“I Thank God I Speak In Tongues”

1 Corinthians 14:18

PART ONE

 

~Our Everyday Experience Speaking in Other Tongues ~

 

By Craig Bluemel

 

˙    1 Corinthians 14:18 
 “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; 19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
 (New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition)

 

 

DISCLAIMER: A simple query online using the phrase, “speaking in tongues,” or, “speaking in unknown tongues,” will typically direct you to a Bible study, exposé, or written article that debates whether or not glossalalia is a valid gift.  This study is NOT an apologetic defense for or against tongues, but rather, it assumes that the reader already accepts glossalalia.  Glossalalia is the Greek New Testament word, which is translated in most Bible versions as, “speaking in other tongues,” or “speaking in (or ‘with’) tongues,” or “speaking in unknown tongues,” or “speaking in unknown (or known) languages.”  

 

This study is geared toward people that already speak in tongues, or who have done so in the past, but then they never really developed an active, healthy prayer life using glossalalia.  If you fit into one or both of the aforementioned categories, skip to the Introduction section below and begin reading, Why Christians Don’t Pray in Tongues Every Day.

 

If you have need of useful, biblically based information that explains speaking in tongues in an easy-to-understand, in-depth, series format, then clicking onto any of the following links will take to studies that will likely answer most, if not all, of your questions.

 

What is Speaking in Tongues? - A Practical, In-depth Study

&         What is Speaking in Tongues? Part One

&         What is Speaking in Tongues? Part Two

&         What is Speaking in Tongues? Part Three

&         What is Speaking in Tongues? Part Four

&         What is Speaking in Tongues? Part Five Revised

&         What is Speaking in Tongues? Part Six

&         What is Speaking in Tongues? Part Seven

&         What is Speaking in Tongues? Part Eight: Testimonies of Glossalalia

 

Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit:

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 1

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 2

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 3

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 4

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 5

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 6

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 7

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 8

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Part 9

˙       Jesus is the "Gift" of the Holy Spirit Addendum (Quick Reference Guide)

 

In chapter fourteen of his first letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul makes a very clear, unmistakable distinction in the personal and public use(s) of speaking in tongues, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.” 

 

In the links to the Bible study series listed above, in-depth answers are provided for questions that seek clarification about the use and relevance of glossalalia in the church.  The studies include the many applications of speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues with special emphasis on contextual accuracy and the historical relevance (i.e. manners & customs of the early church period).  Close attention to detail is given to each of the various individual scenarios involving tongues, including the use of glossa in Acts 2:4ff as a known dialectic manifestation of supernatural power that testified to God’s glory in the individual languages of the many Jews from surrounding nations of Jerusalem. 

 

This series, ‘What is Speaking in Tongues? Parts One thru Part Seven,’ is not your typical charismatic view, nor does it ‘gloss’ over (no pun intended) the Acts Chapter Two narrative by ignoring or downplaying the significance of the obvious aforementioned facts.  At the same time, the series challenges the wrong views of both Evangelicals and Charismatics. 

 

The challenge to Evangelicals speaks directly to doctrinal positions that deny tongues as being relevant for today.  For Charismatics, the series helps a person get a better handle on the overall New Testament perspective of speaking in other tongues, especially the Pentecostal churches’ misuse of Paul’s writings to the Corinthians in relation to tongues and the interpretation of tongues.

 

The message Paul writes in First Corinthians chapters Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen repeatedly identifies speaking and praying in other (unknown) tongues as being the same thing as, ‘speaking (praying) in the spirit,’ or as, ‘praying with the (human) spirit.’  We as Christians are exhorted and commanded to be—and to increasingly become—a spiritual people, with our minds, hearts, and souls growing in the revealed knowledge of God’s will for our lives thru Jesus Christ.  This study is the first of a series aimed at the needs of those whose desire to pray “with the spirit,” (i.e. “in the spirit”), providing biblical and experiential insights that will enhance and optimize the effect of individual daily prayer in other tongues.  My goal is to help the earnest seeker develop prayer in tongues to its highest daily potential. 

 

For this reason, I utilize the apostle Paul’s own daily prayer life as our prototype I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all…” His follow-up to this statement, (i.e.  ...however, in the church…”), while dramatically restricting  his use of tongues when he is in the church assembly, does not diminish his gratitude to God for being enabled to ‘speak.’ 

 

Why Christians Don’t Pray In Tongues Every Day

 

There are any number of individual reasons that prevent a Christian from regularly speaking in tongues, assuming that he or she has done so at least once.  The notion that glossalalia is a spiritual gift that is limited to the ranks of ‘Charismatics’ or to ‘Pentecostals’ is just plain false.  In the first place, these two terms, ‘Charismatic’ and ‘Pentecostals,’ are found nowhere in the New Testament scripture as a description of Christ’s church.  Secondly, when we limit speaking in unknown tongues to a particular segment of the church by using it to characterize certain church denominations, whether intentional or unintentional, we are guilty of dividing the body of Christ.

 

The apostle gives his thanks (i.e. to God) for the capability of speaking in tongues.  Paul thanks God, but he doesn’t relegate the responsibility of actually speaking in tongues to Him.  Paul does not say, “I thank God that He speaks thru my lips,” as is alleged in the doctrine of many Pentecostal churches, which teach tongues is, ‘the Holy Ghost talking.’  Instead, Paul says, “I speak.”

 

In 1 Corinthians 14:18, when Paul says, “I thank God I speak in tongues…” the Greek word translated as “thank” is eucharistéo.  In Luke's and Paul's writings, eucharistéo is often followed by the Greek noun, ‘Theós,’ ([NT: 2316], meaning ‘God’) and grammatically is constructed in the dative, ‘tó Theó.’  With the dative, eucharistéo refers to thanksgiving offered to God the Father for any good experience, as it is used in Acts 27:35 (“thanking God”), Romans 14:6 (“thanks God”), Colossians 1:12 (“giving thanks to the Father”), and Colossians 3:17 (“give thanks to God the Father”).[1]

 

Because for him it was a ‘good experience’ and something he enjoyed doing, Paul is thanking God for having enabled him the spiritual insight to voluntarily exercise his will to frequently speak in unknown tongues.  The Message Bible portrays this idea of a good experience in its rendering of 1 Corinthians 14:18 below:

 

˙    1 Corinthians 14:18 I’m grateful to God for the gift of praying in tongues that he gives us for praising him, which leads to wonderful intimacies we enjoy with him.  I enter into this as much or more than any of you.  The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson 2002

 

 

Text Box: THE BEAUTY OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES IS THAT IT DOES NOT REQUIRE YOUR INTELLECTUAL UNDERSTANDING (I.E. – YOUR CONSCIOUS REASONING) TO OPERATE AND PROVIDE ITS BENEFIT.That’s what happens when a person engages in prayer in unknown tongues for protracted lengths of time.  The beauty of speaking in tongues is that it does not require your intellectual understanding (i.e. your conscious reasoning) to operate and provide its benefit.  When Paul writes, “I thank God I speak in tongues,” the words, “I speak,” are present active participle, which expresses continuous or repeated action.  Since in Greek the time of the action represented by participles is relative to the main verb, the present participle is used to signify action that is contemporaneous with the leading verb, whether that action occurs in the past, present, or future.[2]

 

In other words, Paul is thanking God for his continuous ability in the past, present, and in his future prayer times, to be able to repeatedly speak in unknown tongues.  Lest we get the idea that Paul is some super-duper saintly Christian beyond our own capacity, the apostle includes similar grammatical instruction in his words to the Corinthian church believers encouraging them to seek and do likewise as he prayed.

 

˙    1 Corinthians 14:4-5 The one who prays using a private "prayer language" certainly gets a lot out of it, but proclaiming God’s truth to the church in its common language brings the whole church into growth and strength.  5 I want all of you to develop intimacies with God in prayer, but please don’t stop with that.  Go on and proclaim his clear truth to others.  It’s more important that everyone have access to the knowledge and love of God in language everyone understands than that you go off and cultivate God’s presence in a mysterious prayer language—unless, of course, there is someone who can interpret what you are saying for the benefit of all.  The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson 2002

 

As God’s people, we should continually be offering ourselves up in prayer, but this just is not feasible if we insist on praying only with the understanding.  Many Christians feel like a total failure when it comes to the discipline of daily prayer.  Only a few of the most devout melancholic-choleric personalities have the wherewithal and tenacity to get down on their knees for a specified period of time each day. 

 

The rest of us try to pray every day and fail.  Then each time the pastor preaches a sermon about prayer devotions, we get convicted, condemned, or cringe (or all of the aforementioned), or perhaps we’ll go down for yet another altar call, and repent, and vow to the Lord that we will faithfully pray every day and at a set time and place for a protracted length of time.  But soon our busy days and hectic schedules erode our devotion, and as this pattern continues for decades, we slowly drift into a spiritually catatonic state. 

 

Some Christians try to do more ministry to renew the spiritual life-blood they once knew in Jesus, but after awhile, even ministry becomes inwardly dissatisfying without having one’s born-again human spirit actively engaged in fervent prayer.  Others think that getting into hobbies, sports, exercise, diets, or their old stand-by, the television set will bring them a measure of inner plentitude. Although these activities can provide a temporary distraction, they do not satisfy the deep inner longing for God’s presence.

 

New believers in Jesus typically begin their walk with optimism, enthusiasm and excitement. They are spiritually vibrant and ready to change the world. Nothing will stand in their way!! Then the realities of life set in.  There are conflicts with other believers, disappointment with God (often because fervent prayer has not been answered as we demanded) and struggles with one’s own sin and weaknesses. Then the clandestine enemies to the born-again believer—discouragement, hopelessness, condemnation, and fear of failure—set in.  These dark forces sneak up on us when we have gotten to a state of being spiritually unresponsive, withdrawn, impassive, or introspective.  And as the years come and go and life passes you by, you resign yourself to the sidelines, content with an apathetic attitude that says you’re okay if you just sneak into the kingdom by grace. Once a shining star with great potential, you are now a mere spectator in God’s arena. Most born-again Christians in America, Canada, and other parts of the free world, have become lukewarm, lackadaisical, and spiritually dull.  Instead of diligently pursuing God thru His spirit in truth, Christians prop their feet in front of the boob-tube every night, contented to skate into heaven on yesteryear’s glories.

 

The Solution = Just Begin to speak in Tongues!

 

This simple truth is really quite profound.  The words, “I speak in tongues,” when offset and viewed separately (apart from the surrounding context) for a distinct purpose, informs the seeking believer that he or she has the clout at will to open his or her mouth and begin speaking in tongues… any time, any place, under any circumstance or set of circumstances, in hard times and good times and at all times!  While theologians may disagree on the meaning of the tongues that first occurred on the Day of Pentecost, none of them will deny the fact the text includes the fact the 120 disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem BEGAN to speak in other tongues.

 

˙       Acts 2:4b and they… began to speak with other tongues, according as the Spirit was giving them to declare.  Young's Literal Translation Bible

 

The Greek text for the phrase, “and theybegan to speak,” is constructed in the aorist middle voice, which means literally, “they themselves began speaking.”  It demonstrates my earlier point, that speaking in tongues is something YOU the believer are responsible to initiate, not God, and not Jesus.

 

The phrase, “according as the Spirit was giving them to declare,” alternately reads, “just as each one’s spirit reached out, yielded, or extended, they spoke forth.”  If we put together both segments from above, The Appropriate Translation for Acts 2:4b reads as follows:

 

˙       Acts 2:4b  and they themselves began speaking, just as each one’s spirit reached out {and} yielded, they spoke forth.”  The Appropriate Translation

 

Old time Pentecostal Church dogma teaches that the believer can only use his or her prayer in tongues, ‘when the Holy Ghost moves you.’  This is kind of staunch legalism dampens the zeal of God’s intercessory prayer warriors and fosters a withering church environment thru its denial of our capacity to choose.  It’s an argument that supports the doctrine of hyper-Calvinism because it denies human involvement by strangling impromptu speaking in tongues.

 

Sadly, many of the old timer Pentecostal and Apostolic churches, if not most, have dried up and no longer speak in tongues, even though they go to church and do a lot of hand clapping and foot stomping.  The proof is the putting, so to speak, because you don’t see evangelism being an everyday lifestyle.  Where evangelism wanes people have begun to lose or have altogether lost their first love, and are living off of yesterday’s manna.

 

Even in today’s modernized charismatic church settings, where speaking in tongues is encouraged as part of the corporeal worship, relatively few individual Christians take the glossalalia experiences from Sunday morning worship and clarity utilize it as part of an active, daily life of prayer in other tongues.

 

This is not a mute point, and unfortunately, lack of teaching in the Christian churches at large, plus the fact that only a very select few are living glossalalia by example, has resulted in a pitifully small amount of individual prayer in other tongues.  Even in charismatic churches that encourage glossalalia during their corporate worship services, there still remains the problem because speaking in tongues is not emphasized enough as a part of the believer’s DAILY life.  Am I sounding redundant?  Good.  You’re paying attention. 

 

I often wonder what the response would be if a survey was made of Christians that speak in tongues, asking each individual how often he or she practices or uses this wonderful gift.  How many would honestly answer, “All day long, every day, whenever it is feasible and possible without offending or stumbling others.”  How many are aware that speaking in tongues is supposed to be a part of their prayer life and communication with God, enabling them the capacity to ‘pray at all times’ as commanded in Ephesians 6:18?  Allow me to get more direct and ask you dear reader, my brother, or sister in Jesus, “How often do YOU pray in tongues?”

 

I think the main reason they don’t is that they simply do not know they can.  If you did it once, then you know you can speak in tongues.  So, get started.  Yep, right now brother, or sister.  I promise you from the scriptures, that if you will start speaking in tongues today, now, and, as often as is possible, you will ignite a fire within you, and God will catch hold of your spirit, and you’ll begin renewing your first love with Jesus!

 

Aside from being wrongly taught, another reason Christians don’t speak in tongues regularly, and on a daily basis, is because they are unaware of its potential benefit.  I am convinced that the apostle Paul’s anointing to teach, preach, and be led of God’s spirit is the direct result of his prayer in the spirit (i.e. – in tongues). 

 

Using discretion and always considering others in love, I speak in unknown tongues at will, any time, any place, loud or soft, or even at a whisper, and for any reason and need I so desire.  I am not implying my prayerful desire is a self-serving type of beseeching God for whatever things I want, as is falsely alleged today by the increasingly popular ministers of greed.  Those who promote the ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ prosperity message are wolves in Armani sheepskin and are full of braggadocio in their arrogant assertions that insist a Christian can simply pray in tongues (or English) for whatever they wish.  Quite the opposite.

 

In fact, my statement concerning the use of one’s God-given, innate capacity to choose the time and setting, when applied to prayer in the spirit (i.e. – prayer in unknown tongues), runs contrary to any material or otherwise fleshly craving.  We must remember that the born-again spirit is willing to do God’s bidding at any time, although our flesh is weak, typically uncooperative, and subject to the cravings of our soul, mind, and physical body.

 

˙    Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, all of you, that you may not have to face temptation.  Your spirit is willing, but human nature is weak."

 

˙    John 6:63 It is the spirit which gives life.  The flesh will not help you.  The things which I have told you are spiritual and are life.

 

Praying in the Spirit = Prayer in Unknown Tongues

 

Brothers and sisters in Jesus, we are in a life and death spiritual struggle, but the weapons of our warfare are not understood with our carnal, fleshly thinking and/or reasonings.  I like Weymouth’s New Testament version of Ephesians 6:11-18 (below), which speaks about prayer in tongues by naming it through one of its other nuances, ‘praying in the spirit.”

 

Ephesians 6:11-18

 

˙    11-13 In conclusion, strengthen yourselves in the Lord and in the power (Acts 1:8) which His supreme might imparts.  11 Put on the complete armor of God, so as to be able to stand firm against all the stratagems of the Devil.  12 For ours is not a conflict with mere flesh and blood, but with the despotisms, the empires, and the forces that control and govern this dark world—the spiritual hosts of evil arrayed against us in the heavenly warfare.  13 Therefore put on the complete armor of God, so that you may be able to stand your ground on the day of battle, and, having fought to the end, to remain victors on the field.

 

˙    14-17 Stand therefore, first fastening round you the girdle of truth and putting on the breastplate of uprightness 15 as well as the shoes of the Good News of peace— a firm foundation for your feet.  16 And besides all these take the great shield of faith, on which you will be able to quench all the flaming darts of the Wicked one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

 

˙    18 Pray with unceasing prayer and entreaty on every fitting occasion in the Spirit, and be always on the alert to seize opportunities for doing so, with unwearied persistence and entreaty on behalf of all God’s people.  Weymouth New Testament Translation

 

If we embrace the New Testament as inspired scripture, then Ephesians 6:18 is a clarion commandment to pray with unceasing prayer every day, all day and at night, and whenever or wherever it is possible.  Begging your pardon, dear brother or sister in Christ, how is this feat possible if not accomplished in the spirit?  In 1 Corinthians 14:2, Paul gives us insight concerning his own personal practice of unceasing glossalalia. 

 

˙       1 Corinthians 14:2  For he who speaks in an unknown tongue is not speaking to men, but to God; for no one understands him. Yet, in the spirit he is speaking secret truths.  Weymouth New Testament Translation

 

For now, just begin activating your spirit by speaking forth in tongues.  You will not understand what you are speaking, but according to the scripture, you are speaking “secret truths,” and if you continue, incorporating reading and study of scripture with your prayer time in the spirit, God will begin to unveil what the mind of the spirit of Christ is.  Future parts in this series will discuss how speaking in tongues as prayer in the spirit brings spiritual revelation, and arms us for spiritual warfare.

 

˙       Revelation 2:2-7 I know your industry and activities, laborious toil and trouble, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot tolerate wicked [men] and have tested and critically appraised those who call themselves apostles (special messengers of Christ) and yet are not, and have found them to be impostors and liars.  3 I know you are enduring patiently and are bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not fainted or become exhausted or grown weary.  4 But I have this one charge to make against you: that you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first.  5 Remember then from what heights you have fallen. Repent (change the inner man to meet God's will) and do the works you did previously when first you knew the Lord, or else I will visit you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you change your mind and repent.  6 Yet you have this in your favor and to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans; what they are doing as corrupters of the people, which I myself also detest.  7 He who is able to hear let him listen to and give heed to what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).  To him who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.  Amplified Bible

 

˙       1 Corinthians 14:39 In conclusion then, my brothers, set your heart on preaching the word of God, while not forbidding the use of "tongues."  Phillip’s New Testament

 

 

To be continued in Part Two

 


Links to the Entire “I Thank God I Speak In Tongues” 1 Corinthians 14:18  Series:

 

Part 1

Part 2

 


 

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[1] From The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament © 1992 by AMG International, Inc. Revised Edition, 1993

[2] Ibid