Dialogs and Commentary

Speaking in Tongues, Forbidden?

An email excerpt from Dean VanDruff concerning the controversy over 1 Corinthians 14 tongues and whether it is a gift to be sought, avoided, or even allowed in the churches.

It seems to me that the confusion over this comes mainly from lack of experience of the reality of God by many Christians and churches, and the taking of the absence of the Holy Spirit's presence and supernatural gifts as "normal". Thus, blind men begin pontificating on what they have no understanding, knowledge, or experience of.

Rather, we should start at the beginning of the chapter...

1 Cor 14:1 (NIV) Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts...

1 Cor 14:1 (Wey) Be eager in your pursuit of this Love, and be earnestly ambitious for spiritual gifts...

The will of God is not for us to be cold and timid and reluctant, but to be eager. And to be "critics" up front may well be merely an excuse for timidity (2 Tim 1:7). As we grow and mature and gain experience, then we will be in a position of discernment--but not until.

Rom 12:2 (Wey) And do not follow the customs of the present age, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your minds, so that you may learn by experience what God's will is--that will which is good and beautiful and perfect.

In the "tongues chapter" of 1 Corinthians 14, we find not only the beginning interesting, but also the conclusion. To this immature church Paul starts with an admonition to be ambitious to get spiritual gifts--especially the "higher" gift of prophecy. But in conclusion, he also says:

1 Cor 14:39 (KJV) Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and FORBID NOT to speak with tongues.

So, to those lacking maturity (like the Corinthians) he starts with "Be zealous for spiritual gifts" and ends with "Don't you dare forbid others to use the particular gift of tongues." He does not say "Don't forbid tongues... unless it reminds you of what the pagans are doing across the river," or "It is OK to forbid tongues if your church has been so dead that you are just afraid of anything supernatural," or "Don't forbid tongues, unless you are spiritually frigid and it makes you uncomfortable to grow in grace," or even "It is OK to forbid tongues if you are experientially ignorant about spiritual things," etc., now does he? The only exception--in context--is "Don't forbid tongues; except in the assembly if done by more than three or where the gift of interpretation is lacking among you."

Thus, regardless of our opinions on this--for those who claim to be followers of Christ--we have no option. We are constrained by the Holy Spirit and scripture: "Do not forbid them to speak in tongues."

Note this dose of reality from Paul in the lead-in to the point we are considering:

1 Cor 14:37-39 (KJV) If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

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