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Is the Gift of Speaking in Tongues for Today?

Zach Schlegel

The following is a transcribed Video Q&A, so the text may not read like an edited article would. Scroll to the bottom to view this video in its entirety. 

When we come to the question, is the gift of speaking in tongues for today, one of the first places I go is First Corinthians Chapter 12 all the way through 14, probably one of the most important texts that actually deal with this issue of speaking in tongues, in addition to Acts Chapter Two or something like that. But in Chapter 13 actually, Paul is saying, he actually says that the gift of speaking in tongues will cease. He talks about prophecy, that it will come to an end, and speaking in tongues, that that gift will eventually cease. The question is, when is that gift going to cease, when will it come to an end? Well, Paul actually says that it's when the perfect comes, and there's a lot of discussion going around, "Well, when is that?" I think from the context of the whole book of First Corinthians that the perfect, what he's referring to is when Jesus comes back.

So if spiritual gifts are given by God to the church for the edification of the church, then I think that we would include gifts like the speaking in tongues for that, and they're given to the church as a gift for the building up of the church until Jesus comes back. So if that's the case, and if that's where we find ourselves even today, then I would say that speaking in tongues is a gift for the church today.

The problem is when you look at First Corinthians 12 through 14, what Paul's actually addressing, it seems like, is that the Corinthians were taking this gift od God, and they were using it the wrong way. In a sense it seems like they were using it for an ego boost, like they were saying, "If you have the gift of tongues, then you're really spiritual, and this is the biggest measure of the spirit, if you have this gift, because it's miraculous, and it's a big deal."

So it seemed like a lot of people in the church were fighting for this gift of tongues. So when Paul writes them in 12 through 14, he's actually saying, "Well, you're actually missing the whole point of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are not given for you and your ego and building your name. They're actually given for the people around you, not for your benefit personally, but for the benefit of those around you." And I guess there is a sense in which spiritual gifts are for the benefit of the individual themselves, but in the context of the gathered church that it's for, you're thinking not just of myself, but of the people that are there gathered around me.

So you come to The Love Chapter, First Corinthians 13, that's really what he's getting after, he's saying, "Don't just use these gifts in a way that lack the nature of love, but if you're using the gifts in a way that's loving, you're thinking of the people around you." So his advice for the church was, when you use the gift, when the church gathers together and somebody speaks in tongues, make sure you do it in an orderly way. If there's no interpretation, then it's really hard to think of it being encouraging for the people around him. You'd be like a foreigner speaking another language, no one understands what you're saying. How can that be loving to those around you? So if there's no gift of interpretation, then hold your tongue, so to speak. You can do it in private, but it's not good and helpful for the rest of the church when you're gathered together.

He's also gives guidelines like saying, "If they're speaking in tongues, there should be only two or three, no more." And so he's giving clear parameters for this church services not being a ton of chaos, but God is a god of order, that it should be done in the way that he's prescribing. So even though you have the gift, doesn't mean that you can use it whatever way you want. He's showing that it should be done in a way that's loving, and a way that's actually helpful for the church when it gathers together.

So I would say, yeah, it is a gift that's for the church today. The question then is, is it actually divisive in the church? If the church that you find yourself in is actually vying for it, in a sense, like that's the ultimate measure of spirituality, like the Corinthian church, then it might be good to think through as a church, "Well then, I'd this for us right now? Should we foster this gift, or should we say this is actually going to cause more division than good?" So some churches, what their decision has been is they're not going to try to foster the gift, they're not going to try to cultivate that. If it happens, then they're just going to make sure that they follow Paul's guidelines that he sets out in First Corinthians 14; that there's going to be an interpretation, that there's going to be people doing it in order, and there's only two or three doing it, and all try to follow those guidelines. And yet, try to not cultivate it as this gift that is the elite gift to have in the Church.

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