The Gift of Tongues


 Let me say right up front that I am not going to delve into all of the theological debates concerning this spiritual gift. I am admitting to you up front that I am taking the following for granted:

1. That spiritual gifts are still alive today (I am not a cessationalist).

2. That the Gift of Tongues is a just that, a gift, and should be embraced by the church.

There as always been a passage that I have not understood. However, today, I believe that the Holy Spirit gave me a bit of revelation. Below is the passage:

1 Corinthians 14:26-28 NIV    “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. [27] If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. [28] If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.”

First off, as with all gifts, Paul writes that every manifestation of ANY gift, at ANY time, ought only to occur with the motive of building up the church. 1 Corinthians 12:7 reads, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” We are never to use our gifts to promote/serve ourselves. On a side note, does this not strongly suggest that an individual cannot fulfill his/her God-given purpose without being a part of a church? For how else would you use your spiritual gifts for the common good

Now, in verse 28, a person with the gift of tongues is instructed to keep quiet in the church and to speak to himself and to God if there is no interpreter. I always struggled with this because of the following thought: How does a person with this gift know before he/she gives the utterance whether or not there will be an interpretation? But today, I saw this passage differently. God’s desire is that we in the body of Christ are not only aware of our own gifitings, but also the giftings of those around us. The picture I had today was that if a person with the gift of tongues senses the move of the Holy Spirit in them to give an utterance, he or she should be able to look around and know whether or not a person is there who has the gift of the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10). If a person is not present who possesses this gift, then the utterance should be kept between that person and God.

This implies that this gift is under the control of the believer. An out-of-control charismatic who cannot submit to spiritual authority with this gift is in sin. Rebellion. 

Lastly, this idea suggests that it is crucial, absolutely crucial, that not only you know what spiritual gifts you have been given, but that you are so connected relationally to the people in your spiritual community that you also know several other people’s giftings. This should also challenge pastors. If I am correct in interpreting this passage, this implies that spiritual leaders need to strive to know their people’s giftings. 

What a challenge to the church in America who, comprised of individuals who tend to be radically individualistic, tend not to open up even to the people in their own church. We need people. As Pastor Allen Hickman always says, “If God has brought you to this church, that means you have something we need and we have something you need.” So I ask, will you step up and be part of the church (a community) or will you merely attend (“attend” carries with it the idea of the church being a mere building)? 


Published by B.J. Condrey, PhD

Dr. Condrey holds a Bachelor of Arts in both Philosophy and Psychology from the University of Missouri-KC, a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Ph.D. in Ethics & Practical Theology from the University of Edinburgh. He is ACSI certified. Dr. Condrey writes courses and teaches Psychology, Bible, and C.S. Lewis at Enlightium Academy, where he began working in 2016. He has served as a youth, young adult, and small group pastor in the local church, and currently teaches Ethics at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has a book published by Wipf & Stock (Breaking Ground) along with other publications. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and writing, spending time with his family, traveling, trout fishing, family hikes, and drinking coffee! He is passionate about helping young people construct a biblical worldview so that their faith involves both the mind and heart. He has been married since 2009 and has two children.

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