(Speaking In Tongues.) Bible Question.
“Some have told me that speaking in tongues is proof that the Holy Spirit is in a person. What does the Bible say?”
Speaking in tongues was a gift of the Holy Spirit. That is, the Holy Spirit enabled one to speak a language that had not been learned through the ordinary means (Acts 2:6, 11). It was only one of many gifts that the apostle Paul lists as tools to be used by believers to build the church. These were all miraculous gifts; they were gifts that enabled the believing recipient to do things that ordinary people could not do.
Let’s notice the passage where these are described. Then we will notice some principles Paul gives us and compare those with the idea that all believers should speak in tongues.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4 – 11 (New American Standard Bible)
First, each gift (including the ability to speak in tongues) is given for “the common good” (verse 7). The gift was never given so the individual would have a gift. The gift was given so the individual could minister to the body. All spiritual gifts were not designed to be selfishly used or to merely build up a person. They were designed to be used to build up the body of believers.
Second, the Spirit made the decision about who received what gift. To some the Spirit gave one gift; to others, the Spirit gave different gifts. The Spirit decided and the believer received. That means the individual did not and could not control the choice of the gift that he or she received from God. This was God’s decision. To claim that we must speak in tongues is to require that a believer receive a gift that God did not always give.
Third, the other gifts were just as critical to the whole body as this one gift. Speaking in tongues was a valuable tool to teach those who spoke different languages. But it was not more important than the other gifts Paul lists. To make tongue-speaking the criteria for having the Spirit is to make rules and conditions which God denies.
These gifts were not intended to last forever. They had a purpose – to build up the body of Christ until the time came that a standard could be written and handed down. That standard is the New Testament. Once the revelation of God was complete, the need for miraculous gifts disappeared . . .
“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” – Hebrews 2:1 – 4 (New International Version)
God tells us the reason for miracles. They were to confirm the Word of God. But now that we have the Word, we must pay careful attention to it, or we can be lost. Miracles do not prove we are saved, and miracles do not keep us saved – it is the Word of God.
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