The Tongues Conundrum (Part 7)

Well, with regards to my series on the gift of tongues, I thought I would get on track to finish it all a few weeks back. I had just a few short articles to finish out, but alas, I haven’t posted in a couple of months. Therefore, I wanted to put up this newest article, with only 2 more left following today (at least, I hope).

The 6 previous articles can be found at these links:

  • Article 1 – An introduction to Spirit-inspired speech
  • Article 2 – Some specific introductory thoughts on tongues
  • Article 3 – Some in depth thoughts on ‘tongues of angels’ in 1 Corinthians 13
  • Article 4 – The 3 purposes of tongues: praise, prayer and proclamation
  • Article 5 – The 2 uses of tongues: personal and public
  • Article 6 – Understanding the difficult passage of 1 Cor 14:20-25

I move on to an important point to remember with the gift of tongues, or possibly any gifting that is used more ‘spontaneously’ amongst the body of Christ. This crucial reminder focuses in on the proper controlling of the gift.

Now, when I use the word control, this can mean all sorts of things to all sorts of people. What I don’t mean is an overt desire to control every single thing that happens in the midst of the congregation. Plenty of leaders and Christians are prepared to nip anything in the bud that might be of a more spontaneous nature. This happens not just with tongues, but with any sort of open sharing in the congregational gathering (gifts from 1 Cor 12 or not).

But I refer more to remembering the goal of edifying the body of Christ remaining at the forefront of our minds and, with this, a willingness to constrain ourselves with wisdom. Though many would claim that speaking in tongues is such an ecstatic experience that whatever comes out comes out, this is not how Paul presents it in the assembly:

27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. (1 Cor 14:27-28)

Though the Spirit is the one working in the person to bring about the Spirit-inspired speech, there is no complete loss of control of one’s mental or emotional capacities. And this is definitely in line with Paul’s words just a few verses later:

…and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. (1 Cor 14:32)

In the end, when something goes a bit awry, no one can say, ‘The Spirit made me do it.’ Such is not the case. God does not want confusion but clarity. At the same time, God does not fit in a nice and neat box. We read about some strange activities in the Scriptures like Isaiah walking around naked for three years (Isa 20:3) and we see that Jesus had an unusual ‘spitting ministry’ (see Mark 7:33; 8:23). Therefore, we want to guard against man-made restrictions in our gatherings. But we also want to guard against out of control, ecstatic experiences that cause major confusion.

And I believe solid leadership will help facilitate this. Again, not control every nuance. But a facilitation (or administration) of proper use of the Spirit’s giftings, all for the building of of the body of Christ. If we keep in mind that our goal is edification of the body, then we shall be willing to walk out these wise words of instruction in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, a church that had themselves gone quite overboard in their expression of the gifts of the Spirit, especially tongues.

And so, after these 7 articles thus far, I believe we can summarise the gift of tongues as this: Speaking out words of prayer, praise or proclamation given by the Holy Spirit in a language unknown to the speaker and possibly unknown to the hearers as well.

Now we just need to follow up with some thoughts on the gift of interpretation of tongues.

5 thoughts on “The Tongues Conundrum (Part 7)

  1. As someone who’s just started to speak in tongues again after a one-and-a-half year hiatus, I’ll read this posts with interest!

  2. Pingback: Elsewhere (04.29.2011) « Near Emmaus

  3. I’m about to read through the series. This one is the first one I opened.

    You say the gift of tongues is this: Speaking out words of prayer, praise or proclamation given by the Holy Spirit in a language unknown to the speaker and possibly unknown to the hearers as well.

    Unknown? What then? To edify their own ego for those who are doing that (1Co 14:4 ‘edifying himself’)? What’s the purpose of prayer, praise, proclamation? Because God wants and likes to hear people speak unknown language? Even the power computer which beat the jeopardy game cannot figure out? For the sake to be unknown? In front of mass of people for showmanship and and excitement and entertainment?

    While the world is in turmoil with millions of Christians are subjected to harassment and persecution, exile, jailed, murdered, and while the world is desperately in need of Christ’s sacrificing love, here we have people in the Western countries enjoy their life basking in wealth and comfort with pleasure and pride, looking for some excitement in their religious as well as secular life. Have you ever cried over all the people in the world, good or evil, believers or non-believers, or over the very love of self-giving God? What is all this preoccupation which is suitably, I say properly, to be done in one’s closet with unknown language, strange language, ecstatic language, shamanic language? And they are trying to come out of the closet, just like a group shaking our culture, politics and even the churches? Do they ever get respect from the fellow suffering Christians, even non-believers, or even the Christ Himself?

    What’s matter whether Calvin had tongue-babbling or not? A pastor told that with such desire to have tongue-babbling, he finally succeeded by keep repeating the word ‘ralleluyah, ralleluyah, …..’, apparently couched by a pastor! Another pastor said he went to a place for prayer and prayed three hours for healing of the disease he got diagnosed (lung tuberculosis, which was common then in my native country and which I myself got contracted long ago). And then he said he was babbling! Boy, what interesting games we play with God and the very God coming to us in power (i.e. the Spirit).

    We are to be witness of God’s love and the power of Christ’s resurrection with faith and with the Word of God. How are we going to sow the seed of Gospel to show the presence of God working with people? Is it ever possible with babbling-tongues?

  4. ounbbl –

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    When you read Acts or 1 Corinthians 12-14, what do you do with the reality that this is actually given by the Spirit of God, as a gift from the Spirit of God? Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of the lights. Why not this good gift of the Spirit of our good God?

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