(This is part 2 of a study on the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and the role it plays in the church, taking a closer look at 1 Corinthians 14).
Click here to read part 1.
1 Corinthians 14, verses 6 and 9 is where confusion and misinterpretation begins. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. So many have used these verses to discredit speaking in tongues, claiming that it is nonsense babbled into the air. But that’s not at all what Paul is saying; he is demonstrating that the gift of diverse tongues is useless without the gift of prophecy. If someone shouts a message in tongues to the church, and no interpretation is given, then what good does it do? No one can understand it. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful (verses 13 and 14).
Paul spoke in tongues more than anyone, and was proud of it. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all (verse 18), but he recognized that these messages were not helpful to the assembly without interpretations. Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue (verse 19).
Verse 22: Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not. When I speak in tongues, I am having an intimate communication with God, but I could also be making a difference to an unbeliever. Tongues is a heavenly language, but the Holy Spirit can also use any earthly dialect He wants. I have heard stories of people under His utterance speaking fluently in languages they didn’t know. This also happened on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2:6-11: Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? As the 120 were in the upper room praying in the Holy Ghost, crowds of people from different nations heard these Jewish men speaking in their own native languages. For anyone who claims that an interpreter must be present for tongues of any form to take place, I would point to the fact that there were no translators on the Day of Pentecost.
For years, when I would speak in tongues, I would repeatedly utter the word “Yeshu.” I didn’t know what this meant and like most of what the Spirit says through me, I assumed it was just part of a heavenly language. Last year, I was doing a study on the name of Jesus and came across a discovery. Jesus’ actual name in Hebrew was “Yeshua,” a descendant of the name “Joshua.” Joshua’s, or “Hoshea,” simply means “Salvation,” a fitting name for the man who led his people to victory against the Canaanites. Yeshua means “He shall save.” However, another name for Jesus, possibly used by close friends and family of His, was the abbreviated and informal version “Yeshu.” When I read that name, an overwhelming revelation came to me: for years, under the utterance of the Holy Ghost, I was repeatedly speaking a name of Jesus in ancient Hebrew, and didn’t even know it. Don’t tell me that tongues is gibberish with no purpose.
Back to 1 Corinthians 14: verse 23 states If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? Again, this was not saying that everyone in the church shouldn’t speak in tongues; that would contradict verse 5. Paul didn’t want any confusion in the house of God, and because the church in Corinth was a melting pot of different cultures and practices, he was instructing them that order was needed. Verse 33, For God is not the author of confusion. Everyone in the service trying to shout contradictory messages in tongues would bring chaos. Not everyone who claims to have a gift of the Spirit actually has it; some people are just trying to get attention. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret (verse 27). Verse 40: Let all things be done decently and in order.
Now that we’ve established proper context, we can examine a tragic misinterpretation of a scripture that has brought spiritual death to the many churches. Verse 28: But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Most pastors have taken this verse to the extreme, completely forbidding tongues in their congregations. What a sad statement! Paul was not telling anyone to eradicate the Holy Ghost from their church. We cannot take one scripture and base an entire belief and practice on it; we have to examine the verses around it, and look at it in context with the rest of the chapter. Years ago, a pastor once said to me, “If someone tries to speak in tongues in my church, I’ll ask for an interpreter, and if there isn’t one, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask them to sit down and be quiet.” What blasphemy! Messages in tongues don’t come from man; they come from the Holy Spirit. He might as well have been telling God to shut up and not interrupt his man-made service.
Again, we have to understand the difference between the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and the gift of diverse tongues. In the first part of verse 28, Paul is speaking on the spiritual gift. If a message from God comes through tongues, an interpreter must be present, or it will not help the church. But if no interpreter is present, that church is lacking one of the 9 spiritual gifts, and needs to take a hard look at itself and ask why nobody was there to translate when God tried to speak to them. Anyone who has taken verse 28 to the extreme that they do not allow speaking in tongues in their church is in violation of verse 39: Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
The second part of verse 28 refers to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. It doesn’t say that the person speaking in tongues must absolutely refrain from saying anything, it says let him speak to himself, and to God. This utterance of tongues is not a message for the building up of the assembly, but for that individual believer. Paul understood that if that person shouted the tongues and it wasn’t a message from God, that person was trying to be seen by men, with an attitude of “Look how holy I am!”
This is also why Paul, in Romans 8:26, referred to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost this way: Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The Holy Ghost is always there for us, to pray for us, and through us, to help us overcome our infirmities. “Groanings which cannot be uttered” coincides with 1 Corinthians 14:28, referring to speaking in tongues as edification for oneself, not for the church. Call it “noise” if you will, but the sound of an entire congregation speaking in tongues until it fills the church and reverberates off the walls, like a cloud that fills the temple, is the most beautiful sound in the world to me.
Tongues is also the gateway to greater things. It was only after the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost that they became apostles. It was after tongues that they saw thousands saved in one day. It was after tongues that they saw mass miracles and healings taking place. It was after tongues that they saw visions. And the same thing happened when the Pentecostal movement began to break out in the late 1800s; after years of spiritual darkness, once tongues were reestablished, God opened up the windows of heaven and the manifestations seen in the book of Acts were brought back to life.
Christians must have the Holy Ghost in this last hour; the powers of the enemy are too strong for us to go without it. To ignore this powerful gift from God as something that’s “not for me” is to disobey Ephesians 6:11, which tells us to Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. It is also not a Christian attitude to be content with less than what God wants to give us. No matter how close to God we get, or how powerful in Him, we are to always strive for more, which is why Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 12:31 to covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Even Christians who already have the Baptism should never be content. We must go forth and bring the power of the Holy Ghost to the world. I cannot get enough of the Holy Ghost. No matter how much I pray and get into His presence, I still desire more. If we Pentecostals don’t believe in “once-saved, always-saved,” we shouldn’t believe in “once-filled, always-filled,” either. Speaking in tongues one time won’t be enough, but tongues should flow from our lips, like living waters. Proverbs 5:16: Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets.