Contend Earnestly: The Gift of Tongues

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Gift of Tongues

I am not going to be exhaustive here so please bear with me, but what I would like to do is offer some insight to this and then ask for responses.

The gift of tongues is one that has obviously been abused all the way back to the very time of when the gifts were first being administered. The abusing of it, by the way, could have been and is being abused, in other gifts as well. I think the easiest one to see is that of being a pastor or a teacher. This is being abused today as much as the gift of tongues were being abused in Paul’s day. Some pastor’s and teachers are prideful and using teaching as a way of hierarchy instead of servitude and humility. But that is for another time.

First, I want to presuppose something. The gift of tongues is an actual language. There is never a use in the Bible where the word for tongues or a tongue does not use the word “glossa” in some tense, which means a language or dialect of a certain people. The other proof of this is that the gift of tongues is said to need an interpreter, you can only interpret an actual language, not babble.

There is something that I would like to point out that I have been “pondering” in my head as I have been a teacher and been very close to our local pastor and also am a PK. Let me ask, what does a pastor want from “his” church? Does he not want the congregants to employ their gifts (serve), be unified in true love, and also evangelize? Take a look at Paul’s three chapters dealing with tongues in 1 Corinthians. Chapter 12 is the “gift” chapter, so that the congregants will now in what capacity to serve, Chapter 13 is the superiority of love so that the church will be united, and Chapter 14 tells us what tongues are for, they are for a sign (verse 22) for the UNbelievers. We also know that very clearly that the use of the tongues, in the early church in Acts, was for evangelizing. Can this not be Paul’s point to a church that was very much out of line and not using their gifts, not unified and not evangelizing?

The other part of tongues that always gets me is “praying in tongues.” I am not going to answer all the questions here but will point to 1 Cor 14:14,15

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.

Notice that Paul says, “if” I pray in a tongue, big “if” when you ask Paul. He says that if he were to do that, to pray in a tongue, it would be unfruitful. What is the outcome then? Or, what does Paul do? He says that he will pray with the spirit and the mind. Notice that he is not saying the Holy Spirit nor is he saying that he then prays with tongues AND the mind. No, Paul prays with his spirit and his mind. Just as the Shema states, to love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul and strength. Same idea in prayer. Pray so that your spirit and your mind are together and fruitful, for to Paul, to pray in tongues was unfruitful.

I know this is a small post and not that long, but want to discuss where to go from here. So we must understand that tongues were for evangelism (proof in Acts and 1 Cor 14:22) and NOT for prayer. I would like to know anyone’s points against this, not as a “challenge” but just curious on other’s feelings on these two things.


Anonymous said...

Good insights. One thing I would add about tongues (especially from Peter's sermon) is that "everyone heard them (or even him?) in his own language". Yes, in Corinth where there was both a sizable "foreign" component who may bot have been fully conversant in theological greek and also a majority "native" component who had the political, social and economic power to force the foreigneers to conduct business ion Greek, there was a need for "interpretation" so that the Greek majority would not be excluded from edification. This may be exactly what you meant when you said that "tongues" was "a language", but the point I am making is that it was not (in my opinion) a separate language, but rather a fluent and unaccented natural language that the intended hearer could follow.

On the other hand, to charge off on another tangent, I wonder if "understanding is in the ear of the listener" (to bend a common cliche). Especially if we are to imagine that the Acts 2 passage involved fewer preachers than foreign nationalities represented. As a further off the wall observation, consider the Tower of Babel and the Mount of Transfiguration. In the former story, language as we know it was established when God "confused" the one language that had led to such universal cooperation on the most successful project the world has ever seen. In the latter, Jesus' disciples were able to recognize and converse with OT saints whose "native language" would have been as incomparable to them as the language of Beowulf would be to most of us. How? Might not the "gift of tongues" merely be the restored gift of efficient communication that was lost at the Tower of Babel? And as we look forward to the new heavens and the new earth, might we not also expect this "gift" to be restored to all of us at that time?

In the meantime, where is it that clear, efficient communication can be guaranteed to accomplish God's purposes? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Thus the examples you cited of tongues being used (and used very effectively) for evangelism.

Seth McBee said...

Good thoughts Austin Bob, I have never heard the Tower of Babel usage. I have read from MacArthur where Paul could have been referring at the onset of 1 Cor 14 the use of pagan tongues to worship pagan gods. He states this could be the reason that the singular form of the Greek word for tongue is used for the counterfeit use of the gift and that is probably the reason the KJV puts the word "unknown" in front of that tense. Because later when speaking of the true gift it is used in the plural. tongue vs tongues. Of course the pagan use of tongues was an unknown gibberish that wasn't an actual language.

Interesting thoughts on the subject as well.

Anonymous said...

The Lord is sovereign indeed. Just yesterday I emailed my friend about this. She goes to the Assembly of God church and I had forward ed her the link to that 'laughter' service video. After some thoughts on this video I asked her about tongues. We disagreed! But I will happily forward this post to her. Thank You for your service in the Lord. It is read here in Florida often:-)


Seth McBee said...

Look who has come to cyberspace! Welcome Jamie and we hope to hear from you often, I always like hearing your thoughts on Scripture. Glad to be of service to you.

Justin Evans said...

Jamie! Welcome to our blogword! Good to hear from you. I would lambast you for not emailing, but I wouild have to copy myself on the message...yes, this comment has nothing to do with Seth's post.

Anonymous said...

I like your comment on prayer. Thought I was add a combination of your comments.

Because the speaker needed an interpeter, he did not always know what he was saying in a different language. So if he prayed in an unknown language (to him)it does not benefit the one praying.

Anonymous said...

I do not think the tongues is a gift for the church today. It had it's purposes during the apostolic era, but even then it had very little mention...far less mention than it does it some churches today. If the Lord spoke His word today through believers using the gift of tongues, it should happen with equal frequency throughout the body of Christ, in all congregations of born again believers. If it was God-initiated, it wouldn't know denominational boundaries. If it were man-initiated, then it would make sense that it would be isolated to certain groups.

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