Let’s tackle a controversial gift: speaking in tongues. Corinthians was written to all of us, “together with all those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:2). So, as a Christ-follower, this message is for you.
We’ve seen previously not everyone will speak in tongues but that we shouldn’t misunderstand (12:1) this gift or forbid it (14:39). Paul, though, takes it to another level commanding us never to say of a gift, “I have no need of you (12:21).” Why?
The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, explains that there are various kinds of tongues (12:10) or languages that haven’t been previously learned. Tongues are released by the Spirit to our spirit because we’re His family or kind (genos) and we speak His kind of language. The Spirit chooses and we receive; it’s as simple as that. Speaking in tongues is a flowing speech that’s inspired by God; you won’t understand it, it’s supernatural: even angelic. It doesn’t override love or prophecy but it has a definite place.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels … 1 Cor. 13:1
The word for angels, also translated messengers, explains there’s a valid message in this unknown angelic language and we communicate with the Spirit this way. However, when He returns (1 Cor. 13:8-12) we won’t need tongues, prophecies, or knowledge; they’re only a partial messages. They’ll all pause, be inoperative, and out of use because That Day we’ll see Jesus face-to-face, but until then we need the spiritual gifts: all of them.
What’s the purpose of speaking in tongues? Let’s continue with 1 Corinthians 14.
Verse one instructs us to earnestly desire all the spiritual gifts; they’re individually given from the Holy Spirit to a believer and we should sincerely desire to experience them. Verse two depends on the previous verses; for or indeed is used.
For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he speaks mysteries in the Spirit.
When you let your heavenly language flow freely you’re praying mysteries, Paul clarifies, and those unknown words are God’s way of connecting heaven and earth in prayer. Speaking in tongues can also be translated uttering or whispering to God and it’s supernatural. This is personal, private, and experiential time between you and the Holy Spirit and a sign or evidence that you are building yourself up.
The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself. Verse 5
Paul desires all believers to speak in tongues (vs. 5) and for good reason; we need to be reminded that we are dependent on the Spirit every day and encourage ourselves in this supernatural way much like David:
But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. 1 Sam. 30:6
It’s nobody’s business if you pray in tongues but don’t deny it’s power or value. Next week we’ll distinguish between prayer and messages in tongues.