Is speaking in tongues for the church today or did it die with the apostles? Depending on what denomination you come from will give you your answer. Paul encouraged the speaking of tongues in the church as long as it didn’t get out of control. He provides some insight and guidelines in this passage.
Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Revelation, not Confusion
Nothing produces confusion in the church more than tongues. We first see it in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit fell on the upper room and they began to speak in tongues. The confusion starts here. Some thought they were drunk. Still today people believe that when they are given the gifts of tongues, it is a foreign language because each heard their language on Pentecost. Evidently, neither were true because God was using that special event for a specific purpose.
In Corinth, you had people speaking in tongues to the whole body without interpretation. That was bringing attention to that person but leaving everyone else confused. Paul is telling them that there needs to be revelation for the people if the whole church hears it. Our gifts should never draw attention to ourselves but they should be revelation from God to build up the church. Speaking in tongues is okay, Paul spoke more than all of them, but if its personal keep it that way. If it’s for the body, there needs to be interpretation.
Paul is setting priorities for the church. Speaking in tongues is encouraged. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to tongues, but Paul tells us that teaching to instruct is a higher priority for the church. Encourage the use of the gifts in your church but don’t let them become a distraction from what the Spirit is trying to do.
The book of the month for November is Standing in Grace by David Guzik. David is from Enduring Word ministries which produce a very popular online commentary on the Bible. Don’t know what a passage means? Click on Enduring Word and go to the passage and read David’s commentary on it. Thousands of people are clicking on it each month.