Everyone does not have the gift of tongues. First of all look at the introductory comments,
(1 Corinthians 12:4 NASB) Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.If that isn’t clear enough for you look a few verses down as Paul expands on the theme,
(1 Corinthians 12:10 NASB) and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.Notice that the gifts are spread around. We hear a litany of “to another” and tongues is no exception. If that isn’t clear enough for you, read this:
(1 Corinthians 12:30 NASB) All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?These are rhetorical questions. The answers are assumed to be clear. So how do we get people saying that everyone must speak in tongues?
Second, tongues is the least important of the gifts. This seems obvious to me in this verse,
(1 Corinthians 12:28 KJV) And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.This seems a definite order with the words “first,” “secondarily” and so forth. These Greek words are “proton,” “deuteros,” and “tritos.” It pretty obvious this is a ranking. When you skip forward to chapter 14, Paul makes it very clear in the first few verses that prophecy is a much more useful gift than tongues. He summarizes its lack of importance,
(1 Corinthians 14:19 KJV) Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.Third, the corollary of this is to restate that, whatever it is that Paul is downplaying, he seems to feel like it has a real place in the church and the life of the believer. Notice this,
(1 Corinthians 14:5 KJV) I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.This is a mixed verse for those who overemphasize speaking in tongues. Paul wishes everyone did it, but at the same time, points out that he wishes more that everyone could speak prophecy.
Fourth, tongues tends toward selfishness.
(1 Corinthians 14:4 KJV) He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.The purpose of the gifts is to build up the church. Tongues tends to build up the one speaking. Some people teach that it is a prayer language. I have trouble with that because of this verse.
(1 Corinthians 14:28 KJV) But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.Some would say this applies only to the public expression of tongues, not as a prayer language. Okay, I can see that.
If you made it through all of this you can see why speaking in tongues has the potential to cause both blessing and division. This is one of those areas of belief where people must have charity on those who disagree. Have your opinions. Hold to them. But do not excommunicate the person who disagrees with you. God will straighten it out after the resurrection.
homo unius libri