Is speaking in tongues necessary?
This question probably comes out of the understanding that Paul relegated it to lesser than prophecy because it requires interpretation in a public meeting. It doesn’t help that we can’t understand what we say when we speak in tongues.
Paul did not mean for us to not speak in tongues. First Corinthians 14 does not concern private worship through prayer languages or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He is giving instruction for public worship. In this setting, speaking in tongues is desired when it is interpreted.
It isn’t fruitful for our minds (1 Corinthians 14:14). It’s one of the ways we can speak to God with our spirits (1 Corinthians 14:2). Paul says that we speak mysteries to God. These are things that we apparently are not to understand right now.
Speaking in tongues may be one of the ways the Holy Spirit takes control of our lives. Consider James 3. He eloquently describes the dangers of the tongue. It is the most uncontrolled body part and muscle we have (James 3:2).
Human beings have learned to control many things from horses to boats (James 3:3-4). Even though we can control these big and powerful forces, we have trouble with the smallest muscle in our bodies (James 3:5).
Although we can’t control our tongue, it is the first part of her body that the Holy Spirit takes over when Jesus immerses us in him. Speaking in tongues is a way for the Holy Spirit to show that he is beginning with speech as he empowers us for bold witness and speaks through us (Acts 1:8).
It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of training us in godliness and holiness. He will take character trait after character trait and conform us to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29-30). It’s welcome reminder that the Holy Spirit lives in us from salvation onward.
Five Benefits of Speaking in Tongues
- Intercession for us (Romans 8:26-28). When we don’t know how to pray the Spirit intercedes for us with the Father. He helps us to pray within God’s will. And he works everything out for good.
- Thanksgiving through prayer (1 Corinthians 14:16-17). We have much to thank God for his working in our lives. We thank him in her native language but sometimes words are not enough to express our heartfelt desires and praise. Speaking in tongues thanks him on a deeper level.
- Edifies your spirit through praise and singing to God (1 Corinthians 14:15). This spirit to Spirit communication is an intimate approach that our spirits need like our bodies need water and food. Meeting with God in his presence feeds our spirits like nothing else.
- Building your spirit up (1 Corinthians 14:4; Jude 20-21). Our spirits need a fresh filling by the Holy Spirit. We are regularly in the world, an environment that tries to tempt us and bring us away from God. We need the strengthening and empowerment of the Spirit regularly.
- Bold witness to unbelievers (Acts 1:8; 2:1-13). Speaking in tongues through the baptism in the Holy Spirit controls our speech. Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit will speak through us as we witness (Mark 13:11; Matthew 10:19).
Paul encourages us to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18, 39). This can be a powerful gift for our spirits. If we do not speak in tongues, especially when prompted by the Spirit, we will quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). And if we do this, we will grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).
Jesus gives this wonderful gift to us when we are baptized, or immersed and enveloped, in the Spirit by Jesus. If it weren’t necessary, the disciples and apostles would not have waited in the Upper Room to be baptized (Acts 1:4-5, 8). Let us pray to receive this wonderful gift from God, the promise of the Father, and enjoy using it to glorify God in our lives.