Monday 19 September 2016

Speaking and Praying in Tongues: What is it?

Tongues is one issue that is quite controversial among Christians, as well as prophecy and whether or not other gifts of the spirit including miracles still occur to this day. Specifically I want to take a look at what passes for biblical tongues. Let us first go back to Pentacost.

Tongues at Pentacost
"Acts 1:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”"

The context explains above what tongues are. The tongues that the New Testament speaks about are other human languages. This is why some were astonished at what happened, because the apostles were speaking in their respective native tongues. If the apostles lived in the modern era, you would have countless Americans and Europeans amazed at the fact that their languages are being spoken by them despite not knowing the language.

Of course, some of the people in verse 12 mocked and said the apostles were drunk, to which Peter responds:
"14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[b] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’"

Peter points out that he and the apostles are completely sober and quote from Joel 2:28-32.

Pentacost fulfills this prophecy present in the book of Joel. So what are tongues according to the context? Human languages, that is all they are. The same can be said also of Acts 10:
"Acts 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days."

Once again we have the praises of YHWH conducted in foreign languages as opposed to another type of tongues which people proclaim.

Varying gifts in the church
Let us look now in 1 Corinthians 12:
"4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills."

There really isn't a need to say to much about this part of the chapter, Paul is explaining what various gifts that Christians possess in God, that not all Christians will perform the same feats as one another. Some will be able to speak other languages i.e. tongues and the same applies to other gifts of the Spirit that may be granted.

Read also in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31:

Paul explains using the analogy of the human body that every believer in Jesus is indispensable. No Christian who biblically believes in Jesus is useless or has no function within the body, he or she has gifts to utilize to build the body of Christ up and edify.

A tongue of angels?
Let us turn our attention to 1 Corinthians 13:
"13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[r] but have not love, I gain nothing."

Paul is not saying that there is a tongue of angels that humans can pray in, What he is presenting is a hypothetical scenario, that if he were to speak in a tongue of angels without love, it doesn't mean anything. I have already written an article on 1 Corinthians 13 so I will just link to an article dealing with the chapter in question:

Spirit filled or something else?
While I have explained what tongues entails, there are individuals who point to other so called tongues to prove them to be manifestations of the Spirit.

Other tongues may be contrived, someone may just make it up on the spot uttering nonsense as opposed to uttering a language that exists. There is also demonically induced tongues, commonly found in cults,be they "Christian" or among shamans and witch doctors. They are not the tongues that Paul is addressing within the passages in the Bible nor are they the tongues that are present in the New Testament among the apostles.

One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self control as found in the book of Galatians in chapter 5:
"22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

If there is no self control, How can the fruit of the Spirit be there?

Lord Willing I may comment how tongues should function in the worship of God and in the context of the church. We'll have to see.

Answering Judaism.

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