Monday, February 21, 2011

The Significance of Tongues in Relation to Praise

“Speaking the Wonderful Works of God”
"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (languages) as the Spirit gave them utterance…. Then they [Jews from foreign nations] were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language? ...we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2: 1-11;

Tongues: for Prayer and Praise, Not for Preaching.
People who do not understand the purpose of tongues use 1 Corinthians 14: 14-26 as a basis for forbidding them altogether. The following paragraph is my understanding of what Paul meant.

The praise in tongues on the Day of Pentecost was not meant to edify the listeners, but was a sign that captured their attention and drew them to the gathering. The foreigners thought these worshippers were drunk. This is a good illustration of what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 14: 23 where he says that an uninformed person or unbeliever may think you’re crazy. The Day of Pentecost exemplifies Paul’s teaching that prayer and praise in tongues are directed to God and not to man. Tongues edify the speaker but may in some cases be a sign to the listeners (1 Corinthians 14: 22).
The crowd heard their own languages, and knew these people were praising God. However, the praises did not explain anything to the listeners, but rather, got their attention and raised the question, “What does this mean?” Peter then stood up and gave the sermon that provided the answer. The “10,000 words in tongues” did not edify the crowd but did give praise to God and served as a sign to gather the multitude to hear Peter’s message.

A Form of Praise We See in the Psalms
The worshippers on the Day of Pentecost were speaking to God, recounting and rehearsing his mighty acts and thanking Him for all He has done. This is a form of praise we find throughout the Psalms. Praying in tongues enables us, like the Psalmist, to “speak the wonderful works of God,” but supernaturally in earthly languages (tongues of men) or in heavenly languages (tongues of angels).
”Though I speak with the tongues of men or of angels…” 1 Corinthians 13:
"Who can speak of (utter) the mighty deeds of the Lord, or can show forth all His praise?" Psalms 106: 2
"Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, for His wonderful works to the children of men." Psalm 107: 8, 15, 21, 31
"Oh give thanks to the Lord… make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him. Speak of all His wonders (wondrous works). Psalm 105: 1-2

“Spiritual Songs” Are Songs of the Spirit.
“What is it then…I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding…for indeed you give thanks well…” 1 Corinthians 14: 15-17.
“…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5: 18-19
“…in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colosians 3: 16

The verses above speak of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. “Psalms” refers to songs which take their general character from the Psalms, usually accompanied by musical instruments, and repeating the wonderful works of God. “Hymns” speaks of songs of praise. In early Greek writings from Homer on down it referred to praise of heroes and conquerors. “Spiritual songs” are songs sung in the Spirit, a person’s spirit singing by the Holy Spirit.

"Spiritual songs" is a translation of the Greek words "hodais pneumatikois."  "Hodais" is the generic term for "songs," whether praise song or songs about any other subject. "Pneumatikos" is the word for "spiritual," or "belonging to spirit" and is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 12: 1 referring to "spiritual gifts," meaning “that which operates in the realm of spirit.” Paul is not using the term “spiritual songs” in the same way our contemporary culture uses it to refer to “spirituals” (gospel songs) as opposed to “secular” music. In this context (1 Corinthians 14) he is talking about spiritual gifts, and tongues in particular. “Spiritual” here refers to spirit as opposed to the mind, singing in tongues as opposed to singing with the understanding. “Spiritual songs,” therefore, refers to the Holy Spirit working through the human spirit, singing in tongues.
“I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” 1 Corinthians 14: 14-16

God is Great and Greatly to be Praised
Praying in the Spirit enables us to enter a deeper dimension of praise and worship. To appreciate tongues we need to appreciate praise itself. In a previous post I referred to the many various expressions of praise we see in scripture, such as lifting the hands and voice in praise, dancing before the Lord, clapping hands, leaping for joy, and singing songs to God both a cappella and with every form of musical instrument. We now add  tongues to that list.  The psalmist said, "God is great and greatly to be praised." We, therefore, should praise Him greatly and with every tool He has made available to us.

“Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace.” - Charles Wesley.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


A Supernatural Cloud of Glory

“It came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord…that the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” 2 Chronicles 5: 13-14, (See also Luke 9:34-35)

My wife Laurel and I once witnessed an unusual manifestation of God’s presence during praise and worship at a conference in California in the early seventies. There were about 300 people standing with hands lifted to the Lord and singing praises in tongues. It was a beautiful harmonious blend of voices rising to the Lord like a symphony orchestra. As I looked about I saw what appeared to be a misty cloud that filled the room. My initial reaction was to rub my eyes thinking there was a problem with my vision. But then I saw the leaders excitedly moving about on stage and pointing out over the congregation. Everyone at that moment realized we were witnessing the cloud of God’s glory being manifested in response to the praise. This was an awesome experience. Ralph Mahoney, the director of World Missionary Assistance Plan (World MAP), wrote about this event in a subsequent publication of the organization’s magazine.
Our experience that night reminded us that praying and singing in tongues can be a significant instrument of praise.

An Appreciation of Praise
To appreciate tongues as an instrument of praise you must first have an appreciation of praise itself. Otherwise, the discussion remains in the realm of dry technicalities. Therefore, I would like to briefly discuss praise before discussing tongues as it relates to praise.

Praise can be quiet reverence speaking silently from the heart, but should also include outward expressions of exuberant and joyous enthusiasm. It is not simply a feeling or ritual, but is an act of worship in which the human spirit expresses itself through voice and body to give thanksgiving, honor, and glory to God. Praise should not be limited to inner silent thought but should be an expression of the whole person verbally and physically reaching out to God. We should have the same enthusiasm for God that fans show to their sports teams. Why should we “make the rafters ring” for a ball team but remain lifeless and frozen when we approach God?

We see many various expressions of praise in the Bible. We see the children of God lifting their hands and voices in praise. We see them dancing before the Lord, clapping their hand, leaping for joy, and singing songs to God, sometimes a cappella and sometimes with every form of musical instrument. We hear them reciting to the Lord all His wonderful deeds and mighty acts. We see the people spreading palm branches before Jesus as He makes His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Worship is not a cold solemnity we call reverence, but a living and joyous expression of honor and love to the living and very present God before whom we stand and to whom we lift our voices. It should not be a passive audience listening to a worship team on stage, nor just a collection of people worshipping as isolated individuals, but a body of believers joined as one, as a family, to make one sound rising to God as a beautiful symphony.

Praise is more than warm Sunday morning songs we sing prior to the sermon. It is the people of God dynamically entering the presence of God and touching Him with their spirits and pouring forth love and honor to Him, and in turn experiencing the presence of God that inhabits those praises. Like prayer it is also a means by which God allows His people to be dynamically involved in the release of His awesome work upon the earth. This is evident in many of the Psalms and in the praise paragraphs that are interspersed throughout the book of Revelation. Praise is an acknowledgment of the King and His coming kingdom. No wonder Jesus said, “If these were to keep silent, the very stones would cry out!”

 “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thundering, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” Revelation 19: 6.

This post is meant to stir our hearts toward praise. The next post will give the specific scripture verses that describe tongues as an instrument of praise.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts.” 1 Corinthians 14: 1

So many people approach the subject of the manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit from a purely doctrinal or analytical point of view. To do this is to miss the real significance and wonder of all it all. Our ability to fully appreciate the magnificent gifts and tools the Lord has placed in our hands depends on the depth of our vision and motivations. What we see determines what we reach for. What we desire (and why we want it) determines the passion and enthusiasm with which we pursues it.

The apostle Paul covered the issues of desire and motivation when he said we should “pursue love and desire spiritual gifts.” When we move in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit we are expressing our hunger for God’s active presence among us and we are showing our love and care for those around us. Jesus healed people because He was moved with compassion. We will move in the gifts of the Spirit as we are moved with His compassion. The gifts therefore are instruments of God’s love. It is Pharisaical to argue the theology of healing when you have people around you sick and in need of healing. I want to move in prophetic insight because there are people who need an encouraging word from God. I want to have a word of wisdom because someone is perplexed or confused and asking God for direction. I want to see miracles because so many people are facing impossibilities and need the “waters to part.” I want to pray in tongues because it strengthens my prayer life, strengthens my spirit, and helps release my ability to move in the other gifts of the Spirit, which will in turn touch others with the compassion, presence, and power of God.

When we speak of spiritual gifts, we are speaking of the presence of Jesus Christ working among us. We are not necessarily focusing on the spectacular and the dramatic, although these do occur from time to time. But mostly we look for those unobtrusive and often unnoticed acts of the Holy Spirit working in the background and which flow among us as life and grace, quietly yet deeply touching and blessing the lives of those around us. It is those daily, obscure, and non-spectacular acts of obedience that strengthen the church. It flows out of the individual’s desire to be used of God, and his willingness to reach out to people with love and compassion. It is to these that I direct you.

1 Corinthians 12: 7-11 lists the manifestations of the Holy Spirit (Spiritual gifts). Each of these gifts works through you to touch or bless others, except for tongues, which is the only one specifically designed for you to use to build up and strengthen yourself.

“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…” 1 Corinthians 14: 4
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.”  Jude 1: 20
When you pray in tongues you edify yourself. This verse has been used erroneously to say that praying in tongues was for the immature, ignorant, and unstable. But all Christians need to be edified and built up. Why would you throw away an obvious tool that is placed in your hand for that very purpose. It is not noble or logical to say, “I will seek to build up others, but I will not build up myself.” It is proper and necessary that we seek to strengthen ourselves in the Lord.
Paul himself says that he prayed in tongues more than all the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14: 18), and he was a spiritual giant. To say that tongues was for the unstable and immature is actually a powerful argument in favor of tongues. The most serious cases require the most potent medicine, and what works for a person who is weak should do wonders for a person who is healthy.

Praying in tongues is an important step in strengthening your own spirit and releasing you to move more freely in the Holy Spirit. It is a door that opens unto the other manifestations of the Spirit. Tongues is much like a key. A key is not the most important tool around the house, but it is vital in unlocking access to other more important things in the house.