The Spirit Language: “Tongues”
Recently I’ve been reading several articles/posts on the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. And not long ago I was at a retreat and the discussion of tongues kept coming up. Crazy so much fuss over a little gift. But, this is a very important topic for people to understand because it can and is leading many astray. Here are some of my thoughts.
Speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift. When spoken in private, it edifies the speaker. 1 Corin 14:2 When spoken in public, it’s a sign to unbelievers because upon hearing it they would understand their own language like those in Acts 2. 1 Corin 14:22 This gift was necessary particularly in the days of Apostle Paul as the gospel was going out to all people, not just the Jews. Knowledge of different languages was required to communicate the message of truth.
This gift is something given and directed by the Holy Spirit. It isn’t at our will, but His. (very important point) 1 Corinthians 12:10-11 As the other gifts, it is to be used purposefully. AND, like the other gifts it takes GREAT DISCERNMENT to know if it truly is of the Holy Spirit or a spirit of deception. And with tongues, it takes even GREATER discernment, because if someone speaks a language unknown to those around him, who is to say he isn’t truly speaking in tongues? This is one reason I believe Paul said to have an interpreter; so there wouldn’t be any confusion. With the other gifts it’s easier to discern what is true and what isn’t from the outside. Because of this difference with tongues, it can be used very easily to manipulate and mislead and I think this happens a lot. It leads many astray to believing they are in God’s will when they aren’t. And as proof that someone is in the spirit, when in fact it may be another spirit altogether and not a good one. It’s a serious problem.
It leads people astray not only because of it’s nature, but also because it seems “mystical”. But it only appears mystical because of the improper use and mimicking of the true gift. When sharing the gospel to another nation and being able to share in their language isn’t so mystical and I think this was its main purpose and demonstrated in Acts 2. This misuse is why there is so much discussion and division about this gift and not the other gifts. When it is abused, then the Spirit in true believers reacts.
Manipulation and Deception with Signs and Wonders
I want to meantion two types of misuse of this gift we need to be able to discern. The first is when it isn’t of the Holy Spirit, but of our imagination. Many people LOVE signs and wonders and when acts like speaking in tongues (as it is improperly done today) occur people get hyped and discernment often flies out the window. That is incredibly dangerous, yet it is happening all around us. Revelation 13:14
Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
People are attracted to tongues because of the mystical appeal that has been created. This is why his greatest tools of deception will be of signs and wonders in the name of Jesus – but another Jesus, a false image. 2 Corin 11:4 “For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted–you may well put up with it!”
Consider the girl in who Paul casted out the unclean spirit. She was speaking things that had elements of truth as any deception does, but it was not of a honest spirit in her. Acts 16:16-18 We need to be seeking and asking for discernment, and abiding in the Word of God to be able to discern what is of God and what isn’t. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
Spirit of Conformity
The second misuse of this gift is from a spirit of conformity. How often I’ve heard of instances where people have been prodded over and over by others to ask for the gift of tongues, so they can “have all God has for them”. These prodders put tongues in a separate group from all the other gifts to be one we all should have as proof of the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon us. They get this from Acts 2, which in my opinion is a stretch. The Spirit gives what, when, where and to whom as He wills for a reason. There isn’t a formula to the gifts. When we make it as such we are playing God. It is no longer about being spirit-led but man-led. It is to be His will, not ours.
The power of suggestion is tremendous, (side note: look at the power of hypnosis, which is all about suggestion). If you tell someone, especially repeatedly, they need to speak in tongues, how spiritual it is, etc. they are going to feel less than spiritual if they don’t. Their emotional response will kick in because you are touching upon two of humankind’s greatest needs the need to be accepted and to feel valued. Our minds are very powerful. They cause our bodies to conform to our thoughts. Even for those who are “strong”, given enough prodding they will start to question, which leads to conformity. Because when they do speak in tongues then everyone treats them as spiritual and special.
For those in this group, it is an emotional release leading to babbling, not speaking in tongues. Though, they truly believe they are speaking in tongues, but it is in their head. We are great deceivers to ourselves. Most are babbling out of social acceptance, to feel “spiritual”, to be like those around them, etc. Never underestimate someone’s need to be accepted or to feel spiritual – even those we admire. The gift of tongues as it is often done today, can EASILY be mimicked, so that even those who are doing it are deceived. We can speak garbled language and with the powerful desire to conform, be part of a group, and seen as spiritual we easily convince ourselves and truly believe it was of the spirit.
Rules of Engagement
For these two reasons and among others, Paul tells us about how it is to be used so this confusion and misuse won’t happen! And so the body of believers can more easily discern the spirits. When someone does speak in public they need an interpreter and that interpretation needs to be in accordance with God’s truth – if not they need to keep silent. So if we have this gift; we should ask ahead of time if someone has the gift of interpretation to interpret if not we are to keep silent. If the spirit is calling us to speak, then He will provide and interpreter other than ourselves.
With this and every other gift we need DISCERNMENT. We need to be in God’s truth with a LOVE for the truth to be able to discern between the holy and the profane.