Early in my ministry I found myself talking to a man who felt he was led by the Spirit because he spoke in tongues. However, it was not the Bible version of speaking in tongues, where “every man heard in his own language.” He was speaking things no one understood. He told me about a Pentecostal prayer meeting he recently attended, where he was “filled with the spirit,” spoke in tongues and ended up at a hotel with a lady he met at the meeting! I assured Him the Holy Spirit would not have led him to do such a thing. He would not listen to me. He was on an emotional high, going strictly by feelings.
This man was not the only one who put emotions and feelings above Scripture. Not long after, I began studying with three members of a 7th-day Pentecostal church in west Texas. They explained the wonderful emotions that overtakes them when speaking in tongues. Interestingly enough, I preached in their church a handful of times, but they never spoke in tongues while I was there. Still, for years, they put their emotions over Scripture, telling me they knew it was real because they felt it. I sure am glad Jesus did not put feelings above the Word of God, after fasting 40 days in the wilderness, when Satan questioned if He was really the Son of God. I am glad I don’t need to consult my emotions before the Scripture, when John tells me that when I confess my sins, God is faithful to forgive me. I can believe that God forgives even though I still feel terrible about what I have done. It took me several years of study and friendship before this trio were convicted and put God’s Word above their feelings and were baptized and joined my local Seventh-day Adventist Church.
What I find ironic, is how many people sincerely believe that a church has to speak in tongues in order to be spirit-filled, while at the same time scoffing at the Seventh-day Adventist Church for claiming to have the Spirit of Prophecy. However, we read in the book of Revelation that God’s “remnant” or last-day church will have the “Spirit of Prophecy,” as indicated in the texts below. (The gift of tongues is not specifically mentioned. )
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:17 NKJV
the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10 NKJV
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 NKJV
God’s last-day church has the Spirit of Prophecy, and the Spirit of prophecy is the gift the Bible tells us to pursue above all others, and not speaking in tongues. Why?
Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 1 Corinthians 14:22 NKJV
According to Acts 2:6 Biblical speaking in tongues is when people hear the gospel in their own language.
About ten years ago I heard a young lady preaching. She was a student at Southern Adventist university near Chattanooga Tennessee. She spoke of a mother she knew who was at a local park with her 6-year-old English-speaking daughter. The daughter met a little Spanish girl at the swings, and started talking to her about Jesus. The two little girls continued talking, and both of the girls’ mothers were amazed to hear them speaking to each other, because the English girl only knew English and the Spanish girl only knew Spanish! God created a miracle so the little girl could hear about Jesus in her own language just like on the day of Pentecost. According to 1 Corinthians 14:22 speaking in tongues is for the unbelievers to hear the gospel in their own language. It is not for the believers in church, because they have already heard the gospel. That’s why they are there.
By contrast, prophesying is for those who already believe. This is very important to understand. We are not supposed to use the Spirit of Prophecy to convince unbelievers. The Testimonies for the church are directed to the church, not unbelievers. It was the same in Isaiah’s day.
Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Isaiah 58:1 NKJV
Isaiah was given the Spirit of Prophecy to show the church its sins, not the world. The world is to be told there is a Savior, and then they can be instructed through the Spirit of Prophecy, not before. What that means to us today is that we need to be telling our neighbors that Jesus loves and died for them, and not that they need to stop eating cheese or drinking with their meals. But I digress…
So Biblical speaking in tongues is when someone hears the gospel in their own language. Speaking in tongues does not need to be used in the church. It needs to be used outside the church to share the gospel with unbelievers in their own language. When unbelievers accept the gospel and become believers, they are welcomed into the church, where the gift of prophecy is shared with them.