Speaking in Tongues- For Today!
Published in Paraclete, Summer, 1991
God is manifesting His power more and more in these last days. Yet, sadly, many of His people are not experiencing this because of certain teachings and notions. Some sincere Christians interpret the Bible as indicating that although speaking in tongues was once practiced in the church, it is no longer for today. Some saints, perhaps, are wary of experiences which seem strange or which they can not understand. Other brethren possibly view speaking in tongues as undesirable since they feel it is uncontrollable or insignificant. Let us consider each of these views in the hope of demonstrating to multitudes of believers that they can experience God's power in a greater way.
The Bible refers to speaking in tongues in several places (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:4, I Corinthians 14: 18, etc.). However, many people have been told that it is not scriptural to speak in tongues today. This teaching is based upon a certain interpretation of I Corinthians 13: 8-10. "(8) Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away. (9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. (10) but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."
Those who teach that speaking in tongues is not for today point out that tongues shall cease (v.8) and that the time will be "when that which is perfect is come" (v.10). They state that the Bible is now complete, or perfect, and therefore "...that which is perfect is come..." and therefore that which is in part (including tongues) has ceased. The idea that "... that which is perfect ..." refers to the completed Bible is an assumption and is not stated in the context. Just because the Bible is complete, it does not necessarily follow that it is what is referred to in the context. We must not base doctrine upon assumptions. The Bible does not tell us in this context what "that which is perfect" is. The Greek word used in verse 10 for perfect is teleios and is used elsewhere in the New Testament in reference to a number of different nouns (such as the Father in Matthew 5:48, some people in I Cor. 2:6, the mature church in Ephesians 4:13, the law of liberty in James 1:25, and love in I John 4:18). If the Scriptures clearly told us what "that which is perfect" refers to, then we would most likely know whether or not it has come. If it has come, then "that which is in part" has been "done away." If, however, "that which is perfect" has not yet come, then "that which is in part" has not been "done away" and is therefore still available today. But, again, the Scriptures are silent as to the identity of "that which is perfect." All is not left to conjecture, however; for verse 12 describes conditions which will prevail when "that which is perfect is come." Verse 11 is an analogical illustration of verse 10 and verse 12 describes conditions at the time of the writing and also conditions prevailing "then." "(12) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
Since the first word in verse 12 is "for" (gar in the Greek), verse 12 is connected to verse 11 and also to verse 10 since verse 11 illustrates verse 10. "Then" in verse 12 means "at the time" (tote in the Greek). Therefore "then" must refer to the time in verse 10 "when that which is perfect is come." Therefore we can restate verse 12 as " For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then (When? - when that which is perfect is come) face to face: now I know in part; but then (When? - when that which is perfect is come) shall I know even as also I am known."
Therefore "when that which is perfect is come" we will see "face to face" and "know even as also I am known." So if we now see "face to face" and if I now "know even as also I am known," then "that which is perfect" has come. Regardless of what "that which is perfect" refers to, I do not believe it has come . For I do not believe we see "face to face", nor do I believe that I "know even as also I am known." I believe that these are future realities. Therefore "that which is perfect" has not yet come. And therefore, according to verse 10, that which is in part has not been "done away." And, finally, I conclude that prophecies, tongues, and knowledge (see verse 8 ) are still available today.
To summarize this line of reasoning, verse 12 indicates when that which is perfect has come we will see "face to face" and "know even as also I am known." Since these conditions are obviously not yet manifested, then "that which is perfect" has not yet come. And if "that which is perfect" has not yet come, then "that which is in part" (verse 10) has not yet been done away. And if "that which is in part" has not yet been done away, then it is still available today. Therefore tongues, and also prophecies and knowledge , are still available today!
Is speaking in tongues unintelligible? Most people are wary of what they can not understand. St. Paul tells us in I Cor. 14:14, "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful." He did not understand what he was saying, but apparently that did not keep him from speaking "with tongues more than ye all" (I Cor. 14:18). If God gives us a gift we can be sure that it is a good gift and not to be feared simply because we do not understand it.
Is speaking in tongues unusual? Most people are understandably wary of things which are strange. But God tells us in His word that "...my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8). God's word tells us in I Cor. 14:1 to "...desire spiritual gifts..." If God wants us to desire something, then we should desire it, regardless of how strange it may seem. We need to be more concerned with seeking the things of God and less concerned with wanting to only be involved in what is familiar to us.
Is speaking with tongues uncontrollable? Perhaps some people are wary of speaking in tongues for fear they will go into an uncontrollable frenzy or trance. In I Cor. 14:27, 28 St. Paul gives rules for the exercise of speaking in tongues in a church meeting. "If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God."
It is obvious that no one in a frenzy or a trance would be able to follow these rules. I do not believe God would give us rules for speaking in tongues unless we could follow those rules. I have personally spoken in tongues for several years and have always been in complete control. I can start when I want to and stop when I wish. I can choose to speak loudly, softly, or internally. I can understand someone speaking to me while at the same time I am speaking to myself and to God in tongues in my mind. I have no difficulty in driving a car, for instance, while speaking in tongues.
Is speaking in tongues unimportant? It is true that some things are clearly more important than other things. Certainly, no one will be condemned on judgment day for failing to speak in tongues. But St. Paul tells us in I Cor. 14:39b "forbid not to speak with tongues." This statement indicates that speaking in tongues does have a degree of importance. We find in I Cor. 14:4a that "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself..." We all need edification and God has provided several means to accomplish this. Speaking in tongues is one of those means so it is good and to be desired. I experience strength in the Spirit through worshiping , reading the Bible, fellowshipping with other believers, praying in English, having others pray for me, fasting , and speaking in tongues. I do not wish to disregard any of the means of edification with which God has blessed us. Many times when I have felt spiritually weak, speaking in tongues has brought me strength. While doing it, precious truths from God's Word have come to mind and I have sensed a greater love for God and faith in God. If speaking in tongues had any other source than God, these things would not have happened. My "carnal mind is enmity against God..." (Romans 8:7a), so it would not produce something that increases my faith in God and love for God. Also, Satan certainly would not give me such a gift. If speaking in tongues is not produced by my own mind nor Satan, then it must be from God. Since speaking in tongues is from God, and is indeed edifying, then it is definitely not unimportant. Of course, speaking in tongues is not a replacement for other means of edification, but a complement to them.
This article is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject of speaking in tongues. I urge you to carefully study all that the Bible has to say on this subject. It is important that we use this gift correctly. In order to do this we must refer to the Scriptures. Speaking in tongues can be abused, but this possibility does not mean we should ignore this gift. The position of pastor has also been abused. Even the Bible, itself, has been used incorrectly. The solution is to be sure that we correctly use all the good things God has blessed us with. How do we do this? By prayerful study of the Scriptures in the company of other believers (Ps. 119:18, Pr.11:14).
In these last days in which iniquity is abounding, we need God's power to live victoriously. We can rejoice that we can experience His power today just as in the days of the Bible. This includes the gift of speaking in tongues. It is still for today! Do you desire this gift form God? Here are some Scriptures to read which may help you: Matthew 7:7-11, James 1:6-7, Mark 9:24, Mark 11: 22-26.
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