Six Audio Teachings on Prophecy & Tongues

Over the last couple of months of 2010, I began taking our church, Cornerstone, through an in-depth series on the gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. I specifically spent 3 weeks centred around the gift of prophecy and 3 weeks centred around the gifts of tongues and interpretation.

I am making all the teachings available in one place. So here they are below. You can click on the icons to listen to them here, or you can download them from our podcast by clicking on the links provided. Finally, you can listen to and download them all from iTunes.

The Gift of Prophecy (Part 1) – download from here

The Gift of Prophecy (Part 2) – download from here

The Gift of Prophecy (Part 3) – download from here

The Gift of Tongues (Part 1) – download from here

The Gift of Tongues (Part 2) – download from here

The Gift of Tongues (Part 3) – download from here

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All Audio Available for Teachings on Prophecy & Tongues

Over the past few months, I have been taking our church, Cornerstone, through an in-depth series on the gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. I specifically spent 3 weeks centred around the gift of prophecy and 3 weeks centred around the gifts of tongues and interpretation.

I wanted to make all the teachings available in one place. So here they are below. You can click on the icons to listen to them here, or you can download them from our podcast by clicking on the links provided. Finally, you can listen to and download them all from iTunes.

The Gift of Prophecy (Part 1) – download from here

The Gift of Prophecy (Part 2) – download from here

The Gift of Prophecy (Part 3) – download from here

The Gift of Tongues (Part 1) – download from here

The Gift of Tongues (Part 2) – download from here

The Gift of Tongues (Part 3) – download from here

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 5)

In the last post on the gift of tongues, I specifically spent some time laying out its three purposes: praise, prayer and proclamation. With regards to the prayer aspect, I also spent some time discussing the nature of ‘praying in the Spirit’ and how that links with praying in tongues.

But I want to move on to another aspect of the gift, what we might term as the two modes or manners of tongues. Some might not realise this, but we must distinguish between the personal and public use of tongues.

Paul distinguishes between the two throughout the chapter of 1 Corinthians 14. For starters, we read:

2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. (1 Cor 14:2-5)

In this passage, Paul teaches that one who speaks in a tongue is inherently speaking to God (vs2) and builds up him/herself (vs4). And that is a very important aspect of tongues being personally utilised by the believer – it is an edifying practise, strengthening one in the Spirit.

How does this happen?

Well, I don’t say this as a cop out, but these things are not easily definable, though we wish they were. Rather, what I can say is that, as the person prays or praises in tongues, they can stand in faith that the word of God teaches that this practise does build one up. This is not some fanciful thinking. We see Paul instructs us that, ‘The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself’ (1 Cor 14:4). And as one personally speaks in tongues, believing God uses this to build up that person, there is a strength that does come to our own spirits.

This is also why some people connect tongues with praying in the Spirit. When you consider this aspect of the personal use of tongues and the words of Jude 20, it would be easy to recognise tongues as part of praying in the Spirit. But as I argued in the last article, I do not believe it is the only aspect of praying in the Spirit.

Still, in vs5, we see that, within the gathering of God’s people, Paul encourages interpretation. This is so that all may be edified. Still, this distinction between personal use and a public message does not become as clear until we continue read on:

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 some believe the instruction in vs28 is that, if there is no interpreter, the person must be completely silent in the midst of the gathered church, I do not believe such a strict command is to be found in these words – complete silence. Rather, I believe Paul gives instruction that, if there is no one to interpret the tongue, then the person is to not speak out but rather the person is to pray to himself and to God. The person never raises their voice, but continues to speak in the tongue at a much lower decibel.

This would be the same with praying in our normal, mother tongue. If one believed God’s Spirit was stirring them to pray or praise out loud a specific prayer, the person would raise there voice so that all may hear (or go forward to the microphone). But if that person did not believe such, then they could continue to pray or praise, but in a way that would not be extremely disturbing or attention-bringing.

I believe this is also why one may walk into a Pentecostal or charismatic assembly and hear multiple people speaking in tongues yet with no interpretation being given. The people are not giving a message in tongues, but they are praying or praising in their spirits to God. From Paul’s instruction in 1 Cor 14:27-28, I see this is an acceptable practise. Therefore, we need not be alarmed if such happens in the congregation.

I will come on to the gift of interpretation in a later post, but suffice it to say for now that an interpretation is only called for if the person brings a message in tongues to the whole body. If the person is keep the tongue to themselves and God, such is not needed.

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 4)

Thus far, I have posted 3 articles centred around the gift of tongues. But I would say they haven’t come in the best form of ordered succession. So, below are the links to the 3 articles in the order that would flow the best. When I finish the series, I will post a PDF file with all the articles in order.

In this article, I want to specifically look at the three purposes of tongues. In my study of the subject of tongues, I have come to see that such a gift is given for mainly three activities: praise, prayer and proclamation.

a) Praise

Here are three specific passages that point to tongues being utilised as praise to God.

… we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God. (Acts 2:11)

For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. (Acts 10:46)

15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? (1 Corinthians 14:15-16)

Now, the second passage in Acts 10:46 could be seen as distinguishing tongues and praise from one another. And, if that is true, of course I am fine with such. Nevertheless, there is no doubt tongues will be utilised in praise to God. This is why you might walk into a church gathering and here people singing in tongues, or they might refer to it as singing in the Spirit. And, though I don’t have a lot of time to go into it in this post, I believe this is also not too far off from Paul’s two references to ‘spiritual songs’, or ‘songs of the Spirit’ (see Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).

b) Prayer

One of the more obvious texts that point to tongues as prayer is found in the well-known passage of Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. (1 Corinthians 14:14)

Now there are other passages that many Pentecostals and charismatics would refer to as pointers to prayer in tongues. The word ‘tongues’ is not found in the three passages below, but it does speak of prayer and groanings in/by the Spirit. What are those three texts? The first is found here:

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:18)

In this passage, it seems that praying in the Spirit is differentiated from other ‘types’ of prayer. Why? Paul first says, ‘praying at all times in the Spirit,’ and then goes on to say, ‘with all prayer and supplication’. The second phrase refers to what we might term ‘normal’ prayer and supplication, while the first phrase projects us praying in, or by, the Spirit.

One might ask – Well, do we not only pray because of the work the Spirit in our lives, kind of like Paul said that no one could say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ unless by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3)?

Such is a good question. But what I would liken this to is the role and gift of faith. No doubt one can only come to faith in Christ by the activity of the Holy Spirit. Such is very clear in the teaching of Scripture. But, beyond this faith activated in every believer by the work of the Spirit, Paul also distinguishes it from the gift of faith, as in 1 Cor 12:8-10. That gift of faith is what is normally activated by the Holy Spirit in God’s people for the workings of miracles and healings.

Thus, just as we would distinguish between the faith given to all saints for belief in Christ and the faith-manifestation of the Spirit for enacting miracles and healings, so I believe we can differentiate between prayer that is a reality in the lives of all believers and prayer in the Spirit that is a specific enabling of God’s Spirit to pray and intercede above and beyond that in which we would normally participate.

Now, to the question of what ‘praying in the Spirit’ actually details, I personally do not believe praying in the Spirit is intrinsically connected to praying in tongues. Still, what I would suggest is that, if tongues comes via the activity of the Holy Spirit and prayer in the Spirit comes via the Holy Spirit, then it is highly possible the two are linked together. Or, I might even suggest that praying in the Spirit is more of a broader, ‘umbrella’ term of which praying in tongues comes under. Some will disagree. But, at this point, that is my conclusion from studying the Scripture, as well as interacting with God in prayer via the specific activity of the Spirit.

And, as a side note, the phrase, ‘at all times’ in the Ephesians 6 text, probably does not refer to praying in the Spirit every second of the day, but rather to regular prayer in the Spirit.

These words of Jude are somewhat similar to Eph 6:18:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 20)

Again, I would argue that praying in the Holy Spirit does not necessarily involve the act of praying in tongues, or praying with our spirit as it is worded in 1 Cor 14:14-15. I believe we can pray in the Spirit via our own mother tongue. But I would also maintain that praying in tongues is part of praying in the Holy Spirit.

The final text centred around praying in the Spirit, though worded a bit differently, is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Now this verse does not seem to have any specific connection with tongues. But, again, both tongues and these ‘groanings’ come as a stirring and work of the Holy Spirit within the human spirit. And those who have been involved in deep times of prayer and intercession will know that, at times, we are not sure what to pray. But, in those times, we sense the stirrings of the Spirit welling up in us and all that comes forth are groans and cries from our heart. In those times, we can be assured the Spirit is actively at work in our weakness, praying according to the will of God.

Regardless of whether or not these three verses – Eph 6:18; Jude 20; Rom 8:26 – refer to tongues, which I suggest they could be distinguished from tongues, what we can note is that one of the purposes of tongues is that of prayer (1 Corinthians 14:14).

c) Proclamation

Many a Pentecostals and charismatics will stop with those two when it comes to the purpose of tongues. But I believe tongues can also function as proclamation. Why would I suggest such? Well, for starters, let’s look back at a passage in Acts:

… we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God. (Acts 2:11)

I don’t believe that this statement has to intrinsically be tied into praise, though some are convinced it is. I believe that to tell, or declare, the mighty works of God (in another language) functions as a proclamation. Matter of fact, this specific act led to the drawing of 3000 people into the kingdom of God on that Pentecost day. Much more than praise was probably being given.

And, let’s notice something else that is interesting about the Pentecost event. Following the outpouring of the Spirit, Peter quotes Joel with these words:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)

Peter says that what has just happened is a fulfilment of Joel’s prophetic utterance centuries before. And the fruit of the outpouring of the Spirit on all God’s people – male and female, young and old – would be prophecy. But what happened at Pentecost? The event did not include prophecy, in the specific sense. Rather, it included tongues, which were understood by the on-lookers. Therefore, the outpouring of the Spirit along with the fruit of tongues became the initial fulfilment of a passage that specifically referred to of prophecy as the fruit of the outpouring of the Spirit.

Thus, I believe that tongues, when miraculously spoken and understood, or miraculously spoken and interpreted, can function like prophecy. So, tongues is a like the sister of prophecy, just as miracles and healings are quite related to one another.

This is why I believe tongues can function as a proclamation of God’s truth. And, even if it comes forth as praise, that praise can also operate as proclamation.

If you would like to hear the audio recording of my teaching on the gift of tongues this past Sunday, you can listen to it by clicking on the audio icon below, or you can download from our podcast or iTunes.

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 3)

Recently I began a series on the gift of tongues (here is part 1 and part 2). From part 2, one major discussion point arose out of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:1:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

The discussion surrounded whether or not people can actually speak in the ‘tongues of angels’. I didn’t give much time to discussing this particular aspect of tongues, but maybe I should have seeing some recent discussion that came forth at my other blog, To Be Continued and at Theologica. In particular, my first article stated these brief words on the subject:

Some will claim that this reference to ‘tongues of angels’ is a hypothetical situation and one should not expect to find themselves speaking in such a manner. But remember the first words of Paul’s statement: ‘If I speak in the tongues of men.’ Now, we know this is an actual certainty – speaking in the tongues of men that we have not learned. Thus, it seems highly unlikely that Paul would refer to one situation that is a reality and one situation that is hypothetical. And, noting that tongues are a Spirit-enabled language, it’s possible that one might speak in a heavenly tongue.

Nothing could be ‘proved’ in regards to this, since tongues can regularly come forth in languages one has never learned, and especially since there are thousands of languages and dialects in the world. But I would propose that, since it is possible to speak in tongues (languages) or men, then the same could be true with regards to tongues of angels.

Particularly, my great co-author and colleague at To Be Continued, and much better at biblical languages than I, Marv, gave some good constructive criticism on this same article posted at Theologica. And you can see some other challenging comments that follow the article over at To Be Continued.

One of the major arguments that came forth as probable cause for why Paul did not actually mean that humans can speak in the tongues of angels is the use of hyperbole, especially found in the first three verses:

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

I think this was an excellent challenge, one that I must admit I had not really considered. I mean, reading the text now, I see the hyperbole very clear – understand all mysteries and all knowledge (vs2); have all faith (vs2); and give away all I have (vs3). Depending on whether you take Jesus’s own words as hyperbole in places like Matthew 17:20, that will probably determine your view of the phrase, ‘as to remove mountains’.

But, regardless, no one, at least in this present age, can attain to the measure of the word all (Greek pas).

But, the passage does not contain hyperbole at every point, does it? I would suppose these things could actually happen:

  • Speaking in tongues of men – vs1 (This is what I briefly pointed out in the first article.)
  • Have prophetic powers – vs2 (Notice it doesn’t say all prophetic powers’, though I suppose some would argue that was intended.)
  • Deliver up my body to be burned – vs3 (Well, noting Paul’s suffering as stated in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, I suppose Paul thought this was possible. But your thoughts on this phrase might be determined by whether you think this refers to suffering or offering your body to show one’s spirituality. Either way, to do such an action is possible.)

So, my conclusion is that I don’t believe it entirely impossible that Paul actually meant that human beings could speak in the languages of angels.

I also pointed out that, when we read accounts of angels communicating to human beings in Scripture, the angels actually verbally spoke. Of course, they spoke the language of the hearer. But angels do communicate, at least at times, via spoken medium. It’s possible they do the same amongst themselves or with God.

But, one final pointer I would like to bring up is Gordon Fee’s commentary thoughts on this passage of 1 Corinthians 13:1. Gordon Fee is both a well-known New Testament scholar and from a Pentecostal-Assembly of God background. And, though Fee is of the Pentecostal-Assembly of God circle, he has not been one who so easily accepts every single Pentecostal-charismatic teaching. He is solid and level-headed when approaching Scripture.

So I think his words are at least worth consideration, noting his long-standing studies on Pentecostal-charismatic issues, like that of tongues. This comes from the New International Commentary of the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians.

That the Corinthians at least, and probably Paul, thought of tongues as the language(s) of angels seems highly likely – for two reasons: (1) There is some evidence from Jewish sources that the angels were believed to have their own heavenly language (or dialects) and that by means of the “Spirit” one could speak these dialects. Thus in the Testament of Job 48-50 Job’s three daughters are given “charismatic sashes”; when these were put on they allowed Hemera, for example, to speak “ecstatically in the angelic dialect, sending up a hymn to God with the hymnic style of the angels. And as she spoke ecstatically, she allowed ‘The Spirit’ to be inscribed on her garment.” Such an understanding of heavenly speech may also lie behind the language of 1 Cor. 14:2 (“speak mysteries by the Spirit”). (2) As has been argued elsewhere, one can make a good deal of sense of the Corinthians view of “spirituality” if they believed that they had already entered into some expression of angelic existence. This would explain their rejection of sexual life and sexual roles (cf. 7:1-7; 11:2-16) and would also partly explain their denial of a future bodily existence (15:12, 35). It might also lie behind their special interest in “wisdom” and “knowledge.” For them the evidence of having “arrived” at such a “spiritual” state would be their speaking the tongues of angels. Hence they high value placed on this gift. (p630-631)

These same words can be found in his God’s Empowering Presence, p200-201.

Now, one might notice that some of these thoughts centre on what the Corinthians might have thought. And we know the Corinthians had some off-base theology, hence Paul’s corrective words not just on practical life matters, but doctrinal matters. But Fee also reckons that it was probable that Paul also held that humans could speak in tongues of angels. And, he then proceeds to share two main reasons why speaking in the tongues of angels is probable, with the first probably being more substantial for why Paul might believe this.

So, I thought it was interesting to share some of Fee’s thoughts on this passage.

In all, we cannot make a 100% conclusion either way. Again, I did appreciate some of the comments of Marv, as he pointed out his understanding of why he believes Paul didn’t actually believe this was a possibility. And there were other goods thought shared as well, like from commenter Ted Bigelow at To Be Continued.

For these reasons, though such is difficult at times, it might be good that we not be closed off to either views, respecting them both. This could be hyperbolic language right throughout the entire vs1-3, or it could be that some words could become part of real life and some were hyperbole. I lean towards the latter view, but am now much more aware of the former.