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God Doesn’t Speak Gibberish

• Greg Boyd

We finish our short series on the spiritual gifts today with a sermon discussing the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. As the most controversial of the gifts, we will correct false beliefs and discover the Scriptural truths and blessing that come from speaking in tongues.

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This week marks the end of our short series on the spiritual gifts. Our final week will be spent discussing the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. The gift of tongues is the supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language you have never learned. There are some people who believe the languages spoken are other earthly foreign languages and others who think these could be angelic languages. The gift of tongues is accompanied by the gift of interpretation of tongues. The gift of interpretation, as the title suggests, is the gift of being able to discern what those speaking in tongues are saying without having knowledge about the language that is being spoken. The gift of speaking in tongues is one that the Holy Spirit has given as a way of building up the body of Christ for the purpose of growing the Kingdom of God. Our hope is to reframe the ways we understand speaking in tongues, in order that the church can be blessed by using this gift the way it was intended.

Tongues is in one respect unique among the other charismatic gifts. Paul says all the gifts are “for the common good,” which is also true for the speaking of tongues, however he gives further instruction that this particular gift can also be used by the believer in private. Unlike the other gifts, Paul tells the Corinthians that those who have the gifts of tongues can use them during personal prayer or worship time. In 1 Cor. 14:18-19, Paul clearly states that a person can speak in tongues in private all they desire, but in a church setting the important thing is to edify and instruct the body. In other words, if there is no one to supernaturally interpret tongues in a church setting, speaking in tongues is of no use. Paul goes on to say that if tongues are spoken by an individual in a church gathering without an interpreter present, it should be done quietly so that only the person praying and God can hear them speak.

Speaking in tongues is the most controversial of the gifts, because it has been the most abused of all the gifts. The gift of tongues has been abused and misused in certain church traditions, which have wrongly used a person’s ability to speak in tongues as the basis to judge spirituality. There is one particularly damaging belief surrounding the gift of tongues that requires correcting—tongues as the initial sign of baptism of the Holy Spirit or initial sign of salvation. There is no Scriptural evidence that speaking in tongues is the indicator for a person’s baptism of the Holy Spirit or salvation. Churches that have insisted on such ideas have given people a false image of God and placed unholy pressure on believers to speak in tongues. The abuse surrounding speaking in tongues has caused much hurt in individuals and a mistrust for the greater church body. It is through a healthy understanding of the Scriptural uses and descriptions of tongues that we will be able to find blessing in obtaining it. When used correctly, the gifts of tongues will bring about common good of the church, as well be a blessing in our private prayer and worship time.

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Topics: Controversial Issues, Holy Spirit, Spiritual Gifts

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Focus Scripture:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

    7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

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7 thoughts on “God Doesn’t Speak Gibberish

  1. kevin says:

    I think maybe speaking in tongues out of order may be the least of our problems; consider this latest charismanic display:


  2. Dave Pritchard says:


    Yaaaa know…… what’s really interesting about the supposed and often controversial origin of this particular song, is that some claim it’s originally a “Shaker” worship gambol of physical praise. They were into the “full-body thing!” Ha! Some see it as a left over from the “Era of Manifestations” movement of the 19th century. Or also known as – “Period of Mother’s work” based off of the teachings of “Mother Ann Lee” who had in her own right, a fascinating journey of spiritual pain and triumph.

    Essentially, it was and still is often taught, that through the exuberant “shaking/dancing” one is purging from the body, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the “sin” that was separating you from the Divine love of the Savior. Unfortunately, “celibacy” was also hallmark trait of many of these groups and this is supposedly why their numbers dwindled, although other theories abound.

    The trouble I’m having with all this, is that normally because I don’t personally worship in this mode or fashion, I find a lot of this to be suspect and even shambolically humorous and easy to poke fun at. I’m as complicit as the next! There are dozens videos out there demonstrating seemingly outrageous behavior that seems so bizarrely wide of the mark. But…… that’s just the problem –

    It’s putting myself in the drivers seat of others worshipful experience and praise, which is something we all know to be arrogant and spiritually conceited – even judgmental.

    Because Psalm 100 – “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands….” Isn’t exactly precise on how that’s to be done, there’s an incredible amount of expressive latitude within the body of Christ on how this is all played out. The Televangelising of this kind of praise where “spectacle’ seems to be hallmark, has done it no favors over the years. Others would argue just the opposite!

    I would say that much of the “Reformed” and “Mennonite” tradition over the years has focused on an expressive mode of “Christ-centered” worship, as opposed to a more “Spirit–centered” worship. Both approaches being beautiful ways of offering praise and honor to our Savior and Lord. As long as Believers are sticking to John 4:23 –

    “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

    I don’t think we can find any fault. But wow, there’s some seriously weird stuff out there! Ha!

  3. Denley McIntosh says:

    To add on to your points gentlemen, it’s wonderful to see God’s Spirit moving in unique ways but if they make this experience a normal or normative affair, they will have missed the point I believe. The Spirit’s ministry is not to point to him/herself but to the Father and the Son. Charismatic pastors must do a better job to teach their congregation that a spiritual experience or Spirit’s goal is to glorify God – and to bring a greater awareness of the life of the Son whom they must bear his image or character. Otherwise, folks will see themselves as the goal of a spiritual experience (e.g. healing) or even dare to say, the Holy Spirit. In any event, I thank God that the Spirit moves as He sees fit and probably chuckles and sighs in our moments of immaturity as we grow up into his Son.

  4. Theresa says:

    “…probably chuckles and sighs in our moments of immaturity as we grow up into his Son.” I like that…I agree. I also attended for a short time back in the early ’80’s a pentecostal church. I remember inviting my catholic friend to a service and when people broke out in tongue, she felt very uncomfortable and never went back. It was like noone picked up on her uneasiness but seemed more concerned about the Spirit moving by their gift of tongue.

  5. Peter says:

    Further considering the matter of Spiritual gifts, we tend to think that when we have gifts, they are our own to do with how we choose.

    An interesting analogy here is to consider a plant seed. When it is planted it is given the gift of soil, moisture, sunlight and possibly fertiliser and pesticide.

    Now if the plant seed were self-indulgent it would say, look at the great soil I have, look at the gift of moisture I have and this fantastic fertiliser etc. But, of course, the plant seed looking at the situation from this viewpoint fails to see what these gifts have produced in terms of the plant. Has the plant grown to healthy maturity or, has it become ‘introverted’, stunted and barren?

    Likewise we are all children of God created to be in ‘His Image’ to be True Human Beings, which we relinquished at the Fall in the Garden of Eden. However, through God’s great love and grace, His plan has been to restore us to that which He originally planned…..Jesus being the first True Human Being (albeit resurrected and glorified) now sitting at the right hand of the Father. As part of this process we, like the plant analogy, have been given marvellous gifts of the Spirit to restore us to that which we were originally created.

    The gifts of the Spirit lead to the fruit of the Spirit. In terms of the plant, the plant at maturity yields fruit for the benefit (love) of creation. The NLT has an interesting translation for 1 Cor 12:7,

    “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”

    And also well summed up in 2 Pet 1:1-11,

    “1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
    to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
    3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so near sighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

    So while Spiritual gifts are designed for our ultimate benefit they were never designed for narcissistic egos and, as the quotation from 2 Peter indicates, growth/maturity is progressive to enable us to be partakers of the divine nature.

  6. kevin says:

    Very helpful comments brother Dave as well as from you brother Denley.

    Having a “Christ-centered” worship, as opposed to a more “Spirit–centered” worship. That seems right.

    To my discernment, these people seem to think that we must enter some kind of mysterious and hard to get to spiritual ‘state’ in order to access the supernatural realm where miracles happen. So many will go to any extreme to ‘get to the third heaven’ and it all seems to supercede Faith. Personally, i’m not so desirous of experiencing the miraculous that i abandon reason altogether. I do admire their willingness to act foolish.

    It was a direct confirmation for me when Greg began talking about how ‘begging God’ was not the Kingdom way. I’d run into this recently while taking a course with the Setting Captives Free website and i let them know it was sticking in my spiritual craw; my concern was met with hostility. As Greg says and as i told SCF, we ask, we desire; we do not beg. All this odd charismatic behavior, to me, smacks of begging and of people who do not have faith but doubt and they seem desperate to validate their beliefs and Prove that the miraculous is real, yeah?

    And what of the healing testimonies in this vid? ‘My back was completely healed when i did the hokie pokie’. Is God truly working despite the silliness? Is He responding to their desperation and their willingness to try anything? Are the healings imaginary? Are they false signs and wonders from the devil? I still wonder about all this and you are right Dave; we must not become overly judgmental of these folks; i just want the truth of it.

  7. Denley McIntosh says:

    Hi Kevin,

    It’s hard for me to know or say if that Hokey-Pokey is genuine. I know God works in ways that we would not expect. I suppose working in “foolish” ways. Saying that, the outcome is all the same. If it’s of God, then the people will follow after the Son harder and not seeking harder for the spiritual experience as an idol (like Deuteronomy 13:1-5). The opposite will lead to church “madness”.

    If I can mention my experience about tongue-speaking from hopefully sober-minded perspective, I share similar sentiments with Pastor Greg on the pneumatika-charismata phenomenon from an exegetical and experiential perspective, which I hold and hope to be biblical. I do however sense that our fellow Pentecostal and Charismatic brethren do not observe 1 Corinthians 14 as a way to express it. In fact, many of them are not even aware of that passage exists to safeguard their experiences. This is really unfortunate. I know many of that faith tribe cite Acts 2 to show the free movement and fire of the Spirit. However, they fail to remember that the fruit of the Spirit is also self-control, which is another way of saying a sound mind or self-awareness.

    Even the Apostle Peter Acts 2 stood and said to the crowd that they were not drunk, which was actually saying that the tongue-speaking disciples had self-control. Although it appeared that Peter and the rest had no self-control, the reality was not so. Peter had self-control, and the declaration of that fact contributed many hearers to repent. This was why the Apostle Paul said the in 1 Corinthians 14:32 that the spirit of the prophets is subjected to the prophet’s control.

    In contemporary times, many Pentecostals and Charismatics who are speaking in tongues are sadly not exercising self-control in manner and/or timing of this gift. Let me just say however that speaking in tongues is a wonderful gift as Pastor Greg iterated. You truly experience a little bit of heaven on earth and truly sensing the communion of the Father, Son, and Spirit as they converse around, through and in you. You leave feeling immersed in the Trinitarian love. My prayer is that Pentecostals/Charismatics would not glorify this gift, so it is not abused. Likewise, Evangelicals would not belittle the gift, so it is not disused. Speaking in tongues is a powerful demonstration of the pneumatika-charismata phenomenon especially for one’s own spiritual growth.

    Good thoughts Kevin. I hope to hear more.

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