Many Christians are fascinated by speaking in tongues. Some have lost their minds over this. They have done crazy things! For many, tongues are a sign of who is more spiritual and who is not. Those who speak in tongues think that they are more special and spiritual. Those who do not speak in tongues feel like second class Christians. This leads to a spirit of competition amongst believers. When they gather, those who speak in tongues try to outshine each other.
This was the case for the church in Corinth. They were ignorant about gifts of the Holy Spirit. They did not understand them. Many Christians are still ignorant about gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thank God we don’t have to remain ignorant about the gifts of the Spirit. The Bible explains how the gifts work. Paul says, “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Cor. 12:1 NIV). There is no reason to stay uninformed. Let’s look at what Paul taught the Corinthian church about speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.
Firstly, Paul says “desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (v1). Paul says if you were to choose between the gifts you desire most, desire prophecy instead of speaking in tongues. Why does he recommend prophecy over speaking in tongues? Because when you speak in tongues nobody understands you – you are “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1) We should rather seek to make sense when we speak in church, not just make noise to one another other.
Secondly, Paul promotes prophecy because he says “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” (14:3). That is what is required in church when we gather. For Paul, the “one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues” (14:5). Paul continues, “unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air ”(14:9). Did you read that? When you speak in tongues you are speaking into the air, and to nobody around you. People who speak into the air out of their mind – they are crazy, unless they are praying in private.
Thirdly, Paul says if “you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those[gifts] that build up the church” (14:12), like prophecy. He says “I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:19). Tongues have made Christianity a laughing stock to unbelievers. Paul warned the church two thousand years ago not to let tongues turn the church into a joke. He said, when unbelievers come into your church and people are speaking in tongues, “will they not say that you are out of your mind?” (14:23)
In GCI, we want our church services to be orderly, edifying, encouraging and comforting. We do not allow speaking in tongues in our church services. Well, it is actually not just a GCI policy. It is actually the Apostle Paul’s policy on speaking in tongues. This is what the Apostle Paul’s policy on tongues says: “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two or three should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. IF
THERE IS NO INTERPRETER, THE SPEAKER SHOULD KEEP QUIET IN THE CHURCH and speak to himself and to God” (14:27-28).
Just as the gifts of the Spirit are not universal, speaking in tongues is not universal to all believers. The Spirit has not given this gift to all believers. If you were to ask God for any gift of the Spirit, Paul says let it be the gift of prophecy, of proclaiming the gospel. Not speaking in tongues. Don’t lose your mind over speaking in tongues.