Is it Right to Speak in Tongues?
This article is written in response to a question I received asking the following. "Is it right to speak in tongues? How do I answer this question to teen-agers?"
The simplest thing to do is simply read the scriptures with them.
To answer your question though there is nothing wrong with speaking in tongues. A tongue is simply a foreign language. On the day of Pentecost the the apostles spoke in tongues or the languages understood by their audience.
So if there is someone in your gatherings who wishes to speak and does so in German, for example, they may do so. However as the scriptures teach there must be someone who understands what is being said.
1 Corinthians 14:9
There would be no real point for the Spirit to give someone a revelation or word of wisdom to speak to the whole crowd in French when it would require everyone to sit and wait for the interpretation. The benefit would be if there were someone in attendance who understood French and then was able to understand. By the way, a side note might include the concept of speaking above those in attendance. It's not always possible to convey every scriptural concept to all Christians. Many churches of Christ currently have a form of tongue speaking at every service. This "tongue speaking" occurs without words. It is sign language. The benefit is for those who are unable to hear that which is being said. Does this sign language not have the same result as the tongue speaking that occurred in Acts 2:6-8?
So what do you do if someone stood up in one of your gatherings and began speaking what we could call "the typical nonsense"? Your gatherings could quickly get out of hand if things were not handled properly. Today we have many people believing that they are speaking in tongues when they speak what most of us call "mumbo jumbo" or nonsense. Based on what I have learned some of that nonsense has actually been interpreted as cursing our God, YHVH. If someone should speak what sounds like nonsense here is what I think should be done. When the person is finished speaking someone should rise and ask for an interpreter. If none is available then the person who asked should politely say that no interpreter is available and so further tongue speaking should be discontinued. After the meeting is over sit down with the person and teach them what the scripture says concerning the use of "tongues". This method will embarrass the least and perhaps teach an erring brother or sister the truth. If they want to keep speaking you may have to be persistant and tell them that unless there is an interpreter you do not know if they are blessing or cursing and so they must stop!
However there is one thing of which we must be careful. What if the Spirit of God really was directing the person who spoke? We certainly would not want to be guilty of quenching the Spirit. We must use wisdom and a loving spirit when dealing with "tongue speaking".
Just a side note. The church teaches that the kind of signs mentioned above have ceased in our day. However it is based on the argument that the "perfect" has come. Do a study in scripture and find out what the "perfect" is and if it has come yet.
There is another aspect to this subject, but I think this is a more personal aspect and was not necessarily intended for public teaching.
1 Corinthians 14:13-19
It should be obvious that what goes on in many churches is the opposite of what Paul is trying to present above. Some churches speak ten thousand words in a "tongue" and have only five words with any understanding. Please understand the quote above as Paul intended it if you are of a "tongue speaking" church. If all you can do is come together to speak 5 words with understanding then do so, but leave the ten thousand words in a tongue at home in private.
One additional note due to an email question. Praying in public would be treated the same as speaking in public as those listening are affected in the same way.
Feel free to send your helpful comments.