So, let’s quickly recap what we have covered in the first three parts of this series. We have spent the first few weeks of this series laying a foundation that will, prayerfully, lead us into more of the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And this is what I am interested in, church—us experiencing the Holy Ghost’s gifts in our lives, not us just accumulating more head-knowledge. I hope that is your desire as well—which is exactly what we talked about last week:
Last week, we talked about quenching the Holy Spirit—which we learned is not us offending Him through our sin and transgressions. No, we learned that we quench the Holy Spirit when we “despise” both His gifts and His fruit. And to despise these things is not to hate them or be against them in any way. No, we saw from First Samuel 2:30 that to despise something is to essentially dishonor it. In other words, despising spiritual gifts is to simply lightly esteem them, not necessarily to be in opposition to them.
So, what we learned from this is that in order to keep from quenching the Holy Spirit, we need to do the exact opposite and start “desiring” prophecy (see First Corinthians 14:1) and to “covet earnestly” the best gifts (see First Corinthians 12:31). Amen? So, let’s go from simply not trying to quench the Holy Spirit to actually fanning the flame of the Holy Ghost through having hearts that long for and desire these gifts.
But this is not the only key to experiencing the gifts of the Holy Spirit: We saw in part one of this series, that they are called “gifts” for a reason—and that is because they are not earned or to be worked for. So, another key to experiencing the gifts of the Spirit in our lives is we need to understand that we already have the gifts! Yes, they are already in us! So, we ought to stop trying to get something that God has already given us, but simply put to use what we already have.
Which is what we went into great detail about in part two of this series: We learned what our responsibility is, if we already have the gifts inside of us. We looked at the Great Commission where the Lord told us to— “Go, therefore, … into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!” We saw from this that since we have all been commissioned to go everywhere and minister to everybody, the question is not whether or not we are to do this; we need to be ready and willing at all times to let the gifts of the Spirit flow up out of our spirits. And we do this by putting ourselves in the position for the Holy Spirit to use us through practicing on people and simply being aware of what He is showing us when we are around others. Practice makes perfect, church! So, you are going to have to step out in faith on these things—trusting that the Holy Spirit will use you and I when we put ourselves in position to be used.
Someone might have been thinking over these past few weeks, “When are you going to get into the gifts of the Spirit?” To which I would respond— First, I’m trying to get the gifts into you! Amen?
So, again, we have three very foundational ways in which we can see more of a manifestation of the Spirit in our personal lives and in our corporate gatherings:
THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT
Now as we’ve covered the first six verses, let’s move on to First Corinthians 12:7. In it, the apostle Paul says, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.”
Notice here that Paul calls the various gifts of the Spirit, the different ministries of the Lord, and the diversities of activities of God, the “manifestation” of the Spirit.
Now if you have traveled in many of our charismatic circles for any period of time, you know that this word “manifestation” is used a lot. We say things like— “I am just waiting on the manifestation of my healing” or “Please agree with me that my prosperity will manifest.” What we mean when we say this that we desire what God has already promised, performed, etc. to come from the spiritual realm into this physical realm. In other words, we want it to come to pass in this physical, tangible arena so that we are experiencing it in our lives.
Now, the truth is, we can have all the promises in the world of divine health, prosperity, etc. but if we do not have any manifestation of these spiritual realities, then those promises don’t do us any good, do they? In other words, if we are not experiencing these things, then what purpose do these promises serve? No, we need the manifestation of God’s promises—and that includes the gifts of the Spirit.
For instance, we might have the promise that the Lord is always with us—never to leave us nor forsake us—or the promise that the Holy Spirit abides with us forever, but it sure is nice and beneficial to have the manifestation of Him from time to time. You see, there is a difference between God always being positionally with us—that is, with us in the spirit realm—and Him being with us in the physical realm. While we certainly need to understand that the Lord is always with us by faith, we also should desire to see Him manifested in our midst from time to time as well. Yes, we also need the manifestation of the various gifts that God has given to the body of Christ.
Then notice how Paul says that this manifestation of the Spirit “is given to each one.” No, not just some of us. No, these gifts and ministries have been given to each member of the body of Christ. Therefore, each one of us has spiritual giftings. This does not mean that we each have them all, but each of us have been specifically delegated certain “manifestations” of the Spirit. Now we must embrace this truth even if we don’t recognize what our gift is. In other words, since the Word says that each one has been given a gift and a ministry, then we receive that truth by faith and not by experience.
Finally, Paul goes on to say that these various manifestations of the Spirit have been given to each one of us “for the profit of all.” Now herein lies the purpose for these manifestations of the Spirit. It is not just so that we can look good. It is not so we can say, “Look at me! I’m being used.” It is for the profit of all! In other words, God uses us to benefit others.
You see, we all profit when all the different members of Christ’s body operate in their specific gifts. As Paul also uses for analogy, we are a body—and for one member of the body to not function and do their part, causes the rest of the body to suffer. Most of us have experienced an organ or a member of our physical body not working the way it was designed to, and we suffered for it. Well, that is what happens when one member of Christ’s body is not doing their part. The rest of us suffer for it.
But I also believe this is the pure way to see more of the manifestations of the Spirit in our lives: It is to have the heart to be used so that others would be profited, and not so that we would benefit ourselves. In my opinion, this is a more excellent way to earnestly desire the best gifts as Paul exhorted us to do in First Corinthians 12:31; it is to seek them out of our love of helping and profiting others. Church, we always must check our motives, asking ourselves the question— “Why am I seeking what I am seeking? Is it out of my desire to benefit others or myself?”
So now, this week, let’s move on to verses 8-10 and begin looking at these nine individual gifts of the Spirit: In these verses, Paul says, “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
First of all, notice how Paul worded his listing of these nine gifts: He made sure to include the phrase “to another” before each one. But why? Evidently, he wanted to make sure his readers understood that these nine gifts are not going to happen in everyone’s life the same. To one, they will predominantly see the working of miracles manifested in their life. To another, they will mainly be used in both the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom. And I could go on and on, but the point is that to one is given certain gifts and to another is given different gifts. However, the very fact that Paul encourages us to earnestly desire the best gifts shows us that we don’t have to just throw our hands up in the air, saying, “Well, I guess this is my gift and that is all I will ever operate in.” No, we can hunger for and seek after more; just leave the distribution part up to the Holy Spirit.
Now one way to do that is that as you pursue them in prayer, leave room for the Holy Spirit to drop His desires into your heart. In other words, submit your will to His will and let Him direct you into what specific gifts you are to pursue. As we saw in verse 10, He distributes to each one individually as He wills. So, this is a good place for us to pray something to the effect of— “Lord, I desire the best gifts in my life. Nevertheless, you know what is best for me and those around me. Therefore, not my will, but your will be done.” And then, if He places certain gifts on your heart to pursue, then diligently seek them with all your heart. Amen?
Now these nine gifts of the Spirit can conveniently be broken down into three groups of three:
THE VOCAL GIFTS
DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES,
INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES, & PROPHECY
Now, this week, I want us to begin looking at the vocal gifts. We will spend a little more time on these three—mainly because the Holy Spirit chose to have the apostle Paul spend more time on them. On that note, did you know that tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy are the only gifts of the Spirit that any explanation or directions are given concerning (See First Corinthians Chapter 14)? So, since that is the case, I believe we should spend a little more time discussing these three vocal gifts of the Spirit.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES
So, let’s begin with what the King James version calls the “diversities of tongues,” but as we begin with this spiritual gift, we need to dispel some false doctrines that permeate much of the church regarding this gift. Why? It is because it is important that we know why we believe what we believe. No, we do not need to just blindly embrace our charismatic traditions but we need to find Scriptural reasons for the things we believe. And that is especially important regarding the subject of tongues.
You see, a good portion of the church today believes that the gifts of the Spirit (especially the gift of tongues) passed away with the apostles and now that we have the Bible, we do not need tongues, nor any other gift of the Spirit. This teaching comes from First Corinthians 13:8-12, where the Apostle Paul says when that which is “perfect” has come, that which is in part will be done away with (and he specifically mentions tongues as being one of those things that will pass away). Now there is a specific group of Christians that say the Bible is that which is “perfect” and since it has come, tongues and all of the other gifts of the Spirit have passed away.
Now, although I do believe that the Bible is indeed perfect, I also believe that it is a huge stretch to say that is what Paul was referring to here. If you read those Scriptures in context it is rather obvious that Paul was talking about God’s kingdom coming and us receiving the fullness of our salvation. The main reason I can say this is because, along with tongues ceasing, Paul also said knowledge will end. Now we all know that we are all still growing in knowledge, so how can we say that now that we have the Bible, we know all things just as we are known? The only time we will know everything just like God knows us is when we receive our glorified bodies and are not limited by this carnal mind that we now have. No, that which is perfect has not come yet and therefore praying in other tongues is still available to us! Amen!
Now there two ways of interpreting what Paul meant in First Corinthians 12:10 by “different kinds of tongues”—both of which are possible correct interpretations: One is that he is referring to different kinds of languages—which could describe different languages that we speak here on the earth or different languages that are spoken on earth versus in heaven (See First Corinthians 13:1). Another interpretation though is that he is referring to different classifications of tongues (i.e. different families of tongues). In other words, this would be the different supernatural types of tongues that edify us and others.
Let’s begin with the first possible interpretation (i.e. different kinds of earthly languages) by looking at First Corinthians 13:1:
First Corinthians 13:1 says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…”
First of all, we do need to understand that the word “tongues” just literally means “languages.” So, when Paul said that the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to speak with the tongues of men and of angels that just literally means that we are enabled by Him to speak with the languages (plural) of men and the languages (plural) of angels.
Now this is an important point because notice that it is not just the supernatural ability to speak in another language from the earth that we are able to speak with; there are also other languages from heaven that we have been equipped to speak with. This squelches the idea that tongues are just speaking other earthly languages because, while it certainly involves that, there are many more kinds of tongues that we can speak that haven’t even originated from the earth. Like the kind of tongues Paul was referring to in First Corinthians chapter 14 when he said that when one speaks in a tongue “no one understands him.” If tongues was only earthly languages then someone would understand it, right? It is for this reason that I like to refer to our personal prayer language as our “heavenly language.”
But there are those out there who like to water down this gift of tongues by saying that it is just God giving someone the ability to learn and speak in another language or He has given someone certain linguistic abilities. No, no, no! What we need to understand about all of the gifts of the Spirit is that they are “supernatural”—they are supernatural gifts given by the Holy Spirit that are not earned nor learned. Just as it was in Acts chapter 2, tongues are the supernatural ability to speak in another language that the speaker never had any knowledge of.
Another point that needs to be made here is that if the Holy Spirit gives us the supernatural ability to speak in different kinds (plural) of earthly languages and even different kinds (plural) of heavenly languages, who are we to judge what is coming out of another man’s mouth or even our own mouth?
You see, there are many who have deemed their own prayer language as not being legit because it doesn’t sound like another language. They think because they only hear a couple of apparent syllables that they are not being given utterance from the Holy Spirit or, if they even believe that it is the Holy Spirit giving them these couple of words, they think they are wasting their time if they were to spend any time speaking them out.
First of all, do you know what every language on the earth today sounds like? On top of that, do you know what all other languages have sounded like from the beginning? The obvious answer is no! No, you do not know every dialect from times past! Heck, there are even languages that we do have the opportunity to hear here in the United States that only sound like two or three syllables. Have you ever been in a Vietnamese or Korean nail salon? Well, that sounds like two or three syllables too, doesn’t it? Hey, we could be speaking caveman for all we know—giving glory to God! But I am convinced that most of the time (not that I claim to know what every language sounds like either), we are speaking in the tongues of angels, and we have no clue what that is supposed to sound like, so don’t question it.
However, like I stated earlier, not only are there different kinds of languages from heaven and earth that we can speak in, there are also different types of tongues that we can speak in. So, let’s look at these diversities of tongues in detail:
The different classifications of tongues that the Holy Spirit has gifted the body of Christ with can basically be broken up into two categories in regards to their purpose:
You see, Paul was teaching the church that when they are gathered together, prophecy was better than tongues because it is a supernatural utterance given by the Holy Spirit in a known language, and this is what edifies the church. But He also talked about how tongues have their place in the church as well because there is another kind of tongues called the ministry gift of tongues that we will talk about in a minute and he talked about how that kind of tongues has the ability to edify the church just like prophecy when it is accompanied by an interpretation (of which we will also talk about later). He also talked about how there is also a kind of tongues that’s purpose is to be a sign to the unbeliever. Each of these kinds of tongues are for the edification of others.
But Paul also talked about a kind of tongues that is only for our own personal edification—which I call our “personal prayer language.” In other places of Scripture, it is called “praying in the Spirit”—because it is the gift of the Spirit for each of us to be able to speak directly to God in a language unbeknownst to us.
Again, we will talk about these three kinds of tongues in specific detail:
TONGUES AS A SIGN
Let’s begin with the first kind of tongues recorded in the Scriptures—tongues as a sign. This is always, as Paul divided them up in First Corinthians 13:1, spoken in the “the tongues of men”—because it is meant to be a sign for the hearer who speaks that language.
In the Book of Acts, we see this kind of tongues being practiced when the Holy Spirit was initially given. We see in Acts 2:6 that the people heard them speaking in their own native languages.
Now do you believe this actually happened? And do you believe this can still happen today? It sure can, and it does! Now it is pretty obvious why the particular kind of tongues that they were gifted with on this day was the tongues that are for a sign because it was God’s divine setup!
You see, Jews and proselytes from all different regions were in the city as a result of the Feast of Pentecost. So, God strategically sent the Holy Spirit and filled their mouth with the tongues of men as a sign to them that God was doing a “wonderful work.” Hallelujah! And He will do this through us as well if the situation calls for it. This is why we do not need to be afraid to speak in tongues in front of people. It is because God might manifest through us the language of someone who might hear us in order to reveal His greatness, goodness, power and love to and for them!
And while I do not have proof that I have operated in this particular kind of tongues, I have to believe I have when traveling overseas—because there have been times where I would just feel compelled to speak in other tongues when I was around people who did not speak English, and they didn’t look at me like I had four eyes. 😉
You see, First Corinthians 14:22 teaches us about this kind of tongues being a sign to the unbeliever and that its purpose is for faith to arise in the hearts of the one who hears the wonderful works of God in his or her own tongue.
TONGUES AS A MINISTRY
Now we have all heard from the naysayers out there that tongues are not for everybody. Well, they are partly right. There is a particular kind of tongues that is not for every believer and this one is the ministry gift of tongues.
I’m sure we are all familiar with the verse— “Do all speak with tongues?” (with the obvious answer being, no) (See First Corinthians 12:30)? Well, the way to understand that question Paul asked is by understanding the fact that there are diversities of tongues, and yes, there are kinds of tongues that are not for everybody. But before we conclude that this verse means not every believer can and should speak with tongues, we need to consider the context:
You see, if you read verses 28-30, you will find that he is referring to “ministry gifts” (gifts given to the body for the purpose of edifying the church). So, just like we have teachers even though we all are and should be able to teach but we are not all called into the office of a teacher, just like we all are able to prophecy because he told the church to desire that they all may prophecy, we are all not given the office of a prophet. Likewise, when he speaks of tongues, he also is referring to the office of (or, ministry of) tongues.
Therefore, when Paul says, “Do all speak with tongues?” He is referring to—not our own personal prayer language—but to the public use of tongues for the edification of others. You see, not everyone is gifted to speak in that type of tongues. This is given as the Spirit wills in a general assembly when someone speaks out in a group, giving a message in tongues, and should be followed with an interpretation that the church can understand what was being said and be edified.
INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES
Now that leads me to the other gift of the Spirit that we are talking about today—the interpretation of tongues.
This gift of the Spirit also has “diversities”—meaning, there is a gift given to certain believers to interpret the tongues that others are gifted to speak out in the church, yet Paul taught us all to pray that we might interpret—meaning, that there is another type of interpretation that we can do with our own personal prayer language.
So, the gift of interpretation of tongues can either be spoken out or simply revealed to us without any verbal activity. It can be spoken out either in a public assembly or in our prayer closet, but can also just be revealed information after we have prayed in tongues (This is mainly for our own private use of tongues).
Now let me add this here while I’m at it: I see the ability to interpret tongues as similar to the Old Testament version of the gift of interpreting dreams. And we see when Daniel, for instance, interpreted a dream, he knew the meaning—the overview of its meaning—and then described it. Likewise, with the gift of interpretation of tongues—one might know the general message being given but it is still coming through that filter of flesh—meaning, they might be adding a little here and little there. This is why sometimes we might hear a very long message in tongues and a shorter interpretation, or a longer interpretation to a short message in tongues. In other words, an interpretation does not mean it is necessarily a word for word translation. An interpretation is a general idea, an overview, or an overall thought of something communicated.
For instance, when you have an interpreter overseas, I have found that based on the language, they can’t always give a word for word translation of what you are saying. Sometimes they have to reverse the order of what you are saying for it to make sense in their language. Sometimes they have to just give the general idea in their own language. But that is what an interpretation is: It is basically what was being said, but in our own language.
This is why we all can pray that we might interpret. It is because we all have the ability to pray in tongues for our own personal edification. Therefore, we all have the ability to interpret our own tongues for our own personal edification as well (see First Corinthians 14:13-14).
TONGUES AS A PRAYER
Now the third and final classification of tongues that I want us to talk about is the kind that every believer has the God-given right to speak in—Tongues as a prayer (i.e. tongues for our own personal edification and for the magnifying of God).
This is the type of tongues Jesus referred to in Mark chapter 16 when He said that these signs will follow them that believe (see Mark 16:17). Notice Jesus did not say that these signs will follow the select elect or only certain individuals that the Lord willed to bless with these gifts. No, the gifts that Jesus mentions in Mark chapter 16 are for every believer for all time.
We all are endued with power and authority from on high to cast out demons. There is no special gift of the Spirit for that. We are all gifted with the ability to lay hands on the sick and see them recover. Sure, there are gifts of healings mentioned in First Corinthians chapter 12 that are given as the Spirit wills, but Mark chapter 16 is not referring to a special gift of the Spirit. But notice that Jesus also included in this list that they (them that believe) shall speak with new tongues. This is the kind of tongues we all have been blessed to speak in once we are baptized in the Holy Spirit—tongues for our own personal prayer time and devotion.
Jude called this “praying in the Spirit.” Paul called it the same in Ephesians 6:18 in describing a hidden yet powerful additional piece of armor we have been given. Paul also referred to this kind of tongues in First Corinthians 14:2 by saying that when we pray in an unknown tongue we are speaking to God, not to man. Therefore, it is a private devotional kind of prayer where we can communicate directly with God concerning things we do not know that we are to even be praying about. It is a means by which we pray for things that surpass our own understanding. Like, for instance, praying for someone across the globe whom we don’t even know, praying for an underlying issue in our heart that is the cause for what we think the problem we are having is, etc.
But praying in the Spirit does more than just edify us. Just like our prayer time should consist of more than just prayers offered for our own life and be enveloped in praise, glory, and thanksgiving to God, likewise our prayers in the Spirit should contain this as well.
Have you noticed that on the few accounts in the Book of Acts where people were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with tongues that they also magnified God, declared His wonderful works, etc.? Yes! Just as praise & thanksgiving should be the bulk of our prayer times in English, praise & thanksgiving likely is the bulk of our prayer times in the Spirit.
Paul taught us this in First Corinthians 14:15-17 when he mentioned singing in the Spirit, blessing with the Spirit, and the giving of thanks! And notice that Paul said that you give thanks well when you do it in the Spirit (vs. 17).
Friends, eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man all the benefits and manifold diversities of tongues. But this one thing I know: We do not have to know everything in order to benefit from it.
Now speaking of benefits, allow me to conclude this teaching on this vocal gift by describing to you some more of its benefits:
THE BENEFITS OF PRAYING IN TONGUES
You know, in my experience as a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, I have noticed that most people who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in other tongues have no clue what the purpose of their prayer language is. There are many who think that it was only the initial evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit or that it is just something that comes over you every once in a while, when you get goose bumps in a church service. But how many of you know there is much more to our prayer language than that?
So, let’s look at some of the benefits of praying in the Spirit by turning over to First Corinthians chapter 14: I believe that this chapter gives us the most detailed description of what praying in other tongues accomplishes in our lives. In verse 2, the Apostle Paul said, “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”
Notice that Paul said when we pray in the Spirit we are speaking directly “to God.” You see, we are not just aimlessly babbling a bunch of weird syllables together. We are speaking directly to the God of the universe when we pray in our heavenly prayer language! So, don’t ever think that using your prayer language is a waste of time because, as Paul goes on to say, “in the spirit (we) speak mysteries.”
You see, this is why sometimes we do not “feel” like we are accomplishing anything when we pray in other tongues. It is because the impact is being made “in the spirit” (that is, not in this natural realm). You do not contact the spiritual realm with your feelings, emotions, or intellect. You probably will not sense anything most of the time you pray in other tongues because you are affecting things in the spiritual realm and not the natural. So, do not allow the enemy to convince you that you are wasting your time when you spend time praying in tongues just because you don’t feel anything. Just remember, the impact is being made in the spirit, not in the natural.
Paul goes on to say in verse 2 that when we pray in these other tongues, we are praying “mysteries.” So, do you suppose that these “mysteries” are for God’s benefit? Of course not! So, then they must be for ours, right!?! Then what are these “mysteries” that we are praying? This word “mysteries” is the same word that Paul used in his epistles when describing the “mystery” of the New Covenant (see Ephesians 3:3-5). Therefore, these mysteries that we are praying in the spirit are the mysteries hidden in God before the foundation of the world! They describe the wonderful works of the Cross—that is, the great redemption that we have experienced. The mystery also goes as far as speaking of all that Christ is in us, and all that we are in Christ.
In Colossians 1:26-27, Paul explains this mystery of the New Covenant beautifully! He says, “…the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The mystery is how Christ has come to make His abode in our hearts and how this results in us having an expectation of a glorious future. Therefore, when we pray in other tongues, we are praying out the revelation knowledge of the New Covenant mystery so that we can become enlightened to its truths! Glory to God! Now that makes me want to stop writing this and spend some time praying in the Spirit, amen?
I believe this benefit of praying in tongues is a significant part of what Jude was referring to when he said in Jude 20— “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.” When Jude uses the phrase “your most holy faith” he is not referring to our own personal faith, but to the Christian Faith in general. Jude is saying that when we pray in the Spirit, we build ourselves up upon the foundation laid by the apostles and the prophets—that is, the truths contained in the mystery of the New Covenant! You see, praying in other tongues is an integral part to us growing in the understanding and revelation knowledge of the Truth.
I think the best example of this is in the ministry of the Apostle Paul: Why do you think that this mystery of the New Testament was revealed to Paul and not to Peter, John, or James? I believe the reason is found in First Corinthians 14:18 when He said, “I thank my God I speak in tongues more than you all.” In this verse, Paul gives us a little insight into what he spent a lot of his time doing. If he spoke in tongues more than the whole church of Corinth—which was a tongue talking bunch—then he must have prayed in the Spirit day and night. So, I believe it is no coincidence why he possessed more revelation knowledge than any other believer seeing that he spent a lot of time praying in tongues. And if we would spend time praying in the Spirit, we too would grow in the revelation knowledge of the mystery of Christ. I like to say, “If you want to have more revelation than them all then speak in tongues more than them all.” This is one of the main benefits of praying in the Spirit.
The apostle Paul describes another benefit of praying in other tongues a couple of verses down in First Corinthians chapter 14: In verse 4, he says, “He who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself…”
The word “edifies” literally means “to build up.” Some Greek scholars say that the word used to translate “edifies” describes a battery getting charged. You see, we all need to get a little juiced up by the Holy Spirit every now and then and praying in tongues is one way we do this!
This is another possible meaning of what Jude wrote when he said— “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.” If you look at the verse before this, Jude was describing “sensual” persons—that is, “sense-ruled” people (see Jude 19). Then in verse 20, he began by saying, “But you…” You could interpret this as— “You, on the other hand…” In other words, the way we can keep ourselves from living like “carnal people” is to build ourselves up by praying in the Holy Spirit. You see, by praying in tongues we can charge our spiritual battery to the point where we live above this carnal sense-ruled body that we live in. This is the power that is in our prayer language! So, you could say that another way to walk in the Spirit is to pray in the Spirit!
I can testify to this too: On the days where I have been disciplined enough to start my day by spending time praying in other tongues, it was rather obvious to me that I was walking in the Spirit the rest of that day. It seemed like there would just be a flow that I was in on those days. For example, I would just be in the right place at the right time, either receiving the favor of God or being in a position to minister to somebody. Man, I’ll tell you—the days that I have taken the time to do this have been exciting days! That is because living a Spirit-controlled life is “living the life!” Amen!
In Isaiah 28:11&12, we are given a prophetic glimpse of this benefit of praying in other tongues. In this passage of Scripture, we have what many consider to be the only reference to this particular manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. In fact, we know these verses in Isaiah are prophetic of this New Covenant gift because the Apostle Paul made reference to this Scripture in First Corinthians 14:21 when admonishing the Corinthians on the subject of tongues. So, let’s look at these Scriptures in Isaiah chapter 28:
In verse 11, Isaiah says, “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people…” The Apostle Paul used this particular statement to show how one of the many diversities of tongues is to be a sign for the unbeliever (see First Corinthians 14:21-22), but if you look on to verse 12, I believe the Holy Spirit through Isaiah gives us a result of these “stammering lips and other tongues”… He says, “To whom He said, ‘This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest.’ And, ‘This is the refreshing’; yet they would not hear.” Notice in this verse we are told that two of the results of praying in other tongues are that we enter into a rest and that we experience a refreshing. These are two of the specific characteristics of what Paul deemed “edification.”
Did you know that when you become weary in well doing and begin to grow faint in your race of faith, that praying in other tongues is a way that you can enter into a supernatural rest? Did you know that when you feel dry and empty in your soul that you can experience a supernatural refreshing through your prayer language? That’s right! You don’t need to run to someone else to pray for you or to the nearest revival service to get a fix.
You see, this is what so many believers do: They look for a place where God is moving and drive miles to go get that quick fix from God. But that is only a superficial way of experiencing a personal revival. The best way to experience a personal revival is to get it from the inside/out and not the outside/in! All you need to do to enter into the rest and refreshing of the Holy Spirit is to set aside a period of time, go into your prayer closet and pray in other tongues for an extended period of time. I guarantee you if you do this, your battery will get charged up and you will experience more peace and joy than you were previously experiencing!
I can recall the first time when I just decided that I was going to pray in tongues for one hour. Now up to that point I had never prayed in the Spirit for anywhere close to that amount of time, but I just wanted to see what would happen. Well, for the first 30 minutes or so I did not see any difference, but once I got around 40-45 minutes into it, I had so much energy just burst forth out of my spirit that I did not know what to do with myself! The closest thing I can liken it to was like my body got filled with a bunch of caffeine and sugar (without the edge, of course)! Man, I felt full of the life of God! This was obviously that refreshing Isaiah prophesied about!
Now am I saying that you too will experience that same exact thing 45 minutes into your prayer time? No, I’m not. It may be that you enter into that rest 15 minutes or either an hour into your prayer time. It may take well over an hour. What I am saying is that you can expect a spiritual edification to occur if you will commit yourself and not let a clock determine your decision to sow to the Spirit.
Yes church, there is a spiritual edification that takes place when we spend time praying in other tongues to where our spiritual battery gets charged up. We need to take advantage of this awesome benefit of our prayer language. Amen?
Now there are many other benefits to our prayer language, and while I lack the time here to be able to expound on all of them, let me quickly just mention a couple of them: Number one, praying in other tongues is a way of allowing the Holy Spirit to intercede through us when we do not know what to pray for as we ought (see Romans 8:26-27). Number two, praying in other tongues is a great way to sing unto God. Paul said when we sing in the Spirit we are praising and thanking God well (see First Corinthians 14:15-17). Finally, number three, not only is it a pure way to praise; it’s a pure way to pray. Zephaniah 3:9 says, “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord.” Not to mention, praying in tongues is also good for our health! Scientific studies have found that it activates a part of our brain that releases chemicals that enhance health.
Saints, with all of these awesome benefits of this prayer language that we have been given, it would behoove us to make time in our daily routine for it. I mean, just think if we were to set aside an hour every day to pray in the Spirit, what a difference it would make in our lives!
But you know, it is easier said than done. When you make the decision to make this more of a priority in your life, the enemy will fight you tooth and nail. You see, the enemy fights the gift of tongues almost more than anything else as evidenced by the many false doctrines we discussed earlier. He will put every reason in the world into your mind to try and distract you from going into your prayer closet. And if this doesn’t work, he will lie to you during your prayer time telling you that you are just wasting your time. Why do you think that he does this? How about because he knows its benefits to the believer and he doesn’t want us tapping into those divine secrets and edification. So, don’t let him do this to you! Make a commitment and stick to it. You will be glad that you did. Selah!
Church, I have heard from some of the greatest ministers of the past century that they attributed their success in impacting the world, the gaining of revelation, and the power that followed their lives and ministries to this one gift!
Which leads me to one more invaluable benefit to praying in tongues—it tends towards the other gifts of the Spirit. Let me explain:
In the world, we have what are called the “gateway drugs”—that is, those substances that lead people into other, more potent drugs. Well, we have a perfectly legal gift—legal for every one of us to pray in whenever we want, as much as we want—and it certainly is the gateway into a supernatural life of the Spirit.
One of the most influential leaders that I benefited from early in my walk—Brother Kenneth E. Hagin—once said, “The more I speak in tongues, the more I see the manifestation of the other gifts in my life. The less I speak in tongues, the less I see the manifestation of the other gifts in my life. Tongues is the door into the supernatural!” Amen! To this, I give a hearty amen!
Now we just learned that these nine gifts of the Spirit can be divided into three different categories—three groups of three gifts. And we began talking about the vocal gifts last time by going into detail concerning the diversities of tongues and interpretation of tongues. We talked about how tongues is the doorway into this supernatural life that is filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and we learned what tongues will do in the life of the believer.
But now I want to move into the last, but definitely not least, vocal gift, which we know to be prophecy. So, let’s go over to First Corinthians chapter 14 and look into this chapter that is devoted completely to the subject of these three vocal gifts.
Now, again, I want to remind you that tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy are the only three gifts that you see any instructions given concerning? Yes, no other gift of the Spirit comes with instructions, save these three vocal gifts. And it is possible that the reason for this is because these three are the only gifts that we can initiate in our lives—meaning, they are the only ones we can turn on or turn off. Now I know that might seem a little strange, but our mouths are involved with these—wherein, with the others, it isn’t. For example, when it comes to preaching the gospel, the Holy Spirit does not just take over our mouth and make us speak out the good news, right? So, why would we think that He does this with the different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy? No, there is certainly a part we have to play in the operation of these vocal gifts in our lives. Yes, we open our mouth wide and He fills it. It is that simple.
As we have made the point of already, this is why so many believers fail to speak in tongues as well as operate in prophecy: It is because many don’t ever open their mouths. They think that if it is as the Spirit wills, then it will just be overwhelming and be obvious, but it just does not work this way. I have seen this play out in my life as it pertains to prophecy. The more I step out and begin speaking into people’s lives, the more I yield myself to that gift. I will get more into this in a moment.
You see, just as it is with many things in the kingdom of God, we must do things first by faith. As God’s people respond in faith and step out concerning God’s promises, the Lord meets us. He said in James 4:8 that when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. It doesn’t say that God draws near to us, and we simply cannot control drawing near to Him. No, we initiate the connection! Of course, the Lord initially initiated it through giving us Jesus and providing all that we need for life and godliness, but this is now how we respond to what He has already done. Say, for instance, with tongues, we might start out in the flesh as we begin praying out the utterance given to us by the Holy Spirit. But we will eventually end up in the spirit as we do it by faith. Again, this has happened with me time and time again as I have spent periods of time praying in the Spirit. I start out just praying and don’t sense anything, but after some time, it is like the prayer language begins to flow more and there is great grace upon it. Always remember: first faith; followed by feelings.
Now it is the same with prophecy: Sometimes we just need to open our mouths and begin to purposefully speak edifying, exhorting, and comforting words into people’s lives. We might start out speaking them out of our head, but then God can start filling our mouth with words out of our spirit. It is the exact same principle.
This all goes back to what I taught in the beginning of this series: being a faithful steward. Because God will entrust more to those who are good stewards of what they already have and more is given to those who operate in faith out of their stewardship. Therefore, faith produces more and being a good steward produces more.
So, God gives us specific instructions concerning tongues and prophecy in First Corinthians chapter 14—how they are to be done decently and in order, etc.
Now the very fact that Paul tells this church how when they come together, to not let tongues be the only thing they practice and how one, two, or three are to speak in tongues at the most and then one interpret, tells us one very important thing. Evidently, these gifts are under our control to some degree. Elsewise, he would not have given them instructions on how they are to operate.
So, let’s go ahead and begin reading in verse 1 and learn more about the last one of these vocal gifts, focusing on the gift of prophecy:
Now notice that in verse 1, Paul says to pursue love and to desire spiritual gifts. Basically, what Paul was saying was— “Okay, church, pursue what I talked about in chapter 13 and desire what I talked about in chapter 12.” In other words, he was tying together the truths he talked about in the previous two chapters right here in this statement, and then he goes on to say, “but especially that you may prophesy.”
Why is this so significant? It is because, as Paul will go on to say in chapter 14, prophecy is a beautiful summarization of both of these two truths that he laid out to us in these prior two chapters. Why? Because we should desire the gifts because we are pursuing love. In other words, we should be coveting the gifts of the Spirit not because we are being covetous, but because we desire to help and be a blessing to other people. It is all about love, my friends, and if we only want to be used in the gifts for our own glory, fame, and self-promotion then we are missing the boat. We are first to pursue love and then desire spiritual gifts in order to more effectively love people.
So, what does this have to do with prophecy? Why should we especially desire that we might prophesy? It is because prophecy edifies, exhorts, and comforts others and, therefore, is the best way to love people vocally. Amen.
Now let me throw this in here—but the very fact that God told us to especially desire to prophecy shows us that we all can be used in this gift of prophecy. Yes, again, just because we don’t see it operating in our life yet does not mean we are doomed to a life of not operating in this gift. We can desire it! We can seek it! We can press into it! Amen!
But the following point needs to be made here—Although we all can prophecy, that does not make all of us prophets. Prophecy is different than the office of a prophet, just as our personal prayer language in tongues is different than the ministry gift of tongues and someone able to teach is different than the five-fold ministry gift of a teacher.
So, let’s now look at this gift in more detail so that we can become hungrier for it—for we become hungry for what we feed on:
The apostle Paul goes on to say in First Corinthians 14:2-3— “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit, he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
So, what we have here is Paul telling us why we should especially desire the spiritual gift of prophecy; it is because tongues speaks to God (which is certainly good for us as an individual). But if we are truly pursuing love, then prophecy should be the vocal gift that we desire most because it speaks words of edification, exhortation, and comfort to our brothers and sisters.
You see, while it is certainly important that we spend time speaking to God through praying in the Spirit in our own personal time, the greater good is to spend our life seeking to speak into the lives of our neighbor. While we can certainly edify, exhort, and comfort ourselves through praying in other tongues, it is more profitable to others to speak edifying, exhorting, and comforting words into them through prophecy. As we spend time speaking in tongues, we are focusing on building ourselves up, but as we spend time seeking to prophesy, we focus on building others up. This is love—the more excellent way.
So, I have concluded that a good definition of prophecy versus tongues is this: The gift of prophecy is a supernatural utterance in a known language just as tongues is a supernatural utterance in an unknown language. In fact, prophecy basically produces the same results as speaking in other tongues. We can see this in verses 3 & 4 when Paul says that prophecy speaks edification to men and tongues edifies ourselves.
So, what does it mean to “edify”? It means to “build up.” This is why Jude said in verse 20 that, as we pray in the Spirit, we build ourselves up on our most holy faith. Now Jude was referring to building ourselves up, not on our own personal faith, but upon our most holy faith—that is, the faith of Jesus Christ (the faith of the new covenant). So, in other words, Jude was saying that tongues is a means for saints to build themselves up upon the foundation of this new and better covenant—meaning, if you want to learn more and go higher in your revelation of the New Testament doctrine, then tongues is a vehicle for doing so.
In fact, in Isaiah chapter 28, we have one of the very few Scriptures in the Old Testament where tongues was forecasted. It said, “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people.” But what I want you to notice are the verses before and after this passage. Notice that he talks about line upon line and precept upon precept. This is that edifying that Paul and Jude referred to.
But what I want you to see here is that prophecy also edifies and builds up like tongues does. The difference is that tongues builds us up personally while prophecy builds us up corporately.
THE MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY
You see, back in the early church, tongues and prophecy were the two primary vehicles that God used to establish and build the church up on their most holy faith. In fact, prophecy was actually the main source of the New Testament doctrine that we call the holy canon of Scriptures (see Second Peter 1:20).
For many, that is a new revelation because what we have the benefit of seeing as the Holy Scripture is all recorded in our Holy Bible. But you do know that this Bible did not just originate from heaven, right? In other words, it did not fall out of the sky 2,000-plus years ago. No, it was written through inspired and supernatural utterance given to them in a known language! Therefore, the Bible is a result of prophecy because it was supernatural utterance given to each of these men in their known language.
In Second Peter 1:19, the Bible itself is called the more-sure word of prophecy! We call it the Word of God, but while it is certainly the Word (originated) of God, the vehicle in which God gave it to us is through the Word of Prophecy.
Now there is an important lesson in this because Peter does not just call the Scriptures the “word of prophecy”; he calls it the “more sure word of prophecy.” You see, while words of prophecy that are given today certainly can be absolutely inspired of God and edifying, they can also be polluted, diluted, or completely uninspired.
This is why we are told to judge prophesies. The very fact that we are told to judge prophesies should show us that not all so-called prophesying is of God. Just because someone stands up and says, “Thus saith the Lord…” does not mean that everything that comes out of their mouth is of God. Just as the interpretation of tongues is just that, an interpretation, not a word for word translation, likewise, prophecy is not a word for word utterance given by God. A prophecy can include one thing that was indeed “Thus saith the Lord” and then another thing that was “Thus saith the dude.” This is because God’s living water flows through dirty pipes. Therefore, just as you would not just blindly drink something that flowed through a pipe, you shouldn’t just drink everything that flows through another person. You should judge it.
How many of you stay in a place somewhere that is not used that often and turn on the faucet and drink the water without first making sure the water is not corroded? I’ll tell you—I look at the water first and make sure it is not discolored and doesn’t stink before I put it in my mouth. In other words, I judge the water. I don’t judge the pipe because I am not qualified to judge pipes. What is on the inside of pipes is unknown and unseen to me. Therefore, I cannot judge pipes. But I certainly can judge the water that comes out of pipes through my senses.
Well, we should do this with prophesies. We should judge the words spoken; but avoid judging the one from whom the words came from. Why? Because they can miss it! It is not like God’s Words are continuously flowing through them. If it were a truly reputable and spiritual person, you might be able to be a little more trusting because, if the living water has flown through them enough, then they are more likely to be speaking by inspiration of God. But if it is like that place I described before, that does not have a reputation of being used efficiently in the past with a good testimony, then you better not blindly trust their “words.” You had better use your spiritual senses and determine if it is God or if it is just them.
HOW TO JUDGE PROPHECIES
So, how do we judge prophecies: Well, as we learned last week from First Corinthians 12:3, those utterances inspired by the Holy Spirit will never defame Jesus and His finished work; they will always glorify Him. However, many Spirit-inspired utterances do not make reference to Jesus one way or another, so how do you judge these supernatural signs that are given to the Body? By obeying what Paul said after encouraging us to not despise prophecies in First Thessalonians 5:21— “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” You test all things! The Scripture teaches us to judge all prophecies—to judge them, first of all, by what I just said, “Do they glorify the deity and authority of our Lord and do they glorify the finished work of our Savior?” Secondly, does that word you received line up with the Scriptures—meaning, does it contradict what is written. Always remember: “Thus saith the Lord” never is to be placed above “What is written.” Then, if they pass those two tests, you hold fast to that which “seems good”—meaning holding fast to the things which bear witness to your heart and you have peace with. Is that fire burning within you? Is the Spirit bearing witness inside of you? Does it seem right to your spirit and the Holy Ghost? If it does—hold fast to it! Don’t let go of the Word of Lord and it shall surely come to pass!
But the wonderful news is that even though prophecies are subject to inspection and can be off base, we have a “more sure” word of prophecy—namely the Word of God, and it never fails; it is always true; and we can be “more sure” that it is an unfailing prophecy.
So, the lesson in this is—make sure you do not always run around looking for a prophecy because they can fail. They are not a sure thing simply because they come through flawed vessels. Look unto the more sure word of prophecy and always, always, always, use God’s Word as the barometer to whether any words you receive contradict the truth or not.
Now we have seen that prophecies are given to, first of all, build us up—line upon line, precept upon precept—on our most holy faith. And we have seen that our most holy faith is God’s Holy Word. And this should not seem strange because look at all the prophecies that are recorded as Scripture.
PROPHECY EXHORTS AND COMFORTS
Then the Apostle Paul goes on in First Corinthians 14:3 to say that another purpose of prophecy is to offer exhortation to others: Now to exhort means to encourage, spur on, or push someone forward.
You see, sometimes believers need to be encouraged. They need to know that God understands their situation. They need to be reminded of what His Word says to spur them on in their believing Him.
We see in the Scriptures how David encouraged himself in the Lord in First Samuel 30:6. Well, how did he do that? I guaranteed you that he prophesied to himself! He exhorted himself likely through the inspired songs that he wrote. Again, many of those songs were actually inspired Scriptures that he wrote called “psalms.”
Did you know that you can do this as well? While prophecy is mainly given to encourage others; you can prophesy to yourself and exhort yourself in the Lord. Amen! I have done this many of times. And do you want to know one way in which to do this? Through singing songs unto the Lord! Ephesians chapter 5 says that we are to speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. And in the verse before that he tells us to be continuously filled with the Spirit. How? By speaking to ourselves words of edification, exhortation, and comfort through singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord! Hallelujah!
Friends, this is prophetic in nature and what keeps us filled up with the Holy Spirit! We must learn to do what David did when he spoke words of prophecy to himself and exhorted his soul to bless the Lord! Amen. This is one of the best ways to exhort ourselves in the Lord. (Compare Colossians 3:16)
And, last but not least, Paul says that prophesies are given in order to bring comfort to people: Many people seem to think all prophecy is doom and gloom. But while prophecy can be giving bad news that is coming to pass, it is also to bring comfort to people. Like say a prophecy comes forth that says there is a famine coming, God will oftentimes couple that together with the good news that it will be done in so and so time, allowing people to get ready (This is comforting, isn’t it?).
OTHER FORMS OF PROPHECY
But one point that I want you to take away from this is that prophecy takes on many forms in how it comes forth. It is not just the time where one stands in front of you and says, “Thus saith the Lord…” No, prophecy can come forth in songs as one sings to the Lord. This can happen both corporately or in our prayer closet because as we begin to open our mouth in praise and adoration of God, the Holy Spirit can begin filling our mouths with a supernatural utterance that “gives thanks well”—just as tongues is a better and more inspired way to praise God.
Prophecy also can come forth in prayers: How many of you have ever experienced that as you were praying for a certain individual or a certain situation that you were maybe reminded of something concerning that thing you were praying about and then as you began praying words came into your mind and mouth that just flowed out of your heart. Well, that was likely a word of knowledge coupled together with prophecy!
Prophecy can also come forth in poetry or other writings. I have found that this is one of the ways that God has used me in prophecy more times than I could count. I used to accredit the inspiration that I feel when I write to just that, simply being inspired and as a gift pertaining to my calling. But what I can see now is that this is prophecy because this is all prophecy is. It is simply inspired utterance in a known language. So why can this not be expressed in writing?
There is also an element of prophecy in preaching and teaching and witnessing. Yes, we see many gifts of the Spirit in manifestation in the ministering of God’s Word. We can see the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and especially this gift of prophecy simply in the sharing of God’s Word.
Again, this was understood in the Early Church and where many of the scriptural truths that we have today came from. They actually depended on prophecy to develop the doctrinal truths that we have today recorded in the Scriptures.
So, here is the lesson we should take away from this: We need to do more talking! We need to do more singing! We need to do more writing! We need to position ourselves to let this gift of prophecy flow through us! We need to give the Holy Spirit ample opportunity to distribute to us His inspired, supernatural utterance!
So, begin to seek to speak words of edification, exhortation, and comfort into other’s lives! Do this by calling them on the phone, writing them a letter, etc. Be a good steward of the ability you have now to bless people with your words while in your heart hungering and desiring that this gift of prophecy flows through you more regularly. If you do this, you will see more of this supernatural utterance flowing through you. Amen.