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Tongues: The Controversial Gift

First, they can be a source of great encouragement as God speaks to his people and gives them direction and comfort. Thus, tongues and interpretation function as prophecy (1 Cor. 14:5). This contemporary word from the Lord can be a great help to the people of God as they are reminded that he knows were they are and that he cares for them. They may also be touched by the fact that they have been granted time in heaven. God took the time to speak to them.

The second way in which tongues can edify the congregation is in the area of worship. If the interpreted utterance is prayer and praise, this inspired worship can enhance the worship of the entire congregation. As the praise is offered, the people become aware of the greatness of God and in greater numbers and intensity enter into worship. This manifestation of the gift serves to make worship contagious.

In this paper we have seen that the gift of tongues is a controversial gift. While definitely present in the first century church its presence in the contemporary church is questioned. We have also seen that the cessationist’s position rests on strained scriptural interpretation, the history of the post-apostolic church and their own experience.[31] Cessationists lack a clear word from the Lord that the gift of tongues has passed from the church. We have also seen the purposes that the gift served in the early church and the great benefits that it provided both to the individual who exercised the gift and to the congregation. These things cannot be minimized. God gave the gift of tongues to the church to strengthen it (1 Cor. 14:26).

Image: Paul Bulai

The outpouring of the Spirit is a characteristic of the last days.[32] The last days began in the first century AD, the time of the apostolic church, and will continue until the Lord’s return.[33] In view of this fact we should expect the presence of spiritual gifts in the church today.

The church is still in need of the edification and strengthening that the gifts provide.[34] Since this is so, we dare not exclude any of the spiritual gifts from the church, including tongues. On the contrary, we should earnestly desire all of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1).




This brief look at the controversial gift of tongues was written by John Lathrop in 2004, when it was published at the Pneuma Foundation (the parent organization of legacy site.




[1] Stanley Burgess and Gary McGee, eds. Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), s.v. “Azusa Street Revival,” by C.M. Robeck Jr.

[2] Charles E. Hummel, Fire in the Fireplace: Contemporary Charismatic Renewal (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978), 39.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2019

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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