Speaking in tongues


Tongues are often a point of contention between Christian communities. For some, it is the speaking in tongues that provides the contention, for others, it is the not speaking in them that is cause for concern. Chances are the emphasis is too great on either side of the controversy.

Supernatural phenomena that create undignified behavior will often result in controversy.

There are several reasons for this. One is that Christians are often afraid of the supernatural for they profess that anything otherworldly is best left for those practicing the powers of darkness. Amazingly, we have forfeited the power of the Kingdom to the domain of darkness because we would rather leave it there than risk doing anything supernatural that may be mistaken for evil.

Secondly, riding on the first reason the church has created doctrines to reduce the supernatural interpretation of biblical practices to something natural. We then suppose tongues to only be a matter of knowing a foreign language rather than speaking in an unknown language born of heaven rather than of earth. We also need to find a natural purpose for the practice rather than a supernatural one. Thirdly, we wish to remain dignified.

The Bible (I Corinthians 14:2) tells us that tongues are a tool of edification where our spirit speaks in unintelligible and yet audible ways by the unction of the Holy Spirit in order to pray in a manner truly expressive of our deepest needs. In return, our spirit is inflated and we are then encouraged and edified through this spiritual practice.

The other use of this gift is a matter of revelation.

Where the tongues are spoken aloud to one or more people and either the speaker or another person receives an interpretation of what God is saying in this spiritual language (I Corinthians 14:27). This is the procedure when tongues are spoken aloud in a group setting.

Paul expresses that despite the importance of tongues for self-edification, that the greater gift that benefits the most people is prophecy (I Corinthians 14:1). By prophesying, hearing God for other people, you can profess the truth of God and people can experience encouragement that surpasses walking into a room of people engaged in their prayer language ( I Corinthians 14:24). But Paul takes it further and says that the more excellent way is love for without love all these gifts of the Spirit can be likened to the noise of clanging cymbals (1 Cor 12:31- I Cor 13:1).

Tongues, then, is a biblical practice. But it’s most astute use, as an individual prayer language between the believer and God, reduces the proclivity towards interdenominational disputes. While prophecy can also be controversial, it is much less so, in the sense that once the desires of your heart are expressed by another there is little left to dispute. The encouragement is astounding, and the love of God is evident. Let us not be caught up in fruitless squabbles and simply follow the more excellent way when it comes to such things. Believers cannot go wrong with love.


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