I much prefer talking about French kissing but Western Seminary professor, Gerry Brashears has posted some new thoughts about the gifts of speaking in tongues that I found worthwhile for a couple of reasons.
Truth be told, Gerry’s writing is one of the reasons I looked at Western in the first place so his wisdom has an attraction that could draw this sinner to seminary but in his essay he address the fact that his mind is changing on the issue of tongues. Here he is proving that he has not stopped learning as is mature enough to keep thinking and accept advice and challenge.
The second thing that I find worthwhile is his understanding of tongues as laid out by Paul in 1 Corinthians. He recognizes the purpose of praise in Acts and then through further epistles shows a basis for how the church should approach tongues.
Paul is quite positive about tongues, just not in the public gathering of the church. I’m not sure how I missed his statement that he would like everyone to speak in tongues (14:5). Yes, prophecy is much preferred in the gathering but that does not mean tongues have no place. He is quite clear that he speaks in tongues a lot (14:18), but not on the gathering. That’s the place for prophecy to strengthen, encourage, comfort, edify, instruct (3,4, 26, 31).
Tongues are for prayer (14:14) from the heart. Of course there is also prayer with the mind, i.e., in a known language. Both are good in their proper place, it seems. Some prefer spirit prayer while others prefer mind prayer. Neither is a higher spirituality, it seems. I think Romans 8:26 speaks to this when it says “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” So the groanings there are the Spirit at work helping us when our mind and understanding fail us and we don’t know how to pray. That groaning certainly could come out of my mouth, I think.
Tongues are for praise (14:16) just as they are in Acts 2:11 and 10:46. That isn’t helpful for the congregation unless it is interpreted or explained as Peter did in Acts 2.
In the gathering Paul does not speak in tongues though he does speak a lot, evidently in his private devotions. Where the Corinthians were seeing their public use of tongues as a mark of their high spirituality. Paul shows them that it is a sign, but a sign of God’s judgment on their prideful self-indulgence! Hearing Babylonian in the streets of Jerusalem in 586 BC was a sign that God’s judgment had come to sinful Judah (he quotes Isaiah 28:11 a statement of His judgment in 14:21). Similarly, it is not a blessable thing if unbelievers hear all the confusion of public tongues and walk away thinking the people and their God is crazy.
So I’m thinking tongues is private prayer and praise to God in an unknown language.
Gerry remains open for new discovery and asks for input – again willing to grow and learn before he preaches to his community of faith. I think he has a good grasp of where we should be with the use of tongues and I know that even in Pentecostal tradition churches this is becoming the norm.