Do the gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesying still apply today? If so, what purpose do they serve?
The question of speaking in tongues was addressed in a former Bible Question of the week and its answers can be viewed at: What Does The Bible Say About … MODERN-DAY SPEAKING in TONGUES?
It is imperative that we consult God’s Word with any questions we may have, as the Bible contains God’s directives for our life. Otherwise we will be swept left and right by human opinions and philosophies. The Bereans did just that, examining the Scriptures to make sure that everything the apostle Paul said was true. Acts 17:11: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” NIV
B. 1 Corinthians 14
One chapter in the New Testament is dedicated completely to the topic of speaking in tongues and prophesying. We will first concentrate on that chapter, that was written by the apostle Paul under divine inspiration: 1 Cor 14 (NIV version). We will only take a few verses from that chapter which will illustrate the importance of both gifts. May I encourage you to read the entire chapter, as it will give you a complete picture of these spiritual gifts.
Verse 1 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”
It is clear in this text that the apostle Paul highly esteemed the gift of prophecy. It is also clear that this gift is applicable today as well as in the first century, for the apostle Paul wrote this after the New Covenant was established by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Verses 2 and 3 “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. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”
Here both the gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesying are contrasted. Speaking in tongues is a way to speak to God directly, while prophesying is addressed to people with the purpose of “strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”
Again notice that both of these gifts are referred to in the New Covenant context and thus both gifts are still applicable today.
Verse 4 “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”
Again both gifts are contrasted. Speaking in tongues edifies the person using it as it brings that person closer to God, while prophesying edifies the whole church.
Verse 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.”
It seems that the apostle Paul is putting the gift of prophecy above the gift of speaking in tongues. Notice however the word “unless”, which is used here to put both gifts at the same level. Prophesying edifies the church, but not so speaking in tongues, which edifies the person speaking it. The only way for the gift of speaking in tongues to edify the church is if it is interpreted, which is another gift from the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor 12:10).
Verse 12 “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”
The purpose to have spiritual gifts is to “build up the church”. We should be eager to be of service to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Verse 23-25 “So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
Speaking in tongues will not help someone be attracted to Jesus Christ. On the contrary, if used unwisely, unbelievers will think Christians to be “out of their mind”.
However the gift of prophecy will convince an unbeliever that he/she is a sinner and needs Jesus Christ. How so? How could someone not be convinced when someone completely unknown to him/her prophesies “the secrets of his/her heart”, secrets only known to him/her?
Verses 26-33 “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three-should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”
The apostle Paul sums it up quite well: “All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” He encourages two or three people to speak in tongues, as long as there is someone to interpret what is being said, otherwise he encourages these brethren to remain quiet in church. Two or three people are also encouraged to prophesy. But all of this must be done in an orderly fashion, as “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”
Verses 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.”
C. Purpose of these gifts.
Now what is the purpose of all these gifts?
1 Cor 12:7-11 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” NIV
All of these gifts are given to build each other up and is for the church’s “common good”. It is God’s Spirit who determines which gifts to bestow to each one of us.
The apostle Peter gives a second purpose.
1 Peter 4:11 “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
All things (spiritual gifts included) are done so that in everything we do “God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” To Him be the glory, not to men. He is the One who makes these spiritual gifts possible!
D. These gifts in the book of Acts
Throughout the book of Acts both the gift of speaking in tongues and the gift of prophesying are evident.
Examples of the gift of prophecy in the book of Acts:
Acts 11:27-30 “During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.” NIV
Acts 13:1-3 “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” NIV
Acts 15:32-33 “Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.” NIV
Acts 21:10-14 “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'” When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” NIV
In all of these examples, the gift of prophecy was used as edification of the church and when one prophesied, church members acted according to what was said. This gift was taken seriously and coming directly from God.
Examples of the gift of speaking in tongues in the book of Acts:
Acts 2:4 “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” NIV
Acts 10:45-46 “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” NIV
Acts 19:6-7 “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.” NIV
In all of these examples, speaking in tongues is associated with being “filled with the Holy Spirit”, and is evidence that these people were saved. The early Christians also took this gift seriously as coming directly from God’s Spirit.
These same gifts are still available today. I used to be a sceptic and didn’t believe in these gifts. One day a local pastor from the denomination I used to belong to (a denomination which does not believe in the gift of speaking in tongues), confided to me his confusion. He said that in the denomination, more and more people started to speak in tongues and he didn’t know what to do about it. When I opened my Bible to look into this issue, I was astonished that speaking in tongues was clearly promoted in the New Testament, as a gift from the Holy Spirit. Two years later God granted me that spiritual gift and it has brought me closer to my Maker than ever before. God’s Spirit is so awesome!
While being in that denomination I was invited by one of our subscribers to attend his Messianic synagogue (he was a Jew who had accepted Jesus into his life). As I entered that synagogue, both my wife and myself felt an overwhelming presence: God’s presence through His Holy Spirit was in that place! I never had felt His presence that way before. During the service there was prophesying. The Rabbi’s wife prophesied that there was someone in the congregation that was facing the open door, the door of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). She was encouraging that person to not hesitate any longer, but to go through that door. Little did she know that she was prophesying to me. That day I accepted Jesus as my Lord and was saved.
That same invitation is given to you my friend. You may belong to a church and know all about God and His Word the Bible. However do you know Jesus personally? Is God’s Word alive to you and are you reading it through the doctrines of your church? Only God’s Spirit can make it alive for you. Why don’t you invite Jesus’ invitation today and start enjoying having a personal relationship with Him? God’s Word will become alive to you. Come to Him and answer the Saviour’s Call!
THE PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND HIS OUTPOURING
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams your young men shall see visions (Joel 2:28)
THE GIFTS COMES UPON THOSE WHO WAIT FOR THEM
Luke 24:49 “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
In Acts chapters 2 and 4, we see the evidence of those who were baptized with the Holy Spirit. You too can have the gifts as you wait on God. It is exciting how wonderful our God is. I had had occasion to minister to people just like this on the net. People who desire the gifts because they waited were baptized and are being useful vessels in the vein yard of God today. You too can have the experience.
Personal Cleansing Proceeds Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Lord would not like to stay in a vessel filled with anger and malice. In a life filled that is filled with sin, God will not stay!.
As many as waited in the day of Pentecost, were filled and baptized. They were vessels in the hands of the Lord.
NEW TESTAMENT ORDER IN THE OPERATION OF THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPEAKING IN TONGUES
1 Cor. 14:1-16
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?
The above passage gives direction on the application of the gifts of speaking in the church and the purpose they serve. It is not only in the new testament where we see the manifestation of the gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy. God manifested His spirit in the old testament as can be seen above. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever more” Hebrews 13:8
EXAMPLS OF PEOPLE WHO RECEIVED THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The following as some people the Lord poured His Spirit upon. They were used wonderfully at one point or the other for their generation to the glory of God:
THE SEVENTY ELDERS – Numbers 11:25
BALAAM – Numbers 24:2
OTHNIEL – Judges 3:10
GIDEON Judges- 6:34
SAMSON- Judges 14:6
SAUL – I Sam. 10:10
DAVID – I Sam 16:13
SAUL’S MESSENGERS – I Sam. 19:20
I would like to say that speaking in tongues is still valid (apply) today. They serve unique purposes in the church.
The gifts and its manifestations did not end with the disciples. I experience this a lot in my own local assembly in Africa. The Lord has used the gifts to build the church. The gift of speaking in tongues and prophecy has edified and gave us a lot of directions in the administration of the church and living correct Christian lives.
Some people were to be ordained in a church. The church had already gathered for the ordination. Before the ordination proper, the Lord spoke by prophecy that certain people should not be ordained. The elders who prayed before organizing the meeting had to respect the prophecy that came. The obeyed the Lord in prophecy and it was well for that congregation. That church averted the problems that was to come upon them.
I remember ministering in one of our branches in Africa, a message came by prophecy that someone was in the congregation to harm me with some ‘juju’. This was confirmed. The persons surrendered the ‘juju’. He was witnessed to. If that gift was not in operation, how could we have known?
Although people have counterfeited it today, that does not mean we don’t have the original. There are so many counterfeit currencies, yet we have the original.
I speak in tongues and I also prophecy as the Lord releases the grace to me. But if you discover that you are operating in these gifts, it should humble you to pray and study the scriptures. Whether you prophecy or not should walk in love. Love is the ultimate.
OPERATE IN LOVE AS YOU EXERCISE THE GIFT It should be appreciated that gifts would end only in this world. It is important for us to know that we will be accountable for the way we live our lives when we get to heaven. So, if you are not born again, it is important that you give your life to Christ. I know some people who speak in tongues in this part of Africa, who are not born again. They are hired by the devil using the Name of Christ. This set of people are not born again. It is important to think so deeply where you will spend your eternity. Perhaps you would like to take this step of regeneration, please browse through the relevant ally in this net (Ansers2Prayers.org) and the Lord would help you.
Perhaps you would want more help, please don’t hesitate to contact me. It is well with your soul!
Jesus is Lord!
Rev Debo Adeyemo
I do agree and believe these gifts do work today.
These gifts are very much needed since the world today are being wiser intelligent, so as believers of Christ one must attain these gifts.
These gifts are necessary to edify ourselves and to the church. People go back of astrologers seeking fortune. I believe that these gifts will very much needed to have a communication with God .
Rev Jacob A Singh
On the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. (1 Corinthians 14:3 RSV)
Prophesying, is basically the explaining and expounding of the mind of God. First, it builds people up. The second thing prophesying does is strengthen people. The third ministry of prophesying is that of comforting; it comforts.
For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:2 RSV)
Speaking in tongues is strictly for the Lord. It’s not for man. It’s to spread the love and praise and Thanksgiving one has for the Lord. It’s not to preach the gospel. It’s strictly talking in Spirit to our Heavenly Father.
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless some one interprets, so that the church may be edified. (1 Corinthians 14:5 RSV)
Tongues is mainly for oneself between himself and the Lord, but to prophesy edifies the church. It’s for the church and to spread the word to others.
So with yourselves; if you in a tongue utter speech that is not intelligible, [in a language that no one understands] how will any one know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. (1 Corinthians 14:8-9 RSV)
There is nothing wrong with tongues, but it does nothing for anyone but the person speaking it in spirit to the Father.
Therefore, he who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. (1 Corinthians 14:13 RSV) For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. (1 Corinthians 14:14 RSV) I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; (1 Corinthians 14:15b RSV) I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. [“I will never do one without the other.” For, he says] Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how can any one in the position of an outsider say the “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may give thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. (1 Corinthians 14:15c-17 RSV)
Tongues is to be used in private, and prophesying it to be used in the church. Tongues today has really no purpose. In fact it’s mainly just linguistic babble. What is important today is to prophesy and praise and spread the word of the Lord and His coming again. That is important.
My answer is yes. Speaking in tongues edifies the believer, and helps us to pray God’s perfect will for our lives, and it can also be a weapon against the devil, as only God knows what we speak when we pray in other tongues. Prophecy is also for today, and its purpose is to help us understand God’s will revealed in His Word. Prophecy can be personal also. And my Pastor and others at the Assemblies of God church I attend have given an interpretation of what was spoken in tongues, and that is like a prophecy from God.
Yes, they do apply today. They are used for edification, encouragement and for our own language to the Father.