Tongues, Wisdom and Discernment

Posted: March 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

Sorry for the delay.  I’m still typing with bandaged fingers but enough of the sympathy seeking…

Wayne Grudem polishes off his two chapters on gifts of the Holy Spirit by discussing tongues, wisdom and discernment. 

Grudem points out that “tongues,” or glossa in the Greek, can also be translated as “languages.”  The Apostles speak “in tongues”  at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends on them and there it is clearly the gift to speak in other known languages (Acts 2:4). 

Speaking in tongues, however, can also be an unknown language given by the Spirit to the speaker.  Grudem points out that such an occurrence within worship points to the promise that one day God will reverse the effects of the curse of the Tower of Babel, in which God confused the people of the earth through different languages (Gen. 11:9).

One may also speak in tongues in prayer.  Paul writes in 1 Cor. 14:14 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful”  (cf. 1 Cor. 14:15).  When done in public, therefore, it requires an interpreter also provided by the Spirit but when done in private it is simply a mysterious utterance. Thus, Grudem defines the gift as follows, “speaking in tongues is prayer or praise spoken in syllables not understood by the speaker.” 

Why would the Spirit gift a person with an ability to do something they do not understand? Paul writes that it is a form of praise to God (1 Cor. 14:2) where the human spirit prays in ways that transcends our own understanding (1 Cor. 14:14-15).

Many evangelicals fear this gift because they don’t want worship to lapse into chaos.  Yet, Paul assumes that those with the gift can still control themselves.  Notice his words in 1 Cor. 14:27-28,

If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

Now there are obvious dangers when the gift of tongues is encouraged but there are dangers inherit in each and every gift.

There is also the gift of wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8), which is simply the God given ability to know how to wisely approach various situations. I pray for this one daily!

Finally, there is the gift of discernment as it relates to spiritual warfare.   Grudem puts it this way, “Distinguishing between spirits is a special ability to recognize the influence of the Holy Spirit or of demonic spirits in a person.”  The great and powerful Grudem points out that this gift is also a foretaste of the age to come when “everything that is covered or hidden will be revealed and brought to the light (Matt. 10:26; cf. Rev. 20:11-15).   Given Satan’s propensity to attack the church, such a gift is grace upon grace.

Tomorrow, we begin trekking through the final chapters in Grudem’s Systematic Theology as we discuss the Doctrine of the Future. 

Until then, grace and peace.


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