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A critical study on Speaking in Tongues

by Robert Randle  
10/27/2011 / Bible Studies

The one visible evidence of salvation, especially among Evangelical Christians ["Pentecostals"] is the phenomenon known as "Speaking in Tongues." And while this gift is a genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit, yet the purpose for receiving this bestowal of grace may not be clearly understood. There are a more than a few who will even say that this is the sign or evidence that a person has received salvation, is a child of God and truly "born again."

Acts 2: 38, 41a
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ [Yeshua Moshiach] for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized.

1 Corinthians 12: 1, 4
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant [without understanding or guidelines]. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 14: 1-5, 9-13
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. So likewise, unless you speak by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken; for you will be speaking into the air? There are, as it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance [meaning]. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous [eager] for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.

1 Corinthians 14: 15-17, 19
What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the Spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding [interpretation]. I will also sing with the Spirit, I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the Spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed [unbeliever or one who does have the spirit of discernment] say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God that I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

1 Corinthians 14: 22-25, 27-28, 39
Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. Therefore if [when] the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church, and let him speak to himself and God. Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not prevent [forbid, resist or discourage] to speak in tongues.

COMMENTARY: This encapsulates the directives that the Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit taught to the Church at Corinth. In at least four instances in the fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul rates the superiority of prophesying over that of speaking in tongues. There are those who say that "tongues" is angel-speak, or a type of divine language spoken between the person and God, and although that might be true in some special set of circumstances the clear meaning here is that of one spoken among the diverse human family (Cp. 1 Corinthians 14: 10-11). This can be further proven as in the following below:

Acts 2: 2, 4, 6-8
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and was confused [confounded/perplexed], because everyone heard them [the disciples] speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans [normally speaking a dialect of northern Aramaic]? "And how is it that we hear, each in our own language [dialect] in which we were born?"

So while it is certainly proper for a believer in the church assembly to be directed by the Holy Spirit to speak in a tongue, it is for the sole purpose to bring the knowledge of salvation to an unbeliever who is assembled, but the words have to be spoken by one who interprets; or the Holy Spirit may chose to reveal the word of truth to the unbeliever without any human agency if He decides to do it in that manner. It is however, a little surprising when quite a few Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches frequently manifest the gift of speaking in tongues without an interpreter, and not only that, they don't appear to realize that it is more an act of self-gratification [edification] as opposed to speaking understandable words of grace that will uplift and edify the body of believers, as in prophesying. In fact the Apostle Paul writes that we should earnestly desire prophesying out of all the spiritual gifts (Cp. 1 Corinthians 14: 1).

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
August 14, 2011

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