What Does the Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues?

Speaking in tongues is a fascinating topic mentioned in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. This spiritual gift is described as a way to communicate with God through uttering mysterious languages inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14, emphasizes that speaking in tongues builds up the individual speaking but can also serve the church when interpreted.

A Comprehensive Analysis
A Comprehensive Analysis

Our beliefs about this gift vary, with some churches practicing it regularly and others viewing it with skepticism. The Bible offers guidance on this practice, urging us to use it for mutual edification and ensuring it aligns with the teachings of the scripture. Many passages, such as those in 1 Corinthians 14:6-17, highlight the need for interpretation so that the entire congregation benefits.

We must explore the purpose, benefits, and limitations of speaking in tongues within our spiritual community. This exploration helps us understand how this gift can enhance our connection with the divine and foster stronger faith among believers. For more insights, click here to read relevant Bible verses and their interpretations.

Biblical Foundation of Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in tongues has roots in both the Old and New Testaments. It represents divine communication and spiritual edification.

Old Testament Foretelling

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah foretold the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. Isaiah 28:11 states, “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people.” This verse indicated that God would communicate with His people through different languages.

The prophecy highlighted that people might still not listen despite the miraculous sign. This foretelling set the stage for the events in the New Testament, where speaking in tongues would become more prominent and visible.

New Testament Fulfillment

The New Testament records the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. During the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to speak in different languages, allowing them to communicate with diverse crowds (Acts 2:4). This event marked a significant moment in Christian history.

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians also emphasize speaking in tongues. He noted that while those who speak in tongues edify themselves, those who prophesy edify the church (1 Corinthians 14:4). The apostle encouraged the use of spiritual gifts like new tongues and prophecy responsibly and humbly, ensuring they serve the greater good and promote understanding within the church community.

The Purpose of Speaking in Tongues

what does the bible say about speaking in tongues
The Purpose of Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in tongues serves several purposes in the Bible. It can build up the individual, serve as a sign for unbelievers, and requires interpretation to benefit the whole congregation.

Personal Edification

Speaking in tongues is a way for individuals to build themselves up. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 14:4 that “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.” This means that it helps us express what is in our spirit when words fail. It’s a personal, spiritual exercise that can bring us closer to God and strengthen our faith.

A Sign for Unbelievers

Tongues can also act as a sign for those who do not believe. As seen during Pentecost, people from different countries heard their own languages being spoken, which amazed them. This miracle was a powerful sign that helped spread the message of God. The ability to speak in unknown languages showed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Intelligibility and Interpretation

For speaking in tongues to benefit the church, it must be interpreted. Paul emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 14 the importance of speaking clearly and understandably in the congregation. If no one can interpret the tongue, then it does not edify the church. Having someone interpret ensures that everyone can understand and be encouraged by the message.

Guidelines for Speaking in Tongues in the Church

Guidelines for Speaking in Tongues in the Church
Guidelines for Speaking in Tongues in the Church

Speaking in tongues is mentioned extensively in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. These guidelines ensure the practice edifies everyone in the congregation, adheres to scriptural instructions, and maintains order during worship.

Orderly Worship

Order is crucial when we exercise any spiritual gift in church services, especially speaking in tongues. According to 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, if someone speaks in tongues, only two or three individuals should do so, and they must take turns. This prevents confusion and ensures that the congregation remains engaged.

Furthermore, without an interpreter, the speaker should remain silent in the church. Our worship should be structured and understandable to all present, enhancing the collective faith and thanksgiving to God.

Instructions Given by Apostle Paul

Apostle Paul provided detailed instructions on using the gift of speaking in tongues. He emphasized in 1 Corinthians 14:19 that it is better to speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. This underscores the importance of clarity in communication during worship.

Paul also highlighted the importance of building up the church body. We should aim to edify one another through our spoken words, whether in prayer, prophecy, or speaking in tongues. Paul’s guidance ensures that everyone’s faith is strengthened collectively.

Role of Interpreter

The presence of an interpreter is essential for speaking in tongues during church meetings. According to 1 Corinthians 14, if someone speaks in a tongue, an interpreter must explain the message so that the church can be edified. Without an interpreter, the speaker should remain silent or speak to themselves and God.

This practice ensures that everyone comprehends the message, allowing the whole congregation to say “Amen” to prayers and praises. It fosters a unified worship experience where all believers can participate seamlessly in praising God.

Personal and Corporate Impact of Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in tongues has both personal and corporate impacts within the church. On an individual level, it can edify the believer, providing a direct way to express what is in their spirit when words fail (1 Corinthians 14:4). This personal edification enhances private prayer life, deepens faith, and strengthens one’s relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Corporately, when interpreted, speaking in tongues can build up the whole church. It allows us to share divine messages, pray, give thanks, and sing praises in unity. By following the guidelines from Apostle Paul, we ensure that this gift benefits the entire congregation, fostering a spiritually rich and orderly worship environment.


what does the bible say about speaking in tongues

When we discuss baptism with respect to speaking in tongues, it’s important to recognize key biblical events. One significant event is the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4.

On that day, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. They began speaking in tongues, marking a profound spiritual experience. This association between baptism and speaking in tongues is noted by believers.

List of Key References

  • Acts 2:4: Occurrence on the Day of Pentecost.
  • Acts 10:44-46: Cornelius’ household also spoke in tongues after receiving the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 19:6: The Ephesian disciples spoke in tongues and prophesied when Paul laid hands on them.

Key Points

  • Speaking in tongues often accompanies the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
  • Paul emphasizes edification in 1 Corinthians 14:4, noting that speaking in tongues edifies the speaker.

We see that speaking in tongues can serve as a sign of the Holy Spirit’s work during baptism. This spiritual gift, as described in various parts of the Bible, is closely linked with moments of divine intervention and spiritual renewal.

In our discussions, we must remember that speaking in tongues is not seen universally as a mandatory sign of receiving the Holy Spirit. However, it remains a significant aspect for many within the Christian faith.



We often wonder if speaking in tongues is needed for salvation. The Bible is clear that it is not.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul explains that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. This shows that recognizing Jesus by faith is the key part of salvation.

Paul also wrote in Romans 10:9 that if we declare Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. Speaking in tongues is not mentioned in these key verses about salvation.

Some people point to examples in the book of Acts where speaking in tongues followed the receiving of the Holy Spirit. While these instances are noteworthy, they are not meant to be universal requirements for everyone.

We should remember the importance of the Holy Spirit in our salvation. It’s the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe in Jesus and confess Him as Lord.

Key Points:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:3: No one can declare “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 10:9: Salvation comes from declaring Jesus as Lord and believing in His resurrection.
  • Examples in Acts: These are specific accounts and not general mandates.

For more about this topic, visit GotQuestions and Core Christianity.

Frequently Asked Questions

what does the bible say about speaking in tongues
Frequently Asked Questions

The Bible provides various insights into the practice of speaking in tongues, particularly through the teachings of Jesus and Paul. It also discusses the need for interpretation and explains why some denominations do not support the practice. Additionally, it addresses whether speaking in tongues is considered a spiritual gift.

What did Jesus teach about the practice of speaking in tongues?

Jesus did not directly teach about speaking in tongues during His ministry. However, He mentioned that signs would follow believers, including speaking in new tongues. This promise is found in Mark 16:17.

What does Paul’s teachings in the New Testament say regarding speaking in tongues?

Paul provides extensive teachings on speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. He emphasizes that this gift should benefit the church and not be used for self-glorification. Paul also encourages believers to seek the gift of prophecy as it better edifies the church. For reference, see 1 Corinthians 14:4-5.

Is there a biblical basis for requiring an interpreter when speaking in tongues?

Paul stressed the importance of interpretation when speaking in tongues within the church. Without an interpreter, the message remains unintelligible and does not edify the congregation. He advises that someone speaking in tongues should pray for the ability to interpret or remain silent in the church setting (1 Corinthians 14:27-28).

Why do some denominations not support the practice of speaking in tongues?

Some denominations believe that the gift of speaking in tongues was specific to the early church and is no longer relevant today. They argue that the gift ceased with the arrival of the completed New Testament and view it as unnecessary for modern believers (Christian Bible Reference).

Does the Bible consider speaking in tongues a spiritual gift?

Yes, the Bible describes speaking in tongues as a spiritual gift. It is listed among various gifts like prophecy, teaching, and healing. Paul mentions that this gift serves to edify both the individual and the church. For more details, see 1 Corinthians 12:7-10.

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