[The following article is an edited transcription of our audio teaching, “The Importance of Speaking in Tongues” by John W. Schoenheit.]
God bless you and greetings. I’m John W. Schoenheit and in this teaching I want to talk about speaking in tongues, about the importance of speaking in tongues, and why we should want to speak in tongues, and why we should speak in tongues much. And I want to start out by saying that this is an advanced teaching. I’m going to be using terminology and talking about things from the perspective of someone who has listened to or seen some of the material that Spirit & Truth Fellowship International produces, that you are aware of our Statement of Beliefs, that you are aware of our doctrines, that you are aware of concepts – for example, Administrations, and the Administration of the Sacred Secret. There are many teachings that we make that are at the beginner level, and they are designed to introduce you to concepts and things in the Bible. I want to say right up front that this is not one of those teachings. I want to speak primarily to those of you that speak in tongues a word of exhortation to speak in tongues more. To those of you that speak in tongues, but your language may not be developed enough that you are comfortable with it, that you push yourself. And then, for some of you, if you don’t speak in tongues, I hope that this message is a word of exhortation to speak in tongues, and then develop that language and speak in tongues much. What I mean when I say develop the language – of course the Lord is pouring out the language for us. We just have to be relaxed enough and confident enough and have the faith enough to receive it from the Lord and speak out clearly what he is sending us, because he will give us a language, a developed language. If you’ve been with us for a while then you know that 1 Corinthians 14:5 says, “I want every one of you to speak in tongues.” And I think that’s the base where we start. We start with God’s desire. God wants us to speak in tongues. What is speaking in tongues? This is a little rudimentary. Speaking in tongues 101. These are things that we should know. Speaking in tongues is a language that you, the speaker, doesn’t understand. But it’s a language that the Lord gives you, and it’s a language of men – it can be a language that’s spoken on earth – or a language of angels – a language that the angels use to communicate with each other and to communicate with God.
1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Speaking in tongues is a language given to you by the Lord, and it’s a language of men or angels. And speaking in tongues is a brand new thing that God did for the Church. You can read the Old Testament from Genesis 1 to Malachi 4 and you will not find anyone speaking in tongues. You can read the Four Gospels and you will not find anyone speaking in tongues. The first time anyone spoke in tongues was on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two, at the birth of the Church, and tongues is something that God did for the Church. We know that when God moves in the Church, according to Ephesians chapter three it’s for His glory, and according to 1 Corinthians 2:7 it’s for our glory. So God moved in the Church powerfully for both His glory and for our glory. In that sense speaking in tongues is a part of the Sacred Secret. I’d like to talk about the Greek word musterion, and again if you know Spirit & Truth Fellowship you know our teaching. For years and years I have taught and translated the word musterion as ‘secret,’ and I’m changing that translation. I need to credit this to a scholar who is long dead now named Rotherham, and he did the translation called The Emphasized Bible and I’ve been reading out of that lately. And it’s a fabulous work. Rotherham in Ephesians chapter three, instead of just using the word ‘secret’ like some other translators do, used the word ‘sacred secret.’
Ephesians 3:2 and 3 (2) Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, (3) that is, the mystery [musterion – secret] made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
Rotherham translated that musterion as ‘sacred secret.’ And as I was reading my Rotherham Bible over a period of months, it kept hitting me that every single time the word musterion appeared he translated it ‘sacred secret.’ Finally I just got to the point that I said “What’s going on here? Why does he do this?” And so I did a much more in-depth study of the word ‘secret’ than I’d ever done before. And what I found was that the Greek word musterion was used of secrets in the religious realm, even in the realm of the Greco-Roman mystery religions. And in fact, if there was something secret in the secular world, musterion was not even used at all. Let’s take a look, for example, at Matthew, chapter six.
Matthew 6:3 and 4 (3) But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (4) so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
That ‘secret’ is not musterion. It’s kruptos, and we get our word ‘crypt’ from that. A crypt – you know you put a body in it – it’s hidden away. So kruptos was the word that was used in the Greek when something was secret, but not in the religious realm, in the secular realm. Now I’m going to give you a couple of examples, but obviously if you want to see this fully developed, get a Greek Concordance, like The Englishman’s Greek Concordance, look up the Greek words kruptos, and musterion, and you can see it followed through right in front of your eyes there.
Luke 8:17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
See, things that are hidden are kruptos, they are secret.
Romans 2:16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
God will judge men’s secrets – not their musterion, but their kruptos, our secrets, the things we hide in our heart. It’s not musterion, and that’s important.
1 Corinthians 14:24 and 25 (24) 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, (25) and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
See, the secrets of his heart – kruptos – those secrets in the secular realm. But in contrast to this in the Bible, when the word musterion is used, it’s used of secrets in the religious realm. Literally, as Rotherham pointed out to me through his translation, sacred secrets. A good example would be Matthew chapter thirteen. When Jesus Christ was speaking in parables and the people did not understand:
Matthew 13:10 and 11 (10) The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (11) he replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.
Secrets of the kingdom – musterion. The knowledge of the ‘sacred secrets.’ What we’re dealing with in our Administration, called the Administration of the Grace of God in Ephesians 3:2, is that it’s the Administration of the Sacred Secret. The Administration of God’s secret. And in this Administration of the Secret, God did something that He did not do in the Old Testament, and did not even foretell in the Old Testament. And that is that He gave believers, He gave you and me, He gave people that were born again, a language directly from the Lord Jesus Christ, that would do a number of rewarding and beneficial things that we’ll read about, such as praise God and magnify God. The Devil didn’t know anything about this. This is a point we have to make about the secret, the Sacred Secret, the Administration of the Grace of God, this Administration in which we live. What God has done for us is so wonderful, so amazing, so magnanimous, that had the Devil known it, he wouldn’t have crucified Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:6 and 7 (6) We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. (7) No, we speak of God’s [sacred] secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
See that? The things of the Sacred Secret are for our glory. Somebody says “Well, gosh, doesn’t God get all the glory?” No. In this Administration God did something for our glory. Now, we find out in Ephesians chapter three that what God did was also for His own glory, because when God magnified us, it magnified Him. And I think you understand, for example, if you’re in relationship with somebody, and you lift that person up, it also lifts you up. So God did something very special for us that also gives Him great glory. And part of this is speaking in tongues. He says in verse eight:
1 Corinthians 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Our ability to speak in tongues and then to interpret, as part of the Sacred Secret of God, glorifies us, and also glorifies God, and was completely unknown to the Devil.
1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”–
Amen and Amen to that! The Devil didn’t know anything about speaking in tongues. It wasn’t part of the Old Testament revelation, it wasn’t part of the Gospels.
1 Corinthians 2:10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit….
People getting the spirit has been part of the Bible since Genesis, and when people got the spirit they were specifically empowered by God to do certain things. And I want to point out a pattern in the Old Testament. That many times in the Old Testament, when someone got the spirit, they prophesied. This is really important to understand. One of the primary indicators in the Old Testament that you had gotten the spirit was that you prophesied.
Numbers 11:17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them…..
God says I will take of the spirit that’s on you, Moses, and put the spirit on them, on the seventy who were chosen to rule Israel.
Numbers 11:25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.
You see, the spirit inside you is powerful and it enables you to do wonderful things. Here in Numbers chapter eleven the people got the spirit and they prophesied. In 1 Samuel chapter ten we’re going to see Saul, the first King of Israel, get the spirit. In this verse Samuel is talking to Saul about the spirit of the LORD.
1 Samuel 10:6 The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.
And of course that’s exactly what happened.
1 Samuel 10:10 When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying.
So just like in Numbers chapter eleven, here in 1 Samuel chapter ten Saul got the spirit and he prophesied.
1 Chronicles 12:18 Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said: “We are yours, O David! We are with you, O son of Jesse! Success, success to you, and success to those who help you, for your God will help you.” So David received them and made them leaders of his raiding bands.
What is that? A word of prophecy. What happened? The spirit came upon Amasai, and he prophesied. The spirit came upon the elders of Israel in Numbers chapter eleven, they prophesied. The spirit came upon Saul, he prophesied. Hope you are seeing a pattern here.
2 Chronicles 24:20 Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the LORD’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.'”
What happened? The spirit of the LORD came upon Zechariah, and he gave a word of prophecy. You see the pattern here? In the Old Testament there was no tongues, there wasn’t even foretelling that tongues would come. A man of God or a woman of God got the spirit and they prophesied. And sometimes they were empowered to do other things. I want to show you the contrast in our Administration. Let’s look at Acts 2:4, which as you know is the birthday of the Church, it’s the Day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:3 and 4 (3) They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. (4) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The Greek text reads, ‘All of them were filled with holy spirit’ – the word ‘the’ is not in the Greek text. The records in the Old Testament were that you were filled with the spirit and you gave a word of prophecy. Now, here it is the Church, the Age of Grace, the Sacred Secret, a brand new thing. You get saved, you get filled with the spirit, you speak in tongues. Peter goes to Cornelius. He wouldn’t have gone if he hadn’t received revelation – the sheet being let down three times, and the Lord speaking to him and saying ‘Go with them, don’t ask any questions.’ So Peter is teaching about Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
Acts 10:44-46 (44) While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. (45) 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. (46) For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God…
So again, in the Old Testament, you got the spirit and you gave a word of prophecy. In the New Testament, the Church Age, Age of the Sacred Secret, you get the spirit, you speak in tongues. Here the Apostle Paul meets with disciples who hadn’t even heard of the holy spirit. Acts 19:6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Double header! They spoke in tongues and they prophesied! But they spoke in tongues. The holy spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues. And I want to make the contrast here that in the Old Testament when the spirit came on there would often be a word of prophecy. But in the book of Acts what we see is when the spirit comes on, when people get born again, often what they do right away is speak in tongues. You see, it’s a new Administration. God has done something different. Somebody might say, “Well gosh, sounds like prophecy would be more beneficial than speaking in tongues. What’s the great advantage of speaking in tongues instead of speaking a word of prophecy?” That’s a great question. And there’s a good answer. The answer is that the problem with spirit power is that it can easily be from God or from the Devil. We know there’s prophecy from God in the Old Testament. There are many prophets of God in the Old Testament. There are also false prophets, prophets of Baal, deceived prophets. There are many false prophets in the Old Testament, and there are verses that say, “These prophesied by Baal.” And so we have false prophecy. In Deuteronomy thirteen, for example, God talks about lying signs and wonders. ‘If a prophet speak unto you a sign or miracle and it come to pass, but the prophet is trying to turn you from the living God…’ So the problem with power, the manifestation of spirit power, is that it can be from God or the Devil. You can walk into a room and see somebody levitating. I doubt that’s from God. The Adversary does that kind of thing. But speaking in tongues is different. One of the things that makes speaking in tongues such a wonderful thing is that God says that it can’t be counterfeited. Now that isn’t to say that a devil can’t make somebody speak in a foreign language. That’s not the person’s free will. And that’s the key. Speaking in tongues is not God taking you over, as you well know. Speaking in tongues is you speaking out of your own free will. You start when you want, you stop when you want, you set the amplitude, you set the pace. You can speak in tongues fast, you can speak in tongues slow, you can speak in tongues out loud, you can speak in tongues to yourself, stop and go when you want. If a demon causes you to speak in another language it’s not in your control. And of course, that would be obvious to you. You’d say, ‘Wait a minute, I didn’t mean to do that. I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t start, I was taken over.’ Well, then that’s not God. And that’s what I mean when I say that genuine speaking in tongues cannot be counterfeited.
1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
And we know that ‘speaking by the spirit of God’ is speaking in tongues from 1 Corinthians 14:13-14. You see, you can give a word of prophecy – spirit power – and there can be great concern. ‘Well, was that prophecy of God or was that prophecy of the Devil?’ Does that prophecy indicate that there is God’s spirit there? Or could it be a prophecy by Baal? Remember false prophecy is often true. But with speaking in tongues – what’s so wonderful about it? Well, one of the wonderful things about it, is that people would get born again and speak in tongues, and that can’t be counterfeited. If you are speaking in tongues and you know you’re in control, then you’ve got the living God inside of you. You’ve got the Lord Jesus Christ talking with you. Amen. And that’s one of the reasons God wants us to speak in tongues. This teaching is really to those of us that speak in tongues, and to those who are considering speaking in tongues, because speaking in tongues is important. We need to speak in tongues. It does wonderful things for us, and in the spiritual world, for God. And again, we’ll hear more about it. Here’s God’s command:
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
‘Spiritual gifts’ is pneumatikos – spiritual things – not spiritual gifts as many Bibles read, including my NIV, but spiritual things. If we’re going to eagerly desire spiritual things, tongues is a spiritual thing, we should be desiring it. No wonder in verse five he goes on to say, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.” And I rest my case. I think this is a fabulous translation of the Greek, it picks up the intent of the Greek very well. I think it’s the will of God and the will of the Lord Jesus Christ stated in a way that’s so crystal clear it’s hard to believe that anyone could misunderstand it. You want to know what God wants you to do? “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.” Enough said.
1 Corinthians 14:39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
We should want to speak in tongues and certainly never want to forbid it. What are you doing when you speak in tongues? I know from 1 Corinthians 14:1 that it’s a language of men or angels.
1 Corinthians 14:2 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.
Praise the Lord. What am I doing when I speak in tongues? I’m speaking to God. The Lord Jesus Christ gave me the language, and I’m speaking to God. Absolutely! Furthermore it says, “Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” If you’ve got the word him in your Bible like I have in my NIV, check any Greek text you want, there’s no variation, the word him is not in the Greek text. It’s not that people don’t understand – every once in a while people will understand. God could give you a language that someone else will understand. And that happened in Acts chapter two, and you remember the Apostles spoke in tongues, and the crowds heard them speak in their languages. So it’s not that no one understands him. That’s a mistranslation. The Greek doesn’t read that way. It says, “Indeed no-one understands.” When you speak in tongues you don’t have a clue what you’re saying. Praise the Lord! It goes on to say, “He utters musterion with his spirit.” I know when I speak in tongues I am uttering sacred secrets to God that come to me through the spirit of God. He utters musterion – sacred secrets. You want to know why you should want to speak in tongues? God says to. And what is it? It’s speaking a language, and it’s speaking sacred secrets. I’ve made this statement before, and now I want to back it up. I’ve said when I’m speaking in tongues that it is coming directly to me from the Lord Jesus Christ. I will say I didn’t believe this for a long time. I have come to believe this over the last five years or so, as I’ve understood more about the text.
Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
If you have listened to Spirit & Truth Fellowship material before, you know that when they were filled with holy spirit, that’s when they got born again of God’s Spirit. That’s what Ephesians 1:13 would say is being “sealed” with the holy spirit. They were filled with the holy spirit – every pore of their being, every cell of their body was completely filled. They were fully immersed – which is why the word ‘baptized’ is used. They were ‘clothed,’ they were fully covered with holy spirit. It was through and through them. They were filled with holy spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them. The word I want to put pressure on here is the spirit. Who or what is the spirit? For years and years I believed that the spirit was the holy spirit inside them, that they were given. That they were filled with this gift of holy spirit, they began to speak in tongues as the spirit – the holy spirit inside them – enabled them. (By the way, ‘enabled them’ is a very poor translation. The King James is much closer: As the spirit was giving them utterance. Go back and check your Greek – they were speaking in tongues as the spirit was giving them the utterance. So the spirit is feeding them the words, and then they are speaking those words out.) Again I ask what is the spirit? Is the spirit the gift of holy spirit? I say, “No, it’s not.” Because in the New Testament ‘the spirit that gives utterance’ is the name for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is called the spirit. Now we need to take a look at how that is. If you remember in 1 Corinthians 15:45 it says when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead he was made a life-giving spirit. Now that’s not to say that he didn’t have flesh and bones, but he was made a life-giving spirit, or spiritual being. He had flesh and bones, but his energy source was out of the spirit. And because of that Jesus Christ in the New Testament is called the spirit. We should also say that sometimes holy spirit is called the spirit. Here we can determine from the context, but first lets lay down the groundwork that Jesus Christ is in fact called the spirit, or as we would say, one of the usages of spirit in the New Testament – after Acts, after the Resurrection – is Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
The Lord Jesus is the spirit. And where the spirit, that is to say the Lord, is – that’s the genitive of apposition – and where the spirit, that is to say the Lord, is, there is freedom. Let’s see this again. Jesus Christ is speaking to John, who’s going to write a letter to the seven Jewish churches, the Ekklesia, and I explain that in our seminar on The Book of Revelation.
Revelation 1:12-17 (12) I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lamp stands, (13) and among the lamp stands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. (15) His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (17) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead…
Wow, this is powerful! It took the energy right out of him when he saw Jesus Christ in his full glory and resurrected form. It just took the energy right out of him and he went down, right at Jesus’ feet, as though he was dead.
Revelation 1:17 and 18 (17)…Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. (18) I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!…
We will be too, by the way, if we believe in him.
Revelation 1:18-20 (18)…And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (19) “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. (20) The mystery (musterion – sacred secret) of the seven stars…
And he goes on in chapter two:
Revelation 2:1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
And then he dictates this letter to John. It’s the letter to the Church at Ephesus, and he concludes this letter by saying in verse seven:
Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
He’s talking about himself – “Let him hear what I, Jesus Christ, the spirit, say to the churches…” And then he says in verse eight:
Revelation 2:8 To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
And then he dictates this letter. And then in verse eleven he closes it by saying:
Revelation 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
And he concludes every letter like that. And then he says in verse seventeen:
Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
This is Jesus Christ talking. He’s the spirit, and he gives revelation. Remember 2 Corinthians 3:17: ‘The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ I want to continue to demonstrate from Scripture that when the Bible says that those men began to speak in other tongues, it was as Jesus Christ, the spirit, gave them the revelation. We’ve seen in Scripture that Jesus Christ is called the Spirit. So is there evidence then, in the context of Acts chapter two, that this spirit being referred to is Jesus Christ? Peter starts his sermon to the crowds and he says in verse thirty-two:
Acts 2:32 and 33 (32) God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. (33) Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Jesus Christ, the spirit, received the gift, holy spirit, from the Father, and Jesus poured out what those people in the crowd heard and what they heard was speaking in tongues. Look at verse thirty-three. God gave Jesus holy spirit, and then Jesus poured out the language. In Acts 2:4 they were filled with the holy spirit – that’s what Peter had said. They began to speak in other tongues as the spirit, Jesus, enabled them. So Acts 2:4 and Acts 2:33 are saying exactly the same thing. The Apostles in this case got holy spirit and then they spoke in tongues as that language was poured out by Jesus Christ. There’s one more piece of evidence, John chapter sixteen. Here we learn about the Spirit of God. In verse thirteen, talking about the Spirit of God, it makes an interesting statement. It says:
John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
Now ‘he’ there should be translated ‘it’ – the Greek can be masculine or neuter, and the spirit is an ‘it.’ It will not speak on it’s own; it will speak only what it hears. The Spirit of God inside you is not a living thing apart from you. The Spirit of God inside you is the power of God resident within you that infiltrates every cell of your body and allows you to be a body, soul, and spirit person. It doesn’t make you into a split personality. It doesn’t have a personality of it’s own. It hears from Jesus Christ. The holy spirit inside you is incapable of producing a language. It can only communicate what it hears. It has to get the information from either God or the Lord Jesus Christ. And so now with that evidence in place, we are able to take a look at Acts 2:4. All the Apostles were filled with holy spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit, Jesus Christ, was giving them the utterance. That’s a powerful reason as to why we ought to speak in tongues. How many times do we hear somebody say, “I wish I could hear from the Lord?” Speak in tongues – you’re hearing from the Lord. Where do you think that language came from? Every syllable came right from the Lord. You want to hear from the Lord, to your mind, to your body? Speak in tongues. Right from the Lord Jesus Christ. Why should we speak in tongues? Well, we’ve already read 1 Corinthians 14:5 – God says He wants us to. Basically we could almost close the Book at that point and just say, “God says we should and that’s good enough, even if there’s no other reason. God says we should, so be it. Ok. Done.” But there’s more, of course.
1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Now to each one – that’s you, if you’re a Christian – the manifestation of the spirit – we know that speaking in tongues is a manifestation, a making obvious of the gift of holy spirit inside of us – now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. Why should we speak in tongues? Because it’s for the common good. It helps build the Church. You know Dan Gallagher has a saying that I just love. I’m not sure where he got it – I know he didn’t make it up – but he says, “The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf.” And that’s exactly right. You see, my strength comes from the Body of Christ, and from Jesus Christ, the Head. If there was just John Schoenheit, single Christian, alone on the face of the earth, there wouldn’t be a whole lot that I could do. The strength of a Christian is all Christians, and the Head that’s Jesus Christ, who’s pouring out strength and power and revelation. So the strength of the Christian is the pack, but the strength of the pack is the Christian. It’s the Christian who stands up for the Lord and does what the Lord wants and obeys the Lord and stays in fellowship, that then feeds into the common good, so that Christianity as a whole can be stronger. Why should we speak in tongues? God says He wants us to. And as a manifestation, it’s for the common good. I’ll tell you something else, it proves that we’re born again. You bet it does. When you speak in tongues it proves that you’re born again. I want to tell you how unique this is again for the Administration of the Sacred Secret. You can’t go into any verse in the Old Testament and find a verse that says, “If you do this it proves that you’re going to be in paradise.” There is no such verse. Because you could lose your salvation and you needed to stay faithful to the end. But in the Administration of Grace, God did something new and different for our glory and for His Glory, and that is He made permanent salvation available for the first time in history. And when you speak in tongues, it proves that you’ve got the spirit inside you, that you’ve been sealed, forever sealed, with holy spirit.
1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
To believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ – which according to Romans 10:9-10 gets you born again – and to love one another as he commanded us.
1 John 3:24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. If you’re born again, God and Jesus live in you. This is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the spirit he gave us. You want to know how you’re born again? You want to know how Christ lives inside you? You know it by the spirit. Let’s take a look at that a little more closely. We know that with holy spirit you can’t see it, smell it, hear it, taste it, touch it. You can’t sense it. There are a lot of people that think they’re saved, but they’re not, and there are people who think they’re unsaved, but they are. Why does that exist in the world? Because when a person gets born again and receives holy spirit, that holy spirit is not accessible to the five senses. However, if you manifest the spirit, if the power of the spirit flows out of you, then you know you are born again. But prophesy? Gosh that can be counterfeited. Miracles and signs? Well, they are great, and they can come from the true God, but they can be counterfeited. But then there’s speaking in tongues, which cannot be counterfeited. If you are speaking in tongues properly, out of your free will, and have a genuine language of men or angels flowing out of you, then you know you are born again. And that’s exactly what it says:
1 John 3:24 …And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
So we speak in tongues because God says He wants us to. We know it’s for the common good. It proves that we’re born again. In Acts 2:11 it says when we speak in tongues we speak the wonderful works of God or we magnify God.
Acts 2:11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs– we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
I think it goes without saying that for all of human history God’s horn hasn’t been tooted enough. For all of the billions of people that have lived and died on planet earth God has not gotten the recognition that He deserves for all that He has done and all the great things He will do. It’s nice to know that there’s a language out there, a language that’s provided to us word by word by the Lord Jesus Christ that speaks the wonders of God. Speaking in tongues does that. Speaking in tongues praises God. Let’s look at Acts 10:46. We’ve actually read this verse before, but I didn’t put pressure on the word praise.
Acts 10:46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God…
Amen. We read in 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 that speaking in tongues is again stated as praising God. That brings up the next point, which is that speaking in tongues is giving thanks well.
1 Corinthians 14:16 and 17 (16) If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? (17) You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
Sure, chances are you speak the language that the people in the congregation speak – like in my home fellowship I speak English and everybody who comes speaks English, and so when we speak in tongues, since we don’t understand it, nobody else does. Pretty simple! Verse seventeen – you may be giving thanks well enough.
- So speaking in tongues is praising God.
- Speaking in tongues is giving thanks well.
- Speaking in tongues is prayer in the spirit.
1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays…
A lot of times people wrestle with prayer. What should I pray for? We can pray by speaking in tongues. It’s prayer in the spirit. And I’ll tell you something else, it edifies the one who is speaking.
1 Corinthians 14:4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…
Now the word edify is ‘to build up.’ And there’s a lot of different ways that speaking in tongues can build you up. It can remind you of your salvation, and that your situation spiritually is secure. It can calm your mind, if your mind is racing. Speaking in tongues can give you peace at times when you just don’t seem to have any peace. And speaking in tongues builds you up in the spirit, not that we understand this perfectly, because we don’t. I just know that Scripture says that it builds us up. Believing Scripture to be true, I believe that speaking in tongues builds people up. The testimony in the flesh is when I run into people who speak in tongues a lot, they are generally more spiritually sensitive than those who don’t. I want to re-enforce this point from Jude. I want to read this out of the NIV, but then I want to do a better translation of it.
Jude 1:20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
Now the word and in the middle there – build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit – makes it seem like there are two things going on. Well, I build myself up in my faith and then I speak in tongues, then I pray in the holy spirit. And I want to tell you that isn’t true, that’s not a good translation. The Revised Standard Version is closer. It simply reads:
Jude 1:20 (RSV) But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, pray in the holy spirit.
The Greek is actually a little better than that, because instead of pray, it’s the middle present participle – praying. Because you see it’s not that I pray in the holy spirit and build myself up – i.e. “Well, I pray in the holy spirit, yeah, I prayed last week and I prayed last month, so yeah, I pray in the holy spirit.” By being a middle present participle it’s praying. Build yourself up in your most holy faith, praying – be praying –in holy spirit. You’re not really effectively building yourself up if you’re only praying for a couple of seconds. You know you’ve got to pray longer than that! Be praying in the holy spirit. I want to now look at 1 Corinthians chapter fourteen and just read through it, and see if we can get an understanding of what this is saying to us. Let’s just start in verse one, and see if we can just simply read and get it to speak to us, so we really understand God’s heart here. He starts out after 1 Corinthians thirteen, a chapter on love, where love is the more excellent way to be – to be with people, to be with God. We do things out of love, and when we have a loving heart, 1 Corinthians fourteen says:
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual things. It’s not an either /or. It’s not like “Well, you guys speak in tongues, but I’m loving.” Or “Well, I speak in tongues, but he focuses on love.” It’s a both and. We’re supposed to follow the way of love and eagerly desire – zeloo – we’re zealous for spiritual things, especially prophecy – we learn later that’s because prophecy builds up the Church. Why am I to be eager of spiritual things?
1 Corinthians 14:2 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.
For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. I should be eager to speak to God. In the Old Testament they couldn’t do it. And now God, to magnify us, and to magnify Him, has given us a language whereby we can speak to Him – no wonder God says, “Be zealous of spiritual things.” Why? For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, he speaks to God. How many thousands and thousands of people have felt defeated in their life, crying out and saying, “God, I wish I could talk to you. God, I wish I could commune with you!” And here God says, “Anyone who speaks in a tongue speaks to God.” And not just a regular language. No! He’s uttering sacred secrets via his spirit.
1 Corinthians 14:3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
So we should want to do that too. We should want to edify people in the Church.
1 Corinthians 14:4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
We build ourselves up when we speak in tongues, but he who prophesies builds up the Church. And that’s important too. We have to be mindful of other people and our effect on other people, and how we can bless and help other people. Now, verse five – God’s heart.
1 Corinthians 14:5 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.
God’s concern is with the Body of Christ. Again, the strength of the pack is the wolf. God knows that the Body will be strong, as you are strong. If you speak in tongues a lot, edify yourself a lot, you won’t have any problem with prophecy. But God knows that as you desire to bless the Church, you’ll do what it takes to get yourself to the point where you can do it. You know, if you are a football player and you desire to bless the team, you’re going to do it by making yourself a great football player. If you desire to bless the team of Christianity, you do it by making yourself a strong Christian, and speaking in tongues edifies you. What’s the goal in your heart? You say, “Man, I want to be the best I can be for God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the Body, and I’m going to do what it takes to get there. And speaking in tongues edifies me and helps me get there.”
1 Corinthians 14:6-9 (6) Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? (7) Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? (8) Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? (9) So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.
Sure. If we just march into a Church and speak in tongues, it just goes into the air. People look at us and say, “Well, that guy is speaking in tongues,” but it doesn’t edify them.
1 Corinthians 14:10-12 (10) Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. (11) If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. (12) So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
Now, at this point – “So it is with you” – the NIV really drops the ball on the last half of verse twelve. I’ve got some major problems with the NIV translation of this verse. First of all it has gifts in it twice, and the word gifts doesn’t appear in the Greek text at all. Manifestations are not gifts. The gift is holy spirit, and it’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about spiritual things that build up the Church, the manifestations of the spirit. And secondly, the word try – it’s not about trying, it’s about doing it. So a better translation might be:
(12) So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual things, with a view to the edification of the Church, seek that you abound. Seek to abound to the edification of the Church, via spiritual things.
Amen. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Seek that we can abound in the edification of the Church.
1 Corinthians 14:13 For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.
Now the understanding of this is pretty simple. It’s not that we pray to interpret. “Oh Lord, please help me interpret. Oh Lord, please give me an interpretation. Oh Lord, I’m just praying so much for an interpretation.” That’s not what the verse means. He’s already told you that speaking in tongues is prayer. And that when you speak in tongues interpretation is a manifestation. So he says if you’re seeking to excel in building up the Church, he says because of that, if you speak in tongues and then pray, then do it so that you can interpret. Absolutely, because you’re not going to be able to interpret if you don’t speak in tongues. So pray, speak in tongues, so that there’s something there to interpret. That’s what he’s saying. For this reason – for the reason that you are zealous in seeking to build up the church – if you speak in tongues you should do it – pray – so that you can interpret.
1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
That’s exactly correct, speaking in tongues is prayer in the spirit. That’s important to get. But my mind is unfruitful – which is what verse two said – nobody can understand what he’s saying.
1 Corinthians 14:15-17 (15) So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. (16) If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? (17) You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
That makes good sense. I’m in the Church, I’m speaking in tongues like crazy, I’m praying in my spirit – but the guy sitting next to me can’t say “Amen” to my prayer. Because he doesn’t have a clue what I’m praying for. Actually, I probably don’t either! I’m just enjoying speaking in tongues! No, God says, “Don’t do that. If you go into the Church, you speak in the language that everyone understands. Then they can say ‘Amen.’”
1 Corinthians 14:18 and 19 (18) I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. (19) But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Verse eighteen has a very powerful point and I really want to make this point strongly. In the NIV, this is a poor translation. “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” – what does that make Paul – one-up-manship? “Well, I’m sure better than you are. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you do! If I spoke in tongues as little as you I couldn’t imagine even living. Why, I sure thank God that I speak in tongues more than you do!” That’s not what this verse is saying. Let’s get this straight. The Apostle Paul here is not pulling rank or making anybody feel bad. He is talking to them because they are speaking in tongues but they are doing it in a way that’s not edifying the Church. The Apostle Paul is going to make a very powerful statement. If you check your Greek, he says:
(18) I thank God, I speak in tongues more than all of you. (19) But in the Church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Now, why do I think this verse is so important? Because the Apostle Paul, writing by revelation, says, “I thank God. I do. I speak in tongues more than all of you.” In the Greek the word you is plural. What Paul learned by the spirit by revelation as he was writing Corinthians was that he, that one man, the Apostle Paul, was so focused on speaking in tongues, on speaking the wonderful works of God, on speaking a divine secret language, a sacred secret language of God, on edifying himself, on praising God in the spirit, on praying – the Apostle Paul was so focused on doing all those wonderful things for God, that he got the revelation that he spoke in tongues more than the entire Church of Corinth put together! This really hit my heart a few weeks ago, and I want to tell you there are a lot of us who speak in tongues that are not as properly focused on it as we should be.
- Speaking in tongues speaks the wonderful works of God.
- It praises God.
- It gives God thanks.
- It speaks a sacred secret to God.
- It prays – that language is prayer.
And there are many people – and I’ve been through a period of this in my life too, where I think if I look back on a Sunday night over my week, I may have spoken in tongues a couple of times. Speak in tongues maybe a little bit when you’re driving down the road in your car; speak in tongues when there’s something you really want to pray for and you really want to add some extra punch – truth be known over the week I didn’t focus on speaking in tongues. I didn’t concentrate on speaking in tongues. I didn’t think of it as something I was doing for God. I thought of it as something that would get me where I wanted to go. Speaking in tongues will edify me. Speaking in tongues is my prayer, which God will hear because it’s spoken in the spirit. Speaking in tongues praises God and gives thanks to God well. The Apostle Paul, who writes in 1 Corinthians chapter eleven “Be followers of me,” writes to the Church at Corinth “I speak in tongues more than you all.” I have a question and a challenge for you at this point. How do you feel about your speaking in tongues? Do you speak in tongues a lot? When 1 Thessalonians says, “Pray without ceasing” do you live there? When Colossians four says, “Devote yourselves to prayer,” and Romans twelve says, “Be faithful in prayer,” do we live there? We can speak in tongues when we’re driving a car, we can speak in almost everything we do. There are some things that might require so much concentration you just can’t live there, but in almost everything that we do, my experience is that we can be speaking in tongues in the background, because it’s a spiritually generated language and it doesn’t interfere with what we’re doing, thinking, or saying. The Apostle Paul wrote by revelation that he spoke in tongues more than the entire Church at Corinth put together. And I’ll tell you what, when I read that a few months ago – talk about getting a reproof and correction from the Word of God instead of from people! I got reproved and corrected from the Word of God, and I am making a concerted effort to bring my life back to praising God a lot, edifying myself, obeying God when He says, “I want all of you to speak in tongues.” Then it goes on, and he says, ‘But in the Church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.’ And then verse twenty is kind of interesting. It says:
1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
What does that mean – in regard to evil be infants? If you’ve ever dealt with infants and toddlers, they forget things and move on in their life so quickly. They don’t harbor things, they don’t harbor bitterness. They don’t sit around with little thunder clouds over their head for days and days because somebody said something to them or something bad happened. Infants and toddlers move on from evil and bad things so quickly. And that’s what he’s saying here – don’t let the evil of the world get you down. Don’t walk around with a thunder cloud over your head. Don’t be angry and bitter. Gosh, when it comes to evil, just be an infant and move on. But in your thinking be adults.
1 Corinthians 14:21 and 22 (21) In the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord. (22) Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.
What’s this referring to? What exactly does this mean? How does this work? To understand this we have to go back to where this is quoted from in Isaiah 28:11. Isaiah lived at a time when the Assyrian army was attacking Israel. And God had come to Israel again and again and again by Prophets, to turn them from evil. And the Israelites didn’t want to turn from evil. I need to point out the Prophets were speaking Hebrew. In other words, the Prophets came in to Israel and said, “Put away your idols. Tithe to God. Release your slaves every seven years.” The Prophets would tell the people what to do, what the commands of God were. They were speaking to the people in Hebrew, a language they could understand. What did the people do with these reproofs and corrections from the Prophets? This language they could understand? They completely ignored it! They didn’t obey the Prophets at all.
Isaiah 28:7-10 (7) And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions. (8) All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth. (9) “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? (10) For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there.”
In other words “I have come to you and spoken to you very plainly, do and do, rule and rule, and here and there, but you’re hard-hearted. You still hang on to your wine, you can’t make decent decisions, you’ve got idols all around you.” So he says in verse eleven:
Isaiah 28:11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people.
And how’s He going to do it? Well, the Assyrian army is going to come through. It’s going to trash Israel. They’re going to rape and pillage and burn. They’re going to steal and kill. And they’re going to speak Assyrian and the people of Israel aren’t going to understand. God says, “You know what? I came to you and I came to you and I came to you in a language you should have understood and you didn’t get it. And so now, you’re going to be spoken to by people that you don’t understand. And maybe you’ll wake up and say, ‘Why is this happening to us?’ And you’ll come back to your senses about your sin and your idolatry.” So He says the language that they didn’t understand was to get them to wake up to what God was doing and what God had done. You know I read last night in Judges six about how God sent the people a Prophet because they were in slavery, and He said, “I brought you out of Egypt. I fed you with manna for forty years. I sustained you in the wilderness. I told you to turn away from your idols, but you haven’t done it. And now you’re in slavery.” And that’s exactly what was happening in Isaiah. God had told them what to do, in a language that they could understand. So now they’re going to hear in a language they can’t understand. And that language they can’t understand is going to speak to them about the power of God, and the need for God, and what God could do in their life if they’d get serious about the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:21 and 22a (21) ‘Look, in the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the LORD. (22a) Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers;
Unbelievers can listen to someone speaking in tongues and say, “Wow! That was a sign. I get it! Where did that language come from?” And that is a great reason why if when you speak in tongues you speak in tongues with fits and starts, or you just seem to speak the same word over and over again, work with your language. Let the Lord work in you to relax and let that language flow out of you, so that everyone can see that you are being given a language by the Lord Jesus Christ. That people can look at you and though they don’t understand the language, they understand that God is moving powerfully in our day and our time. You see, tongues are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers. You hear that language pour out of somebody and you say, “What was that?” That’s what happened to me in 1971. Some girl spoke in tongues right in front of me, and I knew, something on the inside of me knew, “Wow, there’s something great going on here!”
1 Corinthians 14:22 and 23 (22) Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. (23) 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?
And so another thing God says here is that speaking in tongues is under your control. Because you can speak in tongues when you want to, stop when you want to – God’s going to tell you that there are certain things that are decorous, are proper, are respectful when it comes to speaking in tongues. I think we’ve all heard the horror stories about the stranger who goes into a Church where everyone is shouting in tongues, and they become scared and afraid, and Scripture tells us that. So, when we speak in tongues we do it in a way that’s a blessing, and we interpret so it blesses the people. I think you get the point about speaking in tongues, and all that it does.
- It’s proof that we’re born again.
- God says He wants us to.
- It’s speaking a sacred secret with God.
- It speaks God’s wonderful works.
- It’s praise to God.
We should be pushing ourselves to speak in tongues a lot. I know that these last few months I really have been, and I want to exhort you to go back to Scripture and talk to the Lord, and if you’re not speaking in tongues a lot, I want to encourage you that it is the will of God. If you’re not speaking in tongues at all, then please hook up with our seminar called New Life in Christ – Foundations for Powerful Christian Living, where you can learn to speak in tongues, and learn the value of speaking in tongues, and speak in tongues much in your life. As I said, “the strength of the pack is the wolf.” I know that the manifestations of the spirit are given for the common good. I want to manifest the spirit because I know it helps me, and then I’m in a position to better help in the Christian world. God bless you. Speak in tongues much. John Schoenheit