The gift of tongues…


1 Corinthians 14:Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you in some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?…12 So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church. 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret… 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you; 19 nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 

One of the key challenges in the ancient Corinthian church was division – people splitting up into various groups or factions and then arguing with one another. Here we have another source of division – those who “speak in tongues” and those who don’t. If you’ve ever heard someone speaking in tongues, or perhaps “praying in the Spirit” as some call it, then you know it can sound strange and basically unintelligible both to the one praying and to those hearing the prayer. However, scripture is clear that God’s Spirit understands. In fact, it is speech originating from the Spirit within us speaking to the Spirit of God outside of us.

I think I’ve mentioned before speaking in tongues has its uses. For instance, when I’m praying for someone but am not sure what to pray I’ll (silently) pray in the Spirit, trusting that that Spirit within me knows what to pray even if my mind doesn’t. Sometimes when I’m praying alone I’ll pray in the Spirit, particularly if I’m offering prayers of praise. Why? Because there are blessings God brings to me I’m not even aware of, so praying in the Spirit allows me to offer thanks for those blessings as well. It’s a wonderful gift to be able to pray this way.

However, in some churches this gift of tongues divides people – usually because some teach that one is not really a born again Christian unless they pray in tongues. So those who do not have this spiritual gift are made to feel inferior. Remember spiritual gifts are just that – gifts that are given by the Spirit of God. You don’t get to choose which gifts you have. The apostle Paul, author of this letter, spent much of chapter 12 teaching on this topic.

Lord Jesus, the gifts of the Spirit are given to build up the body of the church, not to sow conflict. Give us grace to see our differences as a blessing, not a curse. Amen.

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