What does the Bible have to say about
speaking in tongues?
(Discussed here are 3 of the 9 Manifestations of the Holy Spirit)
The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit (all 9)
Topics found on this page are below:
1. Speaking in Tongues
(Day of Pentecost-Acts 2)
(1 Cor. 12-13-14) (all verses)
(quick link above)
3. Summary of Major Points in 1 Corinthians
Speaking in Tongues on the Day of Pentecost
Testament glossolalia or tongues is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy
Spirit (1 Cor. 12). In the book of Acts, on the day of Pentecost we read,
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind,
and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared
unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And
they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other
tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2: 2-4). Evidently, this
panorama is wholly accredited to the mystical work of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot logically claim that these languages were known by
the speakers because it specifically states that these believers were
“filled with the Holy Ghost” and “the Spirit gave them utterance,” in which
they all spoke in “other” or diverse languages. These tongues or languages
spoken were understood by the witnesses of this event.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out
of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised
abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded,
because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to
another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were
born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the
dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in
Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in
the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews
and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak
in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they
were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another,
What meaneth this (Acts 2:5-12)?
Peter answers this question "What meaneth this?" as
"But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And
it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will
pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your
daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see
visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my
servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days
of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:16-18).
Act 2:33 "Therefore being by the right hand of God
exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of
the Holy Ghost, he (Jesus Christ) hath shed forth this,
which ye now see and hear."
This is the only incident in the Bible concerning this particular type
of manifestation of tongues. Unless we can know and
definitely state that everything that occurred in those days
is recorded in the Bible, we cannot say that this was a
one-time occurrence. We can only rightly admit that
this is the only account given to us in the Bible concerning
this type of phenomena, in which the hearers heard the
message in their own language. However, this is not by
any means the only account we have concerning the
manifestation of speaking in tongues.
Nonetheless, the tongues of Pentecost
differed according to God’s will and purpose, as did the
tongues in the book of Corinthians. Except for the
languages involved, the operation in which these tongues
were made manifest is likely to be one and the same, being
filled with the Holy Spirit and as the Spirit gave them
filled --- imbue, influence, supply (not control)
Prophecy - 1 Corinthians (verse by verse)
As we will see, the tongues
addressed in Paul's epistles to the Corinthian church
differs in certain aspects from the information we have
regarding the tongues of Pentecost.
Pentecost, the glossolalia, although unknown to the
speakers, are heard and understood in the native tongues
of the listeners; whereas, the tongues in First
Corinthians are unknown languages to both the speakers
and the hearers and must be interpreted. The
former is mentioned once in the Bible, but the latter is
a continuing practice of the early church.
Secondly, the tongues in Acts were a sign to unbelieving Jews (Acts 2), but in
Corinth, a sign to the unlearned believer or
potential believers entering the church (1 Cor. 14).
In addition, tongues edify the church and is of personal
benefit to the individual believer.
1Co 12:3 Wherefore I make known
unto you, that no man speaking in the Spirit of God
saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is
Lord, but in the Holy Spirit.
Tongues - perfect prayer
Since the Holy Spirit gives
the utterance of the tongue, a person cannot curse
God, but instead acknowledges Him as Lord.
1Co 12:10 To another the working of
miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of
spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another
the interpretation of tongues:
Tongues, interpretation of
tongues and prophecy are listed as 3 of the 9
manifestations of the Holy Spirit. *See link
above on manifestation of the Holy Spirit for all 9
& the love of God
1Co 13:1-2 If I speak with the
tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am
become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I
have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and
all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove
mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
Only love is profitable in the
operation of spiritual things.
1Co 13:9-10 For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect
is come [2nd Coming], that which is in part shall be
done away (vv. 9-10).
1Co 13:12-13 For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but
then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I
know fully even as also I was fully known. But now
abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest
of these is love.
1Jo 3:2 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.
The manifestations and
gifts of God are needful now because we only
know in part, but at Christ's return we will
know in full and the gifts will no longer be
This chapter is
largely a comparison of speaking in tongues and
1Co 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire [to
have warmth of feeling for] spiritual, but
rather that ye may prophesy.
1Co 14:2 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.
mysteries unto God that cannot be understood
by those present.
1Co 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh
unto men to edification, and exhortation, and
1Co 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown
tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth
edifieth the church.
1Co 14:5 I would that ye all spake with
tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for
greater is he that prophesieth than he that
speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that
the church may receive edifying.
Speaks in the language understood by the
church for edification, exhortation, and
Is preferred because the people can
understand and profit by the message.
Tongues & Interpretation
in tongues edifies the person
speaking, and not the church,
unless the person interprets the tongue, then it would
have the same benefit as prophesying in the church.
Paul would like all to speak in tongues, but when
exercising tongues before an audience, that believer
must interpret the message in order to edify the church.
Paul expounds on this point (vv.
1Co 14:6 Now, brethren, if I come
unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you,
except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by
knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
1Co 14:7 And even things without life
giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a
distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is
piped or harped?
1Co 14:8 For if the trumpet give an
uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
1Co 14:9 So likewise ye, except ye
utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall
it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
1Co 14:10 There are, it may be, so many
kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without
1Co 14:11 Therefore if I know not the
meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a
barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto
1Co 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye
are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to
the edifying of the church.
Paul gives further instruction
Praying in the spirit vs.
1Co 14:13 Wherefore let him that
speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
1Co 14:14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit
prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
The tongue spoken is unknown to
both the believer speaking and the church.
The believer speaking the tongue
should earnestly seek to interpret the tongue in the
Speaking in tongues is praying in
1Co 14:15 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
1Co 14:16 Else when thou shalt bless
with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the
unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he
understandeth not what thou sayest?
1Co 14:17 For thou verily givest thanks
well, but the other is not edified.
Therefore these verses are also
relevant to praying in the Spirit:
Eph 6:18 Praying always with all prayer
and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with
all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Rom 8:26 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.
Jud 1:20 But ye, beloved, building up
yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy
Paul instructs to pray in tongues
and pray with the understanding (for the church).
Paul instructs to sing in tongues
and sing with the understanding (for the church).
The person speaking in tongues
blesses with the spirit.
The person speaking in tongues
gives thanks well.
1Co 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye
1Co 14:19 Yet in the church I had
rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my
voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in
an unknown tongue.
1Co 14:20 Brethren, be not children in
understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in
understanding be men.
Tongues & Prophesying are
continuing signs that God is with us
Paul is grateful to God that he speaks in tongues,
and he exceeds in exercising this manifestation of the
The church must understand God's message
spoken in order to
profit by it.
1Co 14:21 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.
1Co 14:22 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
1Co 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together
into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come
in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not
say that ye are mad?
1Co 14:24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that
believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he
is judged of all:
1Co 14:25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made
manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship
God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
are also a sign [indication] to those who do not have
If everyone is speaking in
tongues without order and interpretation, then the
unbelievers and the novice believers will think that
everyone is crazy.
Prophesying serves those who have
In contrast to v. 23, the message
of God should be understood, so that the unbeliever and
the unlearned will fall under the conviction that God is
present and with His people.
Let all be done decently and in order
1Co 14:26 How is it then,
brethren? when ye come together, every one of
you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a
tongue, hath a revelation, hath an
interpretation. Let all things be done unto
1Co 14:27 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.
1Co 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let
him keep silence in the church; and let him
speak to himself, and to God.
interpretation in a congregation must be
edifying to the church.
There should only be
two or three that speak in tongues, one at a
time, and each needs to interpret the tongue
If a believer cannot
believe to interpret the message, then that
person should pray silently.
1Co 14:39 Wherefore,
brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to
speak with tongues.
1Co 14:40 Let all things be
done decently and in order.
Do not forbid Tongues
Paul instructs the
church not to forbid speaking in tongues.
Desire to prophesy but
do not forbid speaking in tongues.
Other verses on tongues
Mar 16:17 And these signs
shall follow them that believe; In my name shall
they cast out devils; they shall speak with new
Act 10:45-46 And they of
the circumcision which believed were astonished,
as many as came with Peter, because that on the
Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the
Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with
tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
Act 19:3-6 And he [Paul]
said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized?
And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said
Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of
repentance, saying unto the people, that they
should believe on him which should come after
him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they
heard this, they were baptized in the name of
the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands
upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they
spake with tongues, and prophesied.
Note: Believers speaking and interpreting tongues were in
full control of these manifestations. They decided
when to speak in tongues and when not to speak in tongues,
and in the operation of prayer and faith they interpreted
the tongues. They did not wait on the Holy Spirit to
possess or control them.
Summary of Major Points in 1 Corinthians
Speaking in Tongues &
interpretation of tongues and prophecy are
listed as 3 of the 9 manifestations of the Holy
Spirit (1Co 12:10). *See link above on
manifestation of the Holy Spirit for all 9
Since the Holy Spirit gives the utterance of the tongue, a
person cannot curse God, but instead
acknowledges Him as Lord (1Co 12:3).
Only love is profitable in the operation of the manifestation
and gifts of the Holy Spirit (1Co 13:1-2).
unto God that cannot be understood by those
present (1Co 14:2).
and not the church, unless the person interprets
the tongue, than it would have the same benefit
as prophesying in the church (1Co 14:4).
Paul would like
all to speak in tongues, but when exercising
tongues before an audience, that believer must
interpret the message in order to edify the
church (1Co 14:5).
The tongue spoken
is unknown to both the believer speaking and the
church (1Co 14:14).
speaking the tongue should earnestly seek to
interpret the tongue in the congregation (1Co
tongues is praying in the spirit (1Co 14:14).
Paul instructs to
pray in tongues and pray with the understanding
(for the church) (1Co 14:15).
Paul instructs to
sing in tongues and sing with the understanding
(for the church) (1Co 14:15).
speaking in tongues blesses with the spirit (1Co
The person speaking in tongues gives thanks well (1Co
Paul is grateful
to God that he speaks in tongues, and he exceeds
in exercising this manifestation of the Holy
Spirit (1Co 14:18).
They are also a sign [indication] to those who do
not have faith (1Co 14:22).
If everyone is
speaking in tongues without order and
interpretation, then the unbelievers and the
novice believers will think that everyone is
Before the church,there should only be two or three that speak in
tongues, one at a time, and each needs to
interpret the tongue spoken(1Co 14:27).
If a believer
cannot believe to interpret the message, then
that person should pray silently (1Co 14:28).
the church not to forbid speaking in tongues
We know and
prophesy in part. The manifestations
and gifts of God are needful now because we
only know in part, but at Christ's return we
will know in full, in which these will no
longer be needed (1Co 13:12-13).
Speaks in the
language understood by the church for
edification, exhortation, and comfort (1Co
Is preferred to tongues in the church, because the people
can understand and profit by the message,
unless the tongue is interpreted (1Co 14:5).
Prophesying serves those who already have faith (1Co
The message of God should be understood, so that the
unbeliever and the unlearned will fall under
the conviction that God is present and with
His people (1Co 14:24-25).
Desire to prophesy but do not forbid speaking in
tongues (1Co 14:39).
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