By Brooke Holt
“I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” - 1 Corinthians 14:18-19
Does Paul believe in speaking in tongues? Absolutely! Does he think there is a benefit to speaking in tongues? Most definitely! Does he want others to practice this kind of prayer and praise? Without a doubt. The Holy Spirit is the gift of God to dwell within his people, and he is not a dormant dweller but an active one. When God created the heavens and the earth, the Spirit hovered. He was present and active (Genesis 1:2). The same spirit that rose Jesus from the dead is the Spirt that now lives within you (Romans 8:11). Through the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, you have his presence with you and in you. And with his presence and power are the spiritual gifts that he longs to pour out on you to work through you.
Paul was just like you. He was a man saved by grace and then filled with the Holy Spirit. God had a plan for his life. it was a big plan, a plan that could never be accomplished without the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. And Paul faithfully exercised his gifts. He preached the Gospel passionately and faithfully. He built churches, nurtured those churches, discipled God’s people, even evangelized those who kept him behind bars. He was so grounded in God’s love that he could love those who persecuted him, hated him, and sought his destruction.
Paul lived that life of love that we read about in chapter 13. Beyond love, Paul also demonstrated great spiritual maturity. He was not just gifted; he was discerning as to how and when to use those gifts. Love for God and love for God’s people compelled Paul to exalt Jesus Christ above himself or anything else and to constantly seek to edify the body of Christ. Paul lived what he preached!
The sermon continues in the letter with his shocking words: “I thank God I speak in tongues more than all of you” (v. 18). If the Corinthians hadn’t been listening attentively, I bet they were now. Paul prayed, sang, and worshipped in the Spirit—by himself, for himself. But when Paul came into the assembly of God’s people, he spoke in ways that others could understand and ways that would build them, not him.
Speaking in tongues was a crucial part of Paul’s personal spiritual life, but Paul put himself aside when he was gathered with God’s people. The Corinthians were to do the same, as are we. Seek the gifts, use the gifts but do so with spiritual maturity!
There seem to be two extreme views of the gifts today. Either people seem overly focused on them, or they believe that all these spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles. What is your view, and how might God be nudging you to be open to his Holy Spirit today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a "gift" who will guide us, lead us, and empower us. Yet many believers don't experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This unique Christian small group Bible study provides a space in which we can explore what it truly means to "walk in the Spirit" on a daily basis. The Spirit-Filled Life small group curriculum centers on a 6-part video teaching series examining the life-giving and creative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Begin to experience the gift today!
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