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Why Do I Speak In Tongues

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Are Tongues For Today?

Why Do I Speak In Tongues?

       We are in the midst of a short series of messges entitled:  “Are Tongues For Today?”  I believe that God has impressed upon me that it is time to do some of this teaching for the Sunday morning crowd.

       In this short series of messages, we are answering three questions, “Are tongues for Today?”  “Why do I speak in tongues?” and, “What are the Biblical guidelines for speaking in tongues?”

Last week we dealt with the question, “Are Tongues For Today?”  In that message, we removed the Biblical obstacles to believing that tongues are for today, and dealt with one verse in the Bible where we strongly infer that tongues are for today.

Today I want to entertain the question, “Why do I speak in tongues?”  This is a very legitimate question born out of the Pentecostal and Fundamental/Evangelical wars of the past 100 years, in America.  It may be interesting to note that other parts of the world do not struggle with this question.  Spiritual, Charismatic, or Pentecostal things are accepted much more readily and there is little debate.  This is because much of the rest of the world does not have a Greek orientation, but a Middle Eastern or Eastern orientation that has a predilection towards the spirit, soul, and the mystical, as opposed to the intellectuallistic and rationalistic.

When I started “The Tongues TrilemmaÒ,” in October of 1997, i.e. 55 messages that exegetically dealt with Acts 2, 8, 10, 19 and 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14, the climate of America was much more hostile to the manifestation of tongues.  But, since that time, the climate has changed and continues to change.  Fewer and fewer people are espousing the once dogmatic Fundamental/Evangelical position that the manifestation of tongues has ceased, according to the shallow interpretation and application of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.  Nevertheless, there is still a great deal of confusion over why, when, where, and how tongues are to be manifested.  I hope to deal with some “whys” today and some “hows to’s” next week.

Consequently, tongues remain one of the most controversial subjects in the Church today.  I used to wonder why, but I am beginning to understand that more and more.  Something as important as Biblical spiritual manifestations would certainly be attacked and mystified by the devil—and that is exactly what he has done.  In addition, in some circles, there is a stigma or shame in dealing with the things of the Holy Spirit.  In his book, The Anointing, R. T. Kendall discusses the point that the stigma of Jehovah is His sovereignty; the stigma of Christ is the cross or the blood; but the stigma of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit Himself.  Since tongues is one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, there is often a stigma or shame in dealing with this manifestation.  But, I am willing to bear that stigma and shame.

       You might ask, “Why?”  Because, we are living in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.  The early history of the Church Age is recorded in the book of Acts, which some refer to as the Acts of the Holy Spirit, in the Church.  While the Gospels feature the Charismatic Christ, the book of Acts features the Charismatic Community.  Roger Stronstad, in his excellent and scholarly book, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke, (and remember that Luke wrote both Luke and Acts, and they seem to two parts of one work), uses the word “charismatic” to “mean God’s gift of His Spirit to His servants, either individually or collectively, to anoint, empower, or inspire them for divine service.  As it is recorded in the Scripture, therefore, this charismatic activity is necessarily an experiential phenomenon.”[1]

       Therefore, let it be known that in my private, closet of prayer, I pray to God, worship and praise God, and do spiritual warfare through speaking in tongues most every day of my life, if not more than once a day.  This has revolutionized the power quotient in my life whenever I witness, preach, lay hands on the sick, or transact any Kingdom business.

(With that short introduction, we can move on to a number of reasons why I speak in tongues.  These reasons are in a loose order of there occurrence in the Bible.  The first reason should be rather obvious.  I speak in tongues, because:)

1.     Tongues are a part of the Biblical record that cannot be dismissed.

I covered this in the last message.

2.     Tongues are one confirmation of the Word of God when it is preached.[2]

(This is recorded in Mark 16:14-20.  Would you turn there with me please?  Let me read this aloud for us.)

       These verses capture Christ’s Great Commission to His disciples.  Verse 20 states plainly that they preached the Gospel, while the Lord worked with them, i.e. through the power of the Holy Ghost, and they confirmed the Word of God by the signs that followed them.  Among the signs that Jesus named was the one we are discussing, “…and they shall speak with new tongues.”

       Now, some scholars try to discredit everything that is stated in Mark 16:9-20 by citing the fact that some of the oldest manuscripts do not contain this passage.  The Bible Background Commentary says, “The manuscript tradition and style suggest that these verses were probably an early addition to the Gospel of Mark, although a few scholars (such as William Farmer) have argued the case that they are Markan.  In any case, most of the content of these verses is found elsewhere in the Gospels.”  In short, don’t be to quick to dismiss these verses.

In addition, the interpreters thought enough of these verses to include them in the canon of the Scripture, even if they are marked by brackets.  Therefore, we consider these words on some fairly substantial grounds.

(Let’s move on.  I speak tongues because:)

3.     Tongues are connected to the baptism in the Holy Ghost.

The baptism in the Holy Ghost that Luke describes, in the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, is the empowering experience in the Holy Spirit that gives believers power to be witnesses unto Jesus Christ and to transact Kingdom business with miracles, signs, and wonders.

       In the New Testament, the baptism in the Holy Ghost is always accompanied by inspired speech, and that inspired speech tends to be tongues and/or prophecy.  So, tongues is a frequent accompaniment of the baptism or a fresh baptism in the Holy Ghost.

       Please note that it is not tongues that I am seeking, but the power of the baptism in the Holy Ghost.  Yet, tongues tend to come along with this baptism. (Illustration:  “The Fries Come With It Holmes!”)

4.     Tongues are a unique New Testament expression.

Speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit gives utterance is the unique spiritual manifestation identified with the Church of Jesus Christ.  All other gifts, miracles, and spiritual manifestations were in evidence during the Old Testament times, before the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-39).”[3]  There were prophecies, miracles, gifts of healings, miracle-working faith, etc., but as far as we can tell biblically, there were no tongues--even though these other manifestations were performed by an elite few, as opposed to being available to all believers in the New Testament.

       So, I am practicing something that is unique to our times.

5.     Tongues are a means of personal spiritual edification.

This is seen in

1 Corinthians 14:4 (NASB-U), “One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.”

Cessationists use this term to rebuke anyone who speaks in tongues, as if Paul is saying that to edify oneself is completely sinful.  However, in one of the foremost recognized commentaries on 1 Corinthians, recognized both by Pentecostals and Evangelicals, Gordon Fee writes, “This has sometimes been called ‘self-edification’ and therefore viewed as pejorative (i.e. disproved of or criticized).  But Paul intended no such thing.  The edifying of oneself is not self-centeredness, but the personal edifying of the believer that comes through private prayer and praise.”[4]  Of course Paul here is lifting prophecy about tongues, when it is in the church service.

Fee continues, “Although one may wonder how ‘mysteries’ that are not understood, even by the speaker, can edify, the answer lies in verses 14-15.”[5]

1 Corinthians 14:14-15 (NASB-U), “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. [15] What is the outcome then?  I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.”

Fee continues, “Contrary to the opinion of many, spiritual edification can take place in ways other than through the cortex of the brain.  Paul believed in an immediate communing with God by means of the S/spirit that sometimes bypassed the mind; and in verses 14-15 he argues that for his own edification he will have both.  But in church, he will have only what can also communicate to other believers through their minds.”[6]  That is good and I wholeheartedly agree with the premise that there is a specific kind of edification that comes from speaking in tongues.

       This is also covered in

Jude 1:20, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit.”

The language is almost identical to that in 1 Corinthians 14:14 and Ephesians 6:18.  So, there is little doubt that Jude is talking about praying in tongues, but Jude gives us another perspective.  Jude connects praying in the Holy Spirit with building ourselves up on our most holy faith.  So, Jude describes Christians as the beloved of God who build themselves up on their most holy faith by praying in tongues.  How does praying in the Holy Ghost build us up?  Does it not build one up to know that s/he has a direct line into his/her Abba Father, who is the God of the universe?

(Other purposes for speaking in tongues can be gleaned from the following verses:)

1 Corinthians 14:13-19 (NASB-U), “Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.  What is the outcome then?  I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.  Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?  For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified.  I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

(Therefore, I also speak in tongues because:)

6.     Tongues are a hotline of prayer.

Paul says in verse 14, that when he prayed in tongues—I believe he is talking about praying in tongues in private—his spirit prayed, but his mind was unfruitful.  In the quote that we just read from Gordon Fee, he said, “Paul believed in an immediate communing with God by means of the S/spirit that sometimes bypassed the mind; and in verses 14-15 he argues that for his own edification he will have both.”[7]  Therefore, praying in tongues is spirit-to-Spirit communication, i.e. from Man’s spirit baptized and controlled by the Spirit to God’s Spirit.

       So, praying in tongues can be considered a “hotline” to heaven!!!  It is a direct line from our spirit to God’s spirit!!!  (Get my taped sermon:  “Hotline To Heaven.”) 

       Paul’s admonition in the next verse is instructive.  He says, “I shall pray with my spirit and I shall pray with the mind also…”  He could be saying, “I will pray in tongues and then I will give the interpretation.”  That is certainly a possibility—given the language.  But it also seems plausible that Paul is saying, “I shall pray in tongues in private and I will pray with my mind, i.e. in understandable language, in the assembly.”  In this statement, Paul acknowledges the importance of praying in the spirit, or with tongues, but cautions the Corinthians concerning its use in the assembly.  So, in this short passage of Scripture, we see the biblical terminology for praying in tongues, i.e. “praying in the Spirit,” and Paul’s instructions for this practice.  We shall cover that next week.

7.     Tongues are a spiritual capacity for expanded praise.

In these verses, Paul also talks about singing in the Spirit.  Singing is certainly a part of praising God.  Well, he also talks about tongues in the same breath.  So, speaking in tongues can be a resource for expanded praise of Jehovah God.  There are some times when our tongues definitely take on the form, characteristic, or tone of praise.  You will learn this as you practice tongues in your private closet of prayer.  There is a rapture of praise, in tongues, that is hard to explain to anyone who has not experienced it.  Just as there is an orgasm in marital lovemaking that is hard to explain to those who have not experienced it.  To be sure, there are frigid marriages and passionless marriages where sex has never reached the height of love making, has fallen to the level of duty, or has been suspended altogether.  It is hard to explain to the people in these marriages that there is something beyond what the are experiencing, just as it hard to explain to nonorgasmic people the rapture of praise in tongues—yet both still exist!

8.     Tongues are a capacity for expanded worship.

In this passage of Scripture, Paul also talks about blessing in the spirit and giving thanks in the spirit.  I believe thanksgiving is the gasoline that runs the engine of worship.  So, Paul is talking about worship!  Praise can turn into worship and worship can turn into praise.  Praise, in actuality, is a form of worship.  Worship is the larger concept and praise is a subset of worship.  Worship is giving God that which He is due and we can do that in many ways, i.e. through building an altar, giving, raising our hands, singing, living the way God wants us to live, etc.  Praise is verbally giving God that which He is due with one’s mouth, while worship is giving God that which He is due “by any means necessary.”

       So, speaking in tongues is one means by which our capacity for worship is expanded.  It expresses worship that flows from the depths of our innermost beings or spirits to the Spirit of God Almighty.

(Okay!  I speak in tongues because:)

9.     Tongues are one capacity for spiritual warfare.

Part of our praying includes spiritual warfare with the devil.  Prayer, among other things, can be a form of spiritual warfare with the devil.  Right after Paul’s famous words on putting on the whole armor of God to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, he wrote in

Ephesians 6:18, (NASB-U), “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (emphasis mine).

The important phrase is, “Pray in all seasons in the Spirit,” which is in tongues.  Prayer is a part of the fight or battle that we have with our adversary, the devil; and, since speaking in tongues can be a form of prayer, it is a form of spiritual warfare.  There are times when we are to do battle with the devil in our spiritual languages, and—as at other times—the form and tone of this spiritual language is different than other forms and tones.

      One of the benefits of this weapon is that it is a hotline to heaven, but another is the fact that the devil cannot understand what we are saying.

       We know that praise is also a weapon that we have at our disposal for doing warfare with the enemy.  The psalmist wrote in

Psalm 149:5-9 (NASB-U), “Let the godly ones exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.  Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written; this is an honor for all His godly ones.  Praise the Lord!” (emphasis mine).

Praise and warfare sometimes go together!!!  As these saints went to battle with the enemies of God, they did so with the high praises of God in their mouthes and a two-edged sword in their hands.

       As we do battle with the demonic spirits and principalities of terrorism, let us do so with the high praises of God in our mouths, the Bible in our hands and hearts, and a willingness to do conflict for the glory of God.  Praise is a means of resisting the devil and “Praise is a means of taking back territory from the devilÔ!!!”

       And with tongues, in our closets of prayer or in the church—when directed by me—we have an expanded capacity to praise God and do warfare with the devil!

10.   Tongues, when interpreted, are a method of God speaking in prophecy to His Church.

1 Corinthians 14:5 (NASB-U), “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying” (emphasis mine).

Here Paul equates interpreted tongues with prophecy, and next week we shall cover the guidelines for speaking in tongues in the assembly.

       So, here are ten powerful reasons, why, as Paul would say, “I speak in tongues more than you all,” i.e. in my closet of prayer!!!

(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Roger Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology Of St. Luke, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, p. 13.

[2] Jack W. Hayford with Rebecca Bauer, Heavenly Resources For Praise And Intercession, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1996, p. 22.

[3] Jack W. Hayford with Rebecca Bauer, Heavenly Resources For Praise And Intercession, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1996, p. 22.

[4] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle To The Corinthians, William B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987, p. 657.

[5] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle To The Corinthians, William B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987, p. 657.

[6] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle To The Corinthians, William B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987, p. 657.

[7] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle To The Corinthians, William B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987, p. 657.

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