Q & A: On the Use of Tongues

Q.

You have written that you have used tongues in a private context (when confronting a demon). Is this Scriptural? I thought tongues was only to be used in a church context, when an interpreter was present. Also, if tongues is valid for today, I believe that tongues might be applicable and useful for missionaries overseas, but I cannot see it’s application in the west.

A.

If you look at the Scriptures carefully and the liberty which God has afforded individuals and his church, I think you will agree that, according to the teachings of Scripture, we must be very careful not to put a limit on God and his ways. For example, that is the type of thing that the Pharisees did and largely the reason why they rejected Jesus when He came and really the reason for the judgment that came against Jerusalem in 66-70 AD. They did not “recognize” the visitation of the Lord, as Jesus said. Therefore destruction was pronounced upon them. And they suffered greatly. In fact, because they limited God and put him in a box, their authority was completely removed and handed over to the “Gentiles”. “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:43). This all happened because the Israelites put God in a box and limited him.

Now concerning the gift of tongues, I have looked at the Scriptures very carefully, and, like you, I too was initially very skeptical of tongues, because I was brought up in my early years as a new believer to simply believe that these things were not practiced today (certainly not in the west). And then, to compound the issue, when you look at certain people, and their lifestyles, who say they “speak in tongues”, it puts a further kind of resistance against using this gift or really believing in it’s validity or use in the west today (e.g. Jim/Tammy Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, etc.). So one does tend to reject things because of the people that promote them (which is a bit of a shame, for sure). I would like to say, I understand fully where you are coming from. I have definitely been there. I know what it’s like to be stumbled by people whose walk is quite less than perfect. (But on that note, I suppose, we all need to be very careful, because we are all very much “less than perfect” and so must be careful of falling into the trap of “I know it all” kind of thinking).

Now with regards to the use of tongues, in 1 Corinthians 14:2, it says, “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God”. So this particular “usage” of the gift of tongues is speaking to God. Again, in 1 Corinthians 14:4, it says, “One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself”. So right here we find a very personal usage of the gift of tongues. Now in 1 Corinthians 14:6, Paul contrasts this when he says, “if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching”. Note that none of these are speaking to God or for personal use (as in 1 Corinthians 14:2 and 1 Corinthians 14:4), but rather speaking to men. So the Scriptures clearly reveal that there are indeed different usages to the gift of tongues!

If, then, we see clearly from this chapter that tongues can be used for:

1. personal edification

2. revelation
3. knowledge
4. prophecy
5. teaching

(obviously types 2-5 require an interpreter, as Paul says) then my question is, why should we limit God by saying, “Hey, you cannot use tongues in personal prayer or when confronting a demon!” Hum. Sounds like you might be falling into the trap that the Pharisees fell into, I would say! So you do need be careful.

At its base level, tongues is merely a spoken language. But tongues, empowered by God and given by God as a gift allows a person to speak mysteries that I would subject to you give him a very special authority at a time of need. I have certainly seen this authority displayed very powerfully when in the presence of a demon (on three different occasions). I don’t understand it all, but I would say that as I am speaking in tongues, God is first enabling me to speak clear prayer to him, and second, it helps endue me with authority to actually deal with the demon and cast him out.

Possibly the speaking in tongues may be even giving commands to the demon in a very direct way to ‘get out’ (I would say that as I am speaking in tongues and yielding myself to God, not only the principle but the reality of “not I that live but Christ lives within me” is very much being played out, so that the Holy Spirit is very much able to “breathe his words” through me to deal with the demon (see Galatians 2:20). God knows what is ‘in the tongues’ and I so I don’t really have to question it. I think my duty is to (1) seek to flow in the Holy Spirit and be obedient to God and (2) not grieve the Holy Spirit or do anything which is contrary to the will of God as stated in the Scriptures.

I would like to add another thing as this point, which is the fact that what I have really noticed in particular on these (now three … and counting …) occasions that I have been “visited” by a demon, is that more than anything, I find that supernatural revelation flows when I am speaking in tongues. I don’t speak in tongues all the time, and surely I have not used tongues always when dealing with demons – see “The Demon in the Couch” (http://fcet.biblemessages.com/the-demon-in-the-couch/) and also available in audio format from our website. However, on these three occasions, what has been overwhelmingly predominant is the fact that speaking in tongues has enabled me to have greater discernment and to keep my focus truly on God. Remember, if you are dealing with a supernatural force like this, the LAST thing you need to do is to start moving the flesh. Tongues enables you to keep focused, in the Spirit – so to discourage it’s use (because you do not understand it’s usage) in this context is a real “no-no” I would say. Be careful!

You (and I both) may not fully understand it, but we need to be very careful about limiting something that God, in His word, has clearly not put a limit (like that) on.

I hope this helps you see where I am coming from. I do not claim to have all the answers. But tongues has been (and praise the Lord, will surely continue to be) indispensable in situations like these! God bless you!