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Is Speaking in Tongues Biblical

Before you read: This article is part of a larger series that builds on itself from the foundation up, with each study building on the last. If something in this article does not make sense to you or if you believe it to be incorrect please be sure you have read over the entire course before passing your final judgment. Also be sure to visit this page’s FAQ And Objections Page

We just finished explaining in our last unit why speaking in tongues is not the evidence of the Holy Ghost. We also showed that the reason many people believe it is only due to an assumption based on 3 events in the book of Acts. This assumption does not hold up as being true. Because, many other scriptures directly confront the thought and say it is not true, as we have shown.

If you haven’t read about that then I suggest you go back in this course and do so. It will help in understanding a lot about the Holy Ghost and His working in our lives.

We have finished covering what the Bible DOESN’T actually teach on the subject. Now we need to look at what the Bible DOES actually teach about the gift of tongues. Yes, despite the fact that the Bible doesn’t say speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the Holy Ghost it does still speak of the gift. So it can’t be overlooked.

What DOES the Bible say about speaking in tongues?

Tongues Should Not Be an Idol

1 Corinthians 12:1-2

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

We mentioned this verse before, but I think it would be a good idea to bring it back up. There is something I want you to notice in it. Immediately after Paul tells them not to be ignorant about spiritual gifts he mentions idols.

Is speaking in tongues Biblical

Why would Paul have said this? The most logical reason is that Paul knew they would make idols out of these gifts. In other words, people would be tempted to trust in the gifts above the scriptures, above God Himself. Thus, people would be tempted to make these things the most important part of their lives.

The next thing Paul says is that no one can call Jesus accursed by the Holy Spirit and no one can call Him Lord but by the Holy Spirit. This statement isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Many may think that Paul is ONLY speaking of calling Jesus Lord or not. But, the reality is that Paul is telling us that the Holy Ghost will NOT go against God. Since God spoke the scriptures then that means Paul is saying the Holy Ghost will NOT do something contrary to scripture.

It is very important that we understand this. Because too many of us base our understanding on our own “experience” rather than on the word of God. If we “experience” what we believe to be the Holy Ghost then we have the temptation to make the Bible fit with our experience.

Paul warns us of this by letting us know that nothing contrary to Jesus, and the scriptures, is of the Holy Ghost.

One of the first things that the Bible DOES say about this gift is that it will not be used in a way that is contrary to God. It will not contradict, or disobey the scriptures. I have heard people “speak in tongues” and then “interpret” it as saying that, “The Holy Ghost says that we should trust Him over the Bible.” They claim this is the Holy Ghost, and base that belief on their experience rather than scripture.

In fact, there are other religions that also have this “gift” that they use. What is important to remember is that if it is against the scriptures then it is not of the Holy Ghost. Demons can, in fact, cause people to speak in unknown languages as well. This is one reason why Paul warns us not to trust in that over scripture.

Some have even attempted to teach others how to speak in tongues. Often, they tell them to just open their mouth and let a sound come out. Eventually, the person begins moving their mouth and making sounds which may seem like tongues. But it actually is only babbling that they have tricked themselves into believing is the gift of tongues. Often, since no one is there to interpret (or there are false interpreters) they are without accountability in this.

Emotions Are Not The Spirit

An emotional high may also come along with such a situation. The person may “feel” what they believe to be the Holy Ghost. Our emotions can be so overwhelming that our body gives way to them. We can become weak in the knees, get chills, have our whole body shake, and even faint. But, emotion and physical sensations are not proof of the Holy Ghost.

Now, we have also already shown in the last unit that the Bible also says that not all use this gift. So we will not repeat that here.

Importance of Speaking in Tongues

1 Corinthians 12:31

31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

So we are also told that we should desire this gift and in fact all of the gifts! But there is still something better than the gifts.

Going on into 1 Corinthians 13 we read that God considers the FRUITS of the Spirit to be greater than the gifts. The fruits mentioned are love, hope, and faith. The greatest of these three is love. There is a lot to say about that in itself since faith works by love, and hope is produced by love as well.

So again, the Bible also says the gift of tongues is secondary to the fruits.

1 Corinthians 12:7

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

Here we are told that the gift of tongues, as well as other gifts, are given to profit withal. That word “withal” means “With the rest; together with; likewise; at the same time.”

In other words, the gift of tongues (as well as the other gifts) are given to Christians to benefit the church as a whole. This is important because it means the gifts are given to benefit OTHERS and not just ourselves.

Praying in Tongues

1 Corinthians 14:2-4

2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

Now, you may be get confused here. I just said that the scripture shows the gifts are given to benefit OTHERS. Yet, these scriptures may seem to sound as if they are saying the gift of tongues is given for self-edification as well.

This is where the topic of praying in tongues comes in. There are many who believe that tongues are a spiritual language that a person may pray with while speaking to God. They believe this goes along with the following verse:

Romans 8:26

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

But if you notice the last part of the verse actually says these “groanings” cannot be uttered. In other words, it will not come out of your mouth. So this verse does not validate speaking in tongues as a prayer language. There are other verses to consider, though.

Jude 1:20

20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,

This is also a verse that many believe shows speaking in tongues is a special prayer language. This is because it says, “praying in the Holy Ghost.” The issue with this, however, is that praying in the Holy Ghost does not require the use of tongues.

A good way to illustrate this is with the following verse:

Galatians 5:25

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

If we were to say praying in the Spirit means speaking in tongues then we would also have to say walking in the Spirit means walking in tongues. This is obviously nonsense.

Galatians 5:22-24

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Walk In The Spirit

Again, this is what it means to be in the Spirit. It means to be walking in Christ, living as He wants us to, and in obedience to His will. All of this comes from the fruit of the Spirit. All of this is walking in the Holy Spirit and is also what it means to pray in the Spirit.

Speaking in Tongues IS Biblical

There is one set of scriptures left that we need to address. Going back to 1 Corinthians 14 it shows us verses that speak of praying in tongues. The question we need to ask is as follows:

How are tongues for self-edification in prayer, when 1 Corinthians 12:7 has already told us the gift of tongues is for others to be edified?

1 Corinthians 14:22

22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

This verse is CRITICAL in understanding tongues! It tells us that the gift of tongues is a sign for unbelievers, but is NOT for a sign to those who believe. Again, this is clearly showing “evidence of the Holy Ghost” for believers is not tongues. But, it also shows us something else.

The entire purpose of this gift is for the purpose of evangelism. In Acts, we see that each time they spoke in tongues there were others there who spoke the languages being used. So each time we see this gift in use it is used to communicate actual words that the hearers understood. At no other time do we see this gift used without this purpose.

Tongues were ALWAYS interpreted, or at the very least understood by those around.

1 Corinthians 14:21

21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

THIS IS THE VERY REASON TONGUES WERE USED!

So if the entire purpose of the gift is for evangelism, why does 1 Corinthians 14 speak of it as a personal prayer language?

The answer is that it doesn’t. At least not in the way many believe. You can not simply turn this gift on and off. Just like other gifts, such as prophecy, you can not choose when to use it. If you have read an earlier unit on prophecy then you already know that it is a gift that bubbles up inside of you, from God. You do not control how He will move.

We have actually missed a few things which put this into proper context.

1 Corinthians 14:4

4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

Self Edification

Have you ever known someone who wants to be so spiritual that they have to “prove it” to everyone else? I have seen it so many times. A person in the church may have a wonderful thing to share from the word of God, that will help teach others. Then someone else will say, “That’s nothing! Let me tell you what I have to share!”

This is self-edification. This is not the proper use of tongues. There are many people who have been led to believe that they are somehow more spiritual, or powerful because they can “speak in tongues”. Thus, they “pray in tongues” and it is self-edification, showing themselves that they are spiritual.

This type of “prayer language” is not of the Holy Ghost. It does not follow the scriptures. But that doesn’t mean a person will not, or can not, speak in tongues if no one else is around. It simply means when a person lifts themselves up in their own mind by “speaking in tongues” well, … it means they are not using real tongues.

1 Corinthians 14:13-14

13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

Paul tells us here that even praying in tongues should have an interpretation, otherwise, it is unfruitful. Who wants an unfruitful prayer life? The point he makes here is that tongues require an interpretation, even if you are the only one who is there to do so.

This is no longer a form of self-edification because it is not coming from you for the purpose of showing yourself how spiritual you are. This type of speaking in tongues is directly from God, and you will be able to understand what the Spirit says. This is edification which comes from God, and not from ourselves.

1 Corinthians 14:15

15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

Remember we said earlier that praying with the Spirit does not equal tongues? Paul is not saying he will pray one way and then another here. He is saying he will pray with the Spirit AND with understanding ALSO. In other words, he says he will be in the spirit as he prays without tongues. This goes for singing and so on also.

1 Corinthians 14:27-28

27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

Paul tells us that when you are in public speaking in tongues must be done in order. It must have someone who will interpret (or understand the words). If there is no one who would understand the words then those who would speak in tongues should keep silence in the church. They should not speak out loud, and instead, they should speak to themselves and to God.

Does this mean they should speak in tongues to themselves and to God, though?

1 Corinthians 14:39

39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

Paul tells us NOT to forbid speaking in tongues, … yet he forbids it in 1 Corinthians 14:28. Why, what is the difference?

Let’s look at what we know so far and see if we can figure it out. The gift of tongues is not for self-edification. If you are doing it because you think it makes you more powerful then it is not coming from God. Speaking in tongues can be faked. Sometimes, without people even knowing that they are doing so. The purpose of tongues is evangelism and edification of the church. You can pray with the Spirit and without tongues at the same time.

Given this understanding, we can conclude that when Paul says the person should keep silent it is because the person would only be speaking to lift themselves up (pride). This is the order of the use of tongues that the Holy Spirit commands in public. If others do not understand you then when you are speaking in tongues it is not from Him, because it is fruitless.

Paul does, however, say that the person should speak to himself and to God. He does not say this should be done in the church, though. When he said “keep silence” that means any speaking, even if it isn’t loud or disruptive, is not silent, and therefore out of order.

So we can see that a person may pray in tongues in private, but not of their own accord. They can’t just decide to pray in tongues. And, even then they must be able to interpret it, or it has no purpose. Nothing, other than to make the person feel as though they are somehow spiritually powerful. Which means they are speaking for the purpose of self-edification rather than letting God edify them.

Is Speaking in Tongues Still for Today

YES! Do not mistake any of this information as being against this most wonderful and useful gift! It is indeed good and should be used. But it must be done properly. Much of what we see in churches today is not the Holy Ghost, because it does not follow the order listed in scripture, and it is confusion. If there is no interpreter then there is confusion, because no one knows what was said. God is not the author of confusion.

Some argue that the gift of tongues is no longer needed and has been done away with based on the following scriptures:

1 Corinthians 13:8-10

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

The thought is that the Bible itself is “that which is perfect” and therefore since we have it then tongues have been done away with. This is wrong for a few reasons.

First, that would also require prophecy and knowledge to also be done away with. Yet those are often not even mentioned by those who claim this.

1 Corinthians 13:12

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Second, Paul goes on to explain what “that which is perfect” is. He says that which is perfect is when he shall “know even as also I am known.”

What does that mean? What will Paul know, and who knows Paul? The answer is Jesus. Paul says that when he knows Jesus as intimately as Jesus knows him THEN these things will be done away with. The question is WHEN will Paul know Jesus this way?

1 John 3:2

2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

It is only when Jesus appears that Paul will know Jesus as He is, as well as Jesus knows Paul. So yes, the gift is still for today. It MUST be used properly, though.

Continue To Unit 4:5 – Gifts of the Holy Spirit OR

Return To Christianity 101 Unit 4 – The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

October 1, 2016 at 10:43 pm | | No comment

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