Tongues

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Over the years, I’ve had some interesting conversations regarding the spiritual gift of tongues. I had another conversation a few days ago and it reminded me of this blog post that I have been meaning to post for a while but just left on the back burner.

This post is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of role of tongues in the church today, but if you may be looking for a starting point to come to a biblical position on tongues, or if you want to reconcile the practice of tongues prevalent today with the bible, I think careful study the 3 aspects below would be helpful.

DEFINITION

Often the difficulty people have is if tongues has ceased, why is it prevalent today? That is based on the assumption that the tongues we see today is indeed the tongues that we read of in the bible.

The word tongue in the bible is translated from the Greek word ‘glossa’ which is by definition, a human language.

Strong’s Greek 1100

Glossa
2. a tongue the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations

This simply means when the disciples ‘spoke in tongues’ they were speaking a human language, albeit one that the speaker didn’t previously understand.
The proof of the ‘humanness’ of the tongues being spoken is that it could, and was, interpreted. In Acts 2, we see exactly this happening.

Worth discussing: It is critical that we ask ourselves if the tongues that is so prevalent today a human language? Let us bear in mind that language (understood or otherwise) always sounds different from repetitious babbling.

For example, if I met a foreigner, and he spoke to me in a foreign language, I wouldn’t understand a word he is saying, but the sounds he makes would still have distinct voice, sentence, phonetic structure that would tell me he is speaking a language and not uttering gibberish.

In my observation, many evaluations of ‘modern day tongues’ don’t pass this test.

PURPOSE

Like all spiritual gifts, the gift of tongues has a purpose. Using the wrong gift for wrong purpose will not produce it’s desired results, if not worse results.

1 Cor 12-14 has some pointers of the purpose of tongues. Some are…

A. For mutual benefit

1 Cor 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Spiritual gifts are not meant for self edification. The context of 1 Cor 12 where Paul writes about the interdependence of members of the body emphasizes this. Tongues is no exception.

B. As an indictment against the Jews of the hardness of their hearts.

1 Cor 14:21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

C. A sign for unbelievers and not believers.

1 Cor 14:22 So that tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.

Worth discussing: Assuming that we can agree that the tongues are human languages and are being interpreted, does it’s practice fulfill the purposes listed above?

PARAMETERS

The bible doesn’t only give the purpose but also some boundaries to prevent the misuse of the this gift. Again 1 Cor 14 gives us some of these…

A. Must edify the church.

V26 What is it then, brethren? whenever ye come together, eachof you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to edification.

How does someone speaking in a foreign language without being interpreted help others? I don’t think it can.

B. Limited to two or three at most.

V27, 28 If any one speak with a tongue, let it be two, or at the most three, and separately, and let one interpret. but if there be no interpreter, let him be silent in the assembly, and let him speak to himself and to God.

Just reading that will give the impression that the church meetings are to be ordered and don’t go into a frenzy of people speaking in languages.

C. Must be interpreted.

V27, 28 If any one speak with a tongue, let it be two, or at the most three, and separately, and let one interpret. but if there be no interpreter, let him be silent in the assembly, and let him speak to himself and to God.

Every instance of speaking in a foreign language needs to be interpreted. There are good reasons for it, for it’s only by interpretation that we can benefit from the gift, and it is also by the interpretation that we know that the exercise of the gift is ‘authentic’. (Remember, Pharaoh’s magicians could turn sticks to snakes too, and the enemy is always out to copy God’s work).

Worth discussing: Does the modern day practice of  ‘tongues’ observe the of order prescribed by the Word of God above? Is it OK to not observe the parameters above?

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I think it is key that the above be followed in the practice of tongues before we can even discuss any finer points like whether one’s experience of speaking in tongues is valid, has tongues ceased and what caused it’s cessation or if tongues is not valid, why is it so prevalent, etc.

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Due to the polarizing nature of the post, comment are disabled, because I won’t be able to actively engage comments. I’m sorry for this. However if you have serious questions or need further clarification, contact me privately. Thanks.

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