Speaking in Tongues is one of the most common misunderstood and controversial topics in the church today. This is why I wanted to do this quick Bible study that will cover five things to know about speaking in tongues. You will find that this is not a complete study, because we can talk for days about speaking in tongues, but this is most definitely an in depth study, and it will bring to light a lot of common confusion regarding this topic.
So, without further delay, let’s dive right in.
#1: Speaking In Tongues Is The Initial Evidence Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit
Every time we look through the New Testament we find that when someone received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues shortly after.
Acts 2:1-4 is our first example:
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Notice ALL OF THEM were filled with the Holy Spirit and ALL OF THEM spoke in other tongues. Now remember, there were 120 people in that upper room (Acts 1:15) and this passage says that all 120 were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.
Our second example is when Peter was called to Cornelius’ house to preach the Gospel to him and all his household in Acts chapter 10.
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those 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).
Again, everyone there that received the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues.
Also, notice the believers who came with Peter were astonished, and they knew the gentiles received the gift the Holy Spirit “for they heard them speak in tongues.” It was the gentiles speaking in tongues that convinced the circumcised believers that the gentiles truly had received the gift of the Spirit.
Acts 19:1-6 reveals the same thing. The apostle Paul came to Ephesus, he saw some disciples and talked with them about receiving the Holy Spirit. Since they had not received the Spirit yet, he “laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” The very next verse says, “Now the men were twelve in all,” so twelve out of twelve spoke in tongues when they received the Spirit.
Every time a believer receives the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts we see them speak in tongues shortly after. If you want to know more about the baptism in the Holy Spirit see Baptism in the Holy Spirit (In-Depth Study).
# 2: Speaking In Tongues Is For Every Christian
In all of the passages above we saw that when someone received the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues, 100 percent of the time. In the upper room, it was 120 people out of 120, in Cornelius’ household, it was everyone who heard the word, in Ephesus when Paul confronted some disciples, it was “twelve in all.” Speaking in tongues is for every believer, not just some.
“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 just rose from the dead in this passage, and He is telling His disciples the miraculous signs that follow believers. One of the signs mentioned is speaking in tongues. If you are a believer, the sign of speaking in tongues should follow you.
Now some say, in regards to the above passage, that “new tongues” just means you won’t curse or lie anymore. Now that may be true in a sense because we as Christians shouldn’t lie or curse. However, it is clear in Mark 16:17-18 Jesus is talking about miraculous manifestations of God’s Spirit in the believers life.
A common objection
“Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Spirit and Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:7-11,29 that not everyone has all the gifts. So how are you saying that we all have the ability to speak in tongues?”
Excellent question, let’s look at those passages.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
Notice how the above scripture says “TO EACH is given the manifestations of the Spirit.” We are all given the nine manifestations, or gifts, of the Spirit.
Now some will respond, “Then why does the next verses say “to one” and “to another” as if God is giving some people one gift and someone else a different gift?”
Because the context of 1 Corinthians 12 is a gathering of believers.
“But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church…” (1 Corinthians 11:17-18).
The context of “coming together” starts in chapter 11:17 and then continues through the end of chapter 14.
So, in chapter 12 Paul is not addressing an individual use of the gifts of the Spirit, he is addressing a corporate use. In other words, in chapter 12 and 14 Paul is talking about the organization of the gifts in a church meeting. Paul is commanding the Corinth church to have a balanced and organized use of the manifestations of the Spirit. We see this in more detail in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians.
Also, they’re many incidences where Paul implies every believer is able to speak in tongues.
“Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:5)
“If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?” (1 Corinthians 14:23).
“I (Paul) thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18). This wouldn’t be a good reason to boast if only some believers spoke in tongues.
#3: Speaking In Tongues Is NOT A Known Language
The Bible makes it clear that the supernatural gift of tongues is not a natural, known language.
“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for NO ONE understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:2).
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14).
So, where does the confusion come in? The confusion comes in when people misunderstand Acts chapter 2. Let’s take a look.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because EACH ONE was hearing THEM speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—WE HEAR THEM telling in OUR OWN tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:4-11).
Sometimes people read the scripture too fast and don’t take the time to dive in and picture the scene. On the surface this scripture appears that the 120 disciples spoke in the languages of the bystanders.
But that’s not what is happening at all. The scripture above says that the multitude was hearing them speak in their own language.
“Each one (the multitude) was hearing them (120 disciples) speak in his (the multitude’s) own language.”
Also, notice that the multitude were amazed and astonished. They weren’t amazed because 120 people could speak their language. They were amazed and astonished because every person in the crowd was individually hearing the disciples speak in their language.
It would be just like today, if there were five people in a group, all different ethnicities. A Frenchmen, a German, an Italian, and someone from Mexico.
Then the fifth guy walks up, and he is from the United States, he starts talking to the other four, and at the moment he speaks the four here him in their own native language. I promise you if that ever happened those four men would be freaking out.
This is what happened at the the day of Pentecost.
#4: God Does Not Control Your Mouth To Speak In Tongues
Let’s look at a couple verses that prove this point.
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15).
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and (they) began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).
Notice in these two verses it was the believer who does the speaking. Paul said in the first passage, “I will pray.” It has to be your will to pray in tongues. The Holy Spirit only guides the words coming out of your mouth, He does not control them.
God is not a God who controls. He will never take over your body and make your mouth move. If He did this, you could not possibly be in faith.
If you wish to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues see the article titled, Baptism in the Holy Spirit (In-Depth Study).
# 5: Finally, Speaking In Tongues Is Meant For Prayer, Praise, And Self-Edification
Speaking in tongues is a form of prayer because Paul said “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God” (1 Corinthians 14:2). It is even called praying in the Spirit many times throughout the New Testament (1 Corinthians 14:14-15, Ephesians 6:18, Jude v.20).
Speaking in tongues is also a form of praise and thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 14:15-17). Paul even goes onto say that he “sings praise” in the Spirit, meaning he sings in tongues. In fact, a big part of Pauls prayer life was singing praise (Acts 16:25, Ephesians 5:19-20).
Finally, praying in tongues edifies the believer. “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself” (1 Corinthians 14:4). Tongues builds up our spirit man, it helps us to live according to the spirit and not according to the flesh, which builds our faith.
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most HOLY FAITH and praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude v.20).