gift was God’s idea!  Let’s resolve, not ridicule, something precious in God’s sight. Remember, He is a good father and He gives good gifts to His children.

What we believe about Tongues

It is helpful to have a working definition. Here is ours (thank you Sam Storms):

We don’t think that everyone will get the gift of tongues. The Holy Spirit gives the gift as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:4-7:11).

We encourage our people to pursue all of the gifts (even the gift of tongues!).

Three Types:

There are, in my opinion, three types of tongues in scripture. Many people will disagree (you can disagree too!), yet this is where I have landed. Remember I am learning to follow Christ. I am learning how to use the gifts and I am learning to lead the body with the gifts. So while I am learning, I am also free to change my mind on this as I learn more along the way. This is where I am at today:

Tongue #1 – Tongues as an evangelistic tool

Acts 2:6: And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language...

After God poured out His spirit in Acts 2, the church spoke in tongues and they declared “the mighty deeds of God,” (Acts 2:11, Acts 10:46; Acts 19:17). Then other people came to hear what all the commotion was about. When they got there, they heard the worship of God in their own language. It would seem that the gift of tongues  was used to declare the mighty deeds of God and that was a part of leading people to salvation. There isn’t a ton of evidence that tongues was uniquely and solely designed to evangelize unbelievers (they didn’t give the plan of salvation in tongues). It would seem that the primary purpose of the gift was to thank, praise and worship God. While there was some evangelistic use in Acts 2, it didn’t happen elsewhere in Acts, nor did the apostles exhort the church to use it as such. It seems to me God has used tongues as a tool in evangelism.  

Tongue #2 & #3 - Private & Public Tongue

I think (emphasis on humility here… this is just where I am at today) that these are not two different gifts but rather two different ways one might use the same gift.

Private Tongue (prayer language)

1 Corinthians 14:2: For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 14:4-5:  The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.  Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy…

It seems to me one way this gift is used is in a private manner (verse 2) for edification and building up of our individual souls (verse 5). The idea of edification (building up our souls) is one of primary reasons for the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 14:3).

Public Tongue

Again I think this is the same private gift now on public display. Now that this gift has “gone public,” Paul gives us some boundaries to ensure the gift is (a) lead by the Holy Spirit, (b) gives praise to God, (c) done with consideration of others and (d) done for the common good.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19 [13] Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. [14] For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. [15] What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. [16] Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? [17] For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. [18] I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. [19] Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Y'all this church was a mess. And they were messing up the use of the gifts. Yet Paul did not ban the gift because sin does not negate a divine gift. He corrected them. He exhorted them. Here is a brief picture of how to do it corporately:

  • Come to church gatherings with the expectation the Holy Spirit might manifest Himself that way (1 Corinthians 14:26).

  • Set the boundaries: The gift of tongues is simply the Spirit-energized ability to pray, worship, give thanks or speak in a language other than your own. It is not being overcome in the Spirit and then you just “gotta let it out.”

  • At our church you can pray in your private prayer language every Sunday. Do it in a way that is not distracting to others.

  • If you have the gift, and think it is for the church, pray that you can interpret it (1 Corinthians 14:13) and pray with your mind also (1 Corinthians 14:15).

  • Submit it to the Elders in an orderly manner all the while consider the environment and the people there (1 Corinthians 14:26).  

  • Apparently there should only be two to three per gathering and there should be people to interpret (1 Corinthians 14:26-28)

  • Interpretation: (by the way, I have yet to meet a person that says, “Interpretation of tongues… that is my #1 gift!”) What is the Spirit saying? Is it a message directed at God? Is it thanksgiving, praise and worship? Or is it for the body at large? For edification?

  • Humility - Tongues isn’t the end all be all. Paul actually wants people to prophecy (in love) more than pray in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5).  And you can control it because the Holy Spirit won’t violate the order He set for church gatherings (1 Corinthians 14:26-27).

  • Grow in maturity (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; 11). Know the context. Know the people. Consider the situation and what God is doing. That is why this Sunday’s demonstration was so great. It was an intimate setting. We had some time to test what was said and process it.

 

Final Thought

I will leave you with a thought I’ve had years back. I am not sure who put it there or where I picked it up. Yet I found it useful to help me understand the beauty of this gift and its purpose. This gift doesn’t make sense to a lot of people and as I mentioned before comes with a lot of weird baggage. Let us remember Acts 2. The Holy Spirit was poured out and people that came up to the disciples heard people “declaring the deeds of God in their own language.” They were learning about the greatness of God. Let us also remember our definition:

The gift of tongues is simply the Spirit-Energized ability to pray, worship, give thanks or speak in a language other than your own.

So it is a God given gift. It is God’s idea. He came up with it! Apparently it is God the Holy Spirit helping us to pray, worship and give thanks (gracious knows we need that from time to time). Now let’s look at the Psalms. It would seem David both wanted people to know about his God and thought that it can be hard to actually declare all the good things He has done:

Psalm 66:5 – Come and see the works of God: he is awesome in all His deeds toward the children of men

Psalm 106:2 – Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praises?

Can you see this gift being given by God to fulfill the psalms? God used this gifts to help his people describe His character and to describe “the works of God'“? Can you see God giving this gift to help us declare all his praise because without His help, “who can utter the mighty deeds of God?”

It is as if God new we’d need some help praising Him and therefore the Holy Spirit manifests this gift to help us to worship Him. Thank you Lord for this gift. Help us even now to rightly praise your great name.

Additional Resources:

John Bower - Tongues

Michael Miller - Language of the Spirit

Sam Storms - Tongues I

Sam Storms - Tongues II

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- John Bower

Lead Pastor