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The Lesson of Speaking in Tongues


I often see discussions about "speaking in tongues" in the Bible. Some wonder, others challenge.

1St - We must not mix “receiving” the Holy Spirit with receiving “speaking in tongues”. Thus the gift of the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in all those who believe in Jesus. This is the “comforter” that Jesus speaks of when He says; “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is profitable for you that I go, for if I do not go, the Comforter will not come to you; but, if I go, I will send it to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment…” (John 16:7-8).

Moreover, it is the Spirit who convicts the world of sin, not the spirit of man, but only the Holy Spirit.

2nd - “speaking in tongues” is not the most essential gift that characterizes Christians; “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1). Love is THE characteristic of those who believe, not speaking in tongues.

In the Gospels alone (so without taking into account the Old Testament, which is also full of allusions), love, compassion and charity are the Christian ideals, Jesus did not speak in tongues...But He died on the cross out of love for us, nor is it said that God spoke to Adam in tongues in the garden of Eden, but He gave his only son so that all who believe may have life in abundance and eternal life. One more verse? “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). So those who exclude people who love Jesus but do not “speak in tongues” are going against what Jesus said.

The Bible says that "speaking in tongues" (or glossolalia) serves for the edification of the person, but is in no way the sign of being a believer. The passage on which the doctrine that it is a “sign” (characteristic) of the believer is based is the long conclusion of Mark 16:9-20. This text is in brackets, which means that this text is absent from the most precise ancient translations which allowed the French translation of the Bibles that we have today, If you have the NBS (the literal closest to the translation Greek for the NT) you will see it and be able to read the notes. This is therefore a very controversial passage.

For my part, if I pray/speak in tongues, it is at home, but I would not allow myself, in light of what I know today, to judge someone on their speaking in tongues.

And as the Word says: “Therefore, let us pursue what contributes to peace and mutual edification” (Rom 14:19).

Finally, "[...] He who prophesies, on the contrary, speaks to men, edifies them, exhorts them, consoles them. He who speaks in tongues edifies himself; he who prophesies edifies the Church. I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless the latter interprets, so that the Church may receive edification. Therefore, let him who speaks in tongues pray for the gift of interpretation…” (1 Cor 14. 3-13).

Why did Paul invite us to seek prophecy instead of “speaking in tongues”? because prophecy “edifies” (elevates, makes grow, increases...) each member of the Church!

On the other hand, speaking in tongues edifies those who practice it (it is also a question of faith) and the apostle also wanted us all to speak in tongues, but the lack of love destroys all these efforts... Love remains the most important thing in helping others find their way in Christ and that is what we are all called to do !

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