About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Tongues And Worship

Since I introduced tongues into my last worship article, it seems right to address this issue now.  I certainly realize that there are varying viewpoints concerning tongues that have caused great conflict in the church over the years.  Let me make a few of my own points concerning this topic, which is far from an exhaustive study on the subject. 

Before looking at Scripture I will give a brief personal testimony.   After coming home from Kentucky, as I described in my last article, I found myself wanting to speak in tongues. There has been many man made attempts to help people like me who wanted this gift.  In my search for tongues I came across many.  For example, I remember watching one pastor say to a person, "repeat these words after me", as he spoke in tongues.  This pastor spoke a few words in tongues and then had the person try to repeat what he said.  I have also heard people say, "just say anything that comes into your mind.  You need to take the first step in praying in tongues.  Say some kind of syllable 'in faith' and the Lord will take over from there".   I personally don't condone such tactics.  Tongues is a supernatural gift and any human effort involved in helping the Lord is not necessary.  The Holy Spirit gives this gift, not us.  We may be used by Him in the laying on of hands, but that is as far as it goes.  

I had a friend suggest to me, somewhat jokingly, "say halleluiah ten times real fast and your tongue will flip over and then you will speak in tongues".  I hate to admit it, but I think I actually tried that.  Of course it didn't work.  In my defense, you must remember I was new to all of this stuff.  

I did not receive this gift of tongues all at once.  On three different occasions, all in small prayer groups, I received one word of tongues from the Lord.  Being somewhat frustrated and thinking, "how could three words be considered tongues", I gave up on the idea for a short while.  Yet one day, in Sep. 1971 while all alone in my bedroom, I was singing to the Lord and playing my guitar.  For some reason I sang those three words and suddenly the Holy Spirit came on me in a special  way.  Those three words turned into sentences and paragraphs.  I found myself in intimate worship while singing with my spirit in tongues for at least  thirty minutes.  Ever since that moment I have been speaking, praying and singing in tongues on a daily basis.  This was a super natural event, without any human effort. 

What then  is tongues?  Paul opens 1 Cor. 12 by saying, "now about spiritual gifts brothers....".  All nine gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 12 are spiritual gifts.  They are a result of the Holy Spirit's involvement in our lives.  They should never be seen as gifts based on human effort, or never tried to be replicated apart from the Holy Spirit.  In verse 10 of the same chapter Paul says that "speaking with different kinds of tongues"  (or languages)  is one of the gifts of the Spirit.  Some make a distinction between speaking and praying in tongues because Paul uses both phrase.  There may or may not be a point to be made with that idea.

In 1 Cor. 14:2 Paul says that those who speak in tongues are speaking from their spirit to God, and  not to man.  Therefore speaking in tongues is simply speaking to God in another language that you have not learned.  You don't necessarily know what you are saying.  (1 Cor. 14:2)

Does everyone have to speak in tongues?  This is the "big" question and somewhat funny.  It is often asked by those who for some reason don't want to speak in tongues, or those who have not yet spoken in tongues.  I suppose if you don't want to speak in tongues you don't have to.  I also suppose if you don't want to be healed, you don't have to be healed either.  If you don't want to get saved, you can stay unsaved.  Some say that every Christian can or should speak in tongues.  I am not so convinced.  Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:5 that he would like everyone to speak in tongues.  Sometimes I wonder if that was simply Paul's desire or the Lord's desire as well.  I guess to be safe in our Bible interpreting we should conclude that it was the Lord's desire as well as Paul's. Yet this verse does imply that all did not speak in tongues for one reason or another.  Paul also goes on to say, if he had a choice, while in a church setting he would rather they prophecy.  So my conclusion, whether right or wrong is that I don't feel that this verse is a concrete proof text that would suggest that we all should or can speak in tongues.   

In 1 Cor. 12:30 Paul asks the question, "do all speak in tongues"?  The implied answer is no.   Tongues is a gift from our Lord.  He gives His gifts to those He chooses.  Therefore, I am not convinced that all Christian speak in tongues, just as all Christians aren't pastors, or have a gift of healing.     

So if this is the case, what should happen in a congregation where there are those who do speak in tongues and those who don't?  1 Cor. 14 makes the answer pretty clear.  In verse 26 Paul says, "when you come together, everyone has a hymn or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done..."  Paul is not saying that we should not speak in tongues in our gatherings.  He is saying just the opposite.  He says that these things "must be done". Part of the things that "must be done" is speaking in tongues.  

Paul further clarifies the use of tongues in a meeting by saying, "if anyone speaks in a tongue, two - or at the most three - and someone must interpret". (1 Cor. 14:27)  Paul is allowing for two or three people to speak in tongues publicly, as long as someone is there to interpret.  He goes on to say in verse 28 that "if there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet".  This would suggest that the ones with the gift of tongues would know who has the gift of interpreting tongues, for how could someone  keep quiet if he didn't know if an interpreter was not present.   The one with the gift of tongues would need to know before he spoke if he had an interpreter present or else how could he keep quiet.  Most of the time people speak out in tongues hoping that there is someone there to interpret.  Yet Paul says to keep quiet if you know that someone else won't interpret, unless you are prepared to give the interpretation yourself. (1 Cor. 14:5)  

Paul closes chapter 14 by saying, "be eager to prophecy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly manner".  The point made here is that Paul does not want to squelch any gift, including tongues.  He wants the church to be eager in their thinking towards spiritual gifts, only use them in an orderly fashion.  

So tongues, along with other gifts has its place when we come together to worship.  Speaking in tongues should not be forbidden.  Speaking or singing in tongues should be encouraged along with the interpretation of tongues.  As a matter of fact all of the gifts and ministries should be encouraged.  Worship is not a spectator event.  It is an event where everyone should be participating, as Paul says.   So whatever you do in worship, do it as unto the Lord in an orderly way so everyone can benefit. .

Tongues is one aspect of worship.  If you do not speak in tongues, there are certainly other ways to worship our Lord.  Yet don't be shy, our Lord may just want to give you this gift, so why not ask Him for it. 

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