Another benefit of praying in tongues is that it will help you receive self-edification in the Lord.
Before I elaborate on this benefit, I’ll briefly explain what the Bible says about using the gift of tongues to minister to a congregation as opposed to using tongues to minister to yourself. Then, I’ll discuss the connection between being God’s temple and the necessity of being continuously edified (built up).
Writing on the gifts of the Spirit, Paul said, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Corinthians 14:4, NKJV). Here, Paul speaks of two kinds of edification: a) edification for the church as a whole (which occurs through prophesying to the church, i.e. inspired speaking, teaching or preaching; and b) self-edification (which occurs when you minister to yourself by praying in the spirit).
This means there is a time to edify the whole congregation (when you’re called to minister to the group), and there is a time to edify yourself (when you’re praying by yourself, just between God and you).
Paul is saying if you’re called to minister to the congregation in the form of a message, a song or a prayer, you’re allowed to speak in tongues, but on condition that you or someone else in the congregation can interpret your tongues, so that everyone in the assembly can understand you and be edified.
However, if during the service you’re not ministering to the assembly, you’re allowed to pray (speak) in tongues, keeping it between God and you. In Paul’s own words, “if there is no interpreter, let him [the one speaking in tongues] keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:28). This applies to all other times when you’re engaged in personal prayer. In this series, I’m addressing this latter use of the gift of tongues, i.e. praying in tongues during your own personal prayer time.
To help us understand why praying in tongues is important for the believer, I’ll now point out the link between temple and edification.
In the New Testament, especially from Pentecost onward, the Bible gives us a complete understanding of what constitutes God’s temple (or dwelling place) on earth. Previously, under the Law of Moses, God’s temple was a physical structure made with human hands. First, it was the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 25:1-22) or Tabernacle. Concerning the Tabernacle, God told Moses, “let them [the Israelites] make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). Later, Solomon built a temple which housed the Tabernacle (1 Kings 8:1-6). But, God never wanted to dwell in structures made by human hands.
The Tabernacle was God’s way of (temporarily) accommodating the weakness of the Old Covenant until Jesus came and ushered in a new and authentic way of worshiping God. Therefore, the Old Covenant tabernacle (and temple) was a shadow of the real thing to come (Hebrews 9:1-12). As the same passage states, Jesus brought in a “greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11).
Yet today, some still believe they can build physical structures (“church,” “tabernacle” or “sanctuary”) in which God would dwell. In some places, a part of the church building is called “sanctuary,” which is treated with extra reverence as though God’s presence over that spot was special. This reveals a serious misunderstanding of the New Covenant. Under the new covenant, God does not dwell in any structure made with human hands. God’s holy presence remains inside the believers, not where the believers choose to gather.
Believers could gather under a tree, in a cave or on an airplane, and God wouldn’t care. Speaking before the Jewish authorities, Stephen declared, “the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48). The only temple of God on earth is the individual believer or the group of believers (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). God’s temple is the people, not the building. God’s sanctuary is the people, not a particular spot in a building. Jesus told us to worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), but we’re still trying to tie God to physical structures and locations. Is it any wonder that we seem to lack the power and the fervor of the church described in the Acts of the Apostles?
Being born again, you’ve become the glorious temple of God. Yet, there’s room for you to grow as a temple. God wants you to go from glory to glory, non-stop. A man-made temple is static. It’s meant to remain where it is; it’s not designed to rise and grow, for there’s no life in it. But in your case, you’re a living, breathing sanctuary of God. You are magnificent; you are beauty.
That’s not surprising, for you are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). If the best architects and designers in the world teamed up, they couldn’t fathom the skill, the detail and craftsmanship that went into putting you together as God’s temple. You’re designed to grow upward, ever rising and expanding.
Jesus referred to His own body as a temple (John 2:19-21). He told the Jewish leaders that if they destroyed “this temple” (His body), He would raise it up in three days, and things happened exactly as He had said. The devil thought he could silence Jesus by keeping Him in the grave, but he was wrong. As Peter announced on the Day of Pentecost, “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him [Jesus]” (Acts 2:24).
Just as satan tried to stop Jesus, he’ll try to stop you or limit your positive influence in the world. As Andrew Wommack likes to say, “If you don’t bump into the devil, it means you’re both going in the same direction.”
Attacks come against buildings and man-made temples. Earthquakes, strong winds, storms, missiles, tornadoes and even humans can be a threat to buildings. That’s why several buildings are made to withstand these forces and others are heavily guarded. Recently, fire threatened the famous Notre Dame in Paris. In the history of the Jews, we find instances of threats against their temple. The first temple of Jerusalem was attacked and destroyed around 587 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar. The second temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.
What does this mean for you?
As a Christian, you are the temple of God and the pride of heaven. But at the same time, you’re the enemy’s target. Therefore, you need to be aware that just as there are threats against physical temples, there are spiritual forces of darkness seeking to tear you down or limit your upward progress.
So many things in life can come against your success, your peace, your health, your business, your family and your dreams. Every day, the typical news you hear is negative and uninspiring: news that breed fear, panic, hate, frustration, division, despair, grief, doubt and unbelief.
Even your own friends, relatives or co-workers can be a source of negativity; they can turn against you, discourage you and push you down. If you’re not spiritually strong and diligent, these forces can steal your joy and limit your ability to go further in life. You need all the help you can get, and the earlier you appreciated the power of praying in tongues, the better for you.
When he addressed the issue of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul was dealing with the church body as a temple that needs to be in a constant state of upward growth and expansion. In his Letter to the Colossians, he wrote that Christ is “the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (2:19, KJV). God’s temple is designed to increase and be continuously edified.
Similarly, God wants the individual believer to be built up and always increase. That’s why He has made available to all His children the gift of praying in tongues for their self-edification.
Of all the gifts of the Spirit, speaking (praying) in tongues is the only one that comes with a built-in capability that allows the believer to build himself up without waiting for others to edify him.
We love our families, friends and fellow believers. But the truth is, you can’t (and shouldn’t) always depend on them to be there for you. At some point, you need to be able to motivate yourself, stir up yourself and build up yourself in the Lord. Praying in tongues will help you do that; it has power to lift you up above anything the enemy has sent to slow down your progress. No wonder the devil has created so much controversy and doubt about the gift of tongues to get Christians to back off.
In conclusion, God never intended for you to be stagnant in life. You are God’s glorious temple. Rivers of living water flow from within you (John 7:37-39). Therefore, God wants you to flow and grow with dynamism. Praying in tongues is not a panacea for all of a believer’s challenges. I believe, however, that if every believer prayed in tongues every day, they would go further and higher in life.
God willing, in my next post I’ll talk about another benefit of praying in tongues. Until then, keep rising.