Summary: A study on the usefulness and validity of speaking in tongues from I Corinthians chapter 14.


A study in I Corinthians 14

Pastor Ken Miller

“Visa, its everywhere you want to be. Don’t leave home without it” is a slogan of the popular credit card. It reminds me of the words of Jesus in Acts 1.4-5, where our Lord commanded His followers not to leave Jerusalem without the “Promise of the Father”. This is clearly a reference to the infilling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus went on to call the “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” in verse 5.

Jesus’ early followers obeyed, but today we have many genuine lovers of the Lord Jesus who leave “home” constantly and venture out without the “Promise of the Father”, and as always is the case when we disobey the Lord, they miss out on the best He has for them.

It is my intention with this study to set forth a simple and reasoned approach to the subject of “speaking in tongues”, and since in the Book of Acts we see that when the Holy Spirit is said to “fill” or “baptize” or to be “received” or be “poured out on” or “fall upon”, we also see that these ones “spoke in tongues”. (see Acts 2.4; Acts 9.17 with I Cor 14.18; Acts 10:44-47; Acts 11.15-17 with Acts 1.5; Acts 19.1-6)

It should be mentioned, for completeness sake, that in Acts 8 Phillip took the Word of God to Samaria, and the people there believed and were baptized (verse 12). In verses 14-17 apostles were sent down from Jerusalem to lay hands on and pray for the new converts to “receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet He had fallen upon none of them”. Here it isn’t recorded what Simon saw that so moved him to offer money to Peter for the ability to lay hands on people that they would receive the Spirit. It could have been speaking in tongues; it could have been something else. There is no need, and indeed wouldn’t be right, to force that meaning on the text. What this event does show is that all those who put their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, surely have the Holy Spirit of God with them and in their lives. (Romans 8.9) Yet the passage shows clearly that there is another work of the Triune God for the believer. Let the heavenly record show that four times in the gospels Jesus is called the “One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit”. (Matt 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33) Once again the Father promises the Holy Spirit baptism in Luke 11.13 where we have the words of Jesus stating “how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him”. This promise shows that the baptism of the Spirit is not an experience automatically received at the time of salvation, but an encounter with the Holy Spirit to be received just as the first followers of Jesus Christ did.

What is "speaking in tongues"? According to Acts chapter 2.4 it is the supernatural speaking of a believer in a language given him by the Holy Spirit. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance”. They were speaking in other tongues, not the ones they knew. Valid languages, ones the multitudes outside the upper room knew for “we hear each in his own language” is what they said. Note also verse 11, “we hear them speaking in our own languages the wonderful works of God.” Some have made the objection to speaking in tongues that “if I don’t know what I’m saying, maybe I’m blaspheming God, or something equally as terrible”. Let that excuse be put to rest for what Jesus Christ pours out (Acts 2.33) you don’t have to be afraid to speak.

As we continue it should be mentioned that the apostle Paul in his writing to the church at Corinth was addressing folks who believed in “speaking in tongues”. He didn’t have to tell them it was for today, and valid, and not of the devil, and not a false gift like some preachers today. No, Paul wrote from I Corinthians 11.18f through chapter 14 to a church that was meeting together and was so excited about prophesying, speaking in tongues, interpreting, singing, and sharing that they weren’t mannerly about it. He was calling for order in the church when they came together so that all would be encouraged and strengthened, not just the ones who were sharing.

Let’s look at chapter 12 of Corinthians as necessary introduction for our excursion in chapter 14. I want to do away with the excuse that some have for not speaking in tongues by blaming it on Paul who in verse 30 raises the question “do all speak with tongues?” And I want to agree with the apostle whole-heartedly. For he is dealing here with the aforementioned gift of “varieties of tongues” verse 10 and 28. This is indeed a special gift, like the rest mentioned in verses 8-10, where the recipient has the ability to speak in more that one, and probably multiple languages as the Spirit gives him utterance (or the ability to speak). This gift is usually exercised when the body meets together and the speaker addresses the church itself, and must always be accompanied by the companion gift of “interpretation of tongues”. Unlike the language received when the believer is filled with the Spirit, these tongues, or languages, are to be used to edify the body as long as they are interpreted.

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