A large part of putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. With this indwelling comes a spiritual gift to each believer to use for the building up of the church.
Spiritual gifts are gifts of God given to those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and who have received the gift of God’s grace. The Apostle Paul instructs the purpose of gifts quite clearly: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12, ESV). As members of His body He equips us with gifts (1 Cor. 12:6) which we are then empowered to use, by the Holy Spirit (12:11), so that we are able to “[build] up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
Something that may be confused with spiritual gifts are the fruit of the Spirit. While both
areas are given by and empowered by the same source (1 Cor. 12:6, 11; Gal. 5:18) there is a distinct difference. Spiritual gifts are given on an individual basis: “But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Cor. 7:7). The fruit of the Spirit is how those who have put their faith in Christ are able to live (Gal. 5:22-24), as opposed to those who have not (vv. 19-21).
With that being said, one’s spiritual maturity is not determined by having and using a spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are for ministering and building up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12). But, as stated in Galatians 5:24, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Fruit of the Spirit is a continual walk, spiritual gifts are used at specific times for specific purposes.
There is one gift that seems to draw the most attention. The gift of tongues is, “Speak[ing] not to men but to God…utter[ing] mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Cor. 14:2). The purpose of this gift is twofold. First, if the one in possession of such a gift is able to interpret what he says, he must use it as a witness to unbelievers (v. 21) or, in order to, minister to a body of believers (vv. 26-27). Second, one can use this gift to offer such tongues to the Lord as prayers and worship (vv. 14-17).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit can be associated with speaking in tongues. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the indwelling of the Spirit, as promised by Christ (Acts 1:5), to all those who put their faith in Him (15:7-9).
Is speaking in tongues the sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit? No. While there are instances recorded in scripture of after receiving the Holy Spirit individuals speak in tongues (Acts 2:4; 10:44-48), it is important to remember that tongues are a spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:10) and are given as directed by God (vv. 4-7).
Another question is whether or not tongues are still valid today. The positive group, made up of Pentecostals and most charismatics, hold that tongues are for everyone as a result of baptism in the Spirit, and as such should be sought out. The negative group “[asserts] that the ‘perfect’ in 1 Corinthians 13:10 (KJV) meant the canon, and therefore at the close of the canon tongues ‘ceased in and of themselves.”
This author sides with the negative camp but disagrees with their assertion that the “perfect” represents the close of the canon. In 1 Corinthians 13:8 Paul states that prophesies and knowledge will “pass away” and tongues will “cease.” The Greek verb used for prophesies and knowledge is “be abolished”, meaning that something will put an end to them. For tongues, the Greek verb used means that they will cease by themselves, and since the “perfect,” which will put an end to prophesies and knowledge in verse ten, does not put an end to tongues, it should be understood that they are not present to be abolished by the “perfect.”
Since we now have God’s Word delivered to us in it’s complete, inerrant, and inspired form (Rev. 22:18-19), there is no longer a need for the use of tongues. So then, what is the “perfect” spoken of? In light of 1 Corinthians 13:9 it must be when we are given full knowledge and understanding, which is not until we see our Lord face to face in eternity (v. 4).
Considering the final paragraphs examining the gift of tongues it is appropriate to conclude by restating the purpose of spiritual gifts: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
Points to Remember
- Spiritual gifts are given to each believer to use for the building up of the church.
- Spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are given by and empowered by the same source (the Spirit) but are not the same (see question #1 below).
- Since we now have God’s Word delivered to us in it’s complete, inerrant, and inspired form (Rev. 22:18-19), there is no longer a need for the use of tongues.
Questions to Promote Discussion and Bible Study
(feel free to share your answers (and questions!) in the comments below)
- What is the difference between the fruit of the Spirit and spiritual gifts? What verses support your view?
- What are the two original purposes of the gift of speaking in tongues?
- What is baptism in the Holy Spirit? Is speaking in tongues the sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit?
- Do you believe that tongues are still in use today? Please explain why or why not with Scripture as your source.
-  Osborne, G.R. “Tongues, Speaking in.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001), 1208.
-  MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), 1598.
-  Ibid.
Osborne, G.R. “Tongues, Speaking in.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 1208. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005.
Article header photo credit: Pentecostés – El Greco (1597) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism_with_the_Holy_Spirit
Bibliography Photo Credit: http://www.maicar.com/GML/Bibliography.html
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