I want to thank all those that I was able to talk to and for the few sources that I read that started me thinking. Also thanks to those that replied to my query.
So where am I now? Lets start with some assumptions that I have come to that I will base my thoughts upon:
1. Words have many meanings.
A word can mean different things when used in different contexts, and so the word must be read in context to understand its intended meaning fully.
In terms of the word tongues in the bible. Depending on the version of the bible used, the word translated tongues either is from the greek word “glossa” or “dialektos”. The NIV tranlatates the word ‘dialektos’ three times as ‘language’, and three times in conjunction with Hebrew as ‘Aramaic’. The word ‘glossa’ is translated 42 times with ‘tongues’ and seven times with ‘language’. The oxford dictionary has two definitions that are useful in this thought: a language/dialect and, the ability to speak.
There are a few passages that are most significant to the argument about the Spiritual gift of tongues. The first being the passage in Mark 16:17(debated) then Acts 2:4,,,19:6, and 1 Corinthians 12-14.
If we take the word tongues listed in these passages we must see that sometimes it is clear that the languages spoken are understandable human languages (Acts 2 – day of Pentecost – as shown by Acts 2:11) and at other times they may not be understandable (1 Cor 14:2).
2. The Church is for the Church
I believe that the gifts given of the Spirit are given to us for the good and edification (building up, strengthening) of the church (1 Cor 12:7, 14:26b). Paul says in 1 Cor 14:4-5 that whoever speaks in tongues edifies only themselves unless someone interprets so that all can be edified.
I believe that whenever we are together with other Christians, our public sharing should never be just for personal benefit, but also for the building up of those around us. (1 Cor ,18-19,28) We have been gifted the gifts of the Spirit, but with this gift also comes the responsibility to use our gift appropriately.
If anyone has the gift of tongues, praise the Lord. But they must use their gift in a wisely and timely way. If there is no one to interpret, they should keep quiet. Our responsibility is to use our gifts, not for personal acclamation (as seen in many churches today) but for the edification of others, and so we must use our gifts in view of this.
In times of private prayer on the other hand, the use of tongues is excellent and admirable as it edifies the speaker by building up their spirit (1 Cor 14:4) but praying in tongues can never take the place of praying with your mind and with understanding (1 Cor 14:14-15) but rather can be used alongside it. At the same time, it is not required to build up the Spirit. Someone who prays in their own language is not less built up then someone who speaks in an unknown language.
3. God has made each of us diverse
1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says this: “there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working but that same God works all of them in all men.” The passage goes on to say that to one is given this and to another that, and finishes in saying that it is the Spirit who determines which gifts are given to which people. Therefore, do not expect to get given of the same gifts.
Our desire as shown by 1 Corinthians 13 should be above that of simply gifts of ability. Paul states that love is above all and without love even the mightiest of works is hollow and useless. Paul talks of desiring gifts in the verses before and after 1 Cor. 13 but this must be taken in light of Paul’s greater desire to see us grow in love and relationship and likeness of Christ. The gifts are not the end, but rather a means to the end. An artist desires a new paintbrush, not so that he can enjoy the new paintbrush, but that he can produce a more excellent painting.
Never worry that you are not gifted with the gifts you desire or others claim you need, worry if you are not growing (yourself and others) with the gifts that you have been given.
4. Spiritual actions don’t make spiritual people.
Finally I am reminded of the passage in Matthew 7:15-23. I know of places where spiritual gifts are a sign of how spiritual you are. People saying that if you speak in a tongue, the Spirit is within you, and if you do not? Well, well well... Or maybe you cannot heal? Prophesy? Interpret?
Building on what I have said about 1 Corinthians 13, your salvation has nothing to do with the abilities you have been given. It is not you outward actions, but the inward reality that determines your place with Christ. Some of the most Godly people I know do not exhibit a single of the ‘spiritual’ gifts as proclaimed necessary in some churches.
Look not to the path but to the goal. Look not at the gifts, but at the heart of a person. Is love the defining characteristic in someone’s life?
In conclusion, one day all tongues/languages will cease for we will see God as he is and we will communicate with Him face to face, and everyone will understand everyone. But for now, we live in wait of that day, and live with our differences, and struggles, and misunderstandings. Pray for unity, growth and love.
May my understanding of the Bible ever increase.