Confusion Over Tongues

One of the things that I constantly marvel over in today’s New Testament church is the widespread confusion over Tongues. The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the church at Corinth:

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” 1 Corinthians 12:1 NKJV

I find it so interesting that the very thing that the Apostle Paul said that he did not want the church to be ignorant about; seems to be the very thing that most people in the church are ignorant about. When I was attending Rhema Bible Training Center in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma back in the 80’s Rev. Kenneth E. (Dad) Hagin used to tell us that there were two reasons for this ignorance:

1. No Teaching
2. Poor Teaching

If we have no teaching on a subject, we will be ignorant on that subject. If we have poor teaching on a subject, we will also be ignorant on that subject. Both are bad, and both are prevalent in the church today regarding Tongues.

It has been my observation over the last thirty-seven years since I was first filled with or baptized in the Holy Spirit at fifteen years of age, that most of the confusion stems from the fact that most folks don’t recognize or understand that there are two different manifestations or operations of Tongues in the New Testament:

1. Your Prayer Language (what I call ‘Private Tongues’) – used in prayer and worship for your benefit. (Special note this type of Tongues can also be interpreted)
2. The Public Gift of Tongues (what I call ‘Public Tongues’) – which must be interpreted by either you or someone else who has the “Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues”.

Let us first deal with your prayer language or ‘private tongues’:

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4 NKJV

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” 1 Corinthians 14:14 & 15 NKJV

In Acts chapter two on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first poured out fulfilling Joel’s prophecy and beginning the Church Age we see that it says speaking of those that those who were gathered in the upper room who were obedient to the Lord’s command in Luke 24:49 to wait to be endued with power by the Promise of the Father; “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Notice that this manifestation of Tongues that these folks displayed has no mention of any Interpretation. Now if Tongues always needs to be interpreted to be in order by the teaching of some; then these folks who birthed the church were out of order. Now if we take the account in context we will find that they were speaking of “the wonderful works of God.”

So this was a manifestation of Tongues that was not interpreted and was used to give glory to God. If we look at what Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter fourteen we find that the Apostle Paul is talking about praying in Tongues…then he calls it Praying with the Spirit and Singing with the Spirit.

Notice that Paul said that when I pray in a Tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful, or does not understand what I am saying. One of the lies that the enemy has used against praying in Tongues goes something like this: “Well that is just gibberish; you don’t even know what you are saying.” WELL DUH! Paul clearly stated that I would not understand what I was saying when I prayed in Tongues, but that my spirit was praying. Sometimes I think this translation of this verse can help us in our understanding:

“For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive [it bears no fruit and helps nobody].” 1 Corinthians 14:14 Amplified Bible

Notice in the Amplified it brings out that my spirit by the Holy Spirit in me prays. So even though our mind may not have understanding of what we are praying, we are praying by the Holy Spirit within us. Notice this was first manifested in Acts chapter two when the Holy Spirit was poured out. Also notice Paul’s conclusion in verse 15: “What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”

Paul said that he would pray with the spirit, (tongues) and pray with his understanding as well as sing with the spirit (tongues) and sing with his understanding. Notice that Paul made this determination which means that he controlled both operating by tongues that which he did not understand as well as operating from his understanding. From our text in Acts we see that it was the Spirit who gave the utterance, but the individual believers were the ones that did the actual speaking, or we could say the Holy Spirit gives the ability to operate this way but we must still open our mouth and give voice to that prompting within us. It does not say that the Holy Spirit spoke…they did. Paul did not say that the Holy Spirit prayed, he said that he prayed by the Holy Spirit (enabling him).

Now we will deal with the Public Gift of Tongues:

“…to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12: 10 NKJV

“In the law it is written: ‘With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,’ says the Lord…How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.” 1 Corinthians 14: 21, 26-28 NKJV

In these two texts of Scripture we find Paul giving instruction on the Public Gift of Tongues. Notice here in both texts it stresses the importance of the Tongue being Interpreted (special note that it is an interpretation not a translation, which we don’t have time to teach on here) where when the Prayer Language was talked about there was no such mention. So it is imperative that any Public Message given in Tongues MUST BE INTERPRETED! Tongues & Interpretation working in tandem equal the Gift of Prophecy…Tongues & Interpretation of Tongues does it in two steps; Prophecy does it in one step.

Did you notice that Paul quoted Isaiah 28:1 saying that God would speak to men through this Manifestation or Gift?

“For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people.” Isaiah 28:11 NKJV

God chooses to speak to men through this Public Gift of Tongues. Whenever we come together Paul says that everyone should participate with something to share and that some would have a Tongue and some would have an Interpretation. Again he stresses that if there isn’t an Interpreter the message in Tongues should not be given. A Mike Rule…NOT a Bible Rule is: “If you can’t give the Interpretation yourself…Don’t give the Message!” If this was adopted it would solve a lot of issues and problems.

The last point I want to tackle regarding the Public Gift is where it speaks of two or at the most three and each one in turn. Most who teach this interpret it to mean that there should only two or at the most three messages in Tongues in a particular meeting. Allow me to submit to you contextually that is an incorrect interpretation. All the through this whole context Paul is speaking about people using words like ‘each one’; so why would he all of sudden shift his focus from people to the number of messages? I submit to you that he is speaking in terms of two or three people allowed to give messages; there is no limit to the amount of messages, and each one in turn with it being Interpreted.

Finally, this is by no means an exhaustive study on the two different manifestations of Tongues. There is much more that could be shared, but the purpose of this Blog was simply to try and remove some of the confusion that is so prevalent in the Church regarding Tongues because folks are trying to make the rules that apply to the Public gift to the Prayer Language and vice versa. If we could just those two things we will go a long way towards eliminating the confusion over Tongues.