How We Can Have Confidence That It Is From God

Hank McIntyre

"He who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself." - 1 Corinthians 14:4

1 Corinthians 14 - 1 Follow after love, and desire spiritual gifts so that you may prophesy. 2For  he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men, but to God:  For no man understands him. But in the spirit, he speaks mysteries. - 4 He who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like you all to speak in tongues, but I would rather that you prophesy. For he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, except that he also interpret so that the church may be edified. - 13 Therefore let he who speaks in tongues pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. - 18  I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all . 19 But in the church I would rather speak five words with understanding, that by my voice I might teach others as well, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

Is speaking in "tongues" biblical? How do we know if we're speaking by the Holy Spirit or if it's a satanic utterance?

1 Corinthians 14:14 - For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

The "tongue" doesn't have to be understood by our mind for it to be "legitimate," for Paul here describes it as something that our mind does not comprehend. In fact, "No one understands": 1 Cor. 14:2 - For he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men, but to God.

Some people believe Speaking in Tongues is only for situations where you are in the midst of people who speak another language, and the Holy Spirit enables you to speak supernaturally in their native language. This occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:6 - "...everyone heard them speak in his own language." But Paul plainly states in 1 Corinthians 14:4 that speaking in tongues edifies yourself, and that it is your spirit speaking mysteries to God (verse 2). So it is not required that tongues-speaking be used only for addressing people who speak a language that is foreign to you, as was done on Pentecost. The fact that Speaking in Tongues "edifies yourself" defines it as a major part of the Christian Believer's prayer life.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is admonishing the Believers in Corinth to avoid speaking in tongues to each other in church, because it is useless for fellowship. It's private between man and God. The public use of tongues is appropriate only when it's accompanied by an interpretation (verse 5).

But let's not forget that Paul also says:

  • "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all" (verse 18)

  • "He who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself (verse 4)

  • "For he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men, but to God" (verse 2)

So the Bible makes it clear that it is desirable for the Believer to speak in a Holy Spirit-inspired prayer language: to edify himself, and to let his spirit speak mysteries to God.

"How do we know we're speaking by the Holy Spirit?"

If we're right before God, we're not operating in the flesh and are therefore able to discern between the Spirit of God and any ungodly spirits. Now, a person who's under the influence of the devil, if he speaks in an "unknown tongue", may be speaking evil - but he's also speaking evil when he talks in plain English! The "good" of speaking in tongues depends on the one who's speaking: if you're oriented to God, speaking in tongues is Godly for you. For someone who's oriented to the devil, speaking in tongues is open to enemy influence and, for that person, could be evil.

We must have confidence that speaking in tongues is of God. As long as a Believer is operating by the Word of God, he is not under the influence of the devil. He is maintaining his standing in the Covenant of Jesus. Jesus stands as our High Priest before God, superintending the terms of His Covenant on our behalf. By this, Jesus has conquered death and hell, and Satan cannot simply do whatever he wants to a Believer: he is bound by spiritual law. The Believer cannot be "invaded" by Satan against his will. The only way the devil can get the upper hand on a Believer is by trying to draw him away from his trust in God by using worldly distractions.

Once God has revealed something to us, we don't need to have any more doubt about that subject. It is good to study the Word and seek Revelation Knowledge from God when we're uncertain:  but once it has been made clear to us, we shouldn't be affected by other people's doubts  - nor should we get confidence from people's assurances: these things are in the realm of "emotion". Doubt is not a part of the lifestyle of the Believer.

© Hank McIntyre


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