I don’t know if you have ever experienced this type of phenomena but its been a pretty common scenario for me. It goes something like this: You’re listening to a Bible teacher talking on a controversial subject. And at first it’s amazing. You’re thinking, “Oh, wow. There’s alot of good information here. I may finally get some legit answers on this subject!” Then it happens. What seems to be the inevitable fate of nearly every sermon we hear: Weird tangents that leave the Scriptures and start into gobbledegook. Or the, “under the rug” treatment where Bible passages to the contrary are either completely ignored, or stamped with a generic disclaimer before moving on.
I’m a firm believer in doing unto others as I would like done unto me. So I’ve put this subject into an FAQ format in order to hopefully cover every angle, question and objection. If I missed something, or you have another question not addressed, please feel free to ask 🙂
Oh . . . And one more thing—I feel silly having to say this but just to clarify, this article isn’t about what people say or think about the Bible. It’s about what the Bible actually says on the subject. I mention this because I know there are entire schools of thought devoted to commentaries and what folks think the Scriptures imply as opposed to what they actually say about tongues. While I think these things can be helpful and informative, they are not divine and should not be treated as one in the same as the Bible.
“1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Says that when the, “perfect has come” tongues will cease. The, “perfect” refers to the Bible, so tongues are no longer an active gift.”
ANSWER: We need to be careful here. Does the passage actually say this? Or is this what we think it means? What it says is that at some point they will cease. But to assume that they already have is just that—- an assumption.
“The tongues mentioned in 1Corinthians were all known languages. They were not mindless babble like you see today.”
ANSWER: It is true that there is a gifting by the Spirit that causes someone to speak in a foreign language. You see this
in Acts 2 and it’s also mentioned here . . .
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
In Greek, the word, kinds is genos and means, “stock, tribe, offspring, national descent.” When you read the context you see that this manifestation of the Spirit can be given as He wills (vs. 11).
But he mentions another type of tongue that would not fall under, kindred or foreign tongues.
2: For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for no man understands him; however in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
So when we talk about praying with tongues (which is what this article is about), we are not talking about any known language. No man understands. This is obviously different from a foreign or tribal tongue that could be interpreted.
The same accusation is made of Paul. People say because he was a Pharisee he knew multiple languages. And these were the tongues he prayed in when he said, “if I pray in an unknown tongue my spirit prays (1Cor 14:14).”
First of all, we already know that when someone prays in a tongue it is not a known language. But beside that, Paul said when he does pray with his spirit, his understanding (GK mind) is unfruitful. If those were learned languages, then his mind would be the very place from which it was coming from. Instead, Paul identifies a distinction between his mind, and his spirit. And so should we.
“The usage of tongues today is abused. You shouldn’t do it out loud unless there is an interpreter (1Cor 14:27-28)”
There is no profit if people don’t understand you. The Bible says you’re speaking into the air (1Cor 14:6-9).
If there is no interpreter, keep quiet. Just speak to yourself and to God.
Having noted this, you should never measure a doctrine based on it’s abuse.
“Paul spoke negatively about people who pray in tongues because it only edifies that person instead of the rest of the church.”
ANSWER: This is an opinion. There is no scripture that says that. While it is important to seek to edify the Church, we are also encouraged to speak in tongues and build ourselves up (1Cor 14:5).
One definition for, “edify” in Greek is, “to bring about good.” So, contrary to the claim, Paul says it’s a good thing.
“1Corinthians 12:11 says that these gifts are given as the Spirit wills—-not given to everyone.”
ANSWER: Correct. The, “gifts” in 1Corinthians 12 are given as the Spirit wills for the profit of all (1Cor 12:7). But it’s worth noting that the tongues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14 which profit the individual (as opposed to all) are never directly referred to as a, “gift.” Instead, they’re referred to as praying in or with your spirit (14:2, 14-16).
See, if you call it a, “gift” then it leaves the impression that some may have it and some may not. But if you refer to it as Paul did, “praying with my spirit” it becomes a strange idea to assert that only a select number of Christians are able to pray with their spirit.
Besides that, the same verse in chapter 12 that mentions kindred tongues, also mentions prophesying (vs. 10). Yet later Paul says, “You may all prophesy one by one (1Cor 14:31).” This would not be possible if, “given as the Spirit wills” meant, “not all are able to.”
“1Corinthians 14:22 says tongues are a sign for the unbeliever. We should not be trying to use them to edify ourselves or as some secret prayer language.”
ANSWER: It is true that the Bible says tongues are for a sign. But the prior verse shows us that the type of tongues he refers to are the kind that are spoken to men. Notice the quote, “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people yet for all that they will not hear Me . . .” Remember, the subject is the unknown tongue which is spoken not unto men, but unto God (1Cor 14:5).
“1Corinthians 12:28-31, asks the question “do all speak with tongues?” This shows us not everyone is going to speak in tongues
ANSWER: Correct. Not everyone speaks in tongues, nor will they. But that’s obvious. Does every Christian you know speak in tongues? Probably not. In fact, most believers I know don’t speak in tongues. So we really don’t need a Bible verse to tell us this to know it’s true. But the topic is whether every believer should pray in tongues. And the passage simply does not answer this. Now, there are many who believe this passage is implying that idea. But the text doesn’t say that. It can’t be verified. People are free to speculate, but insofar as what we actually can observe in the passage, that isn’t falsifiable.
Now, if one insists on entering the realm of speculation by talking about what they believe is implied (something I don’t recommend), then there are plenty explanations that could be made to account for why tongues are mentioned in this list.
For example, someone could argue that all of the positions named in the passage (apostle, prophet, healings, etc) minister to other people, therefore, the tongues would also be in reference to the type which can be interpreted and edifies the Church. And would exclude the prayer tongue of chapter 14 because it only edifies the individual and is thus, not technically a gift.
Again—-All of the above is speculation. But demonstrates how easy it is to come up with a reasonable explanation if you’re going to give authority to inferences (which, again, I would not advise).
“There is no Scripture that tells us God wants us all to pray in tongues.”
ANSWER: Let’s take a look at what the Scriptures do tell us.
But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in/with the Holy Ghost,
18: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in/with the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Here, God tells us all to pray in the Spirit. What does that mean? Do the Scriptures tell us what it looks like when someone prays in the Spirit? They sure do.
2: For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for no man understands him; however in the Spirit he speaks mysteries.
When someone speaks to God, what does the Bible call that? It’s called prayer. Well, this passage mentions speaking to God, so we know it’s about prayer. But not just any kind of prayer. It gives an explanation for what a person is doing when they pray in tongues. What’s it called? Speaking (or we could say, praying, because that’s what speaking to God is) in the Spirit.
14: For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15: What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
Read the above passages in different translations, and it will help you to see it even better.
Speaking in tongues is only one form or one type of prayer in the Spirit. Not the only one.
ANSWER: That is a good observation. Let’s look again and see if God addresses this as well . . .
18: Praying always with ALL prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Some translations say, “All KINDS of prayer” or, “EVERY KIND of prayer.”
If he told us to pray with all kinds of prayer, that by itself, would be enough to know that prayer tongues would be included. But he actually takes it one step further and says to pray with all kinds of prayer IN THE SPIRIT—making it unmistakable.
Finally, the easiest way to know God wants all of us to speak in tongues is because He said so, word for word.
5: Now I want you all to speak in tongues but even more to prophesy . . .
Prophecy (speaking God’s Word—See Greek definition) is important. Even more important than speaking in tongues. But He still tells us He desires we do both.
“If God wants me to speak in tongues then it’ll happen— until then I’m not going to try and force anything.”
ANSWER: Right. And if God wants you to pray in English then it’ll happen. And if He wants you to read the Bible then it’ll happen. And if He wants you to go to church then it’ll happen—- but until it does no use in trying to force it, right?
No. You can’t make God’s responsibility what He has already made your responsibility. He told you to pray in the Spirit.
And for the record, this idea that it will, “just happen” with no effort or involvement on your part is unscriptural. There isn’t a single place in ALL the New Testament that says, “The Holy Spirit will speak through you” or, “a power will come over you and make you do it.” No, in every instance, it is the person who does the speaking.
Now, that isn’t to say the Spirit won’t prompt or inspire you, but we often have these strange and mystical expectations of things that can hinder us from true, biblical experiences. It may or may not happen the way we are expecting, but the safest way to a true experience is to stay with what the Bible actually says.