Here is Question 4 from GraceTALK: “I have a friend who “speaks in tongues” and believes every Christian should also. As we spoke, I got the distinct impression that she did not feel I was “walking in the Spirit” in this regard. I was both irritated by her attitude and confused because it does make sense that if I am “in the Spirit” that I should show the activity or fruit of the Spirit… Confused.”
Speaking in tongues is very popular today and seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Often times, the frequency or fervor that someone speaks in tongues with is used as a gauge in regards to their holiness or Christlikeness. But, that is not what the Bible teaches. We will take a look at that in a moment.
For now, let’s take a look at this conversation and see how we might steer it in a productive manner for God’s glory and the good of our friend and ourself. I would encourage you follow up with your friend and try to reengage on the topic. And, when you do, try to bring up some of the following questions.
The first question I would ask this person is, “What do you mean when you say ‘I speak in tongues?’” Is this something the person does in private or is it done in the local assembly? If in private, like in a personal prayer language or ‘tongues of angels,’ then I do not think there is any biblical warrant for such an expression (1 Cor 13:1-4).
If she answers that she speaks in tongues in the local assembly, then Paul gives some clear and rather precise guidelines in regards to how this gift is to be carried out (1 Cor 14). In the context of a local church there is never to be more than two or three people speaking in tongues and never at the same time. Additionally, Paul commands that there be an interpreter present for those speaking in tongues. If there is no interpreter, then there should be no speaking in tongues at all (1 Cor 14:26-28). There are many in the church today who contend that this gift is no longer even given by the Holy Spirit….that it was unique to the early church age.
In that same chapter (1 Cor 14:19) Paul also encourages the church to more earnestly seek the gift of prophecy (which means forth telling of truth) and not the gift of tongues. In fact, Paul says he would rather speak five words with his mind rather than 10,000 words in a tongue. Clearly, speaking truth is the better and more helpful gift for the church than speaking in tongues.
Another question I would ask her is, “Why do you think every believer should “speak in tongues?’” Again Paul speaks to this issue. He knows that the church in Corinth was eager for manifestations of the Spirit so He encouraged them to pursue such manifestations. However, rather than seeking out speaking in tongues, Paul encouraged them to manifest the Spirit in the building up of the church body (1 Cor 14:12).
The final question I would want an answer to is how she determines if someone is walking in the Spirit. This will be a telling answer that will let you know if they are basing their ‘waling in the Spirit’ definition simply on their own experiences or if it’s based upon God’s revealed Word to us. In His Word, God clearly shows us how we can discern if we, or someone else for that matter, is walking in the Spirit.
A look at Romans 8, which makes reference a couple times to walking in the Spirit, talks about putting to death the deeds of the body, about fighting sin (Rom 8:12). People who walk according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Rom 8:5). And the Sprit produces conformity to Christ which can be seen in the fruits of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control (Gal 5:22).
Looking at the passage from our Fighter Verse for the past three weeks, in Eph 2, we see that we all once were formerly dead and were carrying out the passions of the flesh as we walked following the course of this world. But, God, who is rich in His mercy, made us alive together with Christ so that we might carry out good works (Eph 2:10), which God prepared beforehand, so that we might walk in them.
Someone who is walking in the Spirit will be obedient and will carry out good works to the praise and glory of Jesus Christ. Col 1:10 tells us that for us to ‘walk in a manner worthy of the Lord’ then we are to bear fruit in every good work and should increase in our knowledge of God. Col 2:6 tells us that for us to ‘walk in Him [Jesus]’ then we should be rooted and built up in our faith and that we should be abounding in thanksgiving.
It’s important in our society today, particularly with the huge influence of the charismatic movement over the last century and particularly over the last decade or so, that we take all of our thoughts AND experiences back and submit them fully to the authority of Scripture. If we cannot find justification for what we are experiencing in Scripture, then we need to reconsider what we are experiencing and attributing to the Spirit.
You may recall from a few weeks ago an analogy used on stage when an electric guitar was played through an amplifier. When the amplifier was turned off we could not hear the guitar. When the amplifier was turned on, we could clearly and loudly hear the guitar. In essence, the Holy Spirit is the amplifier to Jesus. He exists to make Jesus famous, to make Him known, to glorify Him. He is not primarily about us. In relation to us, He is about conforming us into the image, the character, and the priorities of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29). That’s why we almost always see fruit and knowledge linked with the Spirit and our walking in Him or in Christ when we read the Word.
So, don’t worry if your friend makes you feel confused. Instead, take your feelings and your mind back to the Word of God and see what it has to say about walking in the Spirit. See what the Word says about walking in a manner worthy of Jesus. You will find that it says that you are to grow in your knowledge and understanding of Christ and that as you do this good deeds and fruit will multiply in you as you become more like Christ…that is walking in the Spirit!