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Tongues Explained with Caution

This is a post I wrote last year that I have updated and am reposting. The gift of tongues is a widely debated subject in the church, and it needs addressed.  If we only study the Gift of Tongues from the Book of Acts then we will not get the full picture, along with important instructions. If we look in the New Testament, we will find the mention of four different types of tongues.  

#1: Tongues as a Sign

The first type of tongue I would like to discuss is tongues for unbelievers, this is for public ministry. This type of tongue is the one that took place on the Day of Pentecost, believers from the Upper Room came down to a large group of unbelievers who spoke different languages and the believers were speaking in the different languages of the unbelievers. Keep in mind the believers did not mentally know the languages of the unbelievers, they were only able to speak tongues because the Holy Spirit gave them the words. Acts 2:4 (AMP) says “And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately].”. 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.  

#2: Tongues for Interpretation

The second type of tongue is tongues for interpretation, which is also 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 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.  

#3: Tongues for Personal Edification

I would like to move on to the two private types of tongues, and 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 is 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.”.  

#4: 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 take away is this is as the Spirit gives you utterance.  

Gifts Given as the Spirit Wills

So now enough about tongues, lets talk about all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Paul told us the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NKJV), “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:  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.”.  Notice it says different types of tongues, hence why I just discussed the four different types of tongues. I would also like to point out that all these gifts are controlled by God through the Holy Spirit and given out accordingly to believers. Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 12:11 (NKJV), “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”. I would like to encourage you to not become jealous if someone else you know flows in more gifts of the Spirit than you do, God will not bless everyone the same exact way, therefore your testimony is your testimony, not someone else’s.  

You Must Repent and Believe First

I would also like to talk about receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The first thing that needs to happen is you need to be born again (repent and believe). When one truly becomes born again you receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is what makes you a new creation in Jesus Christ. I would like to point out that true salvation should be the priority in the church before one receives the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 (NKJV) tells us, “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”. When one is truly born again and then asks and receives the true infilling of the Holy Spirit they must walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV) says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”. We must not only walk in the Spirit but also flow in the Spirit. Jesus said in John 3:8 (NKJV), “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”. 

Cessationism Is Not Biblical

I would now like to address a popular teaching that many people hear and that is that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for today and that they ended with the Apostles. The one scripture they will use in this teaching is 1 Corinthians 13:8 (NKJV), “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”. However, we must read on from this verse, lets look at verse 10 “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.”.  I personally believe that the only way that it can be perfect is when Jesus returns. Some may argue that the word perfect is referring to the completion of the New Testament. I disagree because of Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV), “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”. When looking at Hebrews 13:8 I also keep in mind the trinity which you can read into further in Matthew 28:18-20.  

Spiritual Gifts Do Get Abused

However, I will agree there is an issue when it comes to all the gifts of the Holy Spirit today in the church. We need to number one be aware of false prophets and teachers. Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:15 (NKJV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”. Why do we need to be aware of false prophets? Well false teachings will lead one to hell, Satan is working aggressively to get people to fall into the trap of false teachings to land people in hell for eternity. Before warning us of false prophets Jesus also told us in Matthew 7:14 (NKJV), “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”. If you read further you will find that Jesus gave another warning regarding these false prophets, He said in Matthew 7:22-23 (NKJV) “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”. There are many ministers who focus on the signs and wonders rather than true salvation.  Some examples of those who practice lawlessness are those who teach a watered-down gospel, fail to teach on true salvation, and those ministers who focus on making money. We should not just be seeking Jesus for the signs; we should be seeking Him because without Him we will spend eternity in hell. The type of Apostasy we are seeing today has been warned to us in 1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV), “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,”.  So, could there be a false Holy Spirit in churches? Absolutely Satan will do anything to deceive people. Anything done in the church needs to be done carefully and in order, that is why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:40 (NKJV), “Let all things be done decently and in order.”.  

I encourage you as you follow certain ministers on mainstream to really be careful. Just because it is mainstream Christianity does not mean it is Biblically correct. I would like to point out that anytime that someone speaks in tongues that it must be done with utterance from the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues cannot be done on demand, but only as the Holy Spirit gives you utterance. I encourage you if you haven’t already to ask God to give you a fresh and new infilling of the Holy Spirit and that you can flow in the gifts that are of His will for you.  

Further Reading