As a young teenager, I heard Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart declare on his ministry television broadcast, “Salvation is God’s greatest gift to the world while the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is His greatest gift to the Church.” While every believer glady accepts the first part of Brother Swaggart’s statement, many struggle with the subject of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit especially in the area of praying or speaking in other tongues.
With that in mind, I want to use this fourth blog post to answer one final question often posed by many Jesus-loving believers about this subject. Hopefully, the information in this blog post plus the answers shared in the previous three blog posts will clear any and all confusion. Here is the fourth question.
Question #4 – Doesn’t the Bible Minimize the Importance of Speaking in Other Tongues?
Those posing this question are often referring to 1 Corinthians 14:19 “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” I can easily see why people would misunderstand this verse and believe that Paul was saying that this gift from God wasn’t important. Allow me to bring clarity to Paul’s statement. by sharing these two thoughts.
1. In reading 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, we see that there are two types of tongues mentioned. Both are from God and yet they serve two different purposes. One is God-ward, a language enabled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) for every Spirit-filled believer to supernaturally communicate (pray, worship, intercede) to God (1 Corinthians 14:2,14). This is a language that accompanies the infilling of the Holy Spirit and is promised to every believer (Luke 11:13; Acts 1:4,5; Acts 2:4,16-18,33,39). The second type of tongues mentioned is the Gift of Tongues which is man-ward, a language enabled by the Holy Spirit for the Father to supernaturally communicate (encourage, edify, and exhort) to man (1 Corinthians 14:5). You find this Gift listed with the other Gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). Unlike the God-ward language, this man-word Gift and each of the Gifts of the Spirit are divided by God and distributed to whom He selects as He directs.
2. Paul, the apostle who wrote that he was thankful that he spoke in tongues more than any of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:18) and desired that all would speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5), was addressing his “Yet in the church …” admonition about the man-ward tongue. Without question, to stand in front of a church body and solely speak/preach/teach in an unknown tongue alone would be foolishness and unprofitable. It is easy to see that anything coming from God (man-ward) must be understood so that the message can encourage, edify, and exhort. This is why Paul emphasized that the Gift of Tongues must be accompanied with the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). Simply put, publicly addressing people with this man-ward tongue is forbidden except there be one present to interpret the message from heaven. With that understanding, Paul wrote the Corinthians telling that the Gift of Prophesy is far more desirous and profitable than an uninterpreted Gift of Tongues utterance to a gathering of believers.
With these two points established, let me summarize the answer to the question by giving this one simple sentence. There is a time and place for everything. The God-ward praying/speaking/worshiping in an unknown tongue can be done by any Spirit-baptized individual at any place at any time be it at home or driving their car or silently at their workplace. The individual can also join in with the entire church body in a church gathering during a corporate time of worship (1 Corinthians 14:15) or time of prayer (1 Corinthians 14:39) because these tongues are not directed towards those around them in the church gathering. BUT, Paul instructed that the time and place for the man-ward tongue can be spoken in and to a public gathering only if there be one present to interpret this communication from God and it must be done so decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). So, the answer to the question – MINIMIZED … nope; OPTIMIZED … yes.
I apologize for the length of this blog post. I have sat down at the computer numerous times and written and rewritten and re-rewritten this post trying to keep it as simple and concise as possible and yet it is almost double the length of most of my postings. If you have any questions about what I have shared, I am an email away … [email protected].