What controversial subject is it that sends shivers up some peoples' spines and has borne the brunt of ruthless criticism? When you talk to someone about speaking in tongues, many express a sudden anger. Others retreat in dreaded fear. Almost all opponents state emphatically that speaking in tongues is definitely 'of the devil.' Unfortunately, many sincere Christians have been turned aside from enjoying the far-reaching benefits of glossolalia* because they have been erroneously taught or misinformed about this marvellous 'sign-gift' from God.
It is human nature to analyse things in a defined and intellectual manner and to avoid things that are difficult to understand. Tongues, however, are of the spiritual dimension and can not be fathomed by human reasoning. They are given supernaturally by the Holy Spirit and engage the user in the spiritual realms of God’s Spirit.
THE BRILLIANT DECEPTION
The frequent operation of tongues often procures immediate consequences that affect the spiritual climate around our lives. Why then all the antagonism regarding tongues? There is a two-pronged attack on glossolalia. It is often taught in our modern day setting, that tongues are not of God, and warning is issued to those seeking a deeper life in God, to avoid ‘charismatic’ experiences. But, pursuing higher levels of theological education, without the empowering of the Holy Spirit, can often lead people to resist the simple and down to earth truths of Christian life. Even though the Word of God abounds with the miraculous and supernatural, many assert with confidence that, “in the 'light' of modern and superior learning, miracles should be discarded as false, as God, (apparently)no longer moves among men in a supernatural manner. Since speaking in tongues fits into the supernatural category, any manifestation of it must be questioned!”To the mind puffed up with knowledge and learning, tongues appear to be foolish, meaningless, imperfect and unwanted. Needless to say, multitudes of earnest seekers of God have been discouraged to pray for the gift of tongues.
The other assault against tongues is from the nefarious enemy of God's kingdom, Satan. He has done a very convincing job in deceiving believers that their tongues are not genuine, or the strange sounds they utter stem from their own intellect. In others, the deceiver breeds complacency, suggesting that constant praying in tongues is of little consequence. Why has Satan gone to such degrees to deliberately down play the necessity and employment of speaking in tongues? The answer is simple! Glossolalia is one of the most powerful weapons God has given Spirit-filled believers in helping to destroy the devil's work. The more a believer prays in tongues, the more able he is to wreak havoc in the realms of darkness. Prayer fortified by glossolalia results in the strong man being bound, and the captives being set free. The true significance of tongues for the believer has been clouded in ignorance and suspicion - both powerful and effective devises of Satan in his virulent and relentless aggression against the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
THESE SIGNS WILL FOLLOW
Speaking in tongues is important - in fact, so vital to the believer’s life and ministry, that Christ prophesied about it's entrance into Christian experience, calling it a ‘sign’ in Mark 16:17, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues...” Five hundred years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah spoke of this phenomena. (Isaiah 28:11-12). The usage of tongues so expedient, God deeming it necessary to announce ‘tongues’ pending arrival through Old Testament prophecy! The apostle Paul connects Isaiah's prophecy to glossolalia in 1 Corinthians 14:21.
Speaking in tongues is of God. Its source is God, who bursts into the spirit of a believer when he or she is filled with the Holy Spirit. Everything that God does has a pre-determined purpose and tongues are in the purposes of God. Why has God chosen glossolalia as the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit's infilling a believer? The reason may be that the continual use of the prayer language of the Spirit is one of the most essential requirements for success in every aspect of Christian life and experience.
The first account of this marvellous act of God is recorded in Acts 2:1-2: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Tongues were the immediate external evidence of being FILLED with the HOLY SPIRIT. Can you imagine that moment? God Almighty had come to live in flesh and blood. He filled the believers with Himself, and the outward result of God's presence was speaking in tongues. Whenever believers received the Holy Spirit, the same outward evidence of speaking in tongues was repeated in the other historical accounts in Acts.
DO ALL SPEAK IN TONGUES?
Many Christians have been mercilessly lied to by the enemy. As a result many accept blindly the teaching in many Christian circles, that some people will speak in tongues, but not everyone. They quote 1 Corinthians 12:30, “Do all speak in tongues?”, believing that by some cosmic lottery most will miss out, but a few will be fortunate to receive it. This verse is speaking about the manifestation gift of speaking in tongues, which is exercised in believers gatherings. This sudden utterance of tongues is given in a moment by the Holy Spirit, and must be interpreted so it can be of mutual benefit and encouragement to all who hear. As a ‘Gift of the Spirit’, 'not all speak in tongues'. Paul advises that in any public meeting, the usage of this particular gift should be limited to two or three utterances, and that too only if a known interpreter is present. Otherwise the 'gifted one' should have the faith to receive the interpretation or remain silent in private worship to God. Obviously, this verse can not be used as a deterrent or excuse for not speaking in tongues as it refers exclusively the Spiritual Gift manifestation of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12). In avoiding the extremes of criticism to this manifestation, Paul commanded the believers, “Do not forbid speaking in tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39).
For the Spirit-filled believer, the private, devotional use of glossolalia, is distinct to the role and functioning of the 'manifestation gift' of tongues practised in public worship. For personal edification and relating to God on a personal level, there is nothing more effective than speaking in tongues. Paul boldly asserts, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.” (1 Corinthians 14:18). Could Paul's speaking in tongues 'more than all', be the reason for the extraordinary success of his ministry?
MANIFOLD BENEFITS OF TONGUES
What are the benefits of speaking in tongues in personal relationship with God? There are many that are outlined in the Word of God:
1. THE PLACE OF REST & REPOSE
Isaiah prophesied, ''Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues 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).
Our world is devoid of peace and the pressures of life are at times unbearable. However, God has provided 'a place of rest and repose', for those who are weary and worn out. Isaiah speaks of the attainment of inner peace, a tangible place of rest and refreshing that comes as a consequence of spending time in God's presence. Repose means to be refreshed by taking rest. How is this achieved? Many times our problems are too complex and difficult to express in any known human language. By speaking in tongues we are able to adequately express our hearts and to “cast all our cares on Him.” (1 Peter 5:7). While speaking in tongues, the Lord speaks to us and we are refreshed; we exchange our weakness for His strength, we become settled on the issues that are sapping away our life. 'LISTEN' to Isaiah's advice and find the rest God has promised and provided through glossolalia. Remember the Lord's invitation,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
2. PRAYING ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD
“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. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.” (Romans 8:26-27).
Despite our best efforts and good intentions, very often in regards to prayer we feel debilitated and impotent. We don't know how to pray and at times our troubles can be so heavy that even a feeble prayer is almost impossible to offer. But in the midst of our weakness, we find the strength of Another. The Holy Spirit takes over our praying as we yield to Him. He prays through the vehicle of our inner man, searching our lives, knowing our very essence, He prays intelligently on our behalf. For the burden in the depths of our being, the Spirit cries and moans, bearing our needs before the Father. Very often we think that we can solve our difficulties by following a certain course. However, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to destruction.” (Proverbs 14:12). The marvellous thing about praying in tongues is, that the Holy Spirit prays the will of God into existence into our lives and circumstances. He prays for us not according to our carefully thought out agenda, but according to the plans and purposes of God, that our lives might conform to that design alone.
3. TONGUES BUILDS UP FAITH
“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:20).
‘Epoikodomeo’, is the word Jude uses to describe the building up of our faith as we pray in tongues. It literally means to build upon, and to rear up. Is this verse saying that faith can grow as we pray in the Spirit? Yes! Faith to face our circumstances and to see the deliverance of God in our lives is birthed, nurtured and developed to maturity in our lives through glossolalia. Faith is progressively reared-up in our lives through the usage of tongues. Do you need more faith? Read the Word of God, believe it and making it part of your life, and pray in the Spirit. What will be the result? Holy Faith! A faith that is pure, a faith that is precious in the sight of God; a faith that is honoured by God. A faith that can move mountains to the glory of God! “If you believe (have faith), you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22).
4. VICTORY OVER SATAN
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18).
The background for this instruction is the specific spiritual armour and weaponry believers have been given in standing against our enemy, the devil. Praying in the Spirit comes at the conclusion, after the believer has dressed with the specific parts of the spiritual armour. Paul reminds us, that although we face our adversary in the natural realm, through hostile unbelievers and demonically inspired circumstances; our battle is to be addressed to the entities in the spiritual realm, who strategise their wicked schemes against the church and the saints of God. “For our struggle (wrestle) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12). How do we compete with these hideous powers? Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, for every matter, in every circumstance. Pray in tongues, and the devil's schemes against the saints are exposed and destroyed. Remember Isaiah's prophecy, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:17). Satan devises and creates specific weapons, fashioned tools of destruction against us. As we pray in the Spirit, these weapons are destroyed, and we are delivered. The Word declares that believers have the authority to refute every accusation against them. Night and day, Satan, the accuser of the brethren is slandering us. (Revelations 12:10). It is our right and heritage as God's children to refute our enemy. This simply means to negate, to prove false and overthrow the enemy and his accusations. God vindicates us before the devil, silencing his slander and rescuing us from his deliberate aggression against our lives. Our God given spiritual weaponry are the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God), and praying in the Spirit (tongues).
Glossolalia is of inestimable value to the kingdom of God in her fight against the enemies of Christianity, both demonic and their human emissaries. Whatever the occasion, take your stand against the devil, and pray in the Spirit!
(Significantly, Paul advises believers not to be ignorant about Spiritual Gifts, nor about the enemies schemes or devices. (1 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Cor 2:11). These instructions should be taken seriously!)
5. REVELATION KNOWLEDGE
“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.” (1 Corinthians 14:2).
When we speak in tongues we utter mysteries with our spirit. What does this mean? First we will look at the meaning of 'mysteries'. ‘Musterion’ is the Greek word translated in English as mysteries. When we think of something as mysterious, we immediately think of some ancient, dark secret thing that always remains shrouded in darkness. However ‘musterion’ has a profound actual meaning. It was the word used to describe the revealing of truths that were disclosed only to those who had been initiated into a particular secret society. To those outside of this society, the knowledge and truths of that society were hidden, mysterious. But to those who had been initiated, the truths were secret no longer. All truths regarding that society were fully revealed to those privileged initiates. Tongues takes us into the realm of the Spirit where God has said, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”(Isaiah 45:3). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are initiated into the deep things of the Spirit. It is through speaking in tongues that these 'kingdom secrets' are made known in our spirit as revealed truth. We speak them with our spirit and they are made known in our heart or mind as new understanding or insight, revelations, discernment and prophetic insights that relate to our personal lives or aspects of our ministries.
God reveals truth into our lives through glossolalia. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3). The entrance of truth in our lives is liberating, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). Our lives are transformed by revelational truths given to us through praying in the Spirit. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"--but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-12). HALLELUJAH!
6. GOD'S CONSTRUCTION ZONE
“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.” (1 Corinthians 14:4).
What does it mean to edify? The Greek word ‘oikodomeo’, means to construct as a house-builder. Have you ever watched how a house is constructed? Starting with the foundations each part of the building is built up in the prescribed and approved manner and carefully executed according to the architects design. Finally the house is painted and the people and belongings move in. When we pray in the Spirit, God builds us up, we are His construction zone. Brick by brick, tile upon tile, as 'the expert builder’, God builds us up. As we pray in tongues, He shapes and moulds us according to his design and plans for our lives. To ‘oikodomeo’ also means to confirm, to firmly establish or strengthen and to embolden. When we pray in tongues our lives are fortified with steel force strength. We are emboldened against all the elements and climatic changes.
HARNESSING THE UNFRUITFUL MIND
Concentration is required to pray effectively. It seems that the moment we finally set aside a time and begin to pray, the mind suddenly becomes consumed with every other facet of life, rather than prayer. Satan hates praying Christians. He detests prayer that causes God to act. His diabolical hordes are instructed to do their best to keep believers off their knees and active in unproductive pursuits. So how can we have success in prayer? Paul points out, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 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.” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15). While speaking in tongues our spirit man is in active communication with God, but our minds have the tendency to be disconnected, wandering, and not to be productive and participating in prayer. We should endeavour to harness our mind; focus on the Lord, and on the Scriptural promises concerning our needs, while our spirit is engaged in glossolalia. Keeping our mind focussed will make us more sensitive and open to the leadings of the Spirit. Don't allow your mind to wander. Keep it on God. Focus on the subject of the prayer. Paul advises Christians to alternate between tongues, 'intelligent' prayer, singing and worshipping both in spirit and mind. This will result in satisfying and fulfilling times of prayer that sees heaven's response!
Tongues is the language of the Spirit. It is holy. It is a God ordained and God breathed function available for every believer. Its frequent usage ensures healthy Christian life and consistent victory over sin and our enemy.
SIGNIFICANCE & PRIVILEGE
Tongues are indispensable! It’s time to break free from complacency and ignorance regarding the things of God. The Apostle Paul spoke in tongues more than most people because he well understood the far-reaching significance to life and ministry through the use of God's heavenly prayer language, glossolalia.
If you are already filled with the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues - don't neglect your privileges. Use your gift of tongues earnestly for the Kingdom of God. On every occasion 'pray in the Spirit'. One hour per day in tongues will transform your life and circumstances. Bondages will break, sinful habits will drop of. You will be able to walk in the Spirit and make decisions that are in the will of God. Your life will be revolutionised in the wake of glossolalia. Little wonder that the devil has fought so hard to quench speaking in tongues!
If you have not yet come into the fullness of the Spirit in your life - press in now and receive it from God. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give GOOD GIFTS to those who ask him! How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13).
ARE YOU TONGUE TIED?
Are you tongue tied? The aim of this article is to educate the reader on the Scriptural benefits and use of glossolalia. The origin of tongues were not concieved in the mind of man, nor did they come into existence by the will or desire of man. Rather, by the unquestionable purposes of God, they have been given freely to us. Since glossolalia is of God, and “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,” (James 1:17), how then can we ignore or discard as irrelevant the gift of tongues?
Let's respond to the exhortation of God's Word, and pray much in the Spirit. Determine today to make a difference in our world for God, and 'press on to know the Lord', through your God given prayer language. The results will amaze you!
* Glossolalia is the term used by theologians for speaking in tongues. It comes from the Greek word 'glossa' (G1100). It is the word used for the physical tongue and by implication it refers to language, specifically a language naturally acquired.
Karen Elengikal is an inspirational, published writer from Sydney, Australia. Karen's first book 'Kidz Battle Zone' was released in 2007. (see FW Book Review).