Holy Spirit talk

i know you’ve all been waiting to hear something from me that makes me sound like i’m actually at Bible School and not just wasting my time and someday my finances on a year long european experience and here it is. 

this week we’ve touched on the topic that makes me different from 80% of the student population.  they all know that i come from a “charismatic” church and most know that my church believes that the gifts of the Spirit are active today.  i enjoyed having someone share about the Holy Spirit and for them to be for it.  today we touched on the topic of tongues.  i listened to the lecturer, from England, argue that the gift of tongues is not to be used in church without interpretation (as is directed in 1 Corinthians 14:28).  he is a great teacher and when giving his opinion, always explains the other view(s) and i appreciate that.  on this he didn’t really give the other argument.  he went as far as to quote Wayne Grudem, author of “Systematic Theology” has having written that if otherwise done it’s “simply disobedience to Paul’s directive and is not acting in love towards others in the church.”

so my questions are:

what’s the Biblical backing for so many of the churches that i’m familiar with who allow audible speaking in tongues without interpretation?


is there an argument for why all may have the capability of recieving the gift of tongues?  why is it that there are some churches filled to the brim with tongue-speaking members and others have none?

10 thoughts on “Holy Spirit talk

  1. You’re bound to get some comments here. I won’t even begin since I will be there in a couple of weeks. It is quite a topic you’ve addressed! Hope some people respond.

  2. Its funny that you mention Grudem in your post he has been one of my closest friends lately as well as my travel companion. Many Churches make a distinction of speaking and praying in tongues and the direction of the communication as to wether it is vertical (directly to God and therefore not intended for others to listen to) or horizontal (directed toward the body for edification and interpretation)

  3. DISCLAIMER: I’m no Bible scholar. I’m open to critique and questioning. I wrote this quickly so it is lengthy and vague—my apologies. I am posting this on my website as well, in case the format here is difficult to read (jamiesinclair.com).

    First, I would recommend you read the following in your actual Bible because it is so hard to read stuff on a screen: I Cor 14 and Acts 2:5-12.

    DISCUSSION ONE: Different Types of Tongues

    1. Tongues is for Self-Edification

    I Cor. 14:2-5. ”2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.”

    This passage could be the answer to a test question, “compare and contrast tongues and prophecy.” Through it we can pull out information about tongues. Facts:
    Tongues is for self-edification (4a)
    Paul wishes that we all speak in tongues (5a)
    Tongues is not the preferred gift since it is so limited in the range of those whom it edifies (5b)

    2. Tongues with interpretation is for body-edification (and similar to prophecy)

    I Cor. 14:6-19 Summary: In church one’s goal is to edify the body, so only speak in tongues if there is an accompanying interpretation.

    What I want to draw from this now is simply that there is a distinction between tongues (self-edification) and tongues with interpretation (similar to prophecy: body-edification). Later I will speak about the controversy of the modern charismatic church and screaming in tongues, etc…

    Note verses 18 and 19, they sum this up quite nicely:
    “18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.”

    3. Tongues that are foreign languages

    I Cor 14:20-25 is referencing when someone speaks in tongues and another understands him to be speaking in an earthly language the speaker does not know.

    An example of this may be found in Acts 2:5-12.

    Some will say that all tongues are simply this, and should only be used when speaker to unbelievers as a sign. But look again at I Cor. 14:2.

    “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”

    No one understands the tongues for self-edification, only God does. And in the case where an unbeliever understands and is amazed, there certainly is edification so Paul would be wrong saying tongues is only for self-edification. Of course he isn’t wrong because there are different types of tongues being discussed.

    DISCUSSION TWO: Can Everyone Speak in Tongues?

    Short answer: I don’t know.

    What I do know:
    Everyone is allowed to prophecy and all should earnestly desire to do so (I Cor. 14:31, 39).
    Paul says to earnestly desire the gifts—this includes the various types of tongues (I Cor. 12:31).
    Paul spoke with tongues outside of the church context for self-edification (I Cor. 14:18).
    Paul wants us ALL to speak in tongues (I Cor. 14:5a).

    Must everyone? No.

    Can everyone? Most probably—why would Paul express a wish for his disciples that is impossible for them without at least some sort of caveat?

    Should you? Yes. You should earnestly desire the gift, and both I AND the Apostle Paul want you to!

    DISCUSSION THREE: Is Tongues Without Interpretation Allowed in Church?

    I Cor. 14:28 “But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.”

    To determine what this means, let us step back for a moment. What is the context? A broad context is simply spiritual gifts, but if you notice the heading before verse 26, the specific context here is order during church services.

    Look at verses 27, 31, 33, and 34 again. They are all pertaining to order.

    Now, what is the reason for specifically not wanting tongues without interpretation? Tongues without interpretation are for self-edification, so they have no place in the corporate meetings (which are explicitly for body-edification).

    Summation: We don’t want crazy kooks running around screaming and disrupting the meeting when all they are doing is edifying themselves.

    Instead let them talk to just God, since he is the only one who will understand.

    In a modern service, generally when someone is speaking for the congregation to hear him, he will use a microphone. A handy thing here is that we could draw a line saying generally speech that is a part of the meeting and not simply between you and God will be spoken into a microphone. What does this mean:

    If someone went up front, picked up the mic, spoke in tongues for ten minutes, and then sat back down without anyone interpreting would be considered out of order because he was addressing everyone, but no one was edified because he was speaking mysteries. This person should instead have stayed in their seat at an adequately soft voice (so as to not disrupt the service) prayed in tongues to God.

    There are a couple exceptions…Take if someone screamed in tongues so as to procure attention, but then didn’t interpret we would say that is out of place too even though they weren’t using a mic—after all, but Bible doesn’t actually say anything about microphones!

    Does this make any sense? Ask questions, and hopefully I will be able to clarify.

  4. L., here goes.

    1. Grudem was a founding elder of the Vineyard church just a few miles from here and a teacher at the school I’m at now–though he has moved on. He writes from a 3rd wave perspective to a generally skeptical audience in this books and articles so he is going to be conservative in his printed opinion. BTW, he is not right about everything from an exegetical standpoint. He’s a systematision.

    2. He used to prophecy to students in prayer groups on campus–a “no,” “no” to anyone raised under Dr. Wilson. I mention this to say that his practice is a bit less conservative than his talk.

    3. Grudem is addressing the use of tongues in public, not private. He affirms private use of tongues.

    4. Grudem’s understanding of the use of tongues with/without interpretation is the most conservative end of a spectrum. That spectrum spans from no public tongues unless interpreted to no speaking a tongues message for the purpose of the common good without interpretation. He obviously wants to be safe, rather than sorry. I think it depends upon the culture of the church, since 1 Cor 14 is directed at providing a loving, orderly service. Oddly, Grudem affirms group praising of God with spontaneous thougths (e.g. prophesying) in English when 1 Cor 14 requires that it be one at a time, and then it is to be judged. In this he is inconsistent, though I may judge him too harshly. So, the best route is to be biblical and not offend people–pray in tongues to yourself and then interpret to yourself. 🙂

    5. Can all speak with tongues? I am somewhat alone on this one, but I think that every person who has the Holy Spirit in them can speak with other tongues. Do they? No. My reasoning goes like this. Which of the gifts are from the Holy Spirit? All. How many of the gifts does the Spirit have to give? All. How much of the Holy Spirit is in you? All. How many of the gifts are then “resident” in you? All. Can the Holy Spirit use you in what ever way he wants? Yes. Then it is not up to us to say we can’t speak in tongues, right? Right. So why don’t you speak in tongues? (Uh, because I don’t have that gift? Nope.) Perhaps the Spirit has never prompted you to use tongues—but chances are better that you don’t want to speak in tongues, because if you want to, you can. No good gift will the Father withold from us. So, if you want chapter and verse, there isn’t one that can convince the skeptic. But if you want a reason that you can speak in tongues I have lots of places to point you.

    6. To address the church differnce question, it is (in my opinion) a matter of desire and expectation. Being closed to the Spirit guarantees that someone will not speak in tongues unless they are hit over the head by God–which occassionally does happen. Being “open” to the Spirit (the place of the majority it seems), also guarantees you won’t speak in tongues unless you are hit over the head by God. Only those who are “eagerly desiring,” and with a forward leaning expectation will speak in tongues with great frequency since they are ready and eager to cooperate with the Spirit. Too many churches (in my opinion) want to be open to the Spirit–so as not to be guilty of quenching the Spirit–and have effectively eliminated all chances of the active movement of the Spirit in their private and public lives. Such a shame.

    P. J. B.

  5. Oh, BTW. I had an interesting experience just a few weeks ago. I was listening to WMBI, the Moody radio station out of Moddy Bible Inst. They were broadcasting their “Founder’s Week” services live on the radio–which people from around the globe can listen to online. So after the introduction and a few mild choruses an alum comes to the mic to pray. He says, “Let’s pray,” and then prays a long prayer in Spanish. I know a bit of Spanish, but not enough to follow him and I was thinking, I guess they must have a good number of Spanish speakers in the audience and figured it was going to be a bi-lingual prayer. Then the kicker, he says “Amen,” and that was it! No interpretation, no translation! I thought to myself, “and they get bent out of shape if WE speak in tongues with an interpretation!” I was shocked. The Cessasionists not following Paul’s injunction? Personally, I think Paul would have condemned them for that incident. Interesting, huh?

  6. I only have a second so I don’t have much time to give scripture references, but the above posts seem to do that.

    This is how I see it though(I do have scriptures for these I just don’t have time to put them up… but Jamie has already done so)

    Tongues comes in different forms. Praying and Speaking. When you pray in tongues your spirit is praying to God without the understanding(Your “mind is unfruitfull” but it edifies your spirit.) When you speak in toungues it can be toungues of men, God or angels. It’s not you when you speak, it’s a message from God to people and sometimes it’s in the languages of men(the beginning of Acts), and sometimes it’s tongues of Angels or God and then it requires translation and is a “Message” not a prayer, it is for edification of the body. Paul made a distinction between praying in tongues and speaking with tongues. When you pray in tongues the bible refers to it as “Groanings which can not be uttered.” It is your Spirit expressing to God what the English language(or our mouth apparently) can not express. But when we speak with toungues it is different, we are delivering a message from God and if it is not in tongues of men(supernatural gifting to speak in a language not known by the individual), than it requires interpretation to be edifying.

    “Do all speak with tongues?” I don’t know, but Paul says all should desire it. Can all pray in tongues? I believe absolutely. Why would He give that intimate communication that edifies us to only some? It doesn’t make sense… but I can see how the Gift of “Speaking with other tongues” is possibly not for everyone, it’s not a personal gift.

    : |


  7. Sounds like a simple phone call to Dad would silence all these questions. (I’ve yet met anyone more meek, lucid, and logical in their discussion of difficult verses.)

    These are difficult verses, which is why “all” don’t speak in tongues. Make no mistake, there’s absolutely a need for faith to grasp these things. (In measure, like all doctrine.) And this is why the discussion is so often fruitless–when theology is the goal rather than heartfelt apprehension. (1 Tim 5-7) Paulos said it best above, “So, if you want chapter and verse, there isn’t one that can convince the skeptic. But if you want a reason that you can speak in tongues I have lots of places to point you.”

    At a very simple level, your parents are the examples I want to emmulate (for lots of good reasons), and so I approach my interpertation of the Bible as if they’ve secured something true. If in time certain things fail me, I’ll recant. (After first wrestling hard with your Dad.) But thus far it’s held me ever closer to Jesus Himself.

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