Should Christians be speaking in tongues? I recently saw a Christian trying to convince all other Christians that they had to speak in tongues. The claim was: “It is mandatory”. Furthermore, this person compared the story of a demon-possessed man in Mark 9 with people speaking in tongues. An interesting observation and comparison, I thought. When reading these Bible verses, it hit me that many people who speak in tongues act in similar ways as that demon possessed man. The question we need to ask ourselves then is: Does such manifestations come from God?
“For God is not the author of confusion but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)
What does the Bible say about speaking in tongues?
Is the modern way of speaking in tongues, which we often hear about today, right or wrong? Let’s see what the Bible says.
The Greek word for tongues=glōssa and means language. What kind of language? The Bible explains it.
Acts chapter 2 is basically the only clear example in the Bible where someone speaks in tongues, where the Bible also explains what happened. We do not need to speculate, nor making any guesses or interpretations of what happened. These verses speak for themselves:
”Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues[languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?” (Acts 2:3-8)
This is the only practical example in the entire Bible that also explains the biblical way of speaking in tongues. (There are a few more places where speaking in tongues is mentioned, but not specifically what happened, as it does here).
Pentecost is considered by many to be a prime example of receiving the Holy Ghost. So we should note very carefully what really happened:
They spoke foreign languages so that the gospel could reach these people, that heard it in their own mother tongue. Praise the Lord!
In many charismatic circles, speaking in tongues is often very different from this biblical example.
Why did God make the apostles to speak in tongues?
The apostles received the Holy Spirit and got this gift of tongues, so that the others, that did not speak their language, would grow in faith and knowledge.
I have heard of similar experiences like this, where people that listened to a preacher of the Word, heard him speak in their own mother tongue, and thus miraculously understood the message.
There are Christians who try to force others to speak in tongues. Otherwise you are (according to them) not as much a Christian as they are. Or you may not be considered a Christian at all.
What does the Bible say?
It is very evident in the Bible that God gives different gifts. Is it the one who gives or receives a gift that decides what the gift will be? Can anyone, apart from God, decide what He will give? The answer is obviously no. God decides what gift that He gives.
”For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 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. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)
What Paul writes both here and in Acts is crystal clear. It is not possible to misunderstand, unless one rather want to seek supernatural experiences and let them weigh heavier than the Word.
Later in the same chapter, Paul repeats himself so that we will not misunderstand:
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 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. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12: 27-31)
Another point that Paul makes, is that there should be someone who can interpret the language spoken. Corinth was a large city in southern Greece, with a variety of nationalities. What seems to have been a problem in the Corinthian church, was that many spoke in their own language when they gathered, so that people did not understand, and confusion arose. This is why Paul wrote:
“He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.” – 1 Corinthians 14: 5
“Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” – 1 Corinthians 14:19
“But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.” – 1 Corinthians 14:28
For those who are waiting for the Holy Ghost today, looking to speak in tongues, to you I want to encourage: Instead, seek to find out what gift God wants to give you. Ask Him, and be patient. If the gift would be tongues, I can tell you one thing for sure: It will be nothing other than what we see in Acts chapter 2, where Christians were given the gift of speaking foreign languages (and the audience heard it in their own mother tongue).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23
Surrender your life to God today (every day), and let Him alone guide you through His Word.