I went to a church where the whole congregation was speaking in tongues. I was told that they were speaking to God. As a very young child, I was very afraid & have always wondered about whether they were talking to God because every word sounded like gibberish and I was told that only God understands what they were saying.
1 Corinthians 14:1 - 40
ESV - 1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.
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I have never personally encountered glossolalia, and I am not in a position to judge whether anyone who claims to speak in tongues (especially a tongue that is not a recognizable earthly language) is exhibiting a gift of the Holy Spirit. However, I think that the Bible is clear that the purpose of such a gift is not just for the individual's benefit, but for the building-up or the edification of the entire body of believers, which (in my opinion) would require the presence of another individual to whom the Holy Spirit would have given the gift of being able to interpret what was being said in terms that others present could understand and benefit from. (As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:19, he would prefer to speak five intelligible words to instruct others in church than ten thousand words in a tongue that no one else could comprehend, which implies to me that speaking in tongues -- even if it is a gift of the Holy Spirit -- is something over which the individual has some control or discretion.) Just from a personal standpoint, even if I knew that I possessed a gift of being able to speak in a "heavenly language", I would not want to do so in the presence of others unless I also knew that someone else was present who could interpret what I was saying. To do otherwise (in my opinion) would be to sow confusion, of which Paul explicitly said (in 1 Corinthians 14:33) that God is not the author.
The Bible teaches many things about speaking in tongues: 1. It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Corinthians 14: 1-5 2. It is a form of prayer: I Corinthians 14:2 3. It edifies the one speaking in tongues: 1 Corinthians 14:4 4. It should be done in a public manner only when there is an interpreter available: 1 Corinthians 14:4-6; 1 Corinthians 14:13; 1 Corinthians 14:17 5. It shouldn't completely replace prayer in one's native tongue: 1 Corinthians 14:13-19 6. It can be a heavenly language: 1 Corinthians 13:1 7. It can be an earthly language: Acts 2:4-13 8. It is one of the signs that can accompany believers: Mark 16:17 9. Paul encouraged his audiences to speak in tongues: 1 Corinthians 14:5; Acts 19:1-6 10. It can be given before a person is baptized in water: Acts 10:44-48 11. Along with all other gifts, we're told that at some time the gift of tongues will cease and only faith, hope and love will remain: 1 Corinthians 13:8 The above are examples of what you'll find in the Bible regarding the gift of tongues, but how these verses are interpreted and taught to Christians today in churches varies quite a bit depending on the type of church and/or the denomination one attends. Personally, I speak in tongues every day, so I am of the opinion that this gift and others have not ceased. I am convinced that believers today should expect to partake of all God has to offer, just as the early church did. So no, I do not believe that people are just "babbling" when you hear them speaking in tongues. Hebrews 13: 8 says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. If God doesn't change, then everything that applied to the early church should apply to us today. Additionally, John 14:12 says, Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. How can we do these "greater things" if we're not empowered by the Holy Spirit and the gifts He has to offer us? Finally, Luke 11:11-13 says, What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” I don't know a whole lot of people who refuse good gifts from other people, so why would we refuse good gifts from God?
Well according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 it says "If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God." The problem with a whole church speaking in tongues at the same time is that it is not biblical. Paul says no more than two or three and always with an interpreter. Several interpretations even say that this reads "other tongue," which may indicate the miracle is that it was an unknown tongue to the speaker, but known to the person hearing the words. Gifts are to encourage and build up the body, not the individual. How can it encourage and build up if no one has a clue as to what they are saying? I do have one personal experience with this. I was attending a church with a Hebrew professor from my school. We walked in and everyone was speaking in tongues. He approached the pastor and asked if he had any idea what they were saying. When he did the pastor claimed they were giving utterance to the spirit, and if you didn't, it proved you were not a believer. My friend and I left the church immediately and he explained to me that they were all cursing and blaspheming God in Hebrew. The thing is they had no idea what they were saying.
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