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Diane S
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Why You Should Strive to Speak in Tongues

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  • Why You Should Strive to Speak in Tongues

    For the sake of clarity, I will refrain from a blizzard of chapter and verse citations. But if requested, I will provide prooftexts for any of the points listed below.
    A. In the Book of Acts, there are 4 descriptions of people receiving the Holy Spirit.
    In 3 of the 4 cases, the reception of the Holy Spirit is signified by speaking in tongues. In the 4th case, the reception of the Spirit is an experience so dramatic that Simon Magus offers money to be taught how to impart the Spirit. It seems plausible to infer from this that Simon witnessed an eruption of speaking in tongues, as in the other 3 cases. This striking pattern is the basis for the Pentecostal doctrine that speaking in tongues is the unique and indispensable evidence for Spirit baptism. True, nowhere does the Bible explicitly teach this doctrine. But the pattern in Acts, combined with Paul's teaching on the matter (see below) warrant a passionate quest to exercise the gift of tongues.

    B. C. When Paul asks whether everyone prophesies or speaks in tongues, the expected answer is No, not in the sense that it is not God's will that everyone prophesy and speak in tongues, but rather in the sense that in fact not everyone has taken advantage of the opportunity to do so. On the contrary, Paul urges everyone to strive for the best gifts and the context shows that these include prophecy and speaking in tongues. Prophecy is the best gift, but speaking in tongues is just as highly regarded, if there is an interpretation. Indeed, Paul wants everyone to speak in tongues and prophesy and thanks God that he speaks in tongues more than anyone else. This wish is indeed God's will for all believers because Paul insists: "You can all prophesy one by one." So what is your excuse for defying Paul's wishes and the NT pattern and refusing to strive to speak in tongues?

    C. If your excuse is that glossolalia originally always consisted of human languages and modern glossolalia does not, your claim is refuted by these 5 points:
    (1) Why are you implying that the Holy Spirit has lost His competence to fill believers?" Nowhere does the Bible claim that this spiritual gift is reserved for the apostolic era only! Stop grieving the Holy Spirit by trivializing His gifts.
    (2) You overlook the fact that only on the Day of Pentecost does the glossolalia sometimes express human languages understood by the audience. We have no indication that the glossolalia spoken in Cornelius's household was more than gibberish to the speakers. The tongues were not interpreted in either case. Indeed, Paul encourages uninterpreted private tongues or praying in tongues. His insistence on interpretation is reserved for public worship in which outsiders present might be offended.
    (3) You overlook the fact Luke distinguishes the tongues on the Day of Pentecost as prophecy, but clearly distinguishes the untranslated tongues in the other 2 cases in Acts from prophecy.
    (4) You overlook the fact that in Greek paganism ecstatic tongues (Greek: "glossai") don't express coherent human language and must therefore be interpreted to be understood.
    (5) You overlook Paul's distinction between tongues as angelic speech from tongues as human languages.

    In my next planned post, I will discuss the awesome value of authentic glossolalia.

  • #2
    How can we "put on the whole armor of God?" Paul explains how in Ephesians 6:18: "Pray in the Spirit at all times and in every supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplications for all the saints." How does praying in the Spirit differ from ordinary praying? A high state of alertness and long perseverance are needed because we need to pray long enough for the Holy Spirit to take over and guide our prayers. I learned how to do this as a high school student. After the Sunday morning service, I would walk up to the church steeple, where there was a small room, fasting and praying for several hours for the evening evangelistic service at 7 PM. At first, my prayers were labored and I was very uncomfortable. But after 45 minutes or so, the Holy Spirit took over and guided the flow of my prayers. Then burdensome praying became a spontaneous delight, full of joy and faith. When I did this, there were always an unusually large number of conversions in the evening service! You don't need to speak in tongues to pray in the Spirit, but speaking in tongues is one form of praying in the Spirit and makes it easier to do so.

    Paul teaches that our unguided intercessory petitions can be ineffectively out of step with God's will, but when we intensely long for God's will, glossolalia can flow like passionate groans from our lips, expressing the Holy Spirit's knowledge of what is truly God's will and priority at the moment.
    "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groans too deep for words (Greek: "stenagmoi alaletoi")...the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27)."

    In a doctoral research paper at Harvard, I convinced my professors of the validity of this interpretation of "stenagmoi alaletoi" by citing sources like Paul's Roman contemporary, Lucan, who uses the Latin equivalent of this Greek phrase to describe the "tongues" spoken by the Pythia, the prophetess of the Oracle at Delphi. Her outcries initially seem like gibberish until they are interpreted by male prophets at Delphi.

    In 1 Corinthians speaking in tongues can likewise be a form of private prayer (14:14, 28) and even a means of heartfelt praise and thanksgiving (1415-16). These types of glossolalia "build up" the speaker (14:4). But there are different types of "tongues (12:28)," one of which is a message to the people ("they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit") that must be interpreted (14:2, 13).



    • #3

      Do you judgmentally claim that modern speaking in tongues is bogus without ever having experienced it yourself? Then I challenge you: how do you presume to know that you even have the Holy Spirit by virtue of your conversion? You act as if the Christian automatically has the Holy Spirit by virtue of repentance and believing the Gospel. But receiving the Holy Spirit is an experience, not a blind belief. That is why Paul repeatedly asks so-called believers whether they have even had the regenerating experience of the Spirit:

      "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers (Acts 19:2)?"
      "Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing (Galatians 3:3-4)?"

      The Holy Spirit doesn't jump just because we crack our whip! Only God knows the heart. When seekers repent and believe in the Gospel, they must pray for the experience of the Spirit; this is not automatic by virtue of correct doctrine. In fact, theological understanding in itself is the booby prize because it gives us just enough spirituality to inoculate us against the real thing--the life-changing spiritual experience of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

      In all 4 initial experiences of the Holy Spirit in Acts, there is an observable experience of divine power. In the first 3 cases, reception of the Spirit is evidenced by speaking in tongues (2:1-4;
      10:44-47; 19:6). In the 4th case, the experience is so impressive that Simon Magus offers Peter money in exchange for the secret of bestowing such power (8:17-19).

      Thus Paul routinely associates the initial reception of the Spirit with the experience of miracles:
      "Does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the Law or by your believing what you heard (3:5)?"
      So if you just accept by faith that you have received the Holy Spirit, indeed, if having the Spirit is just another doctrinal belief to you, then you need to consider the possibility that you have never received the Holy Spirit in the first place! Your faith in the Gospel should be affirm by a demonstration the Spirit's power:

      "My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)."
      "But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people, but their power. For the kingdom of God depends not on talk, but on power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on power (1 Corinthians 4:19-20)."

      To actually receive the Spirit is to have a memorable experience of the Spirit's power! Protestant churches that don't stress this expectation should be avoided:

      "People will...hold to the outward form of godliness, but deny its power. Avoid them (2 Timothy 3:5)!"

      Speaking in tongues is not a necessary condition for salvation, but it is one way to ensure that the Holy Spirit has actually taken up residence in your heart. In my next planned post, I will explain the most reliable way to strive for and acquire the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.


      • #4
        [In my observation and discernment, about 90% of tongues is of the flesh, though not demonic. However, it can open the door to the demonic, if it is approached like a druggie seeking a high or just curious about the sensation of automatic speech. In such cases, speaking in tongues can be the equivalent of playing with a Ouija board. Some Pentecostals pride themselves in their effective deliverance ministries. The effectiveness of their exorcisms can have a sinister reason: their parishioners unwittingly approach Spirit baptism as curious thrill seekers, driving the Spirit away from their kneeling presence and instead attracting unknown entities. But in 1 Corinthians Paul commands us to strive for spiritual gifts (12:31) and in 14:1ff. he makes it clear that speaking in tongues is one of the gifts (besides prophecy) that he primarily has in mind: "I want you all to speak in tongues (14:5)...and I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all (14:18)." Without realizing it, many evangelicals show the Holy Spirit profound disrespect by treating His gifts meant for our edification as dangerous bombs just waiting to explode in our face. Don't worry about the question of whether you must speak in tongues to experience Spirit baptism. I don't think you do. Worry about ignoring gifts that the Spirit thinks you need. Here are 3 keys to a successful acquisition of the gift of tongues.

        (1) Let God know you want to speak in tongues, but then seek the Giver, no the gift! Do this to prevent tongues from becoming a spiritual fetish that you want to acquire to achieve a new state of consciousness.

        (2) Be prepared for long prayer vigils. Time consciousness can quench the Spirit. The key is not your requests, but the intensity, purity, and duration of your longing for more of God. Allow your longing to build to the breaking point until it aches. Above all, leave if you are being prompted by others with admonitions like: "Just step out in faith and speak it out! The Spirit will do the rest." Counterfeit tongues is too easily triggered by prompters and by "trying to do it. The real thing feels like an unexpected divine ambush.

        (3) At some point, you will feel great frustration that your words seem repetitive, clichéd, and scripted. But this frustration will bring you to the magic moment of the Spirit's invasion! Suddenly the emptiness you feel from lacking the right words to express your deepening longing will be replaced by the warmth of the Spirit's arrival and you will be amazed to hear the unknown language you find yourself speaking.

        If you speak in tongues and then look back on the experience with wariness, that is a sign that you didn't experience the real thing and you would be exercising the gift of discernment. For me, the real thing is almost impossible to doubt in retrospect: it is electrifying and life-transforming in the healthiest and most permanent of ways. At one point I experienced great fear that my frail human ego would disappear and be absorbed in the Godmind that was so lovingly and powerfully bonding with me! I was suddenly refreshed by the Spirit's warm breeze, and then I found myself engulfed in ever intensifying wave after wave of the sweetest liquid love, love so powerful, at one point, I feared it might kill me.

        In grad school, I finally discovered descriptions by 19th century revivalists Charles Finney and D. L. Moody of their Spirit baptism, and they used similar language, the chief difference being that they did't report speaking in tongues. I was expecting the gift of tongues and wanted it, though at the time (age 16) I was skeptical of its reality. But when the moment came, I was forced to speak in tongues at the top of my voice: I was possessed and controlled by the Spirit. The love was a hundred times sweeter and more tender than anything I have experienced before or since--unquestionably the high point of my life.