Has Tongues Passed Away? Why is Tongues important?
I will explain the passage of scripture that has been used to try and discredit the supernatural gift of "speaking with other tongues (languages)."
1 Corinthians 13:8-12
"Love never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
First, the key point is clear: love is the "more excellent way" (ch 12 v31). Love is our top command in this New Covenant. But this context is not putting down other spiritual things, but only lifting this one called 'love' up higher than the rest. Love is the royal law. (James 2:8)
Next, where it mentions that tongues shall cease and prophecies shall fail, it also says that knowledge shall vanish away. So, to try and use this passage to say that tongues have already ceased means that we also have to preach loud and clear that knowledge has already vanished and there is no need to learn anything anymore. But that couldn't be true, could it? So, the scripture certainly shouldn't be interpreted to mean that these things have already disappeared. It only says that they will.
Then we get down to "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect shall come, then that which is in part shall be done away." It says we know in part and prophesy in part. And that is current. Everyone would have to admit that as much as one person might know, they don't know everything. And those who know what prophesying is will admit that they can only prophesy in part as well. So, since we obviously don't have full comprehension of God and His realm and we still only know "in part", then "that which is perfect" must not have come yet. To my knowledge, those who are using this passage to relieve themselves from tongues or prophesy will claim that "that which is perfect is come" refers to the Bible. They will say that since we now have God's Word recorded on paper, then there is no need for tongues, prophesy, or knowledge. But there is no other scripture to corroborate that.
What is coming that is perfect?
The better way to interpret is to admit that the Bible speaks much of something that is coming that will change everything. That something is a someone - Jesus Christ. Notice it goes on to read, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face." (verse 12) When Jesus comes, the saints are raptured and glorified, and "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). When the Perfect One comes, we see Him face to face and will not need tongues or prophesy.
To make the assumption (tongues and knowledge having already ended) out of thin air is a violation of proper Bible interpretation, which brings us to the final point.
What does the Bible, the New Testament, go on to say about tongues and its use? That is important because the rule of Bible interpretation is that we must interpret all scripture in light of other scripture. There is no theme in the New Testament of tongues having vanished. Instead, the consistent theme is that tongues is a current and vital part of Christianity.
1. Jesus, in his final words to his disciples (the twelve, plus the 500, plus all disciples from then till now), said "Go ye into the world and preach the gospel to every creature.And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues..." Jesus said to do it. I like to obey Jesus, don't you? And the truth is that those who want to eliminate tongues are the same who want to eliminate "cast out devils". But Jesus listed those two as first in order of the signs that are to follow believers. I'm a believer. And both of those supernatural events are of God, and they work today for those who believe they work. We all believe that preaching the gospel to every creature is still a command for modern day disciples, so how can we take out the rest?
2. In the book of Acts, there is a pattern that can be seen concerning tongues. And remember, the book of Acts is not just a history book - it is a pattern for the church. The early Church and the latter Church. It's still the Church of Jesus Christ, and all types of theologians will admit that we are still in the Church Age, the time of the gentiles. The pattern is that after people believe on Jesus Christ, they can also be baptized in or filled with His Spirit. And every time that happens, they speak with tongues and/or prophesy.
- Acts 2:4 "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
- Acts 10:44-46 "they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God."
- Acts 19:6 "they spoke with tongues and prophesied."
3. The New Testament gives some instruction about tongues that helps us understand its benefit. There are three different operations of tongues. I believe much of the confusion about it is a result of not understanding these distinct operations.
Tongue #1 - The first type of tongues is that a person could speak an unknown language out loud for others to hear, in the native tongue of those listening. This happened in Acts 2:6 "every man heard them speak in his own language." It is a message from heaven - from God to His people. We have heard of many testimonies where this happened, especially overseas, and people have actually been saved by hearing and believing the message given in tongues and responding to Christ. Remember, though, that there are "tongues of men and of angels" (1 Cor. 13:1), so sometimes people hearing the tongue will not understand it if it's not a human language. This leads us to the second operation of tongues.
Tongue #2 - The second type of tongues is when a "tongue plus interpretation" is given. This, again, is in a public setting, and the speaker of the tongue speaks out loud for others to hear, and either the same person or a different person interprets the tongue into the known language for everyone to hear. It is a message from heaven - from God to His people. And it is a blessing.
Tongue #3 - This type of tongue is called "praying in tongues." 1 Corinthians 14:14, "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful." This type of tongues is not really used for other people to hear. It is a private use of tongues where the believer can pray to God with more than his known language, "as the Spirit gives utterance." "For he that speaks (prays) in an unknown tongue does not speak unto men, but unto God, for no man understands him, howbeit in the spirit he speaks mysteries." (1 Cor 14:2). And we have to admit, sometimes our understanding is limited, and therefore our prayers are limited. Hence, the need for supernatural utterance from the Holy Spirit. He can help us pray the full counsel of God for ourselves or our situations. And He can also help us praise and magnify God better than we can with our limited knowledge and vocabulary.
Look at this benefit of praying in tongues, (1 Cor 14:4) "He that speaks (prays) in an unknown tongue edifies himself." I don't know about everyone else, but I need edifying - every day! And along with reading God's Word, that is a very powerful way to stay full of the Spirit, full of God, and full of joy - pray in tongues.
Notice that the next words of that verse say, ".but he that prophesies edifies the church." The church needs edifying, but so does the believer when he is by himself. The same chapter goes on to explain that prophesy is not necessarily predicting the future in this sense of the word. "He that prophesies speaks to men for edification, exhortation, and comfort." (1 Cor 14:3) And that prophesy by itself is equal to tongues with interpretation (verse 5). Both prophesy and also tongues with interpretation are primarily what is done in a public setting for those present to be blessed by a fresh message from God. And both of those are only to be initiated by the Holy Spirit - they are given "as He will." (1 Cor 12:11).
On the other hand, praying in tongues for personal edification can be done at any time, without any prompting from the Holy Spirit. Paul said, "I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also." Notice that both of those are acts of the will, meaning you can decide on your own to do them. We can pray in our known language at will, and we can pray in tongues at will.
"But ye beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit." (Jude 20) Praying in, or with, the Spirit is distinguished from "praying with your understanding", and is synonymous with "praying in tongues." And it is a blessing. It helps us build up our spiritual strength, awareness, and sensitivity to the Spirit of God. For some reason, God says that to build ourselves up on our most holy faith, we must pray in tongues. It is holy act. It is part of our most holy act unto God. And it is not to be discarded by Church leaders today.
And finally, at the end of 1 Corinthians 14, the Holy Spirit of God inspired Paul to tell us, ".brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues."
Please be careful of anyone who would forbid another to speak or pray in tongues.
I realize that for those who have asked for tongues and not received them, it could be disappointing. And I know that what happens is that we begin to think that maybe God didn't want me to have it. And then some will begin to look for scriptures to prove that it's not for everyone or even that it's not for anyone. But please don't do that. First, it is not tongues that we look for. It is the Holy Spirit. If we ask for the Holy Spirit baptism with fire and power, then tongues will come. If you keep seeking God and believe with all your heart, then He will answer your prayer. If you go in with skepticism, you would be classified as "double minded" and James ch1 tells us that that man will receive nothing from God. You must receive the baptism of the Spirit by faith, and you must speak in tongues by faith. And second, God absolutely wants you to have the power and also the ability to pray in tongues to edify yourself. I know first hand how it feels to not get the answer initially. After I believed the Holy Spirit power and tongues was for me, I sought God for about two months with no results. Finally, I decided that I needed some help, so I went to someone who understood it and ask him to pray for me. Within a few minutes I was filled with power and spoke with tongues. It was glorious. And still I pray in tongues all the time. Doing so helps me daily, and it helps me in all the big decisions of life.
Do all speak with tongues?
Finally, there is one more scripture that must be explained for those who think that tongues are only for a select few. 1 Corinthians 12:29 "Are all apostles? Are all prophets?...are all workers of miracles? Do all have the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" The implied answer is ?No' to all of them. But please notice. In context, this passage is speaking of the "manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man." (verse 7). This particularly applies to only the first two types of tongues - speaking in someone else's native language, and tongues in public which requires interpretation. And not everyone will be used by God in this way. For these, we must wait on the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is not referring to "praying in tongues", which every believer can do if he desires.
Not every one is an apostle. Not everyone has the gifts of healing or miracles. And not everyone is used by God to stand in a congregation and give a tongue with interpretation. The nine gifts, or manifestations, listed in the chapter are supernatural operations given as the Spirit wills, and for the benefit of others. They are different than praying in tongues to "edify yourself". The nine manifestations must be prompted by the Spirit, whereas praying in tongues is prompted by the desire of the person who wishes to "speak mysteries" in the Spirit. Praying in tongues is where the Holy Spirit can do a mighty job within us, "Likewise the Spirit helps our infirmities; for we do not know what we should pray for as we ought to: but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (in articulate speech).according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26, 27) This is what happens when we pray in tongues - the Spirit of God can help us pray out things that we aren't even aware of. He can help us know and also get into the will of God. We need the supernatural utterance from the Spirit since our brains are somewhat limited in our prayers.
So which is correct? In one chapter it is written that we should not forbid to speak with tongues. In the prior chapter it is written that one day tongues will cease. Answer: both are correct. It says that one day tongues will cease: when Jesus appears and we are changed, there will be no more need for tongues as our spiritual awareness will be 100%. It doesn't say that it has ceased, but that it will cease. Until then, we will not forbid anyone to speak or pray in tongues, because we all need it.
Be bold! Believe the Bible! Don't let anything or anyone stop you from receiving all the blessing of God. If it hasn't worked yet, just keep going. Keep believing. Don't doubt at all. And receive it by faith - ask Him, thank Him, and open your mouth as He fills you with heavenly words and heavenly power!