Is Speaking in Tongues for Everyone? (Biblical Answer)


People having Bible study

Can every believer/Christian speak in tongues?

Every born-again follower of Jesus, that has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, can speak in tongues. The gift of tongues is not just for the gifted, rather it is for everyone that puts their faith in Jesus Christ.

The Bible has an incredible amount of verses that reveal that praying in tongues is for every believer. The only reason that people believe that speaking in tongues isn’t for everyone is because of one chapter in the Bible, and that is 1 Corinthians 12.

I am going to be explaining that passage in detail, but first I want to show you what the Bible says about speaking in tongues being available for every believer.

The Bible says that by the mouth of every two or three witnesses every matter should be established (Deuteronomy 19:15). So, I am going to show you three witnesses from the Word of God that reveal to us that speaking in tongues is for every believer.

Our Lord Jesus is our first witness. Jesus said in Mark chapter 16,

“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)

Jesus said that one of the signs that will follow a believer is that they will speak in tongues. Some people argue that these “new tongues” are just referring to new speech, such as no more cursing or gossiping.

Although this definitely happens when we become new believers, that is not what this is referring to here. We know this because the entire passage is mentioning nothing but miraculous signs of God’s power.

The signs that are being mentioned are things like casting out demons, healing of the sick, and even drinking things deadly and not being affected. The gift of speaking in tongues is clearly what Jesus was referring to here.

Our second witness is the apostle Paul.

“Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” (1 Corinthians 14:23)

“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)

Notice in both of these scriptures, the apostle Paul referred to all of the believers in the Corinthian church when talking about speaking in tongues.

In the latter verse I quoted, Paul said that he spoke in tongues more than the entire church in the city of Corinth. Paul wouldn’t be saying this if the entire church couldn’t speak in tongues. There would be no significance to him saying this if only some people had the gift of tongues.

Paul also commanded all believers to pray in the Spirit at all times.

“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:18)

And according to the apostle Paul, praying in the Spirit is speaking in tongues.

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)

The letter of the Ephesians was written to the entire Ephesian church, and Paul told the believers to pray in the Spirit at all times.

My third witness is Jude.

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 20-21)

As mentioned above, praying in the Spirit is the same as speaking in tongues. And again we see an early church leader encouraging all of the believers to pray in tongues.

I have one bonus witness for you. This witness is the entire book of Acts. Consistently throughout the book of Acts, we see new converts receive the Holy Spirit, and when they do they speak in tongues.

“And they (120 believers) were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)

…The Holy Spirit fell upon all those (Cornelius’s entire household) who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. (Acts 10:44-46)

“And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all.” (Acts 19:6-7)

Notice 120 out of 120 disciples received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues in Acts chapter 2, Cornelius’s entire household spoke in tongues, and 12 out of 12 people Paul prayed for spoke in tongues as well. (Related article: How to receive the Holy Spirit and Speak in Tongues (Explained)).

Addressing the common objections in 1 Corinthians 12

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit…to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-8, 10)

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)

These two passages of scripture cause people to believe that the gifts of tongues are not for everyone. Let’s begin by addressing the first verse quoted.

Many believe that when the apostle Paul said, “to one…and to another”, he meant that God gave person A one gift and that He gave person B another gift.

I will admit that this does seem like what the apostle Paul is saying if we only look at this verse and neglect to analyze the rest of the Bible and the context of this letter.

What people fail to realize is that Paul is addressing how the church should organize themselves when they come together.

“For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.” (1 Corinthians 11:18)

This context of “coming together as a church” starts in 1 Corinthians 11:18 and then continues until chapter 14, with a slight break in chapter 13 to explain the importance of love.

So, when Paul says a statement such as “one is given this gift and another is given this other gift” he is not saying that only one believer will only have this one gift forever.

Rather, he is saying that when the church comes together, God will work the gifts among you at that specific time, and God will heal through you, or inspire you to prophecy.

Paul explains this later in 1 Corinthians 14 when he says, “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)

You see, Paul is saying that when we come together some should speak in tongues and others should interpret (1 Corinthians 14:27), some should prophesy and others should judge that prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:29), some should heal the sick and others should discern spirits.

Again, Paul was not stating that some have the gift of speaking in tongues and others do not. Rather he was saying that when believers come together each one has a gift of the Spirit that the Holy Spirit wants to manifest at that specific point and time.

Now that we addressed the first objection it’ll be much easier to explain the second passage that we quoted.

The obvious answer to all of these questions in verses 29-30 is no. Not all are apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, healers, etc.

But again, we have to remember, the context of this passage is how the church should function when it comes together, not the special giftings each person will have for their whole life.

So, when we read it from that perspective we see that Paul is actually saying that when the church comes together does everyone functioning as an apostle? Does everyone function as a prophet? Is everyone healing the sick at once? Is everyone speaking in tongues at once? Does everyone function as a teacher? Is everyone prophecying?

No, of course not! There will be teachers when it is time to teach the Word. There will be prophets when there is time to prophesy and teach prophecy. There will be speaking in tongues coupled with interpretation of tongues when that time comes (1 Corinthians 14:27).

God wants to do all of these manifestations in our gatherings, not just some, so Paul encourages us to do all things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:39).

If you want to know more about different gifts of the Spirit you can check out some of my articles on the topic. Such as How to Walk in the Gift of Healing (A Complete Guide) and When do we Receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? (Explained).

Can every Christian interpret tongues?

Every Christian that has received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit has received the ability to speak in tongues and the ability to interpret those tongues. Again, these gifts of God’s Spirit are not only for the gifted but for all followers of Jesus.

In the section above we have seen that speaking in tongues is available for all followers of Christ, not just some. The same is true in regards to the gift of interpretation of tongues. We know this because of the following verses.

“Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.” (1 Corinthians 14:13-14)

This verse reveals that when we speak in tongues we are also, at times, to pray for an interpretation of that tongue. We are to especially do this if we are speaking in tongues in a church setting, and we can even do this to receive revelation from the Lord in our private prayer lives.

Paul mentioned that when a tongue is interpreted it is equal to prophecy, and Paul told us that when we pray in tongues we should pray for an interpretation as well.

“Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)

This verse shows us that each believer has the ability to receive a tongue or an interpretation from the Lord. So, again, it is not just for some, but for all.

Another thing to notice from this verse is the interpretation does not directly associate itself with the tongue. In other words, God does not only give the gift of interpretation to those that are speaking in tongues, but He also gives it to those that are nearby.

“If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.” (1 Corinthians 14:27)

Bible verses that show every believer has the ability to speak in tongues

“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)

“Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” (1 Corinthians 14:23)

“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)

“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 20-21)

“And they (120 believers) were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)

…The Holy Spirit fell upon all those (Cornelius’s entire household) who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. (Acts 10:44-46)

“And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all.” (Acts 19:6-7)

“Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)

I hope this article assisted you in your walk with the Lord. If you enjoyed this article, please consider giving a donation of any amount by going to the support page. The support I receive from you enables The Biblical Foundation to reach more people with the teachings of the Word of God.

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