Speaking in tongues seems to be the most controversial and misunderstood gift of the Spirit that there is.
The good news?
The Bible has a lot to say about it. But what does the Bible say about the gift of speaking in tongues being controlled?
Speaking in tongues, along with every other gift of the Spirit, can be controlled. The Bible says, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). That means that the spiritual gifts God gives to His people are at their disposal and control. When we speak in tongues at will we are not controlling the Holy Spirit, rather we are controlling the gift that He has given.
To understand this further, read on.
We Do The Speaking, Not The Holy Spirit
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
This scripture reveals that when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers in Acts chapter 2, they were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues. (Related article: Baptism in the Holy Spirit [In-Depth Study])
Now read that scripture again and ask yourself who is doing the speaking in this passage? If you read carefully, you will notice that it says the believers did the speaking.
“And THEY were all filled with the Holy Spirit AND BEGAN TO SPEAK with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving THEM utterance.”
The Spirit of God was giving them utterance, but He wasn’t controlling their mouths so they could speak.
They did the speaking, the Holy Spirit guided their words.
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 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.” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)
Did you catch that? The apostle Paul said, “I will pray and I will sing.” It is up to his will. The speaker decides when to speak in tongues, and when not to.
The Holy Spirit’s role is to give us the gift and the utterance. Our role is to speak in faith and believe that God is giving the utterance.
The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Self-Control
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of self control. He will not take over your body to make you perform a certain function. If that happens to you that is not Jesus, that is demonic.
There are times in scripture, however, where the presence of God manifested to such a degree where people couldn’t stand (1 Kings 8:10-11, John 18:5-6, Acts 26:13-14). But that doesn’t mean that God’s presence will take you over in a way that causes you to act out of your control.
Under God’s presence you’ll never shake violently or be forced to speak in tongues. The Holy Spirit’s presence is a presence of peace and joy, not of aggression.
So, when the Spirit of God offers a manifestation of Himself to you, such as speaking in tongues, He offers it under your control. Now, He will prompt you at times to use the gift, but He will never force you.
“For God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
The Spirits Of The Prophets Are Subject To The Prophets
What does the “spirits of the prophets” mean?
The spirits of the prophets are the gifts of the Spirit. We know this because of 1 Corinthians 14:27-33.
“If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”
The whole context of this passage is the organization of the gifts of the Spirit within the church setting.
Paul is using the term “spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” to explain that the gifts of the Spirit are subject to the believers operating in them. This includes speaking in tongues.
Notice how Paul says if there is no one to interpret the tongue being given, then they should be silent and speak only to himself and God. Which tells us that speaking in tongues can be controlled.
The same is true with prophecy. If someone is giving a prophetic word and someone else receives a revelation, the first person is commanded to be silent so the other could speak. This isn’t possible if the gifts of the Spirit can’t be controlled.
In short, the Bible clearly teaches that believers can control the gift of speaking in tongues. In fact, we are commanded to speak in tongues (Ephesians 6:18, Jude 1:20) and I don’t think God would command us to do something that we have no control over.