New Covenant Living: Facts about the Holy Spirit, Part 7
Why Tongues? #2

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Last time we discussed the question, "Why Tongues?", meaning why would God give us the gift of speaking in other tongues? Why do we need this gift and what does it accomplish in our lives?

Let me state up front that I do not believe that the Bible teaches that speaking in tongues is required for salvation, nor does speaking in tongues give you some sort of super-spiritual status with God. Nor is it "required" for being a Christian. Speaking in tongues is a gift and you can decide whether to receive it or not.

But I do believe that God has a reason for everything He does, and since speaking in tongues is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, it must be important and something to be desired.

Acts 2:4 KJV And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

When the Holy Spirit first came in His fullness on the Day of Pentecost, we are told that all were filled with Him and began to speak as He gave them "utterance".

Utterance in Greek is apophtheggomai {ap-of-theng'-om-ahee} meaning to speak out, speak forth, pronounce, not a word of everyday speech but one "belonging to dignified and elevated discourse".

So speaking in tongues is not to be despised as the meaningless mutterings of a bunch of wide eyed fanatics, but a dignified and elevated discourse from God Himself by the Spirit.

I Corinthians 14:39-40 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Paul says very clearly "DO NOT forbid speaking in tongues." If your theology doesn’t give place for speaking in tongues, perhaps tonight we can give you a "theological adjustment". LOL

Before we go into the topic "Why Tongues?" a little deeper, let us review the types of tongues there are. I Corinthians 12:10 tells us that there are "diversities of tongues" or different kinds of tongues.

  1. One is private, sometimes called a "devotional tongue" or praying in the spirit, where you personally speak mysteries to God in the Spirit, which may or may not be interpreted, but in any case builds you up. This is available to anyone who is filled with the Spirit.
  2. Another type of tongue that is usually private is intercessional groanings of the Spirit. This is a deep level of intercession where you "stand in the gap" for someone between him and the devil's desired destruction. (There is some dispute whether "groaning" is technically a tongue, but it is an expression of the Holy Spirit through your vocal ability.)
  3. Another type of tongues is the public gift of speaking in tongues, or perhaps it might be easier understood as giving a message in tongues, which MUST be interpreted.
  4. And NOT all have that public gift ... it is given to the Church by the Holy Spirit as it is needed (providing if someone is willing to let the gift flow) and can be different individuals at different times.
    Now the interpretation of tongues is NOT a word for word translation, but the gist or essence of what we have said in the unknown tongue, and in public worship it should follow immediately, according to Paul.
  5. The fourth type of tongues is also public – the witness to unbelievers when they actually hear the message in their own tongue, although their tongue is foreign to the speaker.

Last time we covered two reasons that God has given us the devotional gift of speaking in tongues:

1. Yielding our tongues to the control of the Holy Spirit:

Since we are told in the Bible that it matters VERY much what we say ("Life and death are in the power of the tongue") and that no MAN can tame the tongue, it follows that we need a "tongue tamer". That’s what speaking in tongues is: yielding our tongues to the control of the Holy Spirit.

When we speak in tongues, we are set on fire by HEAVEN – we are yielding control of our most unruly member to God. And the Holy Spirit in turn gives us control over what we speak; He TAMES our tongues to the obedience of Christ.

We are what we say – good or bad. Without the control of the Holy Spirit, our tongues are set on fire by hell and will destroy us. Grumbling, doubt, fear and negativity opens the door for satanic oppression.

2. Builds us up spiritually:

A second reason for speaking in tongues according to Jude 1:20-21 and I Corinthians 14:2,4, is that the Holy Spirit builds us up spiritually when we pray in tongues and helps keep us in God’s love..

Well I was blessed by that lesson and I hope you were! And I thought the topic was finished, until the Lord quickened MORE reasons to speak in tongues to my spirit. Lord, there’s more? Oh yes… much more!

3. Tongues bring rest and refreshing:

A third reason that God has given us the gift of tongues is that it brings rest and refreshing. Last week we spoke about the prophet Isaiah and his prophecy of speaking in tongues in the last days:

Isaiah 28:11-12 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, "This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"-- but they would not listen.

The manifestation of speaking in tongues was prophesied by that great prophet Isaiah, in his vision of the end times. He contrasts the refreshing and resting of this way that God would speak to us with the liars and scoffers who had made their covenant with death and falsehood.

Matthew 11:28-20 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Jesus invites us to come to Him to find rest … and He sent the Holy Spirit to bring us rest. What is one way we can enter into the rest and refreshing of the Lord?

Isaiah prophesied ", "This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose". What is the THIS Isaiah was referring to? "With foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people" = speaking in tongues.

Hebrews 4:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

We are told in the Word to make every effort to enter into the rest of Jesus, and if speaking in devotional tongues is one way to get there, shouldn’t we make EVERY effort to seek God’s promise concerning speaking in tongues?

John 14:16-18 (KJV) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

We are all in need of comfort and rest at times aren’t we? And how blessed it is to receive a card or a call or a visit from someone who cares and wants to help comfort us. How much more does God comfort us with the presence of His Spirit within us! And what a privilege to have that Spirit actually speak words of comfort to us through our own lips! That is rest and refreshing for the weary heart.

4. Tongues bring direct revelation from God:

Another reason to speak in tongues is that is a way to directly receive revelation knowledge from God.

I Corinthians 14:2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit [by the Spirit].

According to this verse, when you speak in tongues, you speak mysteries to God in the Spirit. Tongues are mysteries to us, but not to God. He understands them. Mysteries contain things that baffle us, warnings that we cannot discover by our own minds or intellect: distresses, sorrows, weaknesses that we need edification or enlightenment about.

The Holy Spirit speaks these things through our own tongues to God. When we ask for interpretation, the answer from God is spoken in your language. I Corinthians 14:13 says "For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says."

I Corinthians 2:7 No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

I Corinthians 2:7 KJV But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

Paul here is telling us that the message he had been preaching through the power of the Holy Spirit was God’s secret wisdom or a mystery that God had hidden before time began and destined to be revealed for our glory. How did Paul acquire this wisdom?

I Corinthians 2:9-10 However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"-- BUT GOD HAS REVEALED IT TO US BY HIS SPIRIT. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Paul said that these hidden secrets of God or mysteries are not understandable by the senses (eye or ear), or searchable by the mind, but are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit who is the only one who can search out the deep things of God.

I Corinthians 2:11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Furthermore, it is only by the Spirit of God that we can know the thoughts of God. Paul is very clear in this passage that the thoughts of God are NOT discoverable by the senses or mind.

I Corinthians 2:13-14 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Let’s also look at these two verses in the Amplified version: I Corinthians 2:13 Amplified And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit].

I Corinthians 2:14 Amplfied But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless, nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them (of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them) because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated.

Not only are the human senses and mind incapable of searching out God’s thoughts – God’s thoughts cannot even be expressed in human words and wisdom. We cannot be taught the deep things of God, the hidden secrets and mysteries by human speech and wisdom.

Paul says that there is spiritual knowledge that can only be expressed in spiritual words. What are spiritual words if not speaking in tongues? How can you grasp these spiritual things, being taught by the Spirit, unless you allow the Spirit to speak through you?

"Words" here in the Greek is logos {log'-os} meaning, of speech, a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea, what someone has said. What does the Bible say is utterance that the Holy Spirit gives? Speaking in Tongues.

Teaches in Greek is didaktos {did-ak-tos'} meaning taught, instructed by one from didasko {did-as'-ko}, literally "to cause to learn" or to teach by holding discourse or dialogue with others in order to instruct them, to impart instruction, to instill doctrine into one and to explain or expound a thing.

Just like any other teacher, the Holy Spirit teaches by discourse or dialog, by imparting instruction, instilling doctrine, and explaining things, but the difference is that He teaches "from the inside out" and through tongues, He literally speaks His lessons through our lips, and then can give us the interpretation of what He is teaching.

5. Tongues used in prayer & praise:

Another reason for speaking in tongues is that tongues give us another way to pray, praise, sing and give thanks to God.

I Corinthians 14:13-14 For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

In v.14 we are told that when we pray in tongues, the spirit prays but the mind is unfruitful - we don't understand what we are saying. That is why in v. 13 we are told to pray to God for an interpretation.

Notice that it does NOT say "Don’t pray in tongues because you can’t understand what you are praying", but PRAY in tongues, and SING in tongues, but ALSO pray for the interpretation.

Remember last time we said that the interpretation of tongues is not a word by word translation, but a recounting in the speaker’s tongue of the essence of what the Holy Spirit is saying.

Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Paul tells us that praying in the Spirit is part of our spiritual warfare. How do you pray in the Spirit? Paul tells us in I Corinthians 14:14 Amplified that "For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive…" So praying in the Spirit is praying in tongues.

Why is it profitable to pray, praise, give thanks and sing in tongues? Tongues can be thought of as "God's secret code" which the devil can't understand. From our innermost being, our "belly" or seat of emotions, we tear down the strongholds of the enemy.

When we pray in a KNOWN tongue, the devil can hear our prayers and begin opposing them. When we pray in the spirit or in tongues, he cannot understand our prayers and is put into confusion and flight.

Daniel 10:12-13 Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.

In this passage in Daniel we get an interesting glimpse into the spiritual realm. A demonic power (the "prince" or demonic ruler of the person kingdom) resisted the answer to Daniel’s prayer for 21 days. And the angel who brought Daniel the answer was assisted to overcome this demon by Michael, who is an archangel and described as Daniel’s "prince who protects your people".

But if Daniel had had the ability to pray in tongues as we do today, then the demonic prince could not have resisted his prayer, because he wouldn’t have known what Daniel was praying for.

I Corinthians 14:16-17 If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

Now notice what this passage is saying about praising God with your spirit in tongues. First of all it is a valid way to praise God. It does NOT say "Don’t praise God in tongues". Look at this verse in the Amplified version:

I Corinthians 14:16-18 Otherwise, if you bless and render thanks with [your] spirit [thoroughly aroused by the Holy Spirit], how can anyone in the position of an outsider or he who is not gifted with [interpretation of unknown] tongues, say the Amen to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? To be sure, you may give thanks well (nobly), but the bystander is not edified [it does him no good].

So it’s not praising in tongues that is the problem here, but if the hearer of your praise is not gifted in the interpretation of your praise, he does not understand what you are saying and it does not build HIM up.

Also it says that you are "giving thanks well enough". The Greek word for "well" here is kalos {kal-oce'}, meaning 1) beautifully, finely, excellently, well 1a) rightly, so that there shall be no room for blame, well, truly 1b) excellently, nobly, commendably 1c) honorably, in honor 1c1) in a good place, comfortable 1d) to speak well of one, to do good 1e) to be well (of those recovering health).

I Thessalonians 5:16-20 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.

Paul tells us that it is God’s will for us to pray continually. How can we do this without being able to pray in the Spirit? He also adds not to "put out the Spirit’s fire" and not to despise prophecy. So praying continually is keeping the fire of the Spirit burning and allowing Him to manifest His gifts in our life.

6. Speaking in devotional tongues is an aid to healing:

Listen to what Paul says here:

Romans 8:6,11 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; …And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

In Romans 8, Paul is talking about how our sinful nature brings spiritual and physical death, but if we are controlled by the Spirit, we have life and peace. Not only spiritual life, but if the Holy Spirit is living in you, He will also bring this resurrection life to our mortal or physical bodies NOW.

Quicken or "give life" here is zoopoieo {dzo-op-oy-eh'-o} meaning 1) to produce alive, beget or bear living young 2) to cause to live, make alive, give life 2a) by spiritual power to arouse and invigorate 2b) to restore to life 2c) to give increase of life: thus of physical life 2d) of the spirit, quickening as respects the spirit, endued with new and greater powers of life 3) metaphorically, of seeds quickened into life, i.e. germinating, springing up, growing.

This word zoopoieo comes from two Greek words, zoon and poieo. Poieo {poy-eh'-o} means to make, produce, construct, form, fashion, or to be the author or cause of.

Zoon {dzo'-on} meaning a living being, comes from zao {dzah'-o} meaning to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead); to enjoy real life, to have true life and worthy of the name, active, blessed, endless in the kingdom of God ; to be in full vigor, to be fresh, strong, efficient, active, powerful, efficacious.

Now is this just talking about our resurrection, when we will be given new bodies? No it’s talking about the Spirit living in us and giving life to our mortal bodies NOW, arousing and invigorating us, giving us INCREASED physical life, health and stamina.

So if the Holy Spirit is actively living in you, He is making or producing real life, vigor, freshness, strength, power … in other words He is making your mortal body healthy NOW.

So what does this have to do with speaking in tongues? In verse 16 Paul says that "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Testifies is summartureo {soom-mar-too-reh'-o} meaning to bear witness with, bear joint witness to testify.

Bear witness in Greek is martureo {mar-too-reh'-o} meaning to be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine revelation or inspiration, to utter an honorable testimony or a give good report.

How does the Holy Spirit testify or speak to our spirits? How does He give utterance to His good reports? By speaking through us in tongues. This inner witness is testimony that the Holy Spirit is living in us and giving our mortal bodies life.

Does this mean you can’t be healed if you don’t speak in tongues? By no means! But in our quest for health and healing, it makes sense to avail ourselves of every tool the Word gives us to manifest in our bodies the healing Christ bought for us with His death and resurrection.

7. Being led by the Holy Spirit through tongues:

The Holy Spirit leads, guides and directs us by speaking in tongues through us and giving us the interpretation. He also leads us through the Word, prayer, and godly counsel, of course. But speaking and praying and praising in our devotional tongues gives us direct access to the Spirit in a way nothing else can. And of course, what the Spirit tells us testifies to us of Jesus and is always in line with the written Word of God.

Galatians 5:18, 22-23 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Being led by the Spirit produces His fruit in us - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We have already discussed how speaking in tongues is yielding our tongues to the control of the Holy Spirit. But how does speaking in tongues help produce the other fruit of the Spirit in us?

Galatians 5:24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

As we speak or pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit searches us and brings to the surface the hidden roots of the sins we struggle with. In this crucifixion process, He brings to light those things within us that are of the sinful nature, and as those things are exposed, He can kill them.

Now we can crucify the flesh without speaking in tongues, but it is harder for the Spirit to speak to us about those hidden things of the heart, that are desperately wicked and unknowable by the mind.

So here Paul tells us to be led by the Spirit, to live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. And what is the way we are given to hear directly from the Spirit? By speaking in tongues and praying for the interpretation.

2 Timothy 3:16 –17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The word translated in the KJV as "inspired by God" and in the NIV as "God-breathed" is theopneustos {theh-op'-nyoo-stos}. Theos means God in Greek and pneustos is from pneo {pneh'-o} a root word meaning to breathe, or to blow (as the wind). Pneo is also the root word for pneuma, which is translated breath, wind or spirit, and is the same word used for the Holy Spirit.

Did you ever stop to wonder exactly how God inspired men to write the Word of God? Exactly how did His breath or Spirit take the spiritual things He was speaking and get them into the format of words, and sentences and books?

Well Paul said that he spoke in tongues more than all of the Christians at Corinth, and what marvelous mysteries were revealed to him as the Spirit breathed upon him, spoke through him and then gave the interpretation.

2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter also tells us of the supernatural source of prophecy in Scripture and declares that men spoke from God as they were carried along or led by the Holy Spirit.

Carried along is phero {fer'-o} meaning to carry, to compel, to move by bearing; move or, to be conveyed or borne, with the suggestion of force or speed as of a gust of wind, to rush; to bear i.e. bring forth, produce; to bring forward in a speech; to lead, or conduct.

I Corinthians 14:5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

Here Paul is equating speaking in tongues WITH interpretation as equal to prophecy. And as men speak from God in prophecy by being carried along and made to produce speech by the Holy Spirit, so also are we led by the Spirit by speaking in tongues with the interpretation.

So let’s review the 7 reasons that God has given each Spirit filled believer the ability to speak in devotional tongues, or a private prayer language, then we’ll open the floor for questions:


  1. Since we are told in the Bible that it matters VERY much what we say ("Life and death are in the power of the tongue") and that no MAN can tame the tongue, it follows that we need a "tongue tamer". That’s what speaking in tongues is: yielding our tongues to the control of the Holy Spirit.
  1. A second reason for speaking in tongues according to Jude 1:20-21 and I Corinthians 14:2,4, is that the Holy Spirit builds us up spiritually when we pray in tongues and helps keep us in God’s love.
  2. A third reason that God has given us the gift of tongues is that it brings rest and refreshing.
  3. Another reason to speak in tongues is that is a way to directly receive revelation knowledge from God.
  4. Another reason for speaking in tongues is that tongues give us another way to pray, praise, sing and give thanks to God.
  5. Speaking in devotional tongues is an aid to healing.
  6. Speaking in tongues is one of the ways that the Holy Spirit leads, guides and directs us.

Now if you don’t already speak in tongues, or all of this is new to you, you may feel somewhat confused and want to disagree with this lesson. Take it to God in prayer and ask that He give you the understanding.

Next Lesson: Spiritual Gifts: Part 1: Word of Wisdom & Word of Knowledge

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Father God, help us to be loving in all our ways, and to be tenderhearted towards our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died. Speaking the truth in love, let us draw together in the unity of the spirit as members of the Body of Christ, encouraging one another as Your coming draws near.
In Jesus' Name, Amen.


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Original lesson 7/12/99
Revised: August 02, 2001