Gifts of the Holy Spirit



7. I would like to ask you the following questions on speaking in tongues: who is speaking? The believer? And why does he speak to himself? Why does he edify himself through speaking in tongues? And what does it happen?



Certainly it is the believer that speaks in other tongues. The following biblical passages make it very clear: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4), “ …. for they heard them speak with tongues … “ (Acts 10:46), “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God ….” (1 Corinthians 14:2). Nevertheless, it must be said that even though it is the believer who speaks in another tongue, the words are spoken by the Spirit who dwells in him and prompts him to utter those unknown words. For instance, when on the day of Pentecost the about one hundred and twenty were filled with the Holy Spirit, it is written that they began to speak in other tongues “as the Spirit gave them utterance”. Therefore those words uttered by those disciples came from the Spirit of God. In other words, the believer speaks in the Spirit of God. This is confirmed by Paul when he exhorts the saints to pray in other tongues “…. praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit ….” (Ephesians 6:18), and by Jude: “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 20). That’s why a believer full of the Holy Spirit is sure that he is speaking holy and just words when he prays in another tongue, because he knows that they are uttered by the Spirit of God who is holy. I have said ‘by the Spirit’ because the Scripture says: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27 – NKJV). As you can see, Paul states that it is the Spirit who prays or makes intercession. However, in order to be complete about this subject, we must say that the spirit of man does something as well, for Paul says: “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14). Therefore, the Holy Spirit prays together with our own spirit.

Now I come to the second question. According to what Paul says, speaking in tongues is directed Godward and not menward, for Paul says that “he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God” (1 Corinthians 14:2). Didn’t we see before that he who speaks in a tongue prays to God? Therefore, if speaking in tongues is interpreted, the interpretation will not be an exhortation or a message addressed to all those who are present or to some of them, but it will be a prayer. The interpretation can be also a spiritual song or a giving of thanks addressed to God, for he that speaks in an unknown tongue sometimes sings to the Lord and thanks Him in the Spirit. The following words of Paul confirm it: “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” (1 Corinthians 14:15-16). Obviously, even if tongues are not interpreted the direction of tongues-speaking is the same, that is, it is always directed toward God. That implicitly means that he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to himself.

How shall we then explain the fact that Paul says: “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)? Why does Paul say “let him speak to himself”? Well, here is my answer: that speaking to oneself and to God is not a speaking in tongues because while on the one hand, as for the speaking to God, we could say that it is a speaking to God in other tongues, on the other hand, as for the speaking to oneself, we can’t say that it is a speaking in tongues, otherwise Paul would have contradicted himself. Therefore those particular words of Paul mean that the believer must – in a low voice – speak in his known tongue both to himself and to God.

Now I come to the third question. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifies himself (1 Corinthians 14:4) because he does a right, holy and pure thing, by the Spirit of God. When Paul says that he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself he means that he strengthens himself through this spiritual experience, that is, he renews his strength. To use an illustration (with all its limits, of course), it is as if when a believer speaks in an unknown tongue he recharges a battery which has run down a little. And he feels inwardly this ‘recharging’. On the other hand, if we feel ‘recharged’, spiritually speaking, when we pray and sing to God in our tongue, we must not be surprised that this ‘recharging’ occurs also when we pray and sing to God in another tongue.