Pastor J.D. walks through various views of spiritual gifts today and discusses some general guardrails to keep in mind when approaching gifts like speaking in tongues.

A glimpse inside this episode:

Now, a little lay-of-the-land: There’s generally 4 positions when it comes to spiritual gifts like tongues and prophecy:

  • Cessationist: gifts (like prophecy, tongues and healings) have ceased.
  • On the other end is the Pentecostal position: i.e. the gifts are in full operation, and normative for every Christian, and if you are not using them there is something wrong with you, and you need to fix it, or start faking it.
  • The charismatic: which is that these gifts are in existence, and part of the normal ministry operations of the church, but not everyone has them.
  • Then there’s a 4th position that doesn’t really have a name, but believes that the gifts have not ceased, but that most of the ways the gifts are being used today is not really biblical/or helpful. 

I say at The Summit Church we are charismatics with seatbelt. I’ll say right up front, and this may not be popular, but there is a lack of hard and fast clarity when it comes to this issue, but I think that is intentional. God wants us to be open to anything God chooses to do in this area; but he leaves us clear parameters so that we can know when it’s him doing it. 

Here’s my general guardrails: 

  1. We should not forbid speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39).

To be clear, I do not have a private prayer language, nor do I think Paul encourages us toward one in this, or any, passage. While not encouraging anybody to speak in tongues, however, Paul stopped short of forbidding it. 

I think we should stop where he did. In fact, “banning” tongues goes against the entire spirit of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14, not to mention being in nearly direct defiance of verse 39. If Paul had wanted to outlaw a prayer language, he would have done so.

God is not in heaven, wringing his hands and wishing that he had been clearer in his word. He said what he wanted to say, exactly the way he intended to say it, with the ambiguities and limitations he desired. And if you believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, you should be ok with that.

  1. The primary purpose of tongues is to signify the spread of the gospel among non-Jewish people (14:21–22).

The primary purpose of tongues is not private prayer. They were not given to make you feel closer to God—for that you have the blood of Jesus! As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:22 tongues are a sign for unbelievers, particularly unbelieving Jews. With other tongues I will speak to this people.

This is why I approach a lot of cases of tongues with suspicion. When someone tells me that their private prayer time is filled with speaking in tongues, I always want to ask, “How many unbelieving Jews are present in your private prayer time?” The same is true for worship services where speaking in tongues is common. How many unbelieving Jews attend those services?

The spiritual gift of tongues was meant as a signal to the Jews that God is interested not only in them, but that he desires to save people from all tribes and all peoples and all languages. Tongues are a dramatic sign of the new non-Jewish frontier of the gospel.

  1. Seeking tongues is not a sign of spiritual maturity (14:19–20).

Many talk about it as if it is the “deeper things” of the Spirit. That’s not true. Even if you accept that it is a gift in operation today, a couple of things to realize here.

  • Paul never tells us to seek that gift. In fact, he seems to set up so many restrictions around the practice of tongues that only a truly supernatural work of God could pass the test! Like a sieve.
  • On the other hand, Paul repeatedly tells us to seek gifts that build others up (12:31, 14:1, 12, 39). This is true spiritual maturity—not when we are swept away by ecstatic and unintelligible utterances, but when we interact with the Spirit and offer ourselves to be used by Him for the good of the church.
  1. Not all Christians speak in tongues (12:30).
  • Many say they should. I’m not sure how Paul could have been clearer on this one. Not all Christians speak in tongues. Those who claim that speaking in tongues is a necessary sign of the Spirit of God are in direct contradiction with the Word of God.

Our worship services should be characterized by much more interaction with the Spirit (14:25–26).

True worship occurs when the people of God, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God converge. Too often we settle for two out of three—the people of God sitting and passively listening to the Word of God. We are so afraid of disorder that we essentially reduce church to a Bible podcast. The power of God’s Word is unleashed to communicate His love to real people who are in real pain in real time

We should each come to church with something to give (14:26).

What makes for a Spirit-filled service? A great sermon? The “right” kind of music? No, a Spirit-filled service happens when the Spirit comes in with you. A truly Spirit-filled service can only happen when the people of God come prepared to share what the Spirit has put on their hearts.


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