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The original context of the question is Acts 2:11 (ESV):

11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

Some claim that the apostles were "preaching in tongues" here. To me and others, this looks more like a case of praising (see my reasons here). However, I've heard some affirm that "preaching is praising, always", as if the two concepts were synonymous, and, therefore, that we should draw the conclusion that the gift of tongues is intended for "preaching the gospel" to foreigners.

But going beyond the motivating context of tongues, I would like to ask a more general version of the question. What is the difference between praising God and preaching the gospel? Are they synonymous concepts? Are there either subtle or major differences?

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One Hebrew word for “praise” is yadah, meaning “praise, give thanks, or confess.” Another word often translated “praise” in the Old Testament is zamar, “sing praise.” A third word translated “praise” is halal (the root of hallelujah), meaning “to praise, honour, or commend.” All three terms contain the idea of giving thanks and honour to our God who is worthy of praise. Examples:

Psalm 9:1-2: I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 18:3: I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

Psalm 150 uses the term praise thirteen times in six verses. The first verse provides the “where” of praise—everywhere! “Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.” The next verse teaches “why” to praise the Lord: “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” Verses 3–6 tell us to praise the Lord with a variety of instruments, dance, and everything that has breath. We praise God with joy and exuberance, we give Him the honour He is due. In so doing, we worship Him and acknowledge His sovereign authority over all of creation, including ourselves.

Another way to praise God is through the spoken word, by spreading the glorious good news of the gospel, which is all about Christ Jesus:

1 Corinthians 15:1-6: Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time. More information on “the gospel” here: https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-the-gospel.html

Preaching the gospel can be done person to person, or collectively in worship. This is another form of praise to God:

Hebrews 13:15: Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

However, lip service alone is insufficient – true praise and worship must be sincere and heart-felt:

Isaiah 29:13: These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

Psalm 51:17: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Summary: When we preach the gospel we are praising God for all He has done to save sinful humanity. Just as the Spirit of truth points always to Christ Jesus, so his followers do likewise:

John 16:13-14: But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth... He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.

By pointing to Christ Jesus, we are praising and glorifying God. We offer Him “the fruit of our lips” as part of our worship.

Praise can also be a spontaneous outpouring of joy and delight, not necessarily as part of collective worship although that often happens.

Praise, preaching, and also prayer, are bound up in our worship of God. The differences may be subtle, but they all give glory to God.

P.S. Praise and preaching are not spectator sports - they demand personal participation!

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