Speaking In Tongues FAQ 2-Are Tongues For All?(New Expanded Verson)

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My first experience speaking in tongues came on April 27, 1988. I was 20 years old, and still a member of a denominational church, but out of curiosity, I had also been visiting a Pentecostal church on occasion. One day, I responded to an invitation to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I had been a Christian for about five years, and loved God very much, but at the same time, I knew that I needed a deeper presence of God in his life. As I was prayed for, I suddenly "felt" strange, unknown words well up inside me. As I began to speak them out, a gigantic tidal wave of God's love and power flooded into me, changing my life forever.

Next to my salvation, this has been THE key event of my walk with Jesus. In the years since then, it has became a richer and deeper part of my life than I could ever have imagined. It is as natural to me as breathing. Since this experience changed my life so dramatically, I have a deep desire to share it with others. In this second part in our series of messages on tongues, I wanted to devote the entire article to dealing with questions about the availability of this wonderful experience to all believers.

I. ARE TONGUES AVAILABLE TO ALL CHRISTIANS?

In 1 Corinthians 12:30, Paul asks the hypothetical question "Do all speak in tongues?" This has led some to the conclusion that tongues as a whole are only for a select few Christians.

However, as we discussed in our last message, there are three different manifestations of tongues. The context of Paul's above mentioned statement is a discussion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, tongues being one of them. He is giving instruction for the proper use of the gifts in a church service. When Paul speaks of tongues in this setting, he is referring to the ministry gift of tongues, which, as previously stated, is only one of the three, and is only given by the Holy Spirit in certain situations. This type of tongues is a sign to unbelievers. However, we read other instances in Scripture where people spoke in tongues, and no unbelievers were present (see Acts 10:46; 19:6, as well as note 1 below), giving further proof that this is not the exclusive purpose for tongues.

As for the other two manifestations of tongues, however, there are a number of Scriptures that clearly teach that they are for all Christians:

I compare it to this :All Christians are to have faith (Mark 11:22; Ephesians 2:8,) but some have a special GIFT of faith (1 Corinthians 12:9.) All Christians are to be merciful (Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:36,) but some have a special ministry gift of mercy (Romans 12:8.) Likewise,the wonderful experience of praying in tongues is available to all Christians, but some have a special public ministry gift of tongues.

For futher comparison, here is a chart summarizing and contrasting the different aspects of tongues:

Public Gift of Tongues

Personal Prayer Language

Spoken with interpretation to the church (Equal to prophecy-1 Corinthians 14:5)

Spoken privately to God (1 Corinthians 14:2)

To be interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:5)

No interpretation necessary (1 Corinthians 14:28)

Edifies the church (when interpreted-1 Corinthians 14:4-5)

Edifies the individual believer (1 Corinthians 14:4)

A sign to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22)

Can be manifested when no unbelievers are present (Acts 10:46; 19:6)

Not given to all believers (1 Cor. 12:30)

Should be desired and practiced by all Christians (Mark 16:17; 1 Corinthians 14:5; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20 ).


II.WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN TONGUES AND THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT?

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a supernatural empowerment from God into the Christian's life. It can happen at the moment a person is first saved, but as the following verses point out, it is normatively an event subsequent to salvation. (For more on this, see our message on The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Since the baptism is a supernatural experience, it would stand to reason that it would by accompanied by a supernatural sign or evidence. Looking at the Biblical pattern, we see that this sign is speaking in tongues.

There are five recorded instances in the Book of Acts of people receiving the baptism. Each time, it either says the people spoke in tongues, or at least strongly implies that they did. Let's look at each case on an individual basis:

One of the basic rules of Bible interpretation is that it takes a minimum of two or three Scriptures to establish a doctrine ( Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1.) So with these five examples, we can see that the doctrine of tongues as initial evidence is solidly Scriptural. Receiving the baptism has been humorously compared to buying a pair of shoes- Tongues come with it!

III. I KNOW MANY WONDERFUL CHRISTIANS WHO DON'T SPEAK IN TONGUES.IF TONGUES ARE AVAILABLE TO ALL CHRISTIANS,WHAT ABOUT THEM?

I also know many great Christian people who have never uttered a word in tongues. I have also known a few Christians who did speak in tongues who were downright mean! The issue here is the FRUIT of the Holy Spirit vs. the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit.

When a person is Born Again, the Holy Spirit comes to INDWELL him. All Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. As the Christian yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit produces His fruits- love, joy, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23) in the believer's life. However, when he is baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit comes to EMPOWER him. This produces the Spirit's supernatural power and gifts in the believer.(Acts 1:8).

This being said, it is possible to operate in the fruit of the Spirit, but not the gifts of the Spirit. At the same time, it is possible to operate in the gifts of the Spirit, but not the fruit of the Spirit. This was a problem in the Corinthian church, who in spite of lots of spiritual manifestations such as tongues, were still chastised by the Apostle Paul for being carnal (1 Corinthians 3:3.) Paul also said that without love, tongues are less than worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1.)

It is not my intention to in any way imply that Christians who don't speak in tongues are any less saved, or are any less in love with Jesus than Christians who do. Possibly, because of there background, denomination, or some other factor, they simply haven't been taught about tongues. Like the Ephesian believers Paul encountered in Acts 19:2-7, they simply are not aware that such an experience is available to them.

God wants us to operate in both the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit. We must keep a balanced, focused view on this. I don't claim that speaking in tongues has made me a better Christian than anyone else, but I do know this-It has made me a better Christian than I was before!

IV. IF IT IS GOD'S WILL FOR ALL CHRISTIANS TO SPEAK IN TONGUES, THEN WHY DO SOME HAVE TROUBLE RECEIVING THEIR PRAYER LANGUAGES?

When properly instructed, most Christians receive their prayer language quickly and easily. However, there are very sincere believers who, for whatever reason, struggle in this area. For some, it becomes a source of frustration and discouragement. Why does this happen? While I can't address every possible scenario, here are a few of the most common:

Getting your prayer language is not difficult. It is a simple matter of asking and receiving. Just ask God in faith to baptize you in the Holy Spirit, then open your mouth and speak whatever He gives you. At first it may just be a syllable or two. You didn't learn to speak English all at once, so you needn't expect a complete, fluent language to come all at once. Use what you get, and more will come. Yes, it is that simple! (1)

V. DO I HAVE TO SPEAK IN TONGUES?

No,you don't HAVE to, you GET to! As we discussed in the previous message, Scripture exhorts us to covet, or as the literal Greek puts it, to "pursue with passion" the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31.) Being filled with the Spirit, and operating in this realm is an awesome privilege!

You can be genuinely saved, love Jesus with all your heart, and go to Heaven when you die, and never speak in tongues. At the same time, however, you will miss out on many of the wonderful blessings and benefits that God has for you that are directly linked to speaking in tongues.

God is a Spirit, and He wants to relate to us on the spirit level (John 4:24.) The natural person can't receive the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14.) We must go into the Spirit realm to draw them out. Without tongues, we will never fully enter into that spirit realm in our prayer lives. We can, and should pray to God in our natural language (1 Corinthians 14:15.) He understands English perfectly well! However, we are still very finite, limited creatures, with only three and a half pounds of brain with which to communicate with the vastness of the creator of the universe! When we pray in tongues, our spirit prays (1 Corinthians 14:14,) and we communicate with God Spirit to spirit, speaking mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:2) to Him. (The word "mysteries" in the Greek means "divine secrets, knowledge unrevealed to the uninitiated.") We will further explore this, as well as the many other benefits of praying in tongues, in the next message. One of the reasons Jesus died was so that we could experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 16:7.) Don't miss it!

1999, 2003 JHB

(1) See the book Concerning Spiritual Gifts by Donald Gee, chapter 9, "Tongues and Interpretation".

(2) For those needing further help in this area, I recommend John Osteen's book "Overcoming Hindrances to Receiving the Baptism In the Holy Spirit", as well as Harald Bredesen's video presentation "How To Receive the Baptism In the Holy Spirit and Share It With Others."

"Tongues FAQ 1" "Tongues FAQ 3: Benefits of Tongues"
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