Speaking in tongues has been a great blessing and benefit to my spiritual life in the past.
I have been discouraged at times because of the abuse I have seen from others. and the lack of sound doctrine, and the teachings, among those who speak with tongues.
Even so, this does not disqualify God’s gifts.
Praying in other tongues is not going to straighten out your theology. It didn’t do that for the Corinthians and it won’t for you either. It is not going to make you spiritual. it didn’t do that for the Corinthians, and it won’t for you either.
This is where I think people mistake the purpose for the gift of other tongues.
In scripture, the primary purpose for tongues is for exalting God (praising and glorifying him) in you personal devotion.
If you pray in other tongues, your spirit is edified, but others around you are not, and that is why the gift of the interpretation of tongues is given.
Praying and singing in other tongues in your personal devotion with enrich your praying and singing with your understanding.
Tongues is given primarily as a gift to enhance your personal devotion with God. In the book of 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul says the following:
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Notice that Paul makes a contrast between his much speaking in tongues and speaking in the church. While speaking in tongues in private edifies the individual who speaks in tongues, speaking in tongues publicly does not edify those who do not know what you are saying.
This is why Paul says he’d rather speak five understandable words in the church than 10 thousand which can’t be understood by others. When we are in fellowship with others (in church,) we should be concerned with the edification of others, and not ourselves.
Paul tells the Corinthians to keep silent (from speaking in tongues) in the church if there is no interpreter present.
The sad truth is that many Christians are robbed of the blessing of speaking in other tongues because of the abuse of carnal Christians who think speaking in tongues publicly is a sign of spirituality. It is not!
Speaking in tongues publicly with no interpretation, is a sign of carnality, being able to control yourself and keep silent is a sign of spirituality.
Spiritual people do not need to draw attention to themselves with their gifts. Spiritual people are more concerned with using their gifting with discretion and wisdom so that the name of Christ is glorified and others edified.
The same can be said for the gift of prophecy. There has been much abuse of the gift of prophecy, but the real truth is, you don’t have to announce that you are prophesying or giving a prophetic word to prophesy.
Prophecy can edify people and give them hope without them ever knowing they were prophesied to.
if you have to announce that you are prophesying, ask yourself, why?
Are you being carnal, and needing to draw attention to yourself?
If we will grow in our love towards others, the gifts of God can and will enrich our lives and when used properly, be a tremendous blessing to others.
10 thoughts on “THE PURPOSE FOR TONGUES”
Blessings to you my friend…
Although I do believe that speaking in tongues is to be used for prayer, praise and thanksgiving, From my small perspective, I think you misunderstand 1st Corinthians 14. I believe a careful exegesis of the chapter (along with other evidence) demonstrates that Paul’s “correction” was not to squelch group tongue speaking).
The only reason I’m responding to this is because after reading many articles that you have written on this site, I’ve been impressed with your balanced perspective on many topics (which I agree with), but have taken the “pop” charismatic perspective on this issue. From my perspective, there is much more that needs to be considered. Blessings!
Thank you for the kind words.
With regards to tongues, what am I missing from the careful exegesis you mentioned? And what other evidence are you referring to? If you truly believe I am misunderstanding Paul, then I welcome your input regarding what Paul is actually saying.
1 Corinthians 14 is the only portion of scripture in the entire Bible that gives us instructions regarding how we are to conduct ourselves in a public assembly with regards to tongues. Paul is addressing, among other things, the proper use of tongues in a public assembly.
I see absolutely nothing wrong with everyone praying in tongues in a small setting such as a prayer meeting, where it’s understood that everyone speaks in tongues. However, in an assembly which is open to the public where unbelievers or those who are unlearned could be present, we should follow Paul’s instructions which are clearly spelled out.
Thanks for replying.
Before I answer your question, I would like to know your perspective on all the violations of Paul’s instructions, as you understand them, in Acts 2, possibly Acts 8, Acts 10 and Acts 19 – especially in light of the book of Acts being written before 1 Corinthians and Luke, as Paul’s companion not making a comment about these events being outside of Paul’s instructions. Since we know Scripture does not contradict Scripture, how do you explain these apparent contradictions?
There is no contradiction between Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 and the references in Acts.
I have read all of those articles and it doesn’t appear that my direct question was answered. So allow me to use one of your quotes from one of those articles as a springboard to get some clarity.
You said, “Speaking in tongues publicly with no interpretation is a sign of carnality.”
Were those who spoke in tongues in Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19 carnal? If not, why not?
Furthermore, were those in Acts chapters 2, 8, 10, and 19 violating the principles of 1st Corinthians 14 since they all spoke in tongues as groups publicly and simultaneously?
Since they obviously violated the instructions as you understand them in 1st Corinthians, were not these carnal expressions of tongue speaking?
If not, why not?
PS. I still plan on answering your question exegetically, but your answer will help me determine which answer I will give.
In 1 Corinthians Paul is giving instructions regarding the use of tongues in a church service where unbelievers could be present.
This was not the case in Acts 2 where they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with tongues in the native languages of their fellow Jews who heard them. In Acts 2, the Jews who were gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, and heard the 120 disciples speaking in tongues, understood what they were saying.
“Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” ~ Acts 2:7-8
“…we do hear them speak in OUR tongues the wonderful works of God.” ~ v. 11
Whereas the tongues in Acts 2 were understood by the hearers, the tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 are not understood by the hearer, thus Paul says:
Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. ~ 1 Corinthians 14:6-11
In Acts 10, Peter and those with him did not speak in tongues to the Gentiles. Peter declared the gospel to them and the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and those of his household and they began to speak with tongues. By this, Peter and his Jewish brethren who came with him knew that the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit just as they had on the day of Pentecost. These tongues served as a sign to the Jews that God had taken a people unto himself from among the Gentiles apart from circumcision and adherence to the Law of Moses.
In Acts 19. Paul came across some disciples of the Lord and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit and they spoke with tongues and prophesied when Paul prayed for them.
There is no mention of tongues in Acts 8.
In 1 Corinthians Paul is addressing how tongues should be utilized in a church service where there could be unbelievers present or unlearned Christians.
Paul says, “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” ~v. 23-25
Our witness for God to the unlearned and to unbelievers is the reason Paul gives these instructions. Our services should be decent and in order rather than that of chaos and disorder.
In this regard, Paul says the following:
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
When unbelievers are present (such as in a public assembly which Paul is addressing to the Corinthians) we should keep silent with regards to tongues unless there is someone present to interpret.
Nowhere in Acts texts where there ever unbelievers present hearing the tongues spoken while not understanding what was being said, thus becoming skeptical.
With regards to my mention of carnality, I actually said, “Speaking in tongues publicly with no interpretation is a sign of carnality, being able to control yourself and keep silent is a sign of spirituality.”
You left off the last part of my statement which was the qualifier as to what I was talking about. Paul had already told the Corinthians they were carnal (chapter 3) and was addressing their carnality with regards to the use of tongues, therefore he corrects them. What they had been doing was not spiritual, but errant ways. After he corrects them and shows them the correct way with regards to tongues he says, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” ~ v. 37
So if we are practicing the use of tongues in church assemblies with unbelievers present, and thus behaving as the Corinthians before Paul corrected them, then yes that is carnality. If we follow Paul’s instructions and have self control by remaining silent if there is no interpreter, we are then being spiritual and honoring God. Again, this is for a public assembly where unbelievers could be present and not a private gathering where all could pray in tongues together. There is a difference.
Finally, If you still think I am wrong, then tell me what obedience to Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 looks like when put into practice, because that’s what I am interested in – obeying the Word of God and walking in the truth.
Thanks for the reply. There are up to 3 different answers I have ran accross, and now that I know the your paradigm, I’ll be able to answer more directly.
Do you have a contact link.
I would prefer not to clutter up your website here. Even a cursory exegetical reply would a couple thousand words. Your call.
I would not be interested in a long drawn out discourse. My work as a flooring contractor is very tiring, but I have taken the time to reply to your questions. I understand the role of tongues in our private devotion and how praying in tongues is speaking to God and not to men. I have spoken much in tongues over the last 35 plus years and have taught on this topic and have sit under some of the best teachers in the world on the subject.
At the end of the day, this article to which you have responded is a simplistic extortion about the use of tongues in a public assembly and how we should conduct ourselves in that regard. There has been much damage to the cause of Christ by tongue talking Christians in recent years because quite frankly, many think of tongues as a badge of spirituality, yet Paul says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” .
The translators of the New Testament did a good job translating the flow of thought of 1 Corinthians 14 and that is what I am I interested in. 1 Corinthians 14 is easily understood. It’s milk and not meat according to Paul.
Thank you for our comments but I truly have no interest in a long, drawn out back and forth dialogue.
I understand. May God-bless you and your family.
Thank you for understanding. My work is physically demanding and takes a lot out of me at times. Please know that I appreciate you following my site and the time you have invested to both read and comment. And by all means, continue to write about this topic as you have already on your site. If you would like to write an article and post it on your site addressing what we have discussed you can send the link when you have it up, and I can take a look when things slow down and I can give it my full attention. I will send you my e-mail.
Thank you, again.