This gift of tongues is a supernatural utterance by the Holy Spirit in a language never learned by the speaker. It is not understood by the mind of the speaker, and usually not understood by the hearers. It is a manifestation of the mind of the Spirit of God, employing human speech organs. When a man is speaking with tongues his mind, intellect, and understanding are not in operation. It is the faculties of God that are active. Man's will certainly is active, as well as his spirit and his speech organs, but the mind that is operating is the mind of God through the Holy Spirit. The gift of tongues has two uses. Both are brought out in the fourteenth chapter of I Corinthians.
The first use is the operation of the gift of tongues in the church or body of believers. When this gift is manifested in the church it must be accompanied by the related gift of interpretation of tongues. The gift of tongues, with the gift of interpretation, is for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the body.
Let us not try to make something out of these gifts that God's Word does not, but let us keep them in the proper order, as God has intended, and they will do the job that God has placed them in the midst of His church to do. This gift should be exercised according to the order set forth in I Corinthians 14:27, "If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret." Many have taken this to mean that they can only have three messages in tongues at the most. But we feel this means no more than two in succession, and at the most three, and after three messages in tongues one should interpret. The passage goes on to say that if there be no interpreter, the man should keep silent in the church, and "speak to himself, and to God." Those who speak in tongues should pray that they might interpret (I Corinthians 14:13).
This is a gift that is freely given and needs much knowledge in its operation, that the church might be edified. Paul said, "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying" (I Corinthians 14:5). We feel this gift of tongues should be exercised with clarity and with authority when spoken in the church, as the Spirit of God moves upon the ones speaking, and that reverence be given to the voice of God as it is recognized speaking to us through this gift. The gift of tongues must be exercised with much love. When dealt with wrongly, or when out of order, it tends to kill the life which dwells in the body of believers who would manifest these gifts. As these gifts are encouraged and manifested, they must be kept in order with love and sincerity of heart, that the body might receive edification and that others in our midst will covet and allow God to use them to manifest these supernatural gifts of the Spirit. We can usually test the proper usage of these gifts by the edification given to the body of believers.
We must also recognize the gift of tongues used in the believer's own private life, as set forth in the fourteenth chapter of I Corinthians. This gift is used that men may speak supernaturally to God and that the believer might be personally edified. If this gift is used properly in the church and in believers' lives, we will see both edified. Tongues, along with the other gifts, is one of the means by which we become a supernatural moving body of believers. We cannot do away with any of God's wonderful gifts. We must yield to the life of God in the Spirit so that the fullness of God's grace might be revealed and so that the body of believers can have all God has given for its operation in this hour.
This gift of tongues is used for our worship, as described in I Corinthians 14:2: "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries." How can we take away from the wonderful supernatural manifestations of the gifts of tongues that God has given to His people, enabling us to speak to Him not only in our own understanding, but in the limitless vocabulary of the Holy Spirit? We pray in the Spirit, and we magnify and praise the Lord in the Spirit.