Speaking in Tongues

C H U R C H   R E F O R M    S E R I E S

By Biblicism Institute

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…” 1 Corinthians 13:1

There’s quite a polemic within the body of Christ regarding the gift of speaking in tongues.


Biblically speaking, to speak or pray in tongues is to speak or pray in a celestial language. When said language or tongue is being spoken, each endowed individual strikes a unique cadence of sound and heavenly words – hence tongues, plural.

On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues” Acts 19: 4-7

Day of PentecostHowever, at the first Pentecost, speaking in tongues took on a different aspect as well.

Judahite Hebrews, who were born and lived abroad, like the Apostle Paul who was born in Tarsus, Cilicia, were visiting Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks, and heard the disciples speak in their various native dialects.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Judahites from every nation under heaven... Every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all this which speak Galileans? ” Acts 2: 5 -7

The speaking of foreign languages as prompted at that time by the Holy Spirit was for the benefit of these men who were part of the Hebrew House of Ancient Israel.

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2: 36

It was also for the benefit of spreading the Gospel worldwide, especially as many foreigners from around the world constantly traveled to Jerusalem, a major trade center at the time.

“And how hear we every man in our own dialect wherein we were born? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and the parts of Lybia, about Cyrene, strangers of Rome, Judahites and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2: 8-12

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:4

The Holy Spirit saw the need at that particular junction to supernaturally prompt many of the disciples to speak in various foreign dialects.

The bestowal of said gift (i.e., to speak in a foreign dialect) still occurs today, albeit not supernaturally like at the first Pentecost but as a talent or an aptitude, since many individuals all over the world are now fluent in more than one language. It thus recalibrates the event at the Tower of Babel where God confounded man’s one universal language into various dialects, and caused them not to understand each other.

“Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Genesis 11: 7

Man’s hope at the Tower of Babel was to reach Heaven (Gen 11:4). Now Heaven reaches down to man in the person of Jesus, using not only the aforementioned gift but a new universal language as well, a heavenly tongue, which itself reaches to the once unreachable Heaven, even unto God Himself.

Christ - el Greco“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God…” 1 Corinthians 14: 2

However, unlike the supernatural outpouring of common languages at the First Pentecost, the heavenly tongue has kept its supernatural endowment, as it is God’s umbilical cord whereby He supplies His children with divine mysteries.

“…one who speaks in a tongue… utters mysteries in the spirit.” 1 Corinthians 14: 2

As such it is mostly for the benefit of oneself in prayer.

“One who speaks in tongues edifies himself…” 1 Corinthians 14:4

“Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groans which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26

Praying in tongues is something many Christians don’t do for whatever reason, whether out of traditional bias, ignorance, or unbelief. However, it’s one of many spiritual tools or gifts available in the Christian arsenal – just like God created many kinds of fruits and vegetables for all those with different tastes and gustoes.

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another mighty works, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of languages, and to still another the interpretation of languages. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Cor 12: 7-11

But the day one desires the gift of speaking in heavenly tongues, which increases wisdom in the  things above, all one has to do is ask God who gives to all liberally.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all [men] liberally, and without reproach; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5

When one speaks in a heavenly tongue, something is birthed deep inside the spirit man and one is edified.

“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the spirit.” 1 Corinthians 14: 2

Yet, when we congregate it is better to prophesy in a common language and not speak in tongues.

“But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself, but he that prophesieth edifieth the assembly.” 1 Corinthians 14: 4

The one who prophesies in a common language edifies the body of Christ. But that doesn’t mean he is forbidden to pray in tongues when he’s on his own.

“So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” 1 Corinthians 14: 39

“I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.” 1 Corinthians 14: 18

In a congregational setting speaking in heavenly tongues should only occur with the presence of a gifted someone who can interpret.

“The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the assembly may be built up.” 1 Corinthians 14: 5

Otherwise, it’d be a waste of the congregants’ time if someone is edifying himself at the expense of others who can’t be edified at that moment. See Church Services ARE NOT Biblical.

“Nevertheless, in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” 1 Corinthians 14: 19


Many harbor a bias towards speaking in tongues, and fight tooth and nail not to speak it.

They spin the fact that when one speaks to God in a tongue, one actually speaks in one’s native dialect, and therefore others who don’t speak said dialect do not understand what is uttered. But that’s not true. If one speaks one’s own dialect, one’s mind is fruitful, but if one prays in a heavenly tongue, one’s mind is not, but the spirit man is.

David Praying in the Night“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.” 1 Corinthians 14: 14

Plus, isn’t it silly to babble in one’s native dialect in a congregation where no one else speaks that language?

Further, if one suddenly starts speaking in a foreign dialect that he doesn’t understand, prompted by the Holy Spirit like at the first Pentecost, how does he edify himself? He doesn’t. He edifies others who speak that language. But if he speaks in God’s heavenly tongue, he is edified by God Himself as “he utters mysteries in the spirit “.

Speaking in tongues, as Christians came to describe it since its advent at Pentecost, is different in scope than speaking in common dialects or languages. It is of angels while the other is of men. It edifies oneself while its counterpart edifies others.

“The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the assembly.” 1 Corinthians 14:4

To speak in a heavenly tongue is God-given to build us up individually. As with any gift anyone can choose to accept or reject it.

But why would anyone reject a gift from God?

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1: 17

Click here to know how to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and pray in tongues.

Read also: Jesus was not a Jew

Read also: The War on Christianity

2 thoughts on “Speaking in Tongues

  1. Thank you for this brief article. It is by far one of the more thoughtful, and scripturally founded, articles that I have read on this Blessed Gift from God. I was raised in a Methodist Church, and while they were good people, I never in the years I attended heard the first thing regarding the Holy Spirit, much less tongues or the other Gifts. When I was baptized by the Holy Spirit he flowed through me from the top of my head and out the bottoms of my feet, pushing 30+ years of severe alcoholism along ahead of Him. I have never had the first craving or thoughts of alcohol since…it was the most beautiful experience of my life.


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