speaking in tongues


And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues
[Mark 16:17 ESV]


In three passages in Acts in the Bible we see that the gift of tongues was the most common, visible sign of receiving the Holy Spirit.

The following verses also show that the personal gift of tongues was not just for the lucky few. Rather, the Bible shows that all or the vast majority of those baptized with the Holy Spirit received it and began speaking in tongues.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
[Acts 2:1-6 ESV]

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
[Acts 10:44-48 ESV]

It is worth noting that the gift of tongues was given to newly converted people!

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
[Acts 19:1-6 ESV]


Different kinds of tongues

The Bible talks about different kinds of tongues: (1 Cor. 12:10 and 1 Cor. 12:28)


The first type we read about in the Bible is the “personal gift of tongues” for praying in the spirit, speaking secretly to God, singing in the spirit, and building up oneself. (1 Cor. 14:2, 14:4, 14:14-15) This kind of tongue requires order in the church and is of no practical benefit to the other hearers, the church. (1 Cor. 14:19, 1 Cor. 14:28) Paul writes that he speaks these tongues more than everyone else and considers it an advantage (1 Cor. 14:18). He would also like everyone to speak in tongues. (1 Cor. 14:5)

* By reading the Bibles, we will not hear languages in practice. The gift of tongues may resemble an existing or extinct language or be a cluster of syllables. This is probably why some thought the disciples were drunk when they heard them (Acts 2:13).

** A person with the gift of tongues can pray with them “on call”. It is at his will to begin and end. (1 Cor. 14:19)


The second type is “languages to be interpreted” by the gift of interpreting languages (1 Cor 12:10, 12:30, 14:5, 14:13), and not by learning a foreign language at school or knowing it or being a linguist. These tongues edify the church (1 Cor. 14:5, 14:12-13, 14:26-27) they are like prophecy, the interpreter transmits the Words of the Holy Spirit. These languages should not be prohibited in church. (1 Cor. 14:26-27, 14:39).

* If we forbid speaking in tongues altogether in the church and in meetings, no one will know if they are tongues for self-building or interpretation. Then we will not learn to distinguish between them, nor will the person who has the gift of interpretating tongues learn to use it (and will not know that he has it).


The gift of tongues can be about speaking a language that is present in the world that another person will understand (as in Acts chapter 2). The Holy Spirit guided the “speech” of the disciples in such a way that, not knowing these languages, they began to speak them. Probably they themselves did not even understand what they were saying, but for foreigners it was a sign, they heard about the great works of God.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
[1 Cor 12:7-11 ESV]

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
[1 Cor 12:28 ESV]

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 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. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?
[1 Cor 14:1-6 ESV]

Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.  What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
[1 Cor 14:13-19 ESV]

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.
[1 Cor 14:26-27 ESV]

So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
[1 Cor 14:39 ESV]


The reasons may be different:

  1. Maybe you haven’t been baptized with the Holy Spirit. (more)
  2. Maybe you don’t want to speak in tongues or you close yourself off to the workings of the Holy Spirit. The gift of tongues is for building faith and can be used for building up the church. The apostle Paul wrote that he wished everyone would speak in tongues, but he himself prayed most in this way. Anyone who wants to follow the Lord Jesus must give control of his life to the Holy Spirit. Nor should we question His ways.
  3. Because of religious blockades, traditions, wrong teachings.
  4. Maybe you’re afraid of this gift. Because of your own experiences, heard stories and abuses related to this or that spiritual gift, you may close yourself off from it. Remember not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. This is the purpose of the world of darkness to confuse and discourage people to act in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  5. Perhaps you have not received the full gospel (repentance, water baptism). This is not a 100% requirement for receiving the gift of tongues, but it may be relevant in your case.
  6. Other reason / special case / not this time. Do not be frustrated, grow in faith, follow God with all your strength!