Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Speaking in Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues

Speaking in Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues


Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”- Acts 2:3-4

Oh boy.  This one is liable to split some hairs!  Speaking in Tongues is not a gift that God has chosen to give me through His Holy Spirit.  Nor is the interpretation of tongues.  So what I will tell you is simply what God’s word says about it.
Let’s go back to Acts 2, the day of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit filled His believers and something that appeared to be a divided tongue of fire sat on each one of them.  The fire was a miracle – not the gift of the tongues.  The reason they received the Holy Spirit in this manner, congregationally, was that these believers had believed in Jesus before He died.  Jesus did not give up His Holy Spirit until He was dead on the cross. John 19:30 says So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. Until that moment, the Holy Spirit was not given to man as a guarantee for salvation, but for a specific ministry or purpose.

These believers needed to possess the seal of their salvation (Ephesians 1:13), the guarantee of salvation.  2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.  The “S”pirit, with a capital “S” refers to a person and not an anonymous spirit.  This is the Holy Spirit, given by God, to each believer.  But since the Holy Spirit had been within Jesus’ physical body during His earthly life, those gathered at Pentecost, as well as others who had believed in him before His death, needed to receive Him.  So the Holy Spirit filled them on that day. 
Later as Paul goes Samaria in Acts 8.  Here there were other believers that had believed in Jesus before His death.  Paul lays hands on them and imparts the Holy Spirit to them, as Acts 8:14-17 accounts, “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Note that there are accounts in the Old Testament of the Holy Spirit being given to a person for a special mission as well, but not for salvation because they were still under the old covenant of Law.  In Exodus 31:3-5 God tells Moses that He has chosen Bezalel, the son of Uri, “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship”, which would be used to build the tabernacle.  Judges 6:34 says “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon when he had torn down the altars of Baal.  1 Samuel 16:13 tells of the anointing of David, saying “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.
Jesus foretold of the gift of His Spirit in John 16:7-15, saying,  “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”  The Holy Spirit within us makes us a joint heir with Christ, so that He “will take of mine and declare it to you”.  His righteousness becomes ours because we have accepted Him and been filled with the Holy Spirit at conversion.

The Holy Spirit offers many spiritual gifts as we’ve discussed, but on the day of Pentecost, the gift of tongues worked in those that received Him.  But these were not unknown tongues, but other foreign languages.  Acts 2:7-10 says that those standing by said “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”  
Was this a gift of the Holy Spirit?  Yes.  The speakers did not previously know these foreign languages, but utterance was given through the Holy Spirit within them for he purpose of those that heard it that were not believers.  1 Corinthians 14:22 says that “tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers“.  It built up the church as many who heard the “wonderful works of God” in their native language were saved.

But what about tongues today?  Why do we not hear them spoken as often?  Has the Bible not been given in almost every language spoken today?  Yet at times, the gift is given by God for the hearer. Paul had a lot to say about speaking in tongues, desiring the gift, and how the gift was to work for the church.  In 1 Corinthians 14:9-19 he says:
“So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Is it any wonder that Paul, ministering throughout Europe and Asia, would have been given the ability to speak many languages by the Holy Spirit?  This was a tool given to him to assist him in ministry.  But he purposefully tells the church that it is a gift that he would rather not use.  He would rather speak in his native language than to speak in a foreign language, though both teach and preach. 
Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 that “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.“  The purpose of the gift is to edify the church, build it up.  If no one understands the language, it is confusion and chaos, not edification.  God’s gifts are given for a purpose, not for folly.   Paul warns that if a non-believer hears one speaking in an unknown tongue, it can be a turn off, and they’ll just think everyone has lost their mind.  But if they prophesy, telling the secret things of the unbeliever or others, then the believer will see that God is with them.  And for this reason, they are told to desire prophesy more than speaking in tongues.

There are those that believe in a prayer language, an unknown tongue spoken to God in prayer.  Often Romans 8:26-27 is misused as the grounds for such language.  But the Word says “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings WHICH CANNOT BE UTTERED. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 
Are there modern day instances to where people spoke in tongues?  Probably the most famous one is the Azusa Street Revival that happened in Los Angeles, California.  It began with a meeting on April 09, 1906, and continued until roughly 1915.  The meeting drew many people of different ethnicities, as well as denominations.  During that time many uneducated people that had no prior knowledge of the foreign languages spoke in such as German, Yiddish, and Spanish, and those that heard understood, and thousands were saved. It is reported that many proud preachers came to ‘investigate’ what was going on, and were broken into crumbling men begging God for forgiveness.  Surely, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to cause humility in the proud, and to save the lost.

Having been raised in churches where speaking in tongues were not practiced, I will confess that it still is an area where I am not completely comfortable.  Yet, I will say that there have been times when a prayer was spoken over me in an unknown tongue, but one the speaker knew and understood, after which I did receive peace.  
I believe God’s word, cover to cover.  It is the living truth.  Just because I haven’t spoken in tongues no more causes it to be false than that because I haven’t stepped on the moon means no one else has.  God gives the gifts as He wills. 


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