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Summary: Tongues - removiung the mystery - looking biblically

Untangling Tongues – No. 4 in the series on Kingdom power.

1 Cor 14

Spiritual Gifts – tools for the task of mission. Not something that we might enjoy for ourselves, but necessities for the challenge, task & opportunities that God has placed before us as His church.

They are not rewards. They are not merit badges. They are not indicators of Spiritual maturity. They are GIFTS given by the grace & goodness of God.

Tonight we shall look at the most controversial of the gifts – that of tongues & their interpretation. I shall do this by asking three simple questions.

What is it? [What is the nature of this gift?]

What is it for? [What is the purpose & value of this gift?]

Who is it for? {Incorporating ‘how do we get it’]

Firstly, What is it?

Here I have attempted at a definition that goes like this.

“The gift of tongues is the ability to speak to God in a language the speaker has not learnt and does not understand.”

If you look at 1 Cor. 12:28 you will see that it speaks of various gifts God has given to his church and ends with – well let me read it to you.

“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.”

The NIV often puts in the margin the word “languages” and I suggest that tongues is a language the speaker has not learned. The Youth Bible, the New Century Version has languages in the text and tongues in the margin. From my research – languages is actually a better translation.

1 Cor 13:1 Paul speaks of languages that are sometimes human & sometimes heavenly. Tongues of men & angels.

So it’s a language with words & phrases, with grammar & syntax. It’s not what the New English Bible calls “tongues of ecstasy.” Ecstatic utterances. That brings to mind an emotional babbling resulting from a highly charged atmosphere. A sort of emotional gibberish – someone speaking out something uncontrollably. That is not the gift of tongues as I understand it.

The gift of tongues is a language. The speaker is complete control as they speak. As you look here at 1 Cor 14:27 & 28 you meet Paul telling the Corinthians and us how to control the tongues.

1 Cor. 14:27-28

If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. [28] If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

In other words it is a very ordered and controlled thing. And so if you have the gift of tongues you know just like when you are praying and the telephone rings – you can stop praying, say “I’ll be back in a minute Lord,” go and answer the phone and then come back to your prayer.

And the same is with tongues. It is not an uncontrolable babbling – it is a controlled expression of prayer & praise that is God given. Many Christians actually call it their prayer language.

I was speaking to a colleague who was sharing an experience that had happened at a recent Alpha course. The course had gotten to the Holy Spirit components and on leaving the meeting a couple who were attending the course offered to take another member of the course home. On the way they started chatting about tongues and how confused they were. At that the young man, the passenger in their car leaned forward and said, “I don’t know why you are so uneasy about tongues – they are just like this.” At that he started to speak in tongues.


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Rocky Shrable

commented on Sep 8, 2007

Terrific presentation. Easily followed and understood. Thanks!

Buzz Brown

commented on May 6, 2017

Great teaching clear concise usable!

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