Study Guide: God Doesn’t Speak Gibberish

Sunday October 5, 2014 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is your experience with the gift of tongues, either personally or within community?
  2. What false information have you been given regarding the gift of tongues?
  3. Can you think of a personal story or a story someone has shared with you in which the blessing of speaking in tongues was felt by an individual or community?
  4. Have you ever been given the gift of interpretation or been witness to interpretation? If so, how did that experience make you view tongues differently? If not, what affect do you suppose witnessing interpretation may have?
  5. If you have the gift of tongues already, are there ways you could be more faithful in using this gift in your personal prayer time? If you do not, what is holding you back from asking to receive this gift and surrendering the outcome to the Spirit?