Tongues

I like what Bill Johnson has to say in his book, “When Heaven Invades Earth”.  The 12th endnote for chapter 15, How to Miss a Revival, reads: “Is it possible that Paul’s instructions on the proper use of the gifts have been used to define Joel 2, instead of Acts 2 illustrating the proper interpretation of Paul’s instruction in First Corinthians 12 and 14?”

Also, here is an excellent article from Christian Evangelism, Healing, and Teaching Resources (this site is no longer in existence) and it is lengthy, being 6 pages.

Praying in the Spirit Involves Speaking in Tongues

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and request.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your mot holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:20)

Introduction

Since the Bible commands us to “pray in the Spirit” (as in the passages above), it is important that we learn what this means so that we can be obedient to God.

Several years ago I did not believe that speaking in tongues was for today. But I began noticing that a lot of people believe that “praying in the Spirit” means praying in tongues, so I decided to investigate what God says about tongues in the Bible. I realized that the only way I was going to discover the full teaching of the New Testament on speaking in tongues was to prayerfully, honestly, and objectively study every passage on tongues.
After all, we can’t see the full picture of a jigsaw puzzle if we only fit two or three puzzle pieces together, and we can’t understand the full picture on tongues if we only look at two or three Scripture verses

After studying every New Testament passage on speaking in tongues, reflecting on them, praying about them, and reading numerous Bible commentaries, my conclusion is that praying in the Spirit and “praying in tongues” are simply two ways of saying the same thing.

Let’s Start with a Clean Slate

When it comes to speaking in tongues, many people have one or more of the following assumptions: Speaking in tongues is not for today. It was a gift of the Spirit which only operated in the first century. Speaking in tongues refer to the supernatural gift of speaking in human languages which the speaker ever learned. The main purpose of tongues was for sharing the Gospel with foreigners in their native languages.

Notice that any assumptions or biases that we bring to our study of the Bible will act as “filters” and will affect our understanding of what we  read. Therefore, let’s try to set all of our assumptions aside for the moment and start with a clean slate, as if we don’t know anything about tongues. Then let’s see what Scripture says about speaking in tongues.

In the remainder of this article we will take a close look at every New Testament passage which refers to speaking in tongues so that we have a solid understanding of is purposes. Then we can determine if any of these purposes for tongues has a bearing on the commands for us to “pray in the Spirit.” Remember, we are trying to determine what Scripture actually teaches, even if it turns out to be different from what we have always
believed.

Speaking in Tongues in Mark’s Gospel
Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs will accompany hose who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they dink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hand on sick people, and they will get well.”

This passage is inspired Scripture and it is part of the New Testament canon. For example, in the section on Mark 16:9-20, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Walvord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary) says that:
“verses 9-20, though written or compiled by an anonymous Christian writer, are historically authentic and are part of the New Testament canon … Possibly these verses were brief extracts from the post-Resurrection
accounts found in the other three Gospels and were known through oral tradition to have the approval of the Apostle John who lived till near the end of the first century. These verses are consistent with the rest of Scripture.” (p.194, emphasis added).
Notice in Mark 16:17-18 (above) that according to Jesus, speaking in tongues is not a subject of controversy, it is for every believer. Neither Jesus nor the writers of Scripture ever canceled this promise or limited it to the
first century, and therefore this promise is still in effect. Obviously not every Christian speaks in tongues, but this does not change the fact that Jesus’ promise is still available to “those who believe.” Rather than going into great detail to prove this, let me simply refer you to my article called The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues is still available to Christians today, which leaves open the possibility that “praying in the Spirit” means “praying in tongues.”
Speaking in Tongues in the Book of Acts
Acts 2:1-4 (Pentecost)
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be
tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Here are some of the important points in this passage: First let’s determine who spoke in tongues at Pentecost. Acts 1:15 tells us that there were a total of about 120 believers, and from Acts 1:15 to Acts 2:1 the words “they” and “them” most likely refer to the 120 believers. We will see throughout this article that there were many average, ordinary Christians who spoke in tongues in the New Testament, so there is no reason to assume that only the apostles spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost. According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.357-358), as well as various other Bible commentaries, all 120 believers were together on the day of Pentecost and they all spoke in tongues.

Sometimes people point out that Acts 2:7 in the NIV says, “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?,” and Acts 2:14 says, “These men are not drunk.” This seems to imply that only men were speaking in tongues, which would mean that all of the disciples did not speak in tongues because some of the disciples were women. However, if you look up those verses in other translations of the Bible then you’ll discover that the word “men” does not appear in those verses in the original Greek (as we will see in a moment).

Notice that in Acts 2:9 we see a list of specific groups of people who heard their own languages being spoken, and we can see that there are more than 12 languages listed. This is perfectly reasonable if more than 12 people (i.e. more than the 12 apostles) were speaking in tongues. Someone might argue that each apostle could have spoken in multiple languages, but nowhere does the New Testament ever say that anyone spoke a message in tongues in multiple languages. Certainly it might be possible, but the point here is that it would be an assumption that such a thing happened in the first century, and it would be an assumption that this is what happened at
Pentecost (based on the assumption that only the apostles were speaking in tongues at Pentecost). So that argument would be based on assumptions built on top of assumptions, which is not very strong evidence.

In Acts 1:2 we see Luke talking about the apostles, and Luke refers to them as “they” and “them” through Acts 1:14. In Acts 1:14 we see other people besides the apostles, all joined together constantly in prayer. In Acts 1:15
the focus shifts, beginning with “In those days.” The focus is now on “the believers,” and we are told that they were a group numbering about 120. Peter stood up among them as a spokesperson and said that a new apostle must be chosen from among them (obviously not from among the remaining 11 apostles, but from among the rest of the believers).

Then Acts 2:1 says, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one  place,” which is referring back to a group that had previously been mentioned. What group was the focus of the preceding passages? The 120 believers. The 120 believers were all together in one place, and they all spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost.
In Acts 2:14, Peter explained the phenomenon of tongues by quoting from the prophet Joel, who said that in the last days God will pour out His Spirit on all people, both men and women (Acts 2:16-18). We know that some of the 120 believers were women (e.g. Acts 1:14), and therefore Peter’s statement fits with the view that all of the believers spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost.

In addition, a number of Bible commentaries agree that probably all 120 believers spoke in tongues on that day, as in these examples: “They were all . . . in one place. Not only the apostles, but the hundred and twenty disciples.” (People’s New Testament commentary, Acts 2:1)

“3. cloven tongues, like as of fire,  that is, tongue-shaped, flame-like appearances, rising from a common center or root, and resting upon each of that large company” (Jamiesson, Faussett, Brown commentary, Acts 2:3, emphasis added)

“They were all with one accord in one place – So here was a conjunction of company, minds, and place; the whole hundred and twenty being present.” (Wesley’s commentary, Acts 2:1)

“They were all – Probably not only the apostles, but also the 120 people mentioned in Act_1:15.” (Barnes’ commentary, Acts 2:1)

“They were all with one accord in one place – It is probable that the All here mentioned means the one hundred and twenty spoken of Acts 1:15” (Clarke’s commentary, Acts 2:1)

“Though this need not be restrained to the twelve apostles, but may be understood of the hundred and twenty” (Gill’s commentary, Acts 2:1) What it boils down to is that all of the Scriptural evidence is consistent with the view that all 120 believers spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost. Who were the 120 believers talking to when they spoke in tongues? Notice that they were all together in one place, then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they all began speaking in tongues. Since they were all speaking in foreign languages, they could not have understood each other.

Therefore, they were not talking to one another, but notice that there was no-one else around at this point for them to be talking to. We will see in a moment that they were talking to God and praising Him in tongues in the Holy Spirit, which is one of the primary purposes for tongues: “If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?” (1 Corinthians 14:16) At Pentecost the disciples were talking to God in the Holy Spirit. They were praying in the Spirit.

Acts 2:4-12 (Pentecost – continued) “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other
tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs– we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?””

Here are some of the important points in this passage:
Notice the sequence of events: 120 believers all began rejoicing and praising God in tongues at the same time. This noise drew a crowd. The people in the crowd recognized their native languages being spoken.

This crowd did not gather until they heard the noise of 120 people all talking at the same time and rejoicing and praising God. Many Christians assume that when the disciples spoke in tongues at Pentecost it was for the
purpose of witnessing to this crowd in their native languages, but in reality the disciples were not talking to the crowd at all. The disciples were all together in a house, rejoicing and praising God in different languages. The people in the crowd said, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” In other words, the disciples were praising God, telling Him of His wonders, as in Psalms 40:5 and 66:3: “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.”

“Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.”” (Psalms 66:3)
Why were the disciples praising God in tongues? Because this is one of the primary purposes for tongues:
“If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?” (1 Corinthians 14:16) At Pentecost the disciples were talking to God in the Holy Spirit (they were praying in the Spirit), they were not sharing the Gospel in tongues.

Even non-charismatic commentaries agree that the disciples were praising God in tongues and not sharing the Gospel. For example, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.358) says this: “The topic the people discussed in all these languages was the wonders of God. It seems they were praising God. Their message was not one of repentance; it was not the gospel.” (emphasis added) The disciples were praising God in the Holy Spirit. Bible teachers talk about different types of prayer, such as the prayer of repentance, the prayer of consecration, the prayer of thanksgiving, the prayer of praise, and so on. The disciples were giving God the prayer of praise in the Holy Spirit. They were praying in the Spirit.

Notice that the purpose for tongues at Pentecost was not for sharing the Gospel with foreigners in their native languages. In fact, nowhere does the New Testament say that speaking in tongues is for witnessing to foreigners
(as we will see throughout this article)
Now let’s take a close look at the crowd which had gathered in the above passage. These were Jews from other nations who were in Jerusalem during the festival of Pentecost, and they were able to speak to one another in a
common language because they said to each other, “how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?”

Many commentaries suggest that these Jews all spoke Greek (the common language of the time), although Hebrew is another strong possibility. These Jews were living in Jerusalem for some period of time and they all knew a common language, and they were able to speak to each other and understand each other. These people did not need to be told the Gospel in their own native languages, and that was not the purpose for   speaking in tongues at Pentecost.
In the NIV, Acts 2:7 (above) says, “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?” The word “men” in this verse has caused some people to assume that only the apostles spoke in tongues at Pentecost. However, this is a case where the Bible translators made an interpretation of a verse, as we can see by comparing this verse in several other versions of the Bible: “and they were all amazed, and did wonder, saying one unto another, ‘Lo, are
not all these who are speaking Galileans?'” (Acts 2:7, Young’s Literal Translation)

“And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?” (Acts 2:7, KJV)

“They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?”” (Acts 2:7, NASB)

“Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?”” (Acts 2:7, NRSV)
It turns out that the word “men” is not in this verse in the original Greek. The NIV translators made an unfortunate interpretation which has caused some people to assume that only the apostles spoke in tongues at Pentecost.

Acts 2:12-15 (Pentecost – continued) “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!”” (Acts 2:12-15)
Here are some of the important points in this passage: Notice that Peter stood up and addressed the crowd, which was the first time that any of the disciples actually spoke to the crowd at Pentecost. Bible scholars generally agree that Peter spoke in one language, and that the crowd was able to understand him (see for example The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.358). Some
people have assumed that when Peter addressed the crowd, there must have been a miracle of hearing which allowed the crowd to understand Peter (because the crowd was made up of people from different countries).

However, the Bible doesn’t say that there was a “miracle of hearing” at Pentecost. In fact, the above passage says that the people in the crowd were talking to each other and were able to understand each other, so they would have been able to understand Peter as well. The people in the crowd knew a common language and they did not need to be told the Gospel in their native languages. The disciples were not witnessing to the crowd  when they spoke in tongues, and it is not until Acts 2:22 that Peter began bringing the Gospel message to this crowd.

In the NIV, Acts 2:15 (above) says, “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” However, the word “men” is not in the original Greek, as we can see by comparing this verse in several other
versions of the Bible: “for these are not drunken, as ye take it up, for it is the third hour of the day.” (Acts 2:15, Young’s Literal Translation)

“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.” (Acts 2:15, KJV)

“Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.” (Acts 2:15, NRSV)
The NIV translators made an unfortunate interpretation here, because the word “men” is not in the original Greek. By using the word “men” in this verse, the NIV has led some people to assume that only the apostles spoke in tongues at Pentecost.
People sometimes use the account of Pentecost to prove that the main purpose of tongues in the first century was for witnessing to foreigners in their native languages. But as we have seen, that was not the purpose for tongues at Pentecost. In fact, there is not a single example in the entire New Testament of anyone speaking in tongues in order to communicate with foreigners (as we will see in this article). I have heard first-hand reports
of people who communicated with foreigners by speaking in tongues, so perhaps God sometimes uses tongues for this purpose. But my point is that there is not even a hint of such a thing in the entire New Testament. That
is not one of the main purposes for tongues.

Acts 10:44-46 (at the household of Cornelius the Gentile) “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised [Jewish] believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:44-46)
Here is an important point in this passage: While the apostle Peter was teaching Cornelius and his household about Christ, the Holy Spirit came on everyone who heard the message. They all began speaking in tongues, but they were not witnessing to anyone because every non-Christian in the house had just gotten saved (i.e. there was no-one else present who needed to hear the Gospel). Instead, they were praising God in tongues by the Holy Spirit, just like the disciples did on the day of Pentecost.
Acts 19:1-7 (the disciples in Ephesus)”While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and
arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.” (Acts 19:1-7)

Here is an important point in this passage: When the apostle Paul laid hands on these twelve men, they all began speaking in tongues. There is no mention of anyone else being present, so there is no evidence to suggest that these  twelve men were witnessing to foreigners in tongues.
Summary of Speaking in Tongues in the Book of Acts

The three examples of speaking in tongues which we have examined (the day of Pentecost, the household of Cornelius, and the new converts in Ephesus) are the only examples of people speaking in tongues in the entire New Testament. There are a number of other passages in the New Testament which talk about speaking in tongues (and we will examine all of those passages in this article), but no other passages describe people doing it.

What conclusions can we draw from these examples? Here are some thoughts: In every passage where people spoke in tongues in the book of Acts, notice that every new believer spoke in tongues.

Keep this in mind when we study spiritual gifts later in this article. In the first two examples of tongues, the purpose was to praise God in the Holy Spirit. In the third example, the new believers “spoke in tongues and  prophesied.” Those believers might have prophesied in tongues, but it is likely that they were also praising God in tongues (based on the other two examples of people praising God in tongues).

Notice that there was not a single example of anyone speaking in tongues for the purpose of sharing the Gospel with foreigners. Keep this in mind throughout the rest of this article because there is never even a hint of such a purpose in Scripture. In the passages which we have been examining (especially the account of Pentecost and the story of Cornelius), people were speaking to God in tongues. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he said: “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.” (1 Corinthians 14:2) So when people spoke in tongues in the above passages, they were praying directly to God in the Holy Spirit. In other words, the communication was going from earth up to heaven.

Now take a look at another statement that the apostle Paul made: “He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.” (1 Corinthians 14:5) Here Paul said that when a person speaks a message in tongues to a church congregation, the message must be interpreted so that the congregation can be edified (i.e. so that the message will benefit them, instruct them, build them up in their faith, etc.). This describes another form of tongues in which a message is delivered from heaven down to earth, which must be interpreted into the local language.

So there are actually two purposes for tongues in the New Testament, which is something that many Christians don’t realize. There is a “public” form of tongues for delivering a message from God to a group of people (which must be interpreted into the local language), and there is a “private” form of tongues for speaking to God (praying to Him in the Spirit). Each form of tongues has a different purpose.

Speaking in Tongues in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13

We have now seen that there are two forms of speaking in tongues in the New Testament. Every passage on tongues in the entire New Testament describes one or both of these two scenarios: A person delivers a public message in tongues from God to a group of people (such as a church congregation), which is then interpreted through the Holy Spirit either by the speaker or by someone in the congregation. The Bible refers to this as the “gift” of tongues, and it is used in combination with the gift of interpretation.

Bible scholars sometimes refer to this as the “public” use of tongues. A person prays in the Holy Spirit to God. When a person prays in the Spirit, this does not need to be interpreted into the local language because God always understands what the Holy Spirit is saying (although sometimes God gives us the interpretation of what we said in order to edify us and instruct us). The Bible refers to this as “praying in a tongue” (see 1 Corinthians 14:14), “praying with my spirit” (see 1 Corinthians 14:15), “praying in the Spirit” (see Ephesians 6:18), and “praying in the Holy Spirit” (see Jude 1:20). Bible scholars sometimes refer to this as the “private” use of tongues.

We will see one or both of these two forms of tongues in all of the remaining New Testament passages on speaking in tongues: 1 Corinthians 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am
only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Here are some of the important points in this passage: Notice that the apostle Paul mentioned the tongues of angels, which are not likely to be human languages because angels were created long before humans were. Paul might have heard the language(s) of angels when he was taken up into heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-7. Also see The Bible Knowledge Commentary,
Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.535).

Many people believe that speaking in tongues refers to the supernatural gift of speaking in unlearned human languages, but the above passage disproves that view. In other words, we have no way of knowing whether the Holy Spirit will choose to speak through us in a human language or an angelic language, so we cannot be dogmatic that tongues only refers to human languages. Paul said that if we are not speaking in love then we are just making a bunch of noise. This means that when we are speaking to other people we should do it in love, and therefore this is a reference to the public form of tongues.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where
there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
Here are some of the important points in this passage: Paul was speaking of spiritual gifts in this passage (words of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and words of knowledge), and therefore the speaking in tongues in this passage refers to the public form of tongues. The private form of tongues refers to praying in the Spirit, and the public form of tongues refers to the spiritual gift of tongues. Many people assume that this passage teaches that the gift of tongues died out in the first century, because they assume that “perfection” was achieved when the New Testament was completed.

However, there are a number of reasons why 1 Corinthians 13:10 (above) does not refer to the completion of the New Testament: Notice that if we believe that this passage is referring to the completion of the New Testament then we are reading into the passage something which it does not actually say.

For example, it is equally possible that Paul was referring to the completion of our salvation (which will occur when our bodies are transformed at the Resurrection) as in the following passage: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
The words “completion” or “perfection” can refer to any number of things. The fact that the Greek word for “perfection” can be translated as “completion” does not really prove that Paul was referring to the completed
New Testament. The best way to understand what Paul meant by the Greek word teleios (“perfection”) is to examine every place he used it in Scripture and then to determine how he normally used this word. Apart from the verse we are studying (1 Corinthians 13:10), Paul used teleios seven other times in the New Testament (Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 2:6, 14:20, Ephesians 4:13, Philippians 3:15, Colossians 1:28, 4:12).

With the sole exception of Romans 12:2, it is clear that every time Paul used the Greek word teleios (“perfection”) he was referring to the spiritual maturity of believers, which will not be fully complete or perfect until we are resurrected and transformed at the return of Christ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). The internal evidence of Paul’s consistent use of teleios is a strong reason for understanding “perfection” in 1 Corinthians 13:10 as being a reference to our ultimate perfection in heaven. There is no evidence to suggest that Paul had the completed New Testament in mind in 1 Corinthians 13:10.
Although “complete” is a valid translation of the basic Greek word teleios,Paul actually used a specific form of this Greek word in 1 Corinthians 13:10 which has a very definite meaning. Paul used the Greek expression “to
teleion,” which specifically refers to our ultimate perfection in heaven (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.1372).

You can easily verify for yourself the expression that Paul used by going to any library or Christian bookstore and looking up 1 Corinthians 13:10 in any Greek version of the New Testament. If you then look up teleios in the Greek dictionary mentioned above you can verify that when it is used in the form of “to teleion” it refers to the heavenly perfection of our bodies, which we will not experience until our bodies are transformed and perfected.

Again, there is no evidence to suggest that Paul had the completed New Testament in mind in 1 Corinthians 13:10. Instead, the evidence indicates that “perfection” refers to our ultimate maturity as believers. Notice that Paul said that when “perfection” comes, the “imperfect” will disappear. It is clear from the context that the word “imperfect” refers to the spiritual gifts that are mentioned, although this obviously does not mean that the Holy Spirit is imperfect or that His gifts are imperfect!

The gifts of the Spirit are for our use while we are in these fallen, physical bodies on earth, and it is our use of the spiritual gifts which is imperfect, because Paul said that “we know in part and we prophesy in part.” However, when “perfection” comes (meaning the perfection or completion of our salvation when we get to heaven) then we will no longer need these gifts of the Spirit because our previous, mortal, fallen state of existence will be completely done away with. It is this completion and perfection of our salvation which Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 13:10, not the completion of the New Testament.
If Paul had mentioned the completed New Testament somewhere in the same context as the word “perfection,” then this would strengthen the argument that the word “perfection” refers to the completed New Testament. However, Paul did not mention the New Testament at all in the context of 1 Corinthians 13:10. Paul never said anything about the completed New Testament in the entire book of 1 Corinthians. In fact, Paul never mentioned a “New Testament” or a new set of Scriptures in any of his letters!

For example, every book of the New Testament written by Paul was a letter to a particular church, or to believers in a particular city, or to specific individuals. He always referred to his letters as “letters,” not as new books of Scripture. Here are all of the places in the New Testament where Paul made a reference to his own writings: 1 Corinthians 5:9, 2 Corinthians 7:8, 10:9-11, Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:27, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3:14, 17.

As we can see, Paul never referred to his letters as new books of Scripture, nor did he ever describe anyone else’s writings as being new books of Scripture. Certainly Paul’s letters are inspired Scripture, but the point is that Paul never made any kind of reference to a “New Testament” or a new set of Scriptures.

[Jesus did not say He was going away and would send them a book! – my note]

We have no scriptural evidence for taking Paul’s vague statement, “when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears,” as being a reference to the completed New Testament because Paul never mentioned such
a thing as a “New Testament.” In fact, after Paul died, roughly 75 years went by before anyone even tried to formally put together a new set of scriptures, which we now call “the New Testament” (The History of
Christianity, Dr. Tim Dowley, p.106).

This makes it even less likely that Paul had such a thing in mind in 1 Corinthians 13:10. Paul’s use of the word “perfection” is rather vague, but he elaborated on this statement with three illustrations, all of which deal with our maturity as believers. Not one of these illustrations has any bearing on the completed New Testament.

Paul’s first illustration is in 1 Corinthians 13:11, which immediately follows his use of the word “perfection”: “but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:10-11) Paul’s illustration speaks of maturity, but notice that he was not talking about the maturity of the New Testament. He was talking about our maturity as believers, which will finally be “perfected” or “completed” when we are
transformed at the return of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, Philippians 3:20-21, and 1 John 3:2 above, for example).

Since Paul used a description of spiritual maturity to elaborate on his statement that “when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears,” it provides further confirmation that this “perfection” does not refer to the completion of the New Testament. Here is the next illustration that Paul used to describe “perfection” (which immediately follows the previous illustration): “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to
face.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) The exact same Greek phrase (“see face to face”) is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament for seeing God face to face (Genesis 32:30), and the apostle John confirms for us that we will see God as He is (face to face) after Jesus returns for us and “perfects” our bodies( 1John 3:2).

Paul explained his statement about “perfection” by saying that “we shall see face to face,” and we can see that it has nothing to do with the completion of the New Testament. Instead, it refers to our being transformed and taken into heaven when Jesus comes for us. Since Paul used this illustration to elaborate on his statement that “when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears,” it provides further confirmation that this “perfection” does not refer to the completion of the New Testament. Paul’s final illustration in the 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 passage which we are examining puts the whole issue to rest: “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
This does not describe the completion of the New Testament, because the New Testament was completed almost two thousand years ago and yet we still do not “know fully, even as [we are] fully known.” Having a complete New Testament has not caused us to have a full, complete knowledge of God nor has it caused us to individually become “fully known” to one another.

Paul said, “when perfection comes…then I shall know fully” (1 Corinthians 13:12, above). Some people believe that this “perfection” refers to the completion of the New Testament, but Paul did not live to see the completion
of the New Testament. Paul’s use of the word “perfection” cannot be a reference to the completed New Testament because that would contradict his statement that he himself would “know fully” when perfection comes.

To summarize, all of the evidence indicates that the “perfection” which Paul described is our transformation from mortal, corruptible bodies to perfect, immortal, incorruptible bodies. There is no suggestion in any of these verses, nor anywhere else in Scripture, that the completed New Testament is the “perfection” which Paul spoke of. Paul said that certain spiritual gifts will cease to function when perfection comes and we receive our perfect, glorified bodies.

The resurrection has not yet happened, and therefore all of the gifts of the Spirit are still functioning in the body of Christ, including tongues, prophecies, words of knowledge, and so on. There are no passages anywhere in the New Testament which tell us that any gifts of the Spirit will ever “die out” during the Church Age.
Speaking in Tongues in 1 Corinthians Chapter 14

As I pointed out at the beginning of the previous section, every passage on tongues in the entire New Testament describes one or both of these two scenarios: A person delivers a public message in tongues from God to a group of people (such as a church congregation), which is then interpreted through the Holy Spirit either by the speaker or by someone in the congregation. The Bible refers to this as the “gift” of tongues, and it is used in combination with the gift of interpretation. Bible scholars sometimes refer to this as the “public” use of tongues.

A person prays in the Holy Spirit to God. When a person prays in the Spirit, this does not need to be interpreted into the local language because God always understands what the Holy Spirit is saying (although sometimes God gives us the interpretation of what we said in order to edify us and instruct us). The Bible refers to this as “praying in a tongue” (see 1 Corinthians 14:14), “praying with my spirit” (see 1 Corinthians 14:15), “praying in the Spirit” (see Ephesians 6:18), and “praying in the Holy Spirit” (see Jude 1:20). Bible scholars sometimes refer to this as the “private” use of tongues.

In general, when a person prays to God in the Spirit, no-one can understand what he is saying. Therefore, if a person prays out loud in tongues in front of the whole congregation, then no-one in the congregation will receive any benefit from it because they can’t understand what he is saying. For this reason, Paul said in the following passages that people should be considerate and take turns when they publicly speak in tongues, and if no interpretation comes forth then the speaker should sit down and continue praying in the Spirit quietly.

A few Bible commentaries seem to focus on Paul’s “negative” comments concerning tongues in this chapter, as if to say that Paul did not have a high regard for speaking in tongues. But notice in the following passages that Paul had nothing but good things to say about tongues when they are used properly.

The only time Paul criticized the use of tongues was when the private form of tongues was used publicly (as if delivering a message from God), which resulted in no benefit to the church congregation: 1 Corinthians 14:1-3 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:1-3)

Here are some of the important points in this passage: Paul described speaking to God in tongues, so this is a reference to the private form of tongues. When we are speaking to God in the Holy Spirit, we are praying in the Spirit. In the NIV this passage says, “he utters mysteries with his spirit,” but notice how this phrase is translated in other versions of the Bible: “and in spirit he doth speak secrets” (Young’s Literal Translation)
“but in spirit he speaks mysteries” (Pocket Interlinear New Testament)
“but in his spirit he speaks mysteries” (New American Standard Version)
“howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries” (King James Version)
“but in the spirit he speaketh mysteries” (1901 American Standard Version)
“he utters mysteries by the Spirit” (New International Version, footnote)
“because he is speaking secrets in the Spirit” (International Standard
Version)
“Yet in the Spirit he is speaking secret truths” (Wesley’s New Testament)
“but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (Revised Standard Version)
“in the (Holy) Spirit he utters secret truths and hidden things [not obvious
to the understanding]” (Amplified Version)

In all of these versions, the translators had to decide whether or not the word “spirit” should be capitalized as “Spirit,” and we can see that different translators made different decisions. However, the overwhelming
agreement among these scholars is that when a person is praying “in tongues” then he is praying “in the spirit” or praying “in the Spirit.” These phrases can all be used interchangeably because the Holy Spirit puts words into our spirits, not into our minds (as we’ll see in a moment). “Praying in tongues” and “praying with his spirit” and “praying in the spirit” and “praying in the Spirit” all mean the same thing.
1 Corinthians 14:4
“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4)
Here are some of the important points in this passage: Paul said that speaking in tongues edifies the speaker (encourages him, benefits him, builds him up in his faith) but Paul implied that tongues by itself does not edify a church congregation in the way that prophesying does. Therefore, the speaking in tongues in this verse refers to the private form of tongues (because the public form of tongues is the one which is meant to edify the  congregation).

The word “edifies” is a translation of the Greek word oikodomeo, which means “to build up in the faith, to edify” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.1031). Paul said in this verse that speaking in tongues “edifies” a person (it builds up his faith), and Jude said that we should build up our faith, praying in the Holy Spirit: “But you, beloved, build yourselves up [founded] on your most holy faith – make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher – praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20, AMP)

Jude said that praying in the Holy Spirit builds us up and edifies us. Paul said that speaking in tongues builds us up and edifies us. Therefore, “praying in the Spirit” and “praying in tongues” are simply two ways of saying the same thing.

1 Corinthians 14:5
“I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.” (1 Corinthians
14:5)

Here are some of the important points in this passage: The apostle Paul wanted everyone to speak in tongues. Why? Because it edifies us when we speak in tongues. There is a personal benefit that we receive when we pray in tongues (the private form of tongues), as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 14:4, above. All Christians, even in modern times, benefit from praying in the Spirit, and that’s why the Bible tells us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (Ephesians 6:18).

Paul also said that when we speak in tongues to a church congregation (using the public form of tongues, the “gift” of tongues) and we interpret what was said (using the gift of interpretation), this is equivalent to prophesying. Speaking in the gift of tongues and then speaking forth the interpretation results in the same  benefit and edification for the church congregation as the gift of prophecy does, according to the verse above.
Notice that in this verse the apostle Paul has fully endorsed both the private and the public forms of tongues, as long as they are used properly.

[When other believers hear tongues being spoken, they know they are in the company of those who have the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In that light, they are a sign to believers in the church. It is how the early church knew the Gentiles were being saved – they heard them speaking with tongues and then baptized them in water. It is one of the enemy’s lies that says we should not speak our prayer language out loud in the assembly! Still, it must be done decently and in order. Some Pentecostal tongue-speaking is over the top and downright unattractive, with the speakers practically screaming in tongues, faces contorted. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and some of that isn’t purely Him – it is flesh unbridled in erroneous operation of the gift. The spirit of the prophet/tongue speaker is subject to the prophet! – my note]

1 Corinthians 14:6-12
“Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”

Here are some of the important points in this passage: Paul was continuing to explain that an uninterpreted message given in tongues to the church congregation does not edify them (build them up in their faith) because they can’t understand what is being said. On the other hand, an interpreted message in tongues does edify the congregation because it results in a revelation or a word of knowledge or a word of prophecy or a word of instruction.

In other words, the public form of tongues needs to be interpreted into the local language, otherwise the speaker is just speaking into the air and not doing anybody (other than himself) any good. Paul was saying that using the private form of tongues in a public fashion is a waste of people’s time, and apparently this is what some of the people in the Corinthian church were doing.

Paul’s comment that there are all sorts of languages in the world has led some people to assume that speaking in tongues always refers to human languages. However, we cannot be dogmatic on this point because Paul had
earlier talked about speaking in the tongues of angels (as we saw in 1 Corinthians 13:1).
1 Corinthians 14:13 “For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may
interpret what he says.” Here are some of the important points in this passage:

Since speaking to a church congregation in tongues does not edify anyone by itself (1 Corinthians 14:6-12, above), the speaker should pray to receive the interpretation so that the church can be instructed. By definition, this is a reference to the public form of tongues. In addition, if we are praying to God in the Spirit (the private form of tongues), we can ask for the interpretation and God will sometimes give it to us in order to instruct us.

1 Corinthians 14:14 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”

Here are some of the important points in this passage: Paul said that when we pray in tongues, it is our spirits which are praying (through the Holy Spirit), not our minds (because our minds are unfruitful while we pray with our spirits, Paul said). As we have seen, “praying in tongues” and “praying with my spirit” and “praying in the Spirit” all mean the same thing.

The Amplified Version of the Bible is often a useful study tool because it brings out various shades of meaning that might otherwise be lost in the translation from Greek to English. Here is this same verse in the Amplified
Version: “For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive – bears no fruit and helps nobody.” (1 Corinthians 14:14, AMP) In other words, when we pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit is providing the words to our spirits which we then speak out of our mouths. This bypasses our minds, which is why Paul said that his mind was unproductive when he prayed with his spirit.

So one type of praying is done with the mind, and another type of praying is done with the spirit. In this verse, Paul specifically said that the way he prayed with his spirit was by praying in tongues in the Holy Spirit. Again,
“praying in tongues” and “praying with my spirit” and “praying in the Spirit” all mean the same thing. Notice that when we talk about prayer, we’re talking about speaking to God. Therefore, in this verse Paul was referring to the private form of tongues (i.e. praying to God in the Holy Spirit, or “praying in the Spirit”).

1 Corinthians 14:15 “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.”

Here are some of the important points in this passage: Once again we can see two different types of praying: In the mind and in the spirit. Paul said that sometimes he prayed with his spirit (i.e. by the Holy Spirit), and sometimes he prayed with his mind. These are two different forms of praying. This is brought out a little more clearly in the Amplified Version:

“Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit – by the Holy Spirit that is within me; but I will also pray intelligently – with my mind and understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15, AMP) Paul said that he prayed in two different ways. Sometimes he prayed with his mind, and sometimes he prayed with his spirit. We saw in the previous passage (1 Corinthians 14:14) that when Paul prayed with his spirit he was praying in tongues in the Holy Spirit. So “praying with my spirit” and “praying in the Spirit” and “praying in tongues” are simply different ways of saying the same thing.

Paul said that sometimes he sang with his spirit. In other words, he was singing forth the spiritual words that the Holy Spirit was giving him. This might be what he was referring to when he said:

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) Notice that Paul was speaking of prayer in this verse, so the private form of tongues is being referred to here.
1 Corinthians 14:16-17 “If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.”

Here are some of the important points in this passage: Paul was speaking of praising God and giving thanks to God, so this is a reference to the private form of tongues (because the private form of tongues is for speaking to God). Notice that the word “tongues” is not used in this passage, yet it is clear from the context that “praising God with your spirit” means the same thing as “praising God in tongues” (in the Holy Spirit). So once again we can see that “praising God with your spirit” and “praising God in the Spirit” and “praising God in tongues” all mean the same thing.

1 Corinthians 14:18-19 “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
Here are some of the important points in this passage:Paul was thankful that he spoke in tongues more than anyone else. This is a reference to the private form of tongues, because in the very next sentence Paul said, “But in the church…” Therefore, Paul spoke in tongues more than anyone else outside of church, praising God privately in the Spirit. Paul was thankful that he spoke in tongues frequently because he had a high regard for the personal benefit that people can receive through the private use of tongues (recall that a few verses earlier Paul said that he would like for everyone to speak in tongues).

Paul said that in church he would rather speak words of instruction (which people can understand), rather than an uninterpreted message in tongues (which people can’t understand). In other words, it doesn’t edify the church congregation when we use the private form of tongues in a public fashion (as if it’s a message from God).

Keep in mind that even if someone stands up and delivers a true message from God in tongues, this does not guarantee that an interpretation will come forth. The person who receives the interpretation might not be spiritually discerning enough to “hear” it, or he might not have been taught what to do with it. Or he might keep it to himself simply out of fear or nervousness. Every time someone delivers a message in tongues in a meeting or church service that I am attending, I always listen in my spirit for the interpretation. However, part of me is usually a little nervous that I might actually receive it!

1 Corinthians 14:21-25
“In the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the
secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!””
Here is an important point in this passage: Paul seems to contradict himself in this passage. First he says that tongues are a “sign” for unbelievers, but then he says that if unbelievers see people speaking in tongues, the unbelievers will think that the believers are out of their minds.

It turns out that “uninterpreted tongues” have been used in Israel’s history as a sign to the unbelieving Israelites that God’s judgment had come upon them. Paul was quoting a prophecy from Isaiah 28:11-12: “Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues [languages of Gentiles] God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”– but they would not listen.” (Isaiah 28:11-12)

[So it would seem that tongues were a sign to the Jews that their judgment had come and the end of the age was upon them. Combined with the part of the passage in Isaiah 28 that deals with entering into the place of rest – which we know is Christ – tongues were, and are, a sign that the church is the people of God and the true children of Abraham. The denying of the validity of tongues for today flies in the face of their very necessity. Furthermore, when tongues are forbidden in any assembly of believers, the opportunity to not only find the bond of the Spirit, but to know that spirit-filled believers are even in the place, is denied. This is a ploy of the enemy! It also is means of denying that Israel was judged at the cross when they rejected their Messiah. This may go to explain why we don’t hear such teaching in the church today. It is yet another denial of the whole work of Christ! It could be likened to the spirit of antichrist.

This is not to say that tongues are only a sign of judgment. The coming of the Holy Spirit is for power to live the Christian life. Tongues are for edification, but on a personal level than the assembly as a whole. They can be spoken in the assembly in praying vocally – but not for a message to the whole. But when Paul refers to Isaiah, he is telling the Jews that their day is ending.- My note]
This prophecy was fulfilled when the Assyrian army swooped down upon Israel speaking a foreign language (an uninterpreted tongue), carrying Israel off into captivity. Paul used an example from Israel’s history to show that
uninterpreted [not understood, foreign] tongues are sometimes used as a “sign” for unbelievers that judgment has come upon them. Then Paul pointed out that if an unbeliever enters a church where Christians [not Jews] seem to have lost their minds, the unbeliever would not [even] see this as a sign of impending judgment. This is why Paul said that prophecy is much more beneficial during a church service.

1 Corinthians 14:26-29
“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.”
Here are some of the important points in this passage: Notice that there is a big difference between this  description of first-century church services and most modern church services! Paul said that when these people came together for church, everyone had gifts to be used for ministering to one another. Modern churches tend to believe that all Christians receive one or more gifts of the Spirit, yet it seems that few churches encourage their members to actually use all of their gifts to edify and minister to one another. How different from the original form of church services.
Sometimes well-meaning Christians use this passage to denounce charismatic meetings or church services in which many people pray in tongues all at once (using the private form of tongues). They say that this is an un-scriptural practice because the above passage tells us to speak in tongues one at a time. However, that argument demonstrates a misunderstanding of this passage and a misunderstanding of what is going on in the charismatic services.

In this passage Paul was referring to those who stand up and give a message in tongues from God to the church congregation. These messages must be done decently and in order, and an interpretation must be given so that the congregation can be instructed. Paul was describing the public form of tongues here. This is an entirely different situation than when a group of believers prays together, and some or all of them are praying in tongues at the same time.

When believers are praying together and some of them are praying in tongues, they are using the private form of tongues (which is specifically for praying to God). No messages to the congregation are being given in tongues in that situation, and therefore that situation does not fall under Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26-29 (above).

Notice that the Bible specifically describes a group of people all praying in tongues together on the day of Pentecost: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4) As we saw earlier in this article, these 120 disciples were all praying out loud together, praising God in tongues. This is a Scriptural example of corporate prayer being done in tongues, and this does not fall under Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26-29 (above).

In the entire New Testament there are only two other descriptions of people speaking in tongues. In both of these situations (just as at Pentecost), everyone on whom the Holy Spirit was poured out spoke in tongues:
“The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:45-46)

“When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.” (Acts 19:6-7) In every description of people speaking in tongues in the entire New Testament, it was always a group of people who were praying in tongues out loud at the same time.

Therefore, we should be careful about dogmatically stating that Christians must not pray in tongues together, because that view violates all of the Scriptural examples of first-century Christians praying in tongues together.

Notice that in this passage the apostle Paul summed up his position on tongues: He fully endorsed the public use of tongues as long as it is done one at a time, and as long as someone receives the interpretation. He fully endorsed the private use of tongues by saying that if someone speaks publicly in tongues but the interpretation is not given to anyone, then the speaker should sit down and continue to speak quietly to God in tongues.

1 Corinthians 14:39
“Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”
Here is an important point in this passage: Paul’s final word on tongues, and in fact the final word on tongues in the entire New Testament, is that speaking in tongues must not be forbidden. Christians today should be praying in tongues just as they did in the first century (following Paul’s guidelines), because when it is done properly then it results in the edification of the speaker and of the church.

Spiritual Gifts

There are two more passages in Scripture which mention speaking in tongues, and these are both found in chapter 12 of the book of 1 Corinthians. Since these are given in the context of spiritual gifts, we’ll examine them along with several other passages on spiritual gifts.

Romans 12:4-8 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

Ephesians 4:11-12″ It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”
These passages all focus on spiritual gifts and ministry gifts, which are given to believers as the Holy Spirit decides. Speaking in tongues is listed as a gift of the Spirit, which means that only certain people will receive
this gift. But recall that in every example of people speaking in tongues in the book of Acts, we saw that it was all new believers who spoke in tongues.

Doesn’t it seem like there’s a contradiction here? In other words, God shows us groups of people speaking in tongues in the book of Acts, but in the above passages He tells us that speaking in tongues is a gift of the Spirit which only certain people will receive.

We can find the answer to this question by carefully examining all of the gifts listed in the above passages. Notice for example that faith is listed as a gift of the Spirit. Does this imply that only certain people will ever
have faith? No, because all believers are meant to have faith. Notice that serving is listed as a spiritual gift. Does this imply that only certain people will ever serve? No, because we are all commanded to be servants (see
for example John 13:1-17 and Philippians 2:3-16).

Notice that teaching is listed as a spiritual gift. Does this imply that only certain people will ever teach? No, because we are all commanded to be able to teach (see 2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Notice that encouraging others, contributing to the needs of others, showing mercy to others, helping others, and so on are listed as spiritual gifts. Does this imply that only certain people will ever do these things? No, because we are all commanded to do these things.

Notice that evangelism is listed as a spiritual gift. Does this imply that only certain people will ever share the Gospel? No, because we are all commanded to do
evangelism (see Matthew 28:18-20).

We can see that there are various things which all believers are told to do, but which certain people will have a special gift for doing. So in a sense there are two forms of these gifts: One form which any believer can do, and
another form which is the special gift of the Spirit.

Haven’t we seen throughout this article that there are two forms of speaking in tongues? The public form of tongues (which must always be interpreted) edifies the church congregation just as the gift of prophecy does (1 Corinthians 14:5). This is the spiritual gift of tongues because spiritual gifts are given for the public good  (1 Corinthians 12:7). The gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation go hand in hand. In contrast, the private form of tongues is for praying to God in the Holy Spirit, and this is the form of tongues which all Christians are told to do: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:20)

Groaning

The purpose of this article is to examine every New Testament passage on tongues in order to determine if speaking in tongues is related to “praying in the Spirit.” As we have seen, “praying in tongues” and “praying in the Spirit” are two ways of saying the same thing.

Here is another passage which doesn’t specifically mention speaking in tongues, but which describes the Holy Spirit interceding for us:”In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)  Intercession is a form of prayer, so the above passage describes the Holy Spirit praying for us (or through us) in a certain way.

This passage does not mention anything about tongues, but instead it describes what is sometimes referred to as “groaning in the Spirit.” During their prayer time, many Christians have occasionally experienced a groaning
which comes from deep within them, and which seems to fit the above passage.

Conclusion

Several years ago I was very much against tongues because of my doctrinal background. However, I discovered to my shock that I needed to discard my view because I could not honestly and prayerfully find the Scriptural
evidence to support it which would outweigh the evidence against it.

After prayerfully and thoroughly and objectively studying every New Testament passage on tongues, my conclusion is that “praying in the Spirit” and “praying in tongues” are two ways of saying the same thing. Based on Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 1:20 (above), this means that all Christians should be praying in tongues “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

In other words, when we have prayers and requests in our hearts and minds, we can pray in tongues about these things and allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for us (or through us). And based on Romans 8:26 (above), there might be times when we will groan without words if the Holy Spirit is interceding for us in that way. I realize that these might be distasteful conclusions to many people (as they were to me several years ago!), but we must always base our beliefs and our actions on what Scripture says, not on what we happen to like or dislike.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from
the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (R). NIV (R). Copyright (C) 1973,
1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan
Publishing House. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)

This material is not copyrighted. Please feel free to use it in any way which will glorify the Lord Jesus Christ!

This article has been modified, Feb. 2010, by Patricia Hux. The name associated with the site where this was found is Dave Root of TX. I can find nothing further now that his site is down.