Tongues

Some say that ‘tongues’ has come to an end; however, across the world many believers use tongues as a manifestation of worshipful and prophetic expression that emanates from their inner self before the rational part of their brain gets hold if it. In these circumstances we see from scripture that there must be a rational interpretation, so that the listening body can benefit from it too. Another perhaps more important expression of speaking in tongues is that people find themselves miraculously speaking accurately in another language that that have not formally learnt. So we can rough deduce from the Bible that there are three expressions of speaking in tongues.

1) Speaking in intelligible words in one’s own language - for building up and teaching

2) Speaking in another language(s) - in miraculous revelation

3) Speaking in an onomatopoeic or non-syntax type language - for prophecy with interpretation

We cannot prove from the scriptures that the gift of tongues has come to an end. Some use 1 Corinthians 13:10, by interpreting the word 'perfect' as referring to the Canon of scripture, but this does not fit the context; context is essential in interpretation, Paul discusses the gifts of the spirit and elements of earthly and spiritual activity that emerge from the body both singularly and as a ‘group' body. There are accounts across the world where people have found themselves speaking other native tongues in order to communicate God’s message. This is evidenced by the Pentecost event for example.

What we can be assured of from the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:10) is that tongues was a real spoken additional language (or languages) with all of the rules of grammar, syntax and diction given at a moment of purposeful communication for spiritual revelation.

Some charismatic circles have minimised this activity to the repetition of a few syllables, which is not ‘speaking in tongues  but more an immature babbling. In some cases it may even be a demonic manifestation. For many believers today it is simply something learned and imitated from being in their subcultural group. The transition from babbling in syllables through to proper non-syntax grammar based tongues may occur through an onomatopoeic expression in various situations for urgent prayer without understanding how one should pray could be an acceptable expression of ’tongues’ that has no rules of grammar, syntax and diction. However this is not discussed in the scriptures. However, Paul asks that a ‘tongue’ must be interpreted which indicates at least two types of tongue. 

Interestingly Paul has to deal with the use of tongues as the Corinthian church were misusing it. (1 Corinthians 12-14). First Corinthians 12 identifies the essentials in this matter:

  1. Every believer is baptised by the Spirit.
  2. The product of Spirit baptism is not a specific gift, but membership in Christ’s body.
  3. Every believer has at least one or more gifts.
  4. No one gift is given to every believer.
  5. No believer gets all the gifts.
  6. In the order of gifts tongues is the least important.
  7. If you are a non-tongues speaking gift it means you generically have a superior gift.

To close, 1 Corinthians 13 1-13 is an important guide concerning our attitude to gifts and the miraculous; that love is supreme. 

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