Page updated 30 Jan 2016
Speaking in tongues
It would also be in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14:33,
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Not too long after my first experience of speaking in tongues, I recall a friend saying something like this: "I don't deny that such a phenomenon exists, but actually I see no reason for it, no value in it." In other words, why should one want to speak in tongues? What need is there for it, what worth to it?
The basic reason for such questioning, I am convinced, is the failure to comprehend the essential nature of speaking in tongues, which is transcendent praise of God. Speaking in tongues --glossolalia--is an expression of that praise of God wherein there is the breakthrough of usual speech limitations of one's native tongue into a higher and fuller realm of praise, blessing, adoration, and thanksgiving. It is to go beyond the most elevated of earthly expressions--even "Hallelujahs: or "Hosannas"--into spiritual utterance. To put it directly: it is the praise of God in language given by the Holy Spirit.
If such transcendent praise is possible, would one not want to share in it? Would one not want to speak in tongues, yes to sing in tongues, that is, to speak and sing by the Holy Spirit's inspiration? Would one not want to transcend the limits of earthly language in the high praises of God? Why speak in tongues? The answer is not far off: because it is the vehicle of praise par excellence for glorifying and extolling God. If there is little desire to praise God, then tongues are of little significance; but if the worship, the praise, the adoration of Almighty God is the chief concern of one's life, then tongues have unlimited value as a supernatural avenue of that transcendent praise.
The praise of God, of course, should also sound forth as fully as possible in the native speech of man. One's mother tongue-whether it be English, French, German, or something else-is so much a part of one's whole being that it is the most natural vehicle of worship. Hence there are hymns, anthems, prayers which, whether sung liturgically or spontaneously, may in human language declare the glory of God. And surely those who are enamored of God will ever seek ways of fuller worship in the speech of their own place and time. However, there comes-or may come-a moment when the level of natural speech is left behind and one enters upon the extraordinary praise of God in the language of the Spirit.
A word of personal testimony may be helpful. My attitude concerning tongues formerly was much like that expressed at the outset by my friend. I could see no value in it. Indeed, the whole matter was a bit repugnant to my sensibilities. However, there came a day and hour when all this suddenly changed. And what brought it about? Namely, there came a sudden intensity of desire to praise God more totally and completely. It was in the context of saying the opening words of Psalm 103(verse 1) [[[A Psalm] of David.]] Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, [bless] his holy name.
(verse 2) Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.Psalm 103 verses 1-2 -"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits"-that my spirit, full of joy, yearned to express this totally- "all within me" to break forth in heavenly blessing. Then came the gracious gift of a new tongue, a spiritual language-an extraordinary, even shocking event. But now at last I was praising God with my whole being-body, soul, and spirit. Truly this was transcendent praise!
It is important to add that situations vary among people who first speak in tongues. Some filled with the Holy Spirit are so flooded with the reality of God's presence and power that they can scarcely contain themselves; thus speaking in tongues, or transcendent speech, quickly occurs. They sense deep within their spirit a great yearning and urge to break forth in fresh praise to God, and so they allow the Holy Spirit to provide the language. Others likewise Spirit-filled, through ignorance, fear, and uncertainty, may seek to hold things in check and thus do not immediately speak in tongues. However, the possibility is now present, and with the proper conditions and a willingness to venture forth, they will soon be speaking a new language of the Spirit.
This is not always easy. There is so much resistance to the whole matter of speaking in tongues--as being irrational, hyper-emotional, even a bit shameful--that it takes some courage for many even to contemplate it. Furthermore, when people speak in tongues they often burn their bridges behind them. They may now be labeled a "tongues-speaker" (with all the negative images usually associated). Reputation, respect, and position may be forfeited. Thus it is not easy for some to take the step. However, on the other hand, it may be that what is folly in the sight of others is wisdom in the eyes of God and that God has established this strange, and often despised, way as a channel for His praise and glory.