Summary: The gift of tongues is the God-given ability to speak in different and varied languages. It is supernatural utterance by the Holy Spirit in languages never learned by the speaker, not understood by the mind of the speaker nor necessarily always understood
By: Donna J. Kazenske
1 Cor. 12:7-10 - "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom, through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another the gift of faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues."
The gift of tongues is the God-given ability to speak in different and varied languages. It is supernatural utterance by the Holy Spirit in languages never learned by the speaker, not understood by the mind of the speaker nor necessarily always understood by the hearer. We could say that the gift of tongues is a "vocal miracle" of God.
1 Cor. 14:1-5 - Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification, exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish that you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
Do not confuse the gift of tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as these are two separate gifts. When we pray in the Holy Spirit using our personal prayer language tongue, it causes us to be lifted up or edified. When the gift of tongues comes forth, it edifies (lifts up or builds up) the whole body. When we speak in our prayer language tongue, we are speaking to God. When we allow the gift of tongues to flow through us, it is God speaking to man.
1 Cor. 14:26 - How is it then brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
According to this verse, we all have something to contribute in our church services. The Scripture says, "each of you" has a psalm, a teaching, a tongue etc. When the church is functioning in the proper manner according to God’s plan and design, there will be no lack whatsoever in the church body. The Spirit of God will be able to flow freely and effectively through every part of the body, and every joint will bring forth the needed supply.
1 Cor. 14:27-28 - 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.
This verse has sometimes been misinterpreted by saying that only three tongues should be given in a church service. I tend to disagree with this interpretation because I have been in many services where there have been more than three messages in tongues given with interpretation following each tongue. The service was conducted decently and in order, and God’s people were edified as the word of the Lord penetrated into the very depths of their beings.
Paul could have been giving the Corinthians some much-needed instruction regarding "order" in the church. The Corinthian church was known for its misuse and abuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is a good possibility that the Corinthians were giving messages in tongues without allowing the interpretations of these tongues to come forth. This would have caused confusion in the church instead of edification and comfort.
If there are three utterances in tongues given and no interpretation is given for those tongues, no further utterances in tongues should follow. The Scripture goes on to say, "If there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God."
If the gift of tongues operates in our lives, the Scripture says that we should also pray for the gift of interpretation of tongues. The reason being, if we give a tongue in a church service and no one interprets the tongue, we should be prepared to give the interpretation of that tongue. If we cannot give the interpretation, and no one else has the ability to bring it forth, we must then keep silent or just speak to ourselves. Without the interpretation, the gift of tongues will not benefit the church, because no one will be able to understand what the Lord has spoken.