The Gift of Tongues
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Excerpts from Part I, Chapter 1
Part I - The Corinthian Commentary on Tongues
Chapter 1: Biblical Gifts of the Spirit
This book investigates the biblical gifts of the Spirit, and more specifically the gift of tongues. As the reader, you most likely fall into one of four groups - those who reject the current day operation of tongues, those who accept tongues as long as they are spoken in private, those who believe tongues are valid for both public and private expression, and those who are uninformed about the gift of tongues. Opinions differ as to whether more Spirit-given gifts exist than are expressly stated in scripture.
In recent years holy barking and holy laughing have been promoted as genuine operations of the Spirit. The Bible says nothing about such phenomena; neither for, nor against. Many teachers of the twentieth century would classify biblical tongues in the same group with all other illogical and absurd behavior. Please concede, however, that the activities designated by God's Word as “gifts of the Spirit” are indeed of holy origin. And tongues are well documented and encouraged in the Acts and the letters of the Apostles.
The only thorough discussion of tongues found in the Bible is given by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul confronted the Church at Corinth for its over-abundant expression of tongues (among other excesses and improprieties). First Corinthians contains guidance to the Church on divisiveness, church discipline, partaking of Eucharist, avoiding idolatry, and on the operation of several gifts of the Spirit.
Paul did not conceal his personal preference about the gift of tongues. As we study 1st Corinthians Chapters 12, 13, and 14 we will find that Paul took several opportunities to encourage Christians to speak and pray in tongues. Paul made such statements as; “I wish that you all spoke in tongues,” and, “I am glad that I speak in tongues more that you all.” Furthermore, just to make sure the Corinthian church didn’t leave their charismania for the opposite extreme, he ends the discourse with the words, “and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”
Chapters 12 through 14 of 1st Corinthians lend guidance to tongues and prophecy in the same way that 1st Corinthians Chapter 11 addresses the partaking of holy communion. In Chapter 11, Paul severely rebuked the Corinthians for the manner in which they were celebrating the Eucharist; but he never intended for them to stop partaking of communion altogether. For the reader who has been taught that certain gifts ceased once the New Testament was completed, consider how peculiar it would have been for God to devote three chapters of His eternal Word to gifts that would be obsolete the moment the finished Bible was circulated. And why would Paul encourage the Corinthians to speak in tongues if the practice would only cause problems for future generations?
Certain gifts are listed in Romans Chapter 12, 1st Corinthians Chapter 12, Ephesians Chapter Four, and 1st Peter Four. These rosters of gifts help us identify which gift(s) God has given to us. Recognizing our own spiritual gift is important because Peter instructed, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The Spirit has distributed to each Christian one or more of His multifaceted gifts. The admonition to be good stewards means that we would be neglectful if we should fail to seek to identify, and to use, the gifts that God has graciously bestowed on us.
Please take a moment to observe the gifts recorded in Romans and Ephesians. It should be noted that the gifts mentioned in Ephesians refer to the title of the person who has been given the gift. Most denominations hold that these “offices” should be by appointment, or at least be confirmed by the church. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for ministers as well as congregants to be gifted in several areas. (Emphasis has been added by underlining the gifts.)
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. - Romans 12:4-8
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. - Ephesians 4:11-16
Notice in the verses above that Paul relates the individual gifts to the overall body of Christ, using the words; members, joints, and parts.
As we have already noted, most of the Bible’s instruction on tongues is found in 1st Corinthians. But before we dive into this text, remember that passages about the gift of tongues are also contained in the Acts of the Apostles. In rightly dividing the Word of God we must balance scripture with scripture. In Acts we will look at a more spontaneous (but just as biblical) working of tongues outside of the formal church service.
Paul approached the Corinthians’ overuse of the gifts with great tact. He desired to direct the operation of the gifts without stifling the gifts. He openly encouraged the gifts while avoiding offending those who hadn’t received this particular gift. He also made a clear distinction between the operation of tongues in public, and the operation of tongues in private prayer. Paul managed this complex discussion by moving back and forth between the right and wrong expressions of the gift. A little reminiscent of someone solving a Rubik’s Cube, Paul promoted one thought for a moment and then changed direction and discussed the other potential excess. Then he returned to the original subject from a different angle.
The reader who is polarized in their endearment, or rejection, of the gift of tongues can feel they are being tossed from one side of a ship to the other - while Paul’s heart was to give direction and encouragement without causing offense to the weaker brother. We must not lose sight of Paul’s opening statement; “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.” These verses were written to inform the uninformed, not to quench the Spirit of the Corinthian Church.
Chapter 13 (“the Love Chapter”) is the oasis between Chapters 12 and 14 where Christians having opinions on both sides of the emotionally charged question of tongues can sit together and soothe their souls. But as we will learn in our chapter on 1st Corinthians Chapter 13, this popular wedding passage is, in its context, even more pertinent to the gift of tongues than it is to a marriage. - End excerpt, The Gift of Tongues. https://www.amazon.com/Gift-Tongues-C-W-Steinle-ebook/dp/B07C9R79LY