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The purpose of tongues

The purpose of tongues:

At this point in our narration we need to elaborate on why tongues is so important for the believer. Some reasons for speaking in tongues are listed by Dr. Henry Ness in his booklet "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit". I have taken the liberty of arranging the referenced verses by usage categories.

  1. Speaking in tongues is the unique spiritual gift identified with the church of Jesus Christ. All the other gifts and miracles had occurred in the Old Testament times [Acts 2:4 and 1 Corinthians 12-14].
  2. Speaking with tongues is a specific fulfillment of prophecy. [Isaiah 28:11 with 1 Corinthians 14:21; Joel 2:28-29 with Acts 2:16-18]. Also Acts 2:4 & 16.
  3. Speaking with tongues is a sign OF the believer [John 7:38-39; Mark 16:17].
  4. Speaking with tongues is one of the spiritual gifts of the Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:10].
  1. Speaking in tongues ordained by God for the church. [1 Corinthians 12:28; 14:21].
  2. The apostle Paul ordered that speaking with tongues should not be forbidden [1 Corinthians 14:39].
  3. Speaking with tongues is an evidence of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:4; 10:45-46; 19:6].
  4. Speaking with tongues is a spiritual gift for spiritual CHURCH-edification [1 Corinthians 14:5].
  5. Speaking with tongues is a sign TO the Unbeliever [1 Corinthians 14:22; Mark 16:17].
  1. Speaking with tongues is a spiritual gift for spiritual SELF-edification. It will build up our faith. [1 Corinthians 14:4; Jude 1:20].
  2. Speaking with tongues is a spiritual gift for communicating with God in private worship [1 Corinthians 14:2].
  3. Speaking with tongues is a means by which the Holy Spirit intercedes through us in prayer [Romans 8:26; 1 Corinthians 14:14].
  4. Speaking with tongues is a spiritual gift for "singing in the spirit" [1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:18-19]. Also Col. 3:16
  5. The apostle Paul was thankful to God for the privilege of speaking in tongues [1 Corinthians 14:18].
  6. The apostle Paul desired that all would speak with tongues [in church and especially privately] [1 Corinthians 14:5].
  7. Isaiah refers to speaking with tongues as a "rest" and a "refreshing" [ Isaiah 28:12; 1 Corinthians 14:21].
  8. We can pray for things beyond our knowledge or comprehension [Romans 8:26]. Also Ephesians. 6:18.

By dividing up the purpose of tongues into the three usage categories we see that tongues are for the church as well as for private use. This has confused a great many people and therefore they do not get much benefit from tongues. The enemy has been hard at work in this area and for good reason as we can see in the private worship category above.

If our enemy can keep us from praying in the spirit in tongues he can hinder greatly our prayer life and our understanding of the Scriptures. There are tongues for use in the church that is to only happen when the Holy Spirit directs. This is a gift of the spirit in operation when the Holy Spirit directs a tongue to be spoke in church. Careful restrictions are placed upon it's public use per 1 Corinthians 14:18-24; 27-28. This tongue can be of man or angels. In 1 Corinthians 14:27 the "do all speak in tongues" question relates to tongues within a church service, not the person's devotional life. In 1 Corinthians 12:7 and 10 Paul was talking about the action of exercising the gift and not in receiving the gift.

I remember one time when a tongue was spoken in church where my wife and I attended. It was in Parisian French. My wife is fluent in French [and taught French at that time] and the tongue happened to be a message to her about a problem that she was facing. She did not know the person speaking the tongue but God was using this person to give my wife a message for her. The person giving the tongue did not know anything about the French language. I have heard of numerous cases like this in various languages.

And there are tongues for private devotions. This is the initial tongues received at the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We can speak this tongue anytime we want and for as long as we want.

We are encouraged to speak in tongues frequently [Mark 16:17; 1 Corinthians 14:1, 5, 18]. If Paul wanted to speak in tongues more than them all, there must have been a reason. The answer could be that Paul also had the most power in evidence among them. Something to think about. I think that Paul is revealing a major secret here.

Now some people are confused about tongues in general. We can start or stop our tongues anytime we want. There is no emotion involved. We don't lose control or go into a trance to speak in tongues.

I am a businessman, consultant, technical writer, author, teacher, and preacher who is not emotional at all and yet I can speak in tongues whenever I want. The desire to speak in tongues is never uncontrollable. Surprised? Some are. And, of course, there are a few emotional people who have not been properly taught about tongues and their operation.

When we are using our private tongues and speaking mysteries to God there is no need for interpretation. The interpretation is mostly reserved for the church so that it can understand and be edified. In the private tongues it is our spirit that is being edified and no interpretation is needed [1 Corinthians 14:4; Jude 1:20].

We must also understand that the gift of the Holy Spirit is listed as a gift and therefore cannot be earned or it is no longer a gift. Just as in salvation we can never become worthy to receive the gift. That is why is has to be a gift. The only criterion for receiving the Holy Spirit is John 7:38 "He who believes in me...". In the next article on this subject we will cover how to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Why should I Speak in Tongues by Charles and Francis Hunter, 1976, Hunter books.