Summary: Message explores the value of speaking in tongues and it validity for today. The voluntary nature of glossolalia of then discussed.
1 Cor. 14:18
Based upon the proclamation God made in Isaiah 56:7 we have spent a lot of time talking about prayer. In that verse God said, “…For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”i Of course, Jesus quoted that verse when he drove the money changers from the temple. It’s very important that we understand what God wants His house to be. In the last few decades, a lot of energy has gone into finding out what people want His house to be. For the most part that winds up being entertainment in one form or another. “…For my house” says God, “shall be called a house of prayer….”
A few weeks ago we took the mandate in Ephesians 6:18 and talked about the different kinds—different expressions of prayer that believers need to participate in. Eph. 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…..” (NIV). The Amplified Bible says, “…with all [manner of] prayer….”
So we talked about some of the different kinds of praying that believers need to function in. We talked about petition, thanksgiving, confession, conversational prayer, intercession, praying that commands, praying that declares, and others. One of the others that we mentioned was praying in tongues.
This morning I want to expand on that subject. It is sometimes called “glossolalia” because the Greek word for tongue is “glossa.”ii So today we will talk about praying in tongues. To enter into this kind of prayer and to get the most out of it, there are three things that people generally need to know. (1) That it is Valuable. What are the benefits of praying in tongues? (2) That it is Valid. Is praying in tongues scripturally valid? (3) That it is Voluntary. God will not force it on you. He provides it and invites you to receive. So let’s look at each of these characteristics of glossolalia.
I. Praying in tongues is VALUABLE.
A. It is an important means by which the believer builds himself up in preparation for ministry to others.
1 Cor. 14:4 “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself….” The Greek word translated “edifies” comes from the idea of building something.iii If I am building a house, I lay a foundation; then I install studs and construct walls; then I add a roof to the construction. I am establishing and fortifying something. If I am edifying the church, I am building up believers in their understanding of the word of God, in their courage to continue with the Lord; I am fortifying them and confirming them in the faith. Being edified through speaking in tongues strengthens my inner man; I may receive revelation in that intimate conversation with Him.
The edification happens in much the same way it happens in other kinds of prayer. If I am talking with God in English, that communion with the Lord strengthens me. When I am praying in tongues, that communion with the Lord strengthens me—because of the influence of the Holy Spirit.iv The only difference is when I pray in English I understand in my mind what I’m saying to the Lord; but when I pray in tongues I am conversing with the Lord from my spirit, but my mind does not understand the conversation. “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself….” The Living Bible translates it this way, “So a person ‘speaking in tongues’ helps himself grow spiritually….” (TLB). We may not fully comprehend how that happens exactly. But we take this revelation at face value, operate in it, and enjoy the benefits. I don’t fully comprehend how I can breathe in oxygen and that translates into life and energy in my body. But every time I take a breath I enjoy the benefits whether I fully understand the process or not. Bottom line; the Bible says that you are building yourself up, edifying, strengthening your inner man when you pray.
Is it selfish to edify yourself? When you meditate on the word of God, is that selfish? No, it is one way you edify yourself. When you pray in English, with understanding, is that selfish? No, that is another way you edify yourself. When you pray in tongues, that is another way you edify yourself. You do not want me in this pulpit if I have not edified myself. The more I have prayed, whether in tongues or with understanding, the more equipped spiritually I am to minister to you. The more I have studied the word and meditated on the word and edified myself in that way, the more you stand to receive when I speak to you in this message.
Some people think Paul was dicing tongues in contrast to prophesy in 1 Cor. 14. He was simply instructing them in the proper use of each one. When I am speaking in tongues, I am edifying myself. I must be edified if I am to edify you. When I prophesy (when I speak in a language others understand) I am edifying others.