I’m about to delve into one of the most controversial topics within the body of Christ right now. The mere fact that the enemy has caused controversy over this is a sign that this topic earnestly requires our attention.
For this reason, I would like to ask you, for 5 minutes forget about what your church may have been teaching about this gift as well as what you have seen in our churches.
When many people think of the gift of tongues, they immediately remember the outbreak of the gift in many charismatic churches in the mid-late 20th century. Often times the gift is accompanied by people barking like dogs, lying on the floor wiggling as a snake, and other behavior. I do not subscribe to any of that, I do believe there is a false kundalini spirit at work in many churches that counterfeits the Holy Spirit in order to cause confusion, oppression and disunity.
Now that that is out of the way, lets dive into scripture.
Many believers believe that speaking in tongues is exclusively for speaking in a foreign language as a sign to the unbeliever. Others believe it is personal prayer language for the upbuilding of the individual or the church. Lets look at each case.
Personal Prayer Language
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”
– 1 Cor 14 –
In this passage, Paul is making a point of contrasting speaking in tongues and the gift of prophecy. He states that speaking in tongues is not as great as prophecy in a church environment, because nobody understands what is being said, thus nobody is being encouraged. He gives us a few hints of what speaking in tongues is like in this specific instance. He states that speaking in tongues:
- “speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit”
- “builds up himself”
- “I want you all to speak in tongues”
- An interpreter makes the gift of tongues more powerful in church
Clearly, in this instance, speaking in tongues is not about speaking in a foreign language as a sign/miracle, but rather for the personal edification of the believer; speaking to God.
We all have those moments when praying where we have no idea what to say, we do not have the means of praying what we need to, with our flesh in the way. This is where the personal prayer language of tongues can benefit. By speaking in tongues in faith (as any other gift is acted out in faith), we give the Holy Spirit authority to speak through us and pray on our behalf. Our flesh/physical ears cannot understand it, as it utters mysteries in the Spirit, or a “heavenly language” if you will. Asking the Father to give us the gift of interpretation is important if we want to extend this gift in being able to upbuild the church too.
Side note: Paul writes a lengthily letter specifying how we are to use this gift in church. If you want to know more about this, please view my video teaching on it.
In short, the gift of interpretation allows one to understand what is being said while someone (or oneself) is speaking in tongues. The message (if any) can then be told to the church for edification. This is not possible without an interpreter and this is why Paul says that unless there is an interpreter – we should not speak loudly in tongues in a church environment, to avoid scaring unbelievers.
“Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.”
– 1 Cor 14:13 –
Praying in tongues demands no mental activity, this is why Paul says his mind is unfruitful. Practically speaking, some people speak in tongues for the first time after being baptized in the Holy Spirit. They often say that it just happened (with their consent), that it was just about flowing with the Holy Spirit. The great thing is, I’ve witnessed people speaking in tongues after baptism even if they have never heard of the gift. Often times they are asking: “What did I just do?”. You will notice that churches that do not teach speaking in tongues, will rarely witness the moving of the Holy Spirit in this area, just as you will not see supernatural healings in a church that does not believe it. We limit the workings of the Holy Spirit by man-made teachings that contradict the purity of the Word. Since the Holy Spirit follows the Word (Spirit and Truth), He usually does not move if there is no truth.
I know a pastor who did not see any miracles in his church, one day he asked God why, he believes God told him: “You don’t allow me to move”. The pastor went back to his congregation, and at the next service simply stated: “Do as you wish Father” and saw miracles for the first time in a service.
Some of you may be disagreeing that this practice of tongues is correct, that it is exclusively for the use of speaking in foreign languages. I would like to ask the following practical question: If the gift of tongues were active today and God were to give you the gift of tongues; how will you practice it? Let’s make this practical, you are on the mission field, there is a foreigner in front of you who can benefit from such a miracle (you speaking in his own language to him). How will you exercise this? Many have a belief that the Holy Spirit will supernaturally start moving our mouths, just as much as the Holy Spirit will not take control of my legs to make me start walking up to a cripple to pray for him, He will not do anything unless we make the first move in faith.
Let me tell you a story of a friend. He was overseas in the missions field, surrounded by foreign speakers he had a translator with him. As he was ministering to a person with a translator, he felt the Holy Spirit wanted him to speak in tongues. It is out of the norm to just randomly start praying in tongues for an unbeliever, but he followed the guidance of the Spirit, opened his mouth and spoke in faith. He felt his prayer language change to something he has never prayed before, but he still could not understand what. Afterwards, the unbeliever was astonished that he was praying in the language of the unbeliever!
The gift of tongues is one gift, but has more than one application.
- A sign to the unbeliever by praying in a real human language that was previously impossible (usually a once-off event).
- A gift to the believer for building up himself, or building the church if there is an interpreter.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
– Acts 2:5 –
Uttering Foreign Languages
The gift is used by God as He permits and He does still use it today. Often when someone is baptized in the Holy Spirit by a believer who believes in the gift of tongues, tongues become the sign to the unbeliever of the glory of God. In the story of acts, a rushing wind entered, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in new tongues. They were of different nations and were able to understand what each of them were saying. They were most likely prophesying to one another in tongues they could understand, upbuilding one another.
Tongues is an important spiritual gift, Paul stated that he speaks in tongues more than all the recipients of his letters (1 Cor 14:18). Of course this is speculation, but what if the “secret” of Paul’s revelations was his commitment to exercising this spiritual gift?
On a personal level, I have received visions and revelations while speaking in tongues. Soon after I started practicing it, I grew in boldness, and many other spiritual gifts started following – enabling to be more effective for Father’s Kingdom.
For those of you interested in speaking in tongues, what I did was ask Father to give it to me. Paul tells us to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (1 Cor 14), and when I did, one night in my bedroom while praying – completely alone – Father told me to “speak now”, I opened my mouth and out flowed a combination of words I have never heard or spoken before. I was surrounded by His presence and prayed in tongues for an hour. Soon after, the ministry started.
However, if you have a mature believer close by who can lay hands on you to have it, even better!
Some cautions regarding this gift, in the beginning, everybody has a struggle with their flesh not liking it. Many even go as far as to say that the gift is demonic due to their flesh being at enmity against God (Romans 8:7). When you pray, read your Bible or do any other spiritual action, your flesh usually doesn’t want to follow, this is no different with tongues. The enemy will use your flesh against you, and whisper: “you are just babbling, this isn’t real” in the same way that when you pray for healing the first time and saw a miracle, the enemy whispers: “The person lied, their pain didn’t really leave.”
HaSatan does not want us practicing these gifts, they are the spiritual weapons given by the Father to the Bride to destroy the works of the devil. The enemy knows that soon after praying in tongues, you will start casting out demons – a great hindrance to the development of the kingdom of darkness. For this reason there is much deception and controversy about this gift, as HaSatan is trying to strip us clean of all weapons so he can have us useless for the Kingdom of God.
I hope I covered most of the questions, please watch my 2 videos on this topic for more information.
How churches should exercise speaking tongues: