This is a reproduction of a reply to an enquiry by another commenter some time ago about speaking in tongues as a Biblical principle.
There is too much ignorance about speaking in tongues, and it largely comes from the cessationist error perpetuated by many of the so-called discernment preachers.
Tongues are languages, but not known to the speaker. Whether or not the hearer understands the tongue is not the issue. The point is that tongues, according to Acts 2, is magnifying and exalting God by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore speaking in tongues is a good thing. It is also speaking mysteries onto God, and the utterance is by the Holy Spirit. More good things. Speaking in tongues edifies the speaker. This is yet another good thing.
Prophecy, however, edifies the assembly, because they understand the words being uttered, which tells us that tongues is unknown languages, requiring interpretation by the utterance of the Spirit.
Paul indicates that there is more than one outworking of tongues. He talks about tongues in the assembly, which requires interpretation, and tongues as personal prayer and worship, i.e. singing with the spirit and praying with the spirit. He says he prays with the spirit, and he prays with the understanding. He also says he sings with the spirit, and he sings with the understanding. This could only be speaking of personal prayer and worship, not prayer and worship in the assembly, because this would require interpretation on both counts. The understanding refers to praying and singing in known languages. The spirit refers to praying and singing in unknown languages.
Then there is the office of tongues, which also requires interpretation. These are utterances by the Holy Spirit which are regarded by Paul as offices of tongues and interpretation. This is the equivalent of prophecy, and the office of prophecy. It is the offices to which Paul refers when he says that not all speak with tongues, or interpret or prophesy.
But we know that prophecy is for all believers because we are told in Acts 2 that the outpouring of the Spirit – the Promise -would be on all flesh and all would prophesy.
We are also told to pursue love and to be zealous to prophesy. If this was not for all believers then why issue the instruction?
These are different layers of tongues, interpretation and prophecy. We need to read these passages of scripture with an open, believing and Spirit-led mind, and not with the denialism of the faithless.
It is very sad that we do not see these gifts and manifestations in action much in assemblies these days, even in some larger Pentecostal churches that have been contemporised and, sadly man-sanitised from the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, which we should hold sacred and viable, God’s gifts undeniable, and not shunted off into some corner in case we offend someone’s sensibilities or are criticised for stepping out in faith and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead our meetings as God intended.
The other extreme is the cessationist heresy that has determined that these things have been superseded by the canon of scripture. In fact, they remove much of the canon in their denial of its truths about the way in which the Holy Spirit should be allowed to enter and direct our meetings whenever we gather in the name of Jesus Christ.
It’s as if the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit have been quarantined in one way or the other in case He should be allowed to break out amongst us and cause Holy Ghost astonishment, amazement and movement to disrupt our controlled human church environments.
If God wants us to pray and sing with the spirit by the utterance of the Holy Spirt, why should we protest so much and seek reasons why, when all along He has set some wonderful gifts in the church for our edification, comfort and exhortation, and the Spirit-led utterance in tongues is the entry level into prophecy and the gifts. Everything in the Kingdom of God is operated through faith and the Spirit.
And who cares what the ignorant say when we can enter into the truth and enjoy the Spirit every day, everywhere?