dove flying

Are Tongues for Today?

Many Christians today are recognizing Pentecost Sunday, this day is often attributed to what occurred on Pentecost in the New Testament Church after Jesus ascended. However, we must realize the origins of Pentecost which come from the Old Testament. Pentecost is one of the three required feasts that we see the Jews celebrating in the Bible, it is usually celebrated at the end of May or very early in June (on our calendar). The Feast of Pentecost was also called the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), and it was the celebration of the early weeks of harvest, as well as being associated with Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God. Some Old Testament references I would encourage you to read are Exodus 23-24, Leviticus 16, and Numbers 29. 

In Acts 2:1-4 (NLT) we read, “On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.  Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.  And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.”. 

The entirety of Acts 2 has caused much debate in the church, there is one side that wants to say that the Pentecost experience (including speaking in tongues as well as the other spiritual gifts)  ceased with the early church, while another side wants to say this has continued to be available for today. Now let me say something first before I go further, whether you speak in tongues or not has no bearing on your Salvation! 

Public Ministry Tongues

Tongues for a Sign

You must understand that there are four types of tongues referred to in the New Testament, this is why the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 when explaining the different spiritual gifts, “to another different kinds of tongues”. What we just read about in Acts 2:4 is known as tongues as a sign to unbelievers, this is for public ministry. This type of tongue is an earthly language, for example, you might have someone who comes to your church that only speaks French and everyone else speaks English. Someone in your church who truly has this gift would be able to minister to the French-speaking person in tongues as the Holy Spirit gives them utterance.  

Tongues for Interpretation

The second type of tongues is tongues for interpretation, this type is as well for public ministry. This is when one speaks in tongues to the whole church and then someone else interprets it. This will require one person to speak in tongues, and then for someone to interpret the tongues. 1 Corinthians 14:27-28(NKJV) tells us, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.”.  Why would we want someone to speak in tongues and then interpret it for the whole church during service? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV) “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”. All these things are to be done for the edification of the body of Christ. Edify means to improve or instruct spiritually. So, when one gives a message in tongues in front of the church there should be an interpretation so that the church can be edified.  

Tongues for Private Prayer Life

Tongues for Personal Edification

Now let’s move on to the two types of tongues for the believer’s personal prayer life, this is available to all believers and this should be sought by all believers when they receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The first one is your personal prayer language. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:2 (AMP) “For one who speaks in an unknown tongue does not speak to people but to God; for no one understands him or catches his meaning, but by the Spirit he speaks mysteries [secret truths, hidden things].”. I would like you to notice that it uses the word unknown tongue, which is probably a language not known on Earth.  Having your own personal prayer language is important because you edify yourself, 1 Corinthians 14:4 tells us, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”. In the next verse we will find that Paul wants us all to speak in tongues, he also mentions the importance and greatness of prophesy and tongues with interpretation, “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.”.  

Tongues for Intercession

The last type of tongue I would like to discuss is tongues for intercession. Romans 8:26-27 (AMP) tells us, “In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words.  And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God’s people in accordance with God’s will.”. I believe that tongues for intercession will usually come during your personal time in praying in the Spirit. With intercession, you might be interceding for your own self or for someone else. The important takeaway is this is as the Spirit gives you utterance.  

Tongues for Today?

Now that we have broken down the four types of tongues that are recorded in the New Testament, what is the Biblical evidence that this is for today? If we go on in Acts 2:38-39 (NLT), “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 

Many translations rightly have a footnote in verse 39 where it says “an to those far away”, noting it can also be translated as “and to people far in the future and to the Gentiles”. Many of us are Gentiles, and we are certainly a far future away from the first-century church. Aside from this one verse, what other Biblical evidence is there? 

What Did Jesus Say?

Jesus commissioned the church in Mark 16:15-18 (NLT), “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name, they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;  they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”. 

Many of these signs Jesus talked about here are recorded in the list of spiritual gifts the Apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 12. Jesus made a commission to all who believe that certain signs would follow them, and one of those is speaking in tongues. Jesus didn’t say that this was for the “first-century church”, He said this was for those who believe. 

The Bible tells us God does not change (Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8). God has kept the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for centuries. We have seen a rise in revivals of God’s outpouring. From Azusa Street to the Latter Rain Movements, as well as people God used mightly in this area from Kathryn Kuhlman, Kenneth Hagin, David Wilkerson, AB Simpson, and many others. While certain moves of God can lead to some extremes if we are not careful enough to be led by the Word of God, we can ultimately learn from previous moves of God. 


With this discussion comes the subject of abuse of spiritual gifts. Some people will say you are not a Christian because you do not speak in tongues. Others will mix in the occult with spiritual gifts because they want to be more spiritual. You may even see ministers using spiritual gifts as a means of building a big name for themselves. Spiritual gifts are about glorifying God and advancing His Kingdom on the earth, when we lose focus of that we have gotten out of balance. We need to stick to what the Word of God says, if it cannot be backed by the Word, then spit it out! 

Living a life empowered by the Holy Spirit is not just about speaking in tongues, or signs and wonders. It is about living a life that is fully dependent upon the Holy Spirit. The first-century church did not change the world because of their academic excellence, but because they were clothed with power from God, they were full of the Holy Spirit, and they built their faith up by praying in the Spirit. Jude 20 (NET) says, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit”.

Living a life empowered by the Holy Spirit will also build godly character in your life, it will help you reflect the Light of Jesus every day. This is why the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:18 (NKJV), “ I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all”. 

As we reflect on Pentecost today, let us examine ourselves, are we lacking in any area where we are not reflecting Jesus? If so we need to repent and ask God to fill us up a fresh and a new!