The Bible gives accounts of people speaking in tongues. It was specifically practiced by Paul after His conversion, as the Bible states. Soon after, there were accounts of people speaking in tongues at various gatherings in modern-day Christian practice.
Because of this, speaking in tongues has become one of the most controversial topics of Christian faith even till date. It has a fair share of discussions among Christians as to whether it still exists today.
This article presents the meaning of the gift of speaking in tongues according to biblical perspectives as well as the present, whether or not it is for modern-day practice.
WHAT IS SPEAKING IN TONGUE?
Speaking in tongues is a means of communication to God. 1 Corinthians 14:2 says, “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”
Paul also emphasized this in his epistle to the Corinthians “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.”
Thus, speaking in tongues was important in Paul’s time to communicate effectively with God through prayer.
WHAT ELSE DOES THE SCRIPTURE SAY ABOUT SPEAKING IN TONGUES
Besides being a form of prayer, speaking in tongues is also a form of praising God. It is, therefore, also a form of worship of the Almighty God. Paul writes further in his letter to the Corinthians,
“What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Here, Paul particularly mentioned the word “sing with the spirit” and “sing with the understanding” which suggests praising God as explained in Ephesians 5:19:
“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:16-17, “Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.” This gives more emphasis on speaking in tongues as a way of praising God.
SPEAKING IN TONGUE IS A FORM OF BUILDING ONESELF UP SPIRITUAL
Besides being a form of prayer and praise, speaking in tongues is also a form of building oneself up spiritually. It enables a person to improve himself morally and spiritually with God. Paul explains, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4).
It is emphasized in Jude 20: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,”
IT IS A FORM OF EDIFICATION TO OTHERS
To speak in tongues is not only building ourselves but also building others. It’s a way of building up and encouraging others to believe.
As Paul writes to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 14:5, “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.” He emphasized that speaking in tongues is a means of building up the whole Church.
But what does Paul say when he talks about “but even more to prophesy”? He merely mentions that prophecy is more accepted because it is understandable in certain gatherings than speaking in tongues.
However, if someone in the group can interpret the language spoken, then it can be edifying to others.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME AND PLACE TO SPEAK IN TONGUES?
Paul writes that it’s best practiced privately.
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.”
What Paul means is that speaking privately in tongues is praising God through the Spirit. It may not be clearly understood what “my understanding is unfruitful,” but he emphasized that instead, his Spirit is praising and worshiping.
When speaking in tongues, the mind alone can’t decipher what is going on, but the Spirit can understand it.
THIS GIFT OF TONGUES IS FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPOKEN ONLY TO GOD
We can speak in tongues to God only. Like other gifts, speaking in tongues is the gift from the Holy Spirit. Not everyone has this gift. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11,
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 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: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”
These verses mean that every one of us has a gift from the Spirit, but it’s different. Some have talents that others don’t have, and this is true of the gift of speaking in tongues. Now, because the gift of speaking in tongues is from the Holy Spirit, it is spoken only to the Almighty God.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES ISN’T USED TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
According to the biblical perspective, speaking in tongues is not used to preach the Gospel. All accounts of the act of speaking in tongues in the Bible showed supernatural phenomena and weren’t made when Paul preached the Gospel.
These accounts have always been accompanied by a supernatural phenomenon, but they have not been done during preaching, rather than edifying others.
Today, speaking in tongues is performed without a miraculous phenomenon, which doesn’t conform to how the Bible has explained the act of speaking in tongues. Today, some use it to preach the Gospel, while others use it through ministry, and some do not.
RECEIVING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Among the most widely used books in contemporary charismatic renewal is The Holy Spirit and You by Dennis and Rita Bennet, the Episcopal Priest and his wife. On pages 64–65, the question is, “What if I don’t speak in tongues? Can I have the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues?” Response: “It’s coming with a package!”
Speaking in tongues is not the same as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but what happens when you are baptized in the Holy Spirit. It becomes an essential resource to help you continue, as Paul says. “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18). You don’t need to speak in other tongues to have the Holy Spirit in you. You don’t need to speak in tongues in order to be saved. Speaking in tongues is not a criterion before one can be filled with the Holy Spirit.
THE SUMMARIZED CLASSICAL TWO-STAGE PENTECOSTAL TEACHING:
Salvation, the first experience of the Christian life, is the coming of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, to give us a brand new life, and eternal life. The second experience is to receive, or welcome, the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus can cause Him to pour out this new life to our spirits, to baptize our souls and bodies, with His refreshing and renewing power.
This is called “the scriptural pattern of the ‘doctrine of baptisms.”
HOW CAN WE RECEIVE THIS GIFT AND WALK IN ITS BLESSINGS?
Beloved, tongues are God’s precious gift of grace to you. I hope you’ve seen through the Scriptures that this is a gift with several practical and powerful benefits.
If you are concerned about a matter, or you are looking to the Lord for breakthrough or wisdom in any area of life, trust that the Spirit of God understands all your concerns, sees where the problem is, can heal you, and can provide a heavenly answer better than what the human might and intelligence can come up with.
Instead of becoming anxious as you try to deal with the situation in your strength, I encourage you to pray in tongues. As you do, you rest in the love of the Lord and allow Him to be God. He has promised that it is not by might or power, but by His Spirit that your mountain will become a flat plain (Zech. 4:6-7).
You may already know how to pray in the Spirit, but you haven’t practiced this wonderful gift of grace for some time now. Can I encourage you to do it again? You will see His grace — His practical provision — invades every negative situation!
RECEIVE AND RELEASE YOUR HEAVENLY LANGUAGE
If you haven’t prayed or spoken in tongues before, but would like to do so, let me lead you to receive this gift in a simple prayer. If you have made Jesus your Lord and Savior, be assured that you are entitled to this gift.
In Mark 16:17, Jesus Himself said, “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues.” Do you believe in Jesus? If you do, you can be certain that you will receive this gift when you ask in His name because He also said:
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” — Luke 11:13.
Beloved, the Father, who is always willing to give you good gifts, is more than ready to give you this heavenly language and fill you with His Spirit right now.
ARE YOU READY TO GO?
Lift your hands to Him and say this:
Heavenly Father, I am sure that you will give me the Holy Spirit’s baptism with the ability to speak in tongues.
Inundate me, fill me, and baptize me with the Holy Spirit. I know Jesus Christ has paid the price for me to receive every blessing from you. So I am receiving Your Holy Spirit right now until it is overflowing, and I fully expect to start speaking in the new heavenly language in the name of Jesus. Right now, I’m going to open my mouth and speak by faith. Thank you for the benefits that come with praying in the Spirit. In the name of Jesus, Amen!
Go right ahead and speak in tongues. Romans 8:26 says the Holy Spirit is helping in interceding for us. The word “help” means to “take hold together against” in Greek. This means that the Holy Spirit, together with us, takes hold of our problems. He needs us to participate. How do we participate, exactly? We must open our mouths and give Him a voice. Some of you may feel like nothing has happened.
But once you prayed to God for the gift of tongues, know and believe that He is the God that honors His Word. Maybe you haven’t started speaking in tongues yet, but don’t be discouraged.
Start by speaking the syllables that come to you. The Holy Spirit would not force you to speak. You have to cooperate with Him by opening your mouth and speaking in faith. When you’re in Church, ask someone you know who’s already speaking in tongue to pray with you. You can also pray in the Spirit just as you worship the Lord in the Church or on your own. And if what you hear at first is monosyllabic, childlike sounds that are different from other believers’ languages. Don’t be disheartened.
Just hold on to it. Spend some time praying in tongues daily, and as you go on, what might have started as a trickle will become a river. You will become more fluent in the new language, and the more you make praying in tongues part of your everyday life, the more you will find the inward peace, power, and sense of the love of God that praying in the Spirit brings! My friend, I pray that you will experience a deeper walk with the Lord and see the miraculous manifestation in your life as you mnifest His power through this wonderful gift of tongues!
Speaking in tongues is a particularly important subject that needs to be examined in daily Christian living by continually learning about it through the Word of God.
It has a lot of meaning, and, to sum up, it is a form of prayer, a form of praise, a form of self-building, and a form of edification for others.
It is also spoken mostly privately by the individual’s mind; it’s a gift from the Holy Spirit and is spoken only to God.
Furthermore, it is also not spoken during the preaching of the Gospel, and it’s usually followed by miraculous phenomena, as said in the Bible. In today’s scenario, a miraculous phenomenon is missing, and, therefore, it can be argued that practice is no longer the same in biblical examples.
It’s not a right for all Christians to speak in tongues. But what is expected is that God will graciously give you gifts that He knows will help you build up His body (the Church). It is up to you, under the guidance of your Church leaders, to discover what the gifts of God are. If you eagerly desire greater gifts and ask God for a true motivation to build up His Church and glorify Him, why wouldn’t He equip you for His service?
Receiving the Holy Spirit doesn’t have anything to do with your initial feelings or what’s going on outside. God’s word said you would receive it if you asked. This means by faith that you have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Practice speaking in tongues. It doesn’t matter if you start with a single syllable or how stupid you sound. Just keep praying, and God will strengthen you in your language of prayer. Many people receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and do not pray in tongues at once. Don’t be discouraged. Just don’t give up!