Tongues is probably one of the more contentious issues within the Christian church. Is it for today? Is it for everyone? I believe that even the most cursory reading of the Bible reveals that yes, tongues are for today. However it has struck me how many individuals in Christian service I have come in contact with over the years who make the comment, “Tongues are not for everyone.”
In 1Corinthians 12:4-10 Paul writes:
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are differences of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of tongues.”
Confusion in relation to tongues commences with this scripture and the text: “to one is given…, to another…” However a reading of 1Corinthians 11 reveals Paul is instructing the church in regards to the proper and orderly operation of the gifts within the church service; this text following on from his discussion of the proper dress in church, and the proper attitude in taking the Lord’s Supper. Paul was not teaching that one individual would only ever operate in one gift, but rather that the church was to function as a body.
However on first appearance the following scripture seems to fly in the face of this.
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts.” (1Corinthians 12: 28-31)
This is an interesting piece of scripture, and one in which Paul lumps the five-fold ministry and “helps” in with the gifts of the Spirit. He questions, “Do ALL do these things?” Other translations read, “All do not do these things, do they?” But then Paul counters the question by saying “But earnestly desire the best gifts”.
Why would Paul tell us to “earnestly desire” something we cannot have?
“But earnestly desire the greater gifts”. (1Corinthians 12:31NASB)
“But earnestly desire the best gifts.” (1Corinthians 12:31NKJV)
In other words, you may not be a prophet, or a teacher, or an apostle, BUT that is not to stop you desiring the gifts and to seek their manifestation through your life – the best gifts of course being those required by the need and the occasion.
Note, Paul does not say “desire to be an apostle or a prophet – for that is an office ordained to an individual by God. However he does say to “earnestly desire” the gifts, which are bestowed on us already in the indwelling Person of the Holy Spirit. In “earnestly desiring” a gift we are merely desiring to see the work of the Holy Spirit manifest through our lives for the encouragement and ministry of those around us. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and in His Person are represented all nine gifts of the Spirit.
Interpretation of tongues
Word of Knowledge
Word of Wisdom
Discernment of spirits
Gift of faith
Gifts of healing
Working of miracles
The manifestation of one or more of these gifts is simply the manifestation of His Personhood in our presence, and as such every believer is capable of moving in all nine gifts of the Spirit.
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all…” (1Corinthians 12:7)
However an individual will only move in these gifts to the point to which they are required by the occasion and “met” with the faith of the individual believer.
(For further reading see below)