Speaking in Tongues



The purpose of this web page is to discuss what the Bible has to say about speaking in tongues. Finding out about speaking in tongues starts with a study of the Holy Spirit.    I feel like someone on the outside looking in on this topic since I have not spoken in tongues, although I have gone through the instructions from several different Christians on the “how-to” of doing it.  I can tell you, though, what the Bible says about tongues, and I can recommend you to an excellent book that just came out about the Holy Spirit’s power.   This book is called “The Power,” by James Bramlett.  


Jim is a retired regular Lieutenant Colonel in the U. S. Air Force.  He spent 20 years in the Air Force,   and then spent nine years working for the Christian Broadcasting Network as the vice president for the counseling/prayer center network, followed by 10 years as a special assistant to Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ.  The book Jim wrote is published by Xulon Press, has a Library of Congress Number 2003095919 and an ISBN number of 1-591609-82-8.   In addition to other things, he tells how the Holy Spirit has, in today’s world, healed people, raised people from the dead, and guided people to glorify Jesus.  He mentioned that people who are energized by the Holy Spirit to the extent that they can speak in tongues also have an energized personal spiritual life.


Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the church at Pentecost to give the church power and to guide the church into all the truth.


John 14:15-18  "If you love Me, keep My commandments.   16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever —    17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.  


John 14:25-26  These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.   26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.


John 15:26-27  But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.  27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.


John 16:13-15  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.  15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.   



So we see that the Holy Spirit is our guider, helper, and will testify about Jesus.  There are other things that the Holy Spirit does, which include granting different people different spiritual gifts, one of which is speaking in tongues.   The speaking in tongues began at Pentecost, and helped the disciples communicate Jesus to people who spoke other languages.


Acts 2:1-12  When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  5  And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia , Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia , Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene , visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"  NKJV



These days we have other means to translate the message of Christ, but in those days this ability to speak in a foreign tongue was invaluable to communicate the gospel.  There are other reasons, though, to speak in tongues.   One additional reason is to bring prophetic messages to the church and another is for a prayer language.  Paul has an extensive discussion of the gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians:


1 Cor 12:4-11   There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:   8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.  NKJV


Now God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He never said he was going to quit granting these gifts, so I believe that all of these gifts are possible today, even though we don’t usually see them on a day-to-day basis.  As I mentioned in the beginning Jim Bramlett tells in his book how these gifts are being used today.


Unfortunately these days we have people who claim that these gifts, including tongues, are not being used, and there has arisen some amount of controversy and division.  Some of the people who do use them say that you aren’t a true Christian unless you have this “second blessing” of using the gifts, and others who don’t use them say that the people who do use them are off in left field, and emphasize the gifts rather than the giver.


Although some people undoubtedly do go overboard and emphasize the gift more than the giver, we should always remember that the ultimate purpose of all the gifts is to build up the church, the bride of Christ, in order to glorify the Son, Jesus Christ.


In the 12th Chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul spends a great deal of time emphasizing that not everyone has every gift, and that the Spirit grants different gifts to different people to build up the church.  So, if you have one gift, you should not lord it over someone else with a different gift (including tongues)   Paul concludes Chapter 12 as follows:


1 Cor 12:27-31 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.  NKJV


So, did you see that?   Back then not everyone spoke with tongues, but some did.   Also, some taught and spoke to congregations (prophets), but some did not.  Everyone is supposed to work together in love.   The more excellent way that Paul mentions in the last verse is the way of love.   So, if someone speaks in tongues they are to build up the church in love, and someone else who does not speak in tongues, but does something else is to love the one who speaks in tongues and not speak against him (or her.)


1 Cor 14:12-13, 12 Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.  13 Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. NKJV


We should always pray in love to build up our fellow Christians.  Each of us is to help the other one. God be with you all.


This page was last modified on 17 January 2004.
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