I thank my God that I speak in tongues more than you all. Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brothers, do not be children in your thinking; rather be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
First Corinthians 14:18,19
Paul did not want people to speak in tongues in the church.
This is because he preferred that people would understand what was being said in the church. He wanted teaching in church so the hearers would grow and become mature Christians. Speaking in tongues does not help the hearers grow spiritually.
However, Paul spoke in tongues …apparently a lot.
So when and where did Paul speak in tongues a lot? Well, Paul says that praying in tongues is praying in the Spirit. Look at the Scripture, Paul prayed in tongues …a lot.
Let him who speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding.
First Corinthians 14:13-15
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, 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. He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray for me, that the power to speak may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.
But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit.
Let’s be like Paul and pray in the Spirit …a lot.
Paul asked people to speak in tongues when they did not need to be the center of attention.
Paul did not indicate that speaking in tongues was less important than some of the other gifts. He did say it was less informative than teaching.
Paul wanted believers to participate in church. He wanted them to be prompted by the Holy Spirit to share their spiritual gifts with everyone. I feel confident that Paul would not have approved of the spontaneous emotionalism that is practiced in some modern churches.
The gifts of the Spirit are not generated by human emotion.
When I was at Zion Bible Institute, I remember one of the leaders of Tuesday chapel services saying, “We did not prepare anything, so that the Spirit can move.” This was sometimes followed by students spinning in circles, making shrill bird noises or running violently around the perimeter of the chapel. Based upon this principle of the moving of the Holy Spirit being hindered by preparation, some students wrote a little chorus. “Why study when you can pray? Trust Jesus, you’ll get an A…”
The Tuesday chapel meetings provoked me to look deeper into the Scriptures for an understanding of the “moving of the Spirit” and the Pentecostal experience.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
In this passage, the word for power is dunamis. This is where we get our modern word for dynamite. So the picture of the gifts of the Holy Spirit has been drawn to look like an explosion of a log jam. This is not accurate.
Dunamis is power, strength, might, ability and capability. It is the source of our modern word “dynamic” which indicates a force that results in effective action. The picture in my mind is of someone trudging uphill under the weight of a heavy load. This person will not make it without the strength, capability, force necessary to result in effective action. This is the working of the Holy Spirit that I see in the New Testament. As the burdens of life became unbearable for human strength, the Holy Spirit empowered believers to act effectively.
The power of the Spirit is not for emotional freedom. It is for people to live dynamically within an impossible cultural climate or under normally unbearable factors. The power of the Spirit creates overcomers on Monday through Saturday in homes and workplaces, wherever and whenever He is needed. It seems wasteful to only be filled with the Spirit once a week for an hour while the band is passionately belting out a sentimental song. Okay, that was harsh, but I hope my point is clear anyway.
I don’t need the power of the Holy Spirit so much in church when everyone is happy. I do appreciate that power when I am talking to one of my lost friends or when I am called to visit a terminally ill patient. Boom! Then I feel that supernatural power kick in.
The early Church was not as spontaneous as the modern Church.
Modern Pentecostal churches, in my experience, practice the gifts of the Spirit as spontaneous interruptions of the church meeting. Since the speakers are not prepared, the listeners receive emotion-based, whimsical outbursts that take the place of well-prepared exhortations based upon Scripture.
The pattern of the early Church is seen in the New Testament. Their meetings were not interrupted by emotional outbursts. Paul said to only allow a couple of interruptions in tongues. The Church heard a message of sound teaching. Then they prayed about it. They practiced it. They let the Holy Spirit empower them to live it.
Through the week, as they prayed in the Spirit and meditated on that message of sound teaching, a believer might sense that the Holy Spirit was giving him or her a revelation, a word of wisdom, a prophetic utterance, or an interpretation of tongues. This gift was presented to the church elders who acted as witnesses to confirm whether or not it was indeed from God and should be presented to the Church. They judged it by the word of God. If it was silly, self-exalting, or empty emotionalism, then the gift didn’t make it before the Church.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. If I give all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.
…Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. If anything is revealed to another that sits by, let the first keep silent. For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
…and when you think about the Holy Spirit working through you, don’t be surprised if you have an emotional response.