The language of heaven
To another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:10
Here it is: The most controversial of the gifts of the Holy Sprit! Today I am going to write about the last two of the gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in this passage because they go together. Different kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. First of all let’s define tongues: Tongues is the language of heaven, given supernaturally to God’s people through the Holy Spirit.
Since this is such a disputed topic, I am going to stick to the scripture as closely as possible and leave out my personal feelings on this subject. God’s word says plenty about tongues so it is best to just listen to what He wants us to know about it.
I want to start where the gift of tongues was first given in Acts chapter 2. On the day of Pentecost, many of Jesus’ disciples were in the upper room waiting for the promised Holy Spirit to come. Jesus told them to wait there for the Holy Spirit and His power. He didn’t tell them how they would recognize the Holy Spirit and I’m sure after a few days they began to wonder. However, when the Holy Spirit showed up, there was no questions anymore. They knew exactly what was happening as it was happening.
Here is what the passage says:
- When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4
The first Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. While in the upper room, I will make note that they had no interpreter or interpretation at that time. It wasn’t until they went out on the streets that people began to hear them speaking in their own earthly languages and proclaiming the gospel.
- And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” Acts 2:5-13
They even had mockers back then. So when Jesus’ followers came out on the street, a supernatural thing happened. All the people around could understand them in their own language, yet there were still some that were mocking, obviously not understanding what was happening.
After the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the disciples were filled and spoke with tongues again in Acts 4:31 when they all prayed for boldness to speak God’s word. All through the book of Acts, we see various times where the disciples spoke or prayed in a heavenly language.
Now in 1 Corinthians, we find the first teaching on tongues. Up until this time, the gift of tongues was being used regularly, but some didn’t even know how to use it. This is why Paul began to teach the church at Corinth what tongues was all about. In chapter 14, Paul unpacks it for everyone to understand. In verse 2 he says whoever speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God because no person understand him. However, in the spirit that person is speaking mysteries. Paul says praying in tongues is for speaking to God in His language not to people. Certainly this requires the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit.
In verse 4 of chapter 14 Paul says whoever speaks in a tongue edifies or builds himself up. I know we all have times when we need some building up. It makes sense that God provided a supernatural way for us to recharge when we get depleted. In verse 5, (this is simply amazing) Paul flat out says: I wish you all spoke with tongues. He qualifies it by saying it is a thing you do in your personal time, not in the church unless someone is going to interpret. So here is the reason for interpretation of tongues. In a group of people, you are to speak with your understanding or else a tongue is unprofitable to the hearer. Others cannot understand it.
Lastly, in 1 Corinthians 14:18, Paul says he is so thankful that he speaks with tongues more than any of them, but in church he would rather just speak a few words that others could understand. Then in verses 20-21 He brings in an Old Testament prophecy about tongues:
- Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. In the law it is written: “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,” says the Lord.
As I write this, I am overwhelmed with the amount of scripture there is about the gift of God’s heavenly language. From the Old Testament prophets to the New Testament church this gift has been widely proclaimed and sought after. The only scripture I have ever heard that debates this gift of tongues is in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians. The only problem is that the dilemma of tongues passing away is right in the middle of a verse that ends with knowledge will vanish away and that hasn’t happened yet, either. I know I have barely scratched the surface on this subject, but given the amount of scripture that supports this gift, I believe it is for believers today and that it is a great benefit in the faith walk. The Holy Spirit wants to show us things to come (John 16:13) and pray God’s perfect will through us (Romans 8:26-27).
Here’s my encouragement for today. Talk to God about this gift from His very own Spirit. Ask Him if it is for you today? Ask Him to make it plain and clear to you and that you would have no more doubt about what is right. Then put away all your pre-conceived ideas about this gift and open your heart to whatever the Holy Spirit of God wants to show you. They are working together and they want the best for you! The last thought I want to leave you with today is: There are going to be times in life when you will need all that God has for you! Fill up with His Spirit and receive all the gifts He wants to fill your life with.
Today’s scripture reading: Luke 11:9-13
- “So, I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”