The Bible tells us that the enemy comes as an imposter and seeks to discredit the things of God. That is why we are warned that, “Satan masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). One of the ways he does this is by tainting rich and life-giving aspects of our relationship with the Lord. We need look no further for an example than speaking in a spiritual language.
While the book of Acts gives many examples of Jesus followers speaking in tongues (Acts 2:41, 8:5-25, 10:47, 11:17, 16:31-34, 21:20), it’s easy to understand why many are uneasy about it. Some are concerned about being manipulated to speak in tongues, while others have seen prayer language used in an unbiblical context and would rather leave the topic alone. Before looking at how tongues can be used, it’s important to dispel some of the mystery behind it. Speaking in tongues or using a spiritual language means that your prayers are in another human language or a heavenly language. Keep in mind that:
- A person can be full of the Holy Spirit and not pray in tongues.
- Praying in a prayer language doesn’t make one believer more mature, experienced, or seasoned than another believer.
- Tongues is something the Lord makes available to all of us, and it can be as natural as other prayers we pray in English.
- Just like any supernatural experience, Jesus encourages us to not rejoice in the experience but that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Types of Tongues
The Bible talks about four different types of tongues. Two for public ministry and two for our private walk with the Lord. This week, we’ll cover using tongues for public ministry, and next week we’ll look at using tongues in our personal prayer lives.
Tongues in Public Ministry
- A sign to the unbeliever
This type of tongues occur when the Holy Spirit transcends our intellect and empowers us to speak, teach, preach or sing in a language that we have not learned before. An example of this is what happened on the Day of Pentecost, where untrained men were speaking in languages they had never been trained in before.
When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
Acts 2:6-7 (NIV)
- Speaking in a heavenly language
This type of tongues involves speaking a heavenly language in a public setting, and calls for interpretation.
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.
1 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)
I would like every one of you to speak in tongues (speaking of a private language), 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.
1 Corinthians 14:5 (NIV)