The Spiritual Gifts and the
Gift of Tongues
Some of our Protestant
brethren cling to the spiritual gifts
and strive to attain them as privileges of being God's children
and heirs. They put before them the verse: “But earnestly
desire the best gifts”, without taking into account the
completion of the verse: “And yet I show you a more excellent
way,” (1Cor.12: 31).
While they give great importance to the gift of Speaking in tongues, they disregard that immediately after this verse the Apostle Paul says: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1Cor.13: 1). The Apostle is explaining how love is preferred to all the gifts.
The fruit of the Spirit is more important for your salvation than the gifts of the Spirit
St. Paul the Apostle talked
about the fruit of the Spirit,
saying: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control” (Gal.5: 22,23). The Apostle Paul said that love,
which is the first fruit of the Spirit, is greater than faith that can
move mountains (1 Cor.13: 2,13). And the Lord said about
love: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the
Prophets” (Matt.22: 40).
When the disciples returned
to the Lord Jesus joyful over
gifts, He said to them: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Lk.10: 20).
Many people lost their salvation and perished despite their possession of spiritual gifts
The gifts did not help them and did not save them. Thus the Lord says: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practise lawlessness!’ ” (Matt.7: 22,23)
Gifts are not your own merit, therefore there is no reward for them
Spiritual gifts do not give you salvation. Why then do you struggle to attain them? They tempt those who seek vainglory and vanity for themselves, but the great saints, who loved humility, always escaped from gifts.
One of the fathers said: “If God gives you a gift, ask Him to give you humility with it to protect it, or ask Him to take this gift from you.”
the Apostle Paul received many gifts from the Lord,
he said: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the
abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to
me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above
measure” (2Cor.12: 7). This great Apostle, the man of grace
who was caught up to the third heaven (2Cor.12: 2), was in
jeopardy from the gifts! If there was fear on the Apostle Paul
from spiritual gifts, how much more should the poor youth of
today fear when they pray for gifts, saying that gifts are their
privilege, and their spiritual counsellors pray for them, laying their hands on them to receive gifts!
Jacob the Patriarch received
spiritual gifts. He received the
blessing of birthright, saw a ladder reaching from earth to
heaven on which the angels of the Lord were ascending and
descending, and saw God Himself and spoke with Him. He
struggled with God and with men, and prevailed (Gen.32: 28).
To protect Jacob from gifts, God touched the socket of his hip
so that his hip was wrenched. God gave Jacob a kind of
weakness in the body to protect him from conceit due to having
What is more dangerous than gifts these days is when one person says to another: "Come, I will commend to you a gift", or "I will commend to you the experience", lays his hand on him, and prays to grant him the Holy Spirit or to grant him the fullness. Strangely enough, even women lay their hands on people to grant them the Holy Spirit because God sometimes grants a woman the gift of healing!
grant the Holy Spirit is the task of the clergymen,
first practised by the Apostles by the lying on of hands,
then by the clergymen in the Sacrament of Chrismation.
We receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation) after the Sacrament of Baptism. The Holy Bible mentions this Anointing in (1 John.2: 20,27) and mentions the laying on of hands by the Apostles in (Acts 8: 14-17).
The authority to grant the Holy Spirit, which was the Apostles' and then their successors', is claimed today by youth and laity who commend the Holy Spirit to others to let them be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak with tongues!
In our Orthodox theology, whoever receives a gift tries to hide it, as did Bishop St. Serapion who had the gift of healing, and many other saints.
Are gifts granted or are they requested?
God endows whatever gift He wishes to whomever He wishes in the time His Divine Wisdom defines, according to His words: “The kingdom of God does not come with observation” (Lk.17: 20). Gifts are like the wind that blows wherever it wishes, “as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Rom.12: 3). Why are gifts prayed for, then? And why the gift of Speaking in tongues in particular?
are not entrusted from one person to another but they
are given by the Will of God and they are the work of His Holy
the gift of tongues is prayed for, it may be satisfying
the pride of those who seek vainglory. It is an appealing gift for
the old self. It is not appealing to the spiritual person. What is
worse than this is when those who have the gift of tongues
despise and look down upon those who do not have this gift
and declare them to be of a low level, although the Holy Bible
says that the gift of tongues is not for all (1Cor.14). Does this
conceit not lead us to doubt in those who claim to have this
person comes to you and says: "Come, I will commend
to you this experience", tell him: "I do not deserve these gifts. I
have not the meekness of heart that can bear them. If God wills
to give me a gift, He will give me without me asking for it.
Then I will ask Him to give me humility to protect me from pride. If God gives me a gift I will not speak about it and I will not declare it to people so as not to expose myself to spiritual combats above my measure."
desire the best gifts” does not mean
that we ask for gifts, but that we prepare the heart with purity
and meekness to receive the gifts which are not only miraculous
powers, but also include wisdom, knowledge and faith,
according to the Apostle's teaching (1 Cor.12: 8,9).
If you want to ask God for a good gift, the Lord teaches us what to ask! He says in the Sermon on the Mount: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt.6: 33).
We notice that in the Lord's prayer, which
He taught us
and which is an exemplary prayer, we do not ask for
The Pentecostal Movement and the Gift of
Speaking in Tongues
The most outstanding characteristic of the Pentecostal movement is that the Pentecostals believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit (other than the baptism of water and the Spirit). This is what the Pentecostals and their followers the Charismatic group in Egypt call for, as it is clear from their books without them declaring it. They call this matter 'Spirit Baptism' or 'Filling of the Holy Spirit'.
The Pentecostals and the
Charismatic group think that the
most distinguished characteristic of the baptism in the Holy
Spirit, of this descent and fullness of the Holy Spirit is to speak
with tongues. Speaking in tongues, in their opinion, is the first
sign that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit. That is why, in
joining a new member to their group, the Pentecostals and the
Charismatic group strive to make him or her speak with tongues
so as to resemble the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost.
Following the teachings of their advisors, the Pentecostals and the Charismatic group place great emphasis to the gift of Speaking in tongues as if it were everything, whether the tongues are intelligible or not. In most cases, if not in all, the tongues are just meaningless voices.
What is the teaching of the Holy Bible about the gift of Speaking in tongues?
Speaking in tongues
From studying the Holy Bible and in particular chapter fourteen of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, which we may call the chapter of the gift of tongues, we notice the following points:
(1) Speaking in tongues is last in the order of gifts
the Apostle Paul mentions the spiritual gifts in his First
Epistle to the Corinthlans, he puts the gift of Speaking in
tongues and their interpretation last in the order of gifts. He
says: “Now, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And
there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who
works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to
each one for the profit of all: 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 hearings b 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” (1Cor.12: 4-11). Thus the Apostle
puts the gift of Speaking in tongues and their interpretation last
in the order of gifts. The gift of Speaking in tongues is
preceded by wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous
powers, prophecy, and the ability to distinguish between spirits.
The Apostle also says: “And God has appointed these in the
Church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1Cor.12: 28). Thus the Apostle puts the gift of Speaking in tongues last in the order of gifts.
the Apostle says: “But
earnestly desire the best gifts.
And yet I show you a more excellent way” (1Cor.12: 31), he
explains that this more excellent way is love. He explains how
love is greater and more important than every prophecy, all
knowledge, all faith which can move mountains, charity and
asceticism (1Cor. 13). He explains that love is more important
than Speaking in tongues of men and of angels - not of men
only. He says: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of
angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or
a clanging cymbal” (1Cor.13: 1).
(2) Speaking in tongues is not a gift for all
We have seen from the aforementioned that God “distributes to each one individually as He wills” (1Cor.12: 11); “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us” (Rom.12: 6) and “as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Rom.12: 3).
regard to the gift of Speaking in tongues, the Apostle
plainly says: “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all
teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of
hearings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?”
(1Cor.12: 29,30) It is clear from this
passage that the gift is not
for all. Therefore even at the time of the Apostles it was not
necessary for every believer to receive the gift of Speaking in
tongues which was not an essential sign to prove the descent of
the Holy Spirit upon a person. A man can be a saint even though he does not speak with tongues.
God knows when to give gifts and the reason of giving them. He gave the gift of Speaking in tongues abundantly at the time of the Apostles, the beginning of preaching for the sake of edifying, because it was essential at the time.
in tongues is not necessary in every age. The Holy
Bible says concerning this: “Whether there are tongues, they
will cease” (1Cor.13: 8). Even in the era of the Apostles there
were conditions for Speaking in tongues. We read some of
these conditions in chapter fourteen of the First Epistle of St.
Paul to the Corinthians:
(3) Speaking in tongues
should be for edifying the
The most important word
which characterises the chapter
about the gift of Speaking in tongues (1Cor.14), is the word
edifying. The Apostle mentions it many times and emphasises
it. He says explicitly: “Let all things be done for edification”
(1Cor.14: 26) and “Even so you, since you are zealous for
spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you
seek to excel” (1Cor.14: 12).
sake of edifying the church, the Apostle says that "he
who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues”
(v.5) because “he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but
he who prophesies edifies the church” (v.4). The word
edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (v.3).
(4) Speaking in tongues should be interpreted
The Apostle says: “Therefore
Jet him who speaks in a
tongue pray that he may interpret” (v.13), and adds “But if
there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church” (v.28).
The Apostle's reason is obvious: the
edification of the church.
He says: “...unless indeed he interprets, that the church may
receive edification” (v.5). If this edification is not achieved, he
should keep silent, and the phrase ‘keep silent’ is an Apostolic
command. Therefore he who speaks in a tongue must either
speak for the edification of the church or keep silent.
The presence of an
interpreter is a testimony that the
Speaking in tongues is sound. Thus the gift of tongues is given
to two persons simultaneously. One is the speaker and the other
the interpreter. Consequently, the Biblical verse: “By the
mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be
established” (2Cor.13: 1), is applied. If speaking in a tongue is
without interpretation, what is its use? What is its use if all present do not understand the language?
(5) What is the meaning of 'edifies himself’?
To ‘edify himself’ is to be in a certain spiritual state of
the descent of the Ho y Spirit, which is beneficial for the individual's edification. There are two remarks mentioned by St. Paul about this state. They are:
(a) The person should keep silent just as in any private
spiritual state between oneself and God. The Apostle says:
“...let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself
and to God” (v.28). It is a matter between him and God, more
suitable for him to stay in his closet and not in church in front of
people. Thus speaking in a tongue will be a kind of prayer.
(b) The mind will be
unfruitful; it is just a work of the spirit.
The Apostle says: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but
my understanding is unfruitful” (v.14). The Apostle could see that
this state should be completed by understanding. The person
should pray in spirit and also with understanding; sing in spirit and
also with understanding. Although the Apostle mentions the
phrase ‘edifies himself’ very cautiously and with remarks, and
points out that it is not a complete edification, yet for the sake of
edification he says: “I thank my God I speak with tongues more
than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words
with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten
thousand words in a tongue” (vv.18, 19).
Therefore there is no need
for people to strive with all their
might to speak with tongues, believing that this is a great
this is the case of Speaking in tongues as a gift of the Holy
Spirit, what then shall we say when some people claim to speak
with tongues and we are not certain of the genuineness of their
Apostle's fight against the errors of Speaking in
Apostle fought strongly against the tongues which were not
edifying the church and whose owners did not keep silent. He says
(a) The tongues are not beneficial "But now, brethren, if I come to you Speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?" (v.6) He describes these tongues as musical instruments which make indistinctive, unknown and incomprehensible sounds (vv.7, 8).
(b) The tongues will be spoken into the air. The Apostle says:
"So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will bespeaking into the air” (v.9).
(c) Speakers with tongues will be like foreigners. The Apostle says: “Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me” (v.11).
(d) Speakers with tongues have no fellowship with the church and do not edify others.
No one can understand the one who speaks with a tongue when he stands to pray, to give thanks or to bless the Lord. So how can he enter into a life of sharing with the believers if they do not understand him? Therefore the Apostle says: “Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say 'Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified” (vv.16, 17).
(e) Speakers with tongues will resemble the
if the whole church comes together in one
place, and all speak with
tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or
unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”
(f) The tongues should be
appropriate, in order and without
confusion. The gift of Speaking in tongues filled everyone at the
time of the Apostles, but the Apostle insists that the gift should be
disciplined. He says: “For God is not the author of confusion but
of peace” (v.33) and “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be
two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret”
(7) Speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers
In the Apostle's
opinion, believers will benefit from
forthtelling, whereas unbelievers will profit from the tongues
provided that they are interpreted. He says: “Therefore
tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe” (v.22).
Therefore if those who are present in church are believers, what is the benefit of Speaking in tongues, according to the Apostle's teaching?
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