Summary: The gift of tongues and its companion gift of interpretation are often misunderstood and misapplied, and it’s no surprise they are often called “the least of the gifts.”

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit - part 3


Text: 1 Corinthians 12:10 August 27, 2000

By: Pastor Rick MacDonald

ILLUSTRATION: Dwight L. Moody once demonstrated the principle like this: "Tell me," he said to his audience, "how can I get the air out of the tumbler I have in my hand?" One man said, "Suck it out with a pump." But the evangelist replied, "That would create a vacuum and shatter it." Finally after many suggestions, moody picked up a pitcher and quietly filled the glass with water. "There," he said, "all the air is now removed." He then explained that victory for the child of God does not come by working hard to eliminate sinful habits, but rather by allowing the Holy Spirit to take full possession.

There is debate as to what is the initial evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. For most it is the gift of tongues. There have been incidents where other gifts have been manifest first, but it is definitely more the exception than the rule. So lets look at the rule, lets examine the gift of tongues.


The gift of tongues and its companion gift of interpretation are often misunderstood and misapplied, and it’s no surprise they are often called “the least of the gifts.”

That phrase is used with such frequency—usually to demean speaking in tongues—that we might be inclined to presume the words “the least of the gifts” must be somewhere in the Bible. But they aren’t.

None of the precious gifts of God’s Spirit—tongues included—should ever be deemed “less that the rest.” The gifts are all from Him—the sovereign Spirit, who distributes them at His will(v. 11). Their source should forever preclude us from placing a diminishing value on any of the gifts, as though the order of their listing indicated divine preference. (If that were true, “faith, hope and love” are listed in the wrong order in 1 Corinthians 13:13 because the last on the list is named “the greatest.”)

Nevertheless, there are biblical grounds for designating “the best gifts” (v. 31). The “best gift,” quite simply, is the one most suited to a given situation. When the apostle Paul exhorts us to “earnestly desire the best,” he isn’t setting up a competition, but he is urging us to be open to the full and free working of the Holy Spirit.

In the atmosphere of love (1 Cor. 13), the diversity of the Spirit’s gifts (1 Cor. 12) will edify the church when used in orderliness as submitted to the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 14). So where do tongues and interpretation fit in?


A. Earthly tongues: Acts 2:1-8

 Missionary experiences

B. Tongues as a personal prayer language:

1. 1 Corinthians 14:4

a. Tongues used in prayer are to build us up, encourage us.

b. Tongues used in a public setting, should be interpreted, and in then considered to be prophecy - which edifies the church

2. Ephesians 6:18

a. Praying in the Spirit, a phrase that clarifies Romans 8:26-27.

b. In 1 Cor. 14:14-15 Paul clearly shows that such praying may include prayer “in a tongue,” not known to the person praying

3. Romans 8:26-27

1. We regularly face things we don’t know how to pray about (26)

2. The Holy Spirit will dramatically assist us in prayer in these times (27)

Illustration: A city dweller moved to a farm and bought a cow. Shortly after he did, the cow went dry. When he reported this fact to a neighbor farmer, the farmer expressed surprise. The city man said he was surprised too. "I can’t understand it either, for if ever a person was considerate of an animal, I was of that cow. If I didn’t need any milk, I didn’t milk her. If I only needed a quart, I only took a quart." The farmer tried to explain that the only way to keep milk flowing is not to take as little as possible from the cow, but to take as much as possible. That’s also true of the Christian life—those who only turn to God in need miss the power and fruitfulness that flows from a daily in filling of His Spirit.


A. THE REALM: It’s a spiritual realm explaining the essence of the gift.

1. The essence of this manifestation of the Holy Spirit is to get our attention in a supernatural way (1 Corinthians 14:5)

a. This is not to be compared as an equivalence to scripture, but as a direct message to our immediate circumstances. (See 2 Tim.

b. There may be reference to scripture, and these messages will always align with biblical truth and will usually draw our attention to a place in God’s Word to more fully feed on His intent for us for that moment.

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