Spiritual Gifts- Speaking in Tongues

speaking in tongues

This is described in the text as “speaking in different kinds of tongues.” It can be defined as speaking aloud words in a language that the speaker has never learned in the normal natural way.

There are three different expressions of “speaking in tongues” described in Scripture.

Firstly, tongues is the initial sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is the manifestation described in Acts 2:6, where a bunch of uneducated Galileans praise God in languages which they did not know, but which turned out to be understandable by the cosmopolitan crowd which gathered outside. When Peter goes to Cornelius’s house, all who hear Peter’s message receive the Holy Spirit, “for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:46)

Secondly, tongues is given as a special prayer language which allows us to pray directly from our spirit to God’s Spirit. Romans 8:26-27 describes the Spirit interceding for us “in groans that words cannot express.” 1 Corinthians 14:14 says, “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays.” Sometimes we don’t know how to pray in a situation, but the Holy Spirit can still use our prayers, especially if we pray in tongues.

Thirdly, an expression in tongues can be given publicly, that is, in a gathering. Here the tongues can be combined with an interpretation to function as prophecy. Sometimes someone who brings such an expression, may in fact be speaking a human language which they do not know but is known to a person in the congregation (similar to the experience in Ats 2). In that case, then the purpose is to carry an extra authenticity, particularly if the language is known only to a very few people.

Often, a group will start to all speak in tongues at once. This might be in response to a call for prayer, or it might just be a spontaneous response to a powerful worship time. Of all the gifts of the Spirit, tongues seems to be particularly resistant to being kept in a box.

Because the public use of the gift of tongues can be seen as chaotic or hard to understand, Paul gives some specific teaching about the use of this gift in 1 Corinthians 14. It should be understood that this chapter is about use of gifts in gatherings and not about the private use of tongues. Every gift is used at the discretion of the believer and should be used to build everybody up, and especially to glorify the name of Jesus.