by John Greene
Perhaps no other concept is as controversial as are the gifts of the Spirit. Among the top of the controversy is speaking in tongues. While many Christian denominations do not accept these gifts as valid today, it is clear that scripture stands for all time. (John 5:39, 17:17; Acts 1:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 119:11, 105) These gifts are explained by the Apostle Paul as an outpouring of the Father’s [YHWH] love through the brotherhood of the Messiah’s disciples. These gifts encourage the body of YHWH’s people and are part of their spiritual birthright. These spiritual gifts inform (edify) the gathering as well. (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4, 1 Corinthians 12:6-11, 13:1; “Are You Rejecting YHWH’s Holy Spirit?“; “Listening to the Holy Spirit“; “Spiritual Growth or Spiritual Death“)
Elohim’s [YHWH] people are admonished to pursue love as well as to desire spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts never replace brotherly love, but enhance that love for others. The word for ‘desire’ in Greek (zeloo) means to earnestly desire, to covet, to be jealous for. Obviously, coveting the spiritual gifts of other Christians is not what the Apostle or Yahshua [Jesus] had in mind. Jealousy, envy and covetousness are poison in Elohim’s house among His people, the antithesis of love, grounded in pride. In the pursuit of love, disciples are to humbly seek gifts that will edify the body of believers. The motive is to abide in YHWH’s love to selflessly benefit our brethren. (1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:1; “Understanding Real Prosperity“; “Abiding in Trust“; “Messiah & the Tool of Envy“; “A Mind of Envy and Competition“; “Sin & the Law of Liberty“)
The disciple that speaks in a tongue may speak a known language to benefit someone that understands who is present. If so, this is good. In 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, Paul quotes from Isaiah 28:11-12 as a sign for unbelievers. The first recorded occurrence of this kind was at Pentecost when unbelieving Jews heard the miracle for themselves and joined the disciples of the Messiah. (Acts 2:6-12)
The person speaking in tongues speaks to YHWH or for Him through the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues is not about showing off or putting on a show as you will see on television. It is serious business not to be toyed with or used to manipulate in the flesh. Anyone doing such a thing will reap the reward for their wickedness.
There may be times when speaking in tongues is not always directed to the congregation and the body of believers is not always directly benefited. Why? The disciple speaks ‘a secret’ (musterion) in the Spirit as one’s own spirit is edified. The word translated as ‘mystery’ in Greek means literally to shut the mouth, synonymous with receiving the knowledge of elevated truth. This truth may not be previously known with the possibility of holding great importance. (1 Corinthians 2:7, 14:2-4, 9, 12) In this case, only through the Holy Spirit can this miraculous ‘secret’ be understood. In this sense, the operation of gifts of the Spirit is a ‘secret’ bond between brothers and sisters of the Messiah, part of the spiritual armor that sanctified disciples of the Messiah are to possess to battle evil forces in life. (“The Unpardonable Sin“)
To be of value, the use of all spiritual gifts in the gathering must have order and result in understanding and benefit to the Christian community. Understanding and knowledge of scripture, as well as YHWH’s purpose through Yahshua [Jesus] the Messiah, are the foundation of YHWH’s people. As I noted previously, speaking in tongues without an interpreter or interpretation can easily become an act of selfishness or a tool for showing off, which is why the Apostle Paul made a statement that enforced order within the gathering. (1 Corinthians 14:1-19) Your relationship with the Holy Spirit is personal just as speaking in a tongue is personal. Remember that speaking in tongues is edifying to one’s own spirit. As a dynamo charges a battery, speaking in tongues builds spiritual power and strength within the spirit of a believer. (1 Corinthians 14:4) Because of this, sharing what is understood through the Holy Spirit has great merit, creating spiritual conviction and a bond of friendship between like-minded brothers and sisters in Messiah. (1 Corinthians 14:23-25; “Called to Have Confidence in Messiah“)
The Apostle endorsed edification of the body of believers through prophecy, an inspired utterance that speaks on YHWH’s behalf. Prophecy increases santified knowledge of Elohim. Most often, this comes directly from scripture through teaching. Prophecy admonishes, exhorts and comforts. (1 Corinthians 14:3) Paul established four important truths in 1 Corinthians 14:5.
He wanted all disciples to speak in tongues.
He desired that disciples would prophesy in assembly.
Prophecy is greater than tongues.
Prophecy equals tongues + interpretation.
Paul instructs those speaking to do so in ways understood by all. (1 Corinthians 14:6-11) More importantly, he encourages all to not be children in understanding, but to be adult in understanding- as spiritually mature disciples. In desiring and employing spiritual gifts, disciples are to seek to edify the body of believers. If you speak in tongues in public worship, go on to interpret the utterance you have had. Move on from the exhilaration of having the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) speak through you to the concern for the edification of the body of believers. (1 Corinthians 14:12-13; “Real Trust in YHWH and Caring for Brothers and Sisters“; “Disciple: The Pattern of Your Life“)
Paul establishes that speaking in tongues are a personal aid to prayer.
Tongues are an aid to worship.
Tongues add a new dimension to prayer and worship.
Tongues are not exclusively used for public worship
Tongues used exclusively in public worship create imbalance.
Tongues are activated by the Spirit and allowed by a disciple’s submission.
Disciples should speak in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance. (Acts 2: 4)
Paul indicated that speaking in tongues was a source of power for his personal ministry. Yet, in the assembly, he would rather speak five words in their native language that all could be edified. (1 Corinthians 14:18-20) Disciples are to operate in the Holy Spirit in a like manner, putting aside selfishness and feelings of ambition for a pure heart.
According to Paul, gatherings of the disciples were to include a balance of singing, teaching, exhortation, prophesy and tongues for the edification and benefit of all. Each individual is to seek YHWH through the teaching of Yahshua [Jesus] and to come prepared to worship. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Paul also reminds us that all spiritual gifts operate through the discretion of the individual and that the ministry gift of tongues should not continue if no one is able to interpret in a particular meeting. All gifts are subject to being judged and must agree with YHWH’s Word, proving all things. (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 27-28, 29, 30-33) Paul wished that all would continue in the gifts, (1 Corinthians 14:5, 39; Acts 2:17-18, Joel 2:28; Psalm 150:6) but that all matters must submit to family headship without usurping the authority of the family. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) Paul indicates some congregational issues with tongues, but he recommended that they did not stop speaking in tongues. Even though the gift of tongues had been abused and misunderstood in the past, nobody in the body of believers must forbid speaking in tongues in a proper manner and order in the gathering of the congregation. (1 Corinthians 14:15, 36-40; Romans 1:11; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:2; Galatians 3:2, 5; Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16; “Prospering Your Family“; “Living in the Now“)
Today, many professed Christians are fearful of the gifts of the Spirit or simply don’t want to go through with what they see as an extra bother. Pastors may feel that their authority is challenged. Others are completely ignorant to these gifts or the Holy Spirit. They may fear out of ignorance, choosing to pursue sin instead of righteousness. It is clear that many in religious leadership fear being usurped in power by favoring the display of these gifts. The truth remains that none of these concerns can justify casting aside the gifts of the Holy Spirit while favoring a feudal religious rule that elevates leadership roles in an earthly organization. The operation of the body of believers is to be dynamic, a living evidence of the Holy Spirit. (“Playing It Safe With Another Gospel“; “What Does Your Church Teach About Satan the Destroyer?“)