Spiritual utterance, words from above

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7097774_sThe topic of spiritual utterance has been on our list to study for a long time now. This topic can be controversial, but needn’t be. We will focus on what is written about this in Scripture. There are actually three kinds of spiritual utterances found in Scripture. Speaking in tongues is one of these.

We shall first go back to the beginning when there has been just one language.

In the beginning

Eden was a place where the physical and spiritual connected. Mankind could hear and speak to YHVH. Then sin entered the world and things changed. Mankind was removed from Eden and access to Eden was made impossible. The people multiplied and expanded their territory. They travelled east, came to a plain in Shinar and settled there. They still had one language.

Genesis 11:1
1 Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.

The people wanted to build a tower that reached into heaven. This tower was probably a ziggurat or a pagan temple. This tower was built in pride for it is said that they wanted to make a name for themselves. They wanted to connect the physical and spiritual. You can read more about this in the article ” The spiritual impact of Babel ” That place was either a spiritual gateway or they wanted it to be. The name Babel means “gate of Elohim” or “confusion.”

Babel (ba’-bel) = Confusion; (root = to pour over; to pour together). Greek: to confound. Native etymology is Bab-il = The gate of God.2

They thought they would be able to create or use this spiritual gateway and gain much power, but YHVH saw what they were doing.

Genesis 11:6
6 YHVH said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.

YHVH confused their language and the building of the tower stopped and mankind was scattered over the earth.

Genesis 11:9
9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there YHVH confused the language of the whole earth; and from there YHVH scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

This was the end of their endeavor to gain power through connection with the spiritual realm, but not the end of mankind’s quest to do the same. You may wonder why we reference what occurred at Babel? What occurred at Babel was confusion brought about by YHVH. He caused the people to each speak in a different language, not being able to understand each other. Their quest was to connect to the heavens, but the result of their deeds was confusion. There is a warning for us in this. We are to be careful that our quest to be more spiritual doesn’t end up in confusion. If we go about it in a wrong way, it will.

What occurred at Babel was brought about by YHVH for a purpose. Different languages were created as a result and the people had to move away from each other. It forced them to obey YHVH’s command to multiply and fill the earth.

We will now move forward in time to the Israelites. They were freed from slavery in Egypt and chose to be obedient to YHVH.

Exodus 19:8
8 All the people answered together and said, “All that YHVH has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to YHVH.

A covenant was made and they were given commandments as part of the terms of the covenant. After YHVH gave them His instructions, He brought them into the land Canaan. Here they transgressed His commandments and YHVH often sent prophets to call them to repentance.


YHVH spoke through these prophets. What they said was through YHVH’s Spirit. Their words were spiritual utterances. When we look at the Hebrew word translated as “prophesy,” we find an interesting explanation:

1277 נָבָא (nābāʾ) prophesy. Denominative verb.

Parent Noun

1277a נָבִיא (nābîʾ) spokesman, speaker, prophet.

1277b נְבוּאָה (nĕbûʾâ) prophecy.

1277c נְבִיאָה (nĕbîʾâ) prophetess.

נָבִיא (nābîʾ). Spokesman, prophet. The derivation of nābîʾ is a matter of controversy. The old Gesenius Lexicon (ed. Tregelles), for example, derives this noun from the verb nābaʿ, “the ayin being softened into aleph,” and meaning to bubble up,” “boil forth,” hence, “to pour forth words, like those who speak with fervour of mind or under divine inspiration, as prophets and poets.” Ewald. Haevernick and Bleek agree (see Samuel Davidson, Introduction to the OT, II, p. 230) as does also Oehler (OT Theology, p. 363). For these reasons this group of authors have supposed that to utter revelations from God’s spirit (ecstatic speech) is the function of the nābîʾ. 3

Here is a quote from the Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon

. נָבַע (ע being softened into א) TO CAUSE TO BUBBLE UP, hence to pour forth words abundantly, as is done by those who speak with ardour or divine emotion of mind. Arab. نَبَأَ I. II. to shew, to declare, i.q. اخبر, Conj. II. specially used of a prophet, who reveals or declares the words of God to men. (Kindred is the Æth. ነበበ፡ to speak.) It is incorrect to make extolling, celebrating, the primary idea in this word.

NIPHAL נִבָּא—(1) to speak (as a prophet) by a divine power, to prophecy, Gr. προφητεύω. In Hebrew, the passive forms, Niphal and Hithpael, are used in this verb, from the divine prophets having been supposed to be moved rather by another’s powers than their own, [which is the simple truth, “holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”]; ideas of this kind were in Latin often expressed by deponent verbs (see Ramshorn, De Verbis Deponentibus Latinorum, p. 24); compare verbs of speaking when passively expressed, as loqui, fari, vociferari, concionari, vaticinari (Ramshorn, loc. cit. p. 26).—This is the usual word for the utterance of the prophets, whether they are rebuking the wicked, or predicting future events. Const.—(a) absol. 4

Prophecy is a form of spiritual utterance. The function of prophecy is to call to repentance or to show future events. If you think about this, prophecy is very similar to speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is also a spiritual utterance by YHVH’s Spirit, but in a different language and it has a different function. We will look into the function of tongues later.

The writing on the wall

There is one example where YHVH used another language to prophecy to a king. In Daniel 5, we read of a message written on the wall by the hand of YHVH. This message was for king Belshazzar, king of Babylon. This message was in a language unknown to the king and his wise men and they were unable to read or interpret it. The queen advised him to call for Daniel, who had according to her “the spirit of the holy gods in him” and was a man of divine wisdom. YHVH gave Daniel the wisdom to read and interpret the words.

Why do you think YHVH wrote this message in a language unknown to them? Because YHVH wanted to make sure the king understood that the message was from Him, the only true Elohim. The writing on the wall was a supernatural message from YHVH and He wanted to make sure the king understood that. It was a sign.

In Isaiah we find a reference about stammering lips and a foreign tongue.

Stammering lips and a foreign tongue

This does not refer to a spiritual utterance, but an enemy with an unknown language.

Isaiah 28:11
11 Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue,

This enemy will take them into exile if they do not turn from their wicked ways. This enemy would speak a language they do not know. We know this to be true for the Assyrians and Babylonians spoke a different language to the Israelites. YHVH already promised this in Deuteronomy (Deut 28:49 and Jer 5:15).

Paul quoted this verse in his letter to the Corinthians and used it to contrast prophecy and speaking in tongues.

1 Corinthians 14:21–22
21 In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says YHVH. 22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.

The second kind of spiritual utterance

Y’shua was instructing His disciples before sending them out. He warned them that they will be persecuted, but that they needn’t worry for the Spirit will give them the words to speak.

Matthew 10:19–20
19 “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

This is neither prophecy nor speaking in a different tongue, but the Father, through His Spirit, giving the words to speak. We see an example of this when Stephen spoke before he was stoned.

Stephen was known as a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.

Acts 6:5
5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.

You can read more about what Stephen said in Acts 6 and 7. It was clearly inspired by YHVH’s Spirit.

Speaking in tongues is the third kind of spiritual utterance we find in scripture.

What did Y’shua say about speaking in tongues?

Y’shua said that one of the signs that will accompany those who believe is speaking in tongues.

Mark 16:17–18
17 “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The word “new” is “kainais” in Greek and is explained as follows in the Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament.

28.33 καινόςc, ή, όν: pertaining to not being well known previously but being significant—‘previously unknown, previously unheard of, new.’ τί ἐστιν τοῦτο; διδαχὴ καινὴ κατ’ ἐξουσίαν ‘what is this? Some kind of new teaching with authority!’ Mk 1:27.5

The Greek word “glossais” was used in the context of supernatural speech in 21 of the 50 times it was used in Scripture.

33.3 γλῶσσαc, ης f: an utterance having the form of language but requiring an inspired interpreter for an understanding of the content—‘ecstatic language, tongue, ecstatic speech.’ ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ ἀλλὰ θεῷ ‘he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God’ 1 Cor 14:2. Most scholars assume that the phenomena described in Ac 2:4 (see 33.2) and in 1 Cor 14:2 are significantly different in that in one instance people understood in their own regional language or dialect and in the other instance an interpreter was required. It is for that reason that many interpret γλῶσσα in 1 Cor 14:2 as ecstatic speech, which was also an element in Hellenistic religions and constituted a symbol of divine inspiration.5

Currently, there is a debate about the authenticity of these verses as they do not appear in some of the early manuscripts. We believe that all scripture is inspired and that YHVH is able to preserve scripture as He sees fit. For this reason we do not disregard these verses.

The next reference we find is in Acts, but let us backtrack a little before we go there.

Speaking in tongues on Shavuot

Y’shua said that He would ask the Father, and He would give another Helper.

John 14:16–17
16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

Y’shua’s words were made manifest when the Ruach was poured out on the believers on the day of Pentecost or Shavuot.

Acts 2:1–4
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

They were filled with the Ruach and began to speak in other tongues. This ability was given them as a testimony to the other people who were there. This gathering was most probably in the Temple as they and the people there kept Shavuot which is a pilgrimage festival. The other people who were there were referred to as devout men, Jews and proselytes. David stern confirms this.

However, the gathered crowd did not consist of Gentiles from these countries, since vv. 5–6 state that it was composed of religious Jews—that is, Jews sufficiently observant of Jewish religious requirements to have come from far away to be in Jerusalem for the pilgrim festival of Shavu˓ot (v. 1&N, 20:16&N).6

The tongues the Spirit gave them utterance, were known languages.

Acts 2:7–11
7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of Elohim.”

Some of the hearers were amazed and wondered what it meant, while others mocked. This gave Peter the opportunity to share about Y’shua and many became believers on that day. It is interesting to note that Peter quoted from Joel after this speaking in tongues occurred. He obviously linked this spiritual utterance to the fulfillment of this prophecy. So, from this we learn that these tongues were given as a sign and a testimony. These other tongues made it possible for Peter to share about what Y’shua has done.

Paul quoted Is 28:11 when he spoke to the Corinthians about speaking in tongues being a sign for unbelievers.

1 Corinthians 14:21–22
21 In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says YHVH. 22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.

YHVH gave the believers in Y’shua the ability, through His Spirit, to speak in other languages for a sign to those who did not believe in Y’shua.

First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles

What happened on the day of Shavuot was a testimony of what Y’shua said when He first sent His disciples out.

Matthew 10:5–6
5 These twelve Y’shua sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Y’shua sent His disciples out first to the Jews. Later, a Phoenician woman came to Him for help, her daughter was demon-possessed. Y’shua again said He was sent only for the lost sheep of Israel.

Matthew 15:24
24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Y’shua healed her daughter, though due to her great faith. Later Paul said this:

Romans 1:16
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of Elohim for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The next time we read about an utterance in another tongue was when Peter went to Cornelius’ house.

The house of Cornelius

After Y’shua’s ascension, Peter was given a vision. This was the vision of the sheet with unclean animals that is so often misinterpreted. The purpose and meaning of the vision were to show Peter that gentiles are not to be considered unclean. After this vision, Peter was called to the house of Cornelius, a gentile, and he went there and shared the gospel with them. They were filled with the Ruach and spoke in tongues.

Acts 10:44–48
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting Elohim. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Y’shua Messiah. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

These people were speaking with tongues as a sign to Peter and those who were with him that the gospel of Y’shua was not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles also.

The twelve men of Ephesus

Paul was passing through Ephesus and found some disciples there. He asked them if they have received the Holy Spirit. They said they didn’t even know there was a Holy Spirit. They told Paul they were baptized with the baptism of John. Paul baptized them in the name of Y’shua and laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues.

Acts 19:5–6
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Master Y’shua. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.

We do not know if these were known or unknown languages. What we do know is that this speaking in tongues is called a spiritual gift.

Gifts of the Spirit, not all have the same

In 1 Corinthians 12 we read about the gifts of the Spirit. It is also made clear that we don’t all have the same spiritual gifts. YHVH give us gifts through His Spirit as and when we need it and according to His will. Paul compares it to a body with different members, each having it’s own unique function. It is the same with the gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:7–11
7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 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. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

The particular manifestation of the Spirit that each person receives is due not to his own merit but to the Spirit, … distributing to each person as he chooses, not to provide ground for pride but for the common good.6

Not all have the same spiritual gifts and for this reason, we cannot use the existence of spiritual gifts as a test or evidence of special favor in a believer’s life. We are to be known by our fruit, not our gifts.

Matthew 7:16
16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

The fruit spoken of is listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

Galatians 5:22–23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Not everybody is given the gift to speak in tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:28–31
28 And Elohim has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

David Stern comments the following on this passage:

Sha’ul minimizes the importance of these two gifts as compared with the others, but at the same time that he deals with abuses involved in manifesting the gift of tongues, he instructs the Corinthians not to forbid speaking in tongues (14:39) and wishes that all would speak in tongues (14:5). Thus he strikes a balance worthy of imitation (11:1). 6

The more excellent way Paul is referring to is love. Paul continues to speak about this in 1 Cor 13. Paul teaches in this passage that speaking in tongues of men or angels is noise when we have no love. Love will not fail while all prophecy and tongues will cease. Faith, hope and love, of which he calls love, the greatest of the three, will remain.

1 Corinthians 13:1
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:8
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

1 Corinthians 13:13
13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

So what is the function of speaking in tongues? We have already learned that it is a sign for unbelievers, but there is another function to tongues.

The function of speaking in tongues

The first function of speaking in tongues is evangelism.


On Shavuot (Pentecost) the followers of Y’shua were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues. These were known languages and enabled those who were there from other parts, to hear the gospel message in their own language.

The second function is to help us to pray. When we speak or pray in a tongue, we speak to YHVH, even though we don’t understand what we are saying.

Helping us to pray YHVH’s will

We speak mysteries when we speak in a tongue and only YHVH can understand us. It says in verse two that no one understands unless YHVH gives the interpretation. Would this include other spiritual beings? I think so.

1 Corinthians 14:2
2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to Elohim; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.

Paul refers to speaking in a tongue as speaking in the spirit. You will see the significance of this later.

1 Corinthians 14:14
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

Praying in tongues bypasses our inability to word our needs or feelings. It circumvents all our perceptions and pre-conceived ideas. Our spirit communicates directly with YHVH’s Spirit and what is prayed will be according to YHVH’s will.

This reminds me of this verse in Romans:

Romans 8:26–27
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of Elohim.

Strengthening of the individual

When we pray in a tongue, we strengthen ourselves.

1 Corinthians 14:4
4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.

74.15 οἰκοδομέωb; ἐποικοδομέωb; οἰκοδομήc, ῆς f: to increase the potential of someone or something, with focus upon the process involved—‘to strengthen, to make more able, to build up.’5

Given the framework of love (chapter 13), it is desirable to keep on eagerly seeking the things of the Spirit (12:1&N), especially … to be able to prophesy, for the gift of prophecy (on what it is, see 12:8–10, paragraph 6) is greater than the gift of tongues; however, the latter, plus interpretation, equals prophecy (v. 5). Prophecy is greater because it edifies the congregation, whereas speaking in tongues edifies only oneself—although this is good, not bad (“ … if I pray in a tongue, my spirit does pray,” v. 14), so that Sha’ul can say, I wish you would all speak in tongues; and in this regard, as is so often the case, he himself sets the standard (v. 18).6

Jude alluded to this when he said building yourself up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.

Jude 20–21
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of Elohim, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Master Y’shua Messiah to eternal life.

We interpret “praying in the Spirit” as praying in a tongue based on what Paul said in 1 Cor 14:14-16. He made a distinction between praying with his mind and praying with the spirit and the context is praying in a tongue.

1 Corinthians 14:14–16
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. 16 Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?

We find another reference in Ephesians 6:18-19.

Ephesians 6:18–19
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,

In the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul admonishes them to pray in the Spirit and to pray that utterance be given him to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. While Paul says he wishes for all to speak in tongues, he adds that interpretation is essential when in the assembly. In this way it has the potential to build up the assembly.

In the assembly, order and interpretation is essential

Speaking in a tongue without interpretation in the assembly only strengthens him who speaks. The assembly is not strengthened for they do not know what was said. Paul did not forbid speaking in tongues not wanted to discourage it, for he said: “I wish that you all spoke in tongues”, but he wanted to teach them the proper way to conduct themselves.

1 Corinthians 14:5
5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.

Paul compares speaking in tongues to the sound of a musical instrument, if it doesn’t produce a distinction in the tones, a tune in other words, how will people know what is played. Or if the bugle produces an indistinct sound to call up soldiers for war, how will they know they are being called up. If we speak in a tongue in the assembly without interpretation, nobody is edified.

1 Corinthians 14:7–13
7 Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? 8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. 13 Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.

The same is true for praying in the spirit

When we pray in a tongue our spirit prays and our mind is unfruitful. We should not exclusively pray in the spirit but with our mind also. This is once again for the edification of the assembly.

1 Corinthians 14:14–17
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. 16 Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified.

Paul spoke in tongues, but when in the assembly, he desired rather to speak so everybody can understand.

1 Corinthians 14:18–19
18 I thank Elohim, I speak in tongues more than you all; 19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Order not confusion

The issue with speaking in tongues in Corinth was that people did not do it in an orderly manner. It may also have been without interpretation; that edifies nobody because it is not understood.

When we read 1 Cor 14:31-33, we get the impression that people may have interrupted others who we speaking or may even have spoken in tongues to draw attention to themselves.

1 Corinthians 14:31–33
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for Elohim is not an Elohim of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Also, people can’t claim that they don’t have control over it, because Paul said “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” YHVH’s Spirit is gentle, never forceful and we are in control of our own spirits so this is not a valid excuse. We are each responsible to operate in our spiritual gifts in an orderly manner. Not doing it is also against the character of YHVH, for YHVH is not the Creator of confusion, but order.

It is interesting that the word translated as confusion, actually points more to rebellion.

39.34 ἀνίσταμαιe; ἐπανίσταμαι; στάσιςa, εως f; ἐπίστασιςb, εως f; ἀποστασία, ας f; ἀκαταστασίαa, ας f: to rise up in open defiance of authority, with the presumed intention to overthrow it or to act in complete opposition to its demands—‘to rebel against, to revolt, to engage in insurrection, rebellion.’5

The confusion that results in this way is a form of rebellion against YHVH. It makes sense as YHVH is the Creator of order, and confusion opposes order.

1 Corinthians 14:40
40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.

Paul did not mention anything about the origin of the tongues. Those in the assembly were believers and were of the same mind. There was no question as to the origin of the tongues. However, in our time we are faced with the problem of not knowing the source of the tongues. How do we know if the tongue is from YHVH’s Spirit or from satan?

Truth vs counterfeit

If we speak in tongues, how do we know if it is from YHVH or from satan? Y’shua said we are to be careful that we are not deceived and that even the elect will be deceived.

Matthew 24:4
4 And Y’shua answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.

Matthew 24:24
24 “For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

False Messiahs and false prophets would arise and will show great signs and wonders. These could include spirit inspired speech in the form of prophecy or other tongues. In 2 Thessalonians, it is written:

2 Thessalonians 2:9–12
9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason Elohim will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

Those who reject the truth will be deceived. In order to evaluate an experience, we need to know the truth. If we don’t know the truth, against what can we evaluate? Emotions? Emotions are not reliable to testify of the truth.

Y’shua also spoke of people who would claim to have driven out demons and performed miracles in His name, yet He will declare that He doesn’t know them.

Matthew 7:21–23
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Master, Master,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Master, Master, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

He calls them workers of lawlessness. These are people that have rejected His truth, His instructions.

Proverbs 12:13
13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, But the righteous will escape from trouble.

The Hebrew word for evil is “ra”

8273 I. רַע (rǎʿ): adj.; ≡ Str 7451; TWOT 2191a, 2191c—1. LN 88.105–88.125 bad, evil, wicked, no good, i.e., pertaining to that which is not morally pure or good according to a proper standard, implying this evil hinders or severs a relationship to a person or principle which is proper;7

An evil person in this context would be a person who does not live according to YHVH’s standard, His commandments. This hinders or even severs the relationship between him and YHVH. This confirms what we have seen in the verse above. So how do we know?

Test the spirits

1 John 4:1–3
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from Elohim, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of Elohim: every spirit that confesses that Y’shua Messiah has come in the flesh is from Elohim; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Y’shua is not from Elohim; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

We are not to condemn people, but we can and should judge actions based on truth. We are also to be careful not to ascribe that is from YHVH’s Spirt to that of an evil spirit, because it is being misused or not done according to YHVH’s standard as explained by Paul.

It was said of Y’shua that He was casting out demons by the power of satan.

Matthew 12:24–28
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” 25 And knowing their thoughts Y’shua said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27 “If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of Elohim, then the kingdom of Elohim has come upon you.

What the Pharisees did was wrong and blasphemous. We should for this reason be very careful how we judge or what we say about other people speaking in tongues or prophecy. If we were confronted with this and in doubt, we would remove ourselves from the situation, but will refrain from speaking against the source of it. We would speak out about the way it was done, referring to 1 Corinthians 12-14. It may be sincere believers who are not operating their gifts in an orderly fashion or adding drama to attract attention to themselves.


To speak in tongues or prophecy is a gift from YHVH. If YHVH has given us spiritual gifts, He has given it to us for a purpose. The function of prophecy is to call people to repentance and to know YHVH’s plan. The function of speaking in tongues is in some cases to evangelize, but generally to strenghten ourselves or others or help us to pray. YHVH is a good Father to us and gives us what we need.

We are, however, to conduct ourselves always in an orderly and responsible manner. The spirit of a prophet is subject to a prophet, we have control over what we do. YHVH will not take over our minds or spirit and make us do things. His Spirit is gentle and we remain in control. If we don’t, we disgrace YHVH’s name and become a stumbling block to others.

Paul admonished to desire to prophesy and not to forbid to speak in tongues.

1 Corinthians 14:39
39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

The gifts of the Spirit were given to help us until the second coming of Y’shua.

1 Corinthians 1:3–8
3 Grace to you and peace from Elohim our Father and the Master Y’shua Messiah. 4 I thank my Elohim always concerning you for the grace of Elohim which was given you in Messiah Y’shua, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Messiah was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Master Y’shua Messiah, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Master Y’shua Messiah.


  1. All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD, and Y’shua for Jesus
  2. Smith, S., & Cornwall, J. (1998). In The exhaustive dictionary of Bible names (p. 31). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos.
  3. Culver, R. D. (1999). 1277 נָבָא. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 544). Chicago: Moody Press.
  4. Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (p. 525). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  5. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 337). New York: United Bible Societies.
  6. Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., Ac 2:11). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.
  7. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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3 responses to “Spiritual utterance, words from above”

  1. Geri Michalski

    Most excellent article, well researched and stated!

  2. Barb hemphill

    After our joint experience at Shavuot in the Old City four years ago this subject has come into my mind many times , and without a great deal of understanding. Thankyou so much for this most excellent teaching Elsa and Schalk

  3. Paula Coates

    I am trying to gain knowledge about the gifts of the spirit.
    This has been a good read for me. Thank you.

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