A gracEmail subscriber who desires to be open to whatever God might wish to do in her life expresses difficulty with the idea that he still bestows gifts of tongues, prophecy and healing. What is the gift of “tongues” supposed to be, anyway?
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You could not possibly have more difficulty with the spiritual gifts of healing, tongues and prophecy than I did for many years. You and I both grew up under teaching that all such things ceased long ago. Yet eventually I had to yield my firmly-set mind to the strong evidence that God gives all these gifts to whomever he wishes — even today. What required me to change was (1) a realization that Scripture does not require or even suggest that these gifts would cease with the first century or thereabouts; (2) the testimony of the church fathers that they existed for at least 400 years after Christ, and their expectation that these gifts would continue until Jesus returned; and (3) my personal observation and experience in these regards. I do not talk much about the third point, because it is the most subjective and the hardest to prove to anyone else, but it is one consideration.
One gift of “tongues” is the divine enablement of a prayer language, similar in some ways to a little baby’s cooing and “talking.” The heart is there — and the sounds come out — but the sounds do not fit normal human language (1 Cor. 14:14-17; perhaps also Rom. 8:26-27; Eph. 6:18; Jude 20). Yet we do not chide our babies for that. We happily accept what clearly expresses their inner selves, although it is not phrased in normal words (Psalm 8:2). This prayer language is in addition to ordinary human language, and it is intended for private devotions with the Father, not for public meetings without an inspired interpretation (1 Cor 14:2, 4, 17-19).
The important thing is to praise God and to intercede for others in whatever words God gives us, whether that includes a special prayer language or not, and he will be pleased with it (1 Thes. 5:17-18). Believers who receive any particular grace-gifts (charismata) are not therefore any more spiritual, mature or advanced than others who lack those particular gifts. And any Christian who judges another about these matters is wrong in doing that — in either direction (1 Cor. 12:13-30).