The following in an edited excerpt from Dunamis Project 2: In the Spirit’s Power, Chapter 9, where we deal with obstacles that people have in receiving the gift of tongues.
For the full teaching, consider attending a Dunamis Project near you.
When did Paul receive the gift of tongues?
It is clear that Paul is teaching on tongues out of first hand personal experience. As a context for this we need to ask, “When did he receive the gift of tongues?”
1 Corinthians 14:18-19 – I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
When did St. Paul receive the gift of tongues?
Was it when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus? (Acts 9:3-6)
Or was it when Ananias laid hands on him and prayed that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit? (Acts 9:17-18)
There is no reference in the Bible to tongues being a part of Paul’s initial experience of the infilling with the Holy Spirit. Receiving this gift must have occurred later. What we do know is that he did indeed speak in tongues and that he was one of the most powerful witnesses to Jesus Christ who has ever walked the earth.
Paul’s teaching on the gift of tongues
The best summary for the balanced use of the gifts of tongues and interpretation is given to us by St. Paul. Here is a summary of Paul’s teaching on tongues and interpretation for the proper expression of these gifts.
- Numbered among the manifestational gifts of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:10
- One gift among many different gifts and callings. 1 Corinthians 12:28, 30
- Tongues of men or angels, useless without love. 1 Corinthians 13:1
- Tongues, like all imperfect things, will cease, but love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:8
- The one who speaks in tongues, speaks not to men, but to God. 1 Corinthians 14:2
- He who speaks in tongues edifies himself. 1 Corinthians 14:4
- Paul wants us all to speak in tongues, but in church more to prophecy unless there is interpretation. 1 Corinthians 14:5
- The need for interpretation if tongues is used in church. 1 Corinthians 14:6-12
- Those who speak in tongues need to pray for the gift of interpretation. 1 Corinthians 14:13
- We are to pray and sing in the spirit (i.e. in tongues). We are also to pray and sing with our minds; both modes are important. 1 Corinthians 14:15-17
- Paul is thankful that he speaks in tongues more than any of the rest of the Corinthians, but in church he would rather speak a language all can understand. 1 Corinthians 14:18-19
- Tongues is a sign for unbelievers while prophecy is for believers? There seems to be some confusion in this text. 1 Corinthians 14:20-25
- There should be order in the worship, Paul suggests two, or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. 1 Corinthians 14: 27
- In public worship, if there is no one to interpret the tongues, the gift should not be exercised publicly. 1 Corinthians 14: 28
- Earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues; but all things should be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:39-40
When these guidelines have been followed then the gift of tongues and interpretation can be found to be a great blessing for those called to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Removing Obstacles to Receiving the Gift of Tongues
We cannot teach a person how to speak in tongues. It is a free gift given by God.
However, in all the manifestational gifts there is a divine/human cooperation so we must learn how to receive and express this gift.
Some wise advice comes from J.E. Stiles. Stiles was a Pentecostal. In the 1940’s he helped many people remove blocks to receiving the gift of tongues in both the United States and in Canada. He was based in Oakdale, California. He wrote:
“Very often it has been said, concerning speaking with tongues, “The Holy Spirit speaks through the man.” Or to someone upon whom the Spirit was moving we have said, “Now just let the Spirit speak through you.” These expressions convey the idea that the Holy Spirit actually does the speaking Himself. The fact is that this is not true. The Holy Spirit does not speak. The Word plainly teaches that the man DOES the speaking, but the Spirit supernaturally DIRECTS it. (Acts 2:4) “
“There is nothing supernatural about the fact that the man speaks with tongues. That is based on an act of will. We freely admit that very often there is a strong urge by the Spirit to speak with tongues, but still the man’s will is in control. The man can stop any time he wants to, and if he knows it, he can start at any time. Then what is the miracle connected with speaking with tongues? For certainly there is a miracle involved. The miracle is not in the fact that the man speaks, but in what he speaks. As long as a man speaks with other tongues, he has absolutely no control as to what he says. What he says is entirely supernatural.”
“Since it is completely impossible to speak two languages at the same moment, therefore the position of faith is this, that the man will cast away all thought of speaking his natural words, and will, in faith, look up and expect a supernatural moving by the Spirit which dwells within. Then, when he feels the moving of the Spirit, his step of faith is to lift his voice and begin to speak whatever sounds come, as the result of the Spirit’s moving. It is none of the man’s business what the sounds are which he speaks. That is God’s part. The one who has real faith will trust God to do His part, that is, prompt him to form the words on his lips, and then he will lift up his voice and speak out whatever comes.” (We would describe this “supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit” as the Holy Spirit falling upon a person for power. In this case the power to speak in tongues.)”
“…most people do not obey these instructions. They are too completely bound to the tradition of praising the Lord in their own language. However, there are some who will think this through, and see that the position of faith is to absolutely cast aside their own words, and wait for the Spirit to prompt them, and when He does so to lift up their voices and speak out whatever sounds come, with reckless indifference as to what they are. That is faith. If it is only stammering lips at first (Isaiah 28:11-12), do not let that bother you in the least. Go right on praising God with these stammering sounds, and soon you will be speaking a clear language, if you will rejoice to speak whatever God puts on your lips.”
Source: The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Burbank, CA: Church Press)
Removing obstacles to receiving the gift of tongues:
- Some will receive this gift spontaneously—others receive as an act of the will. In receiving all gifts, we must respond in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:4
- You cannot speak in English and Spanish at the same time—likewise don’t block tongues by speaking in your known language.
- In faith ask the Holy Spirit for the gifts you need to follow Jesus and then get on with the work you are called to do.
- Leave it up to the Holy Spirit to give you whatever gifts or manifestations that will enable you to give Jesus glory by building up the Church and advancing the gospel.