Speaking In Tongues In The Church – Should It Be Allowed?

Learn the do's and don't concerning speaking in tongues in the church.

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This study is part of a more extensive series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to make you aware of this entire resource before getting started.

The Proper Use Of The Gift Of Tongues In The Church

As I am writing today’s Bible study on the proper use of the gift of tongues in the church, I can already hear both my Pentecostal/Charismatic brothers and sisters and my barely Charismatic and non-Charismatic brothers and sisters rummaging around in their garages to get a rope to string me up!

There will be those that will feel that what I have to say either goes too far or not far enough.

That is okay!

Recently I had two different people in my church complain the same way.

To one, I was too Charismatic, and to the other, I was not Charismatic enough.

To me, that confirms that I am right where I should be.

I am on a quest for the radical middle.

However, I hope to show you where and why I am taking the stands I am taking concerning the purpose of speaking in tongues.

The Purpose Of The Gift Of Tongues In The Modern Church.

In looking at the gift of speaking in tongues, (This gift is called glossolalia in the Greek), a person needs to discern that there are two very different aspects to this gift.

There is the evangelistic aspect of this gift which is the public use of tongues and the interpretation of those tongues and the private use of this gift in prayer.

Not discerning this factor causes much confusion concerning this gift and thus the improper application and in some cases prohibition of the gift in a public church service.

The evangelistic use of the gift of tongues in today’s church.

According to the Apostle Paul in the book of 1 Corinthians chapter 14, the gift of tongues is a sign for unbelievers. (1 Cor 14:22)

It is a sign that causes what I call the astonishment factor.

When someone who is not a believer sees this gift in operation coupled with the gift of interpretation it causes them to strongly consider that “God is with you” as the Apostle Paul puts it.

This reaction bypasses the intellectual defenses that many people place against the gospel and speaks directly to their heart which ultimately needs to be spoken to because faith comes from the heart and not the intellect.

The caveat to this gift is that it must be done in decency and order. Outbursts of this gift without an interpretation in public service are not in order.

The Apostle states explicitly that they must be interpreted if it is in a public service otherwise the person with this gift needs to stay silent and speak to themselves and God.

Another consideration to take into account is that if an unbeliever comes into your public meeting and all of you are speaking in tongues, it will just look like chaos, and they will call you crazy.

There is no way to interpret everyone’s tongues at once.

Not only that but even though the scripture talks about singing in the spirit and praying in the spirit, it will still look crazy if you do it corporately in public service.

If you want to do it together in a private meeting or by yourself with your family then, by all means, do it, but if it is in a public meeting with those that don’t understand or believe then my dear Charismatic friends, please don’t.

You do not want to put up a roadblock in front of them by thinking you are out of your mind.

The gift of tongues in a public setting is supposed to be interpreted period!

The private use of the gift of tongues.

Praying in tongues or praying in the spirit is beneficial to the life of the believer.

In the book of Jude, it tells us that we build ourselves up by praying in the Spirit.

Romans chapter 8 it tells us that when we do not know how to pray, then the Holy Spirit prays through us with groanings that cannot be uttered.

Praying in unknown tongues allows us to pray in a manner that causes us to draw on the power promised to us by Jesus when He said we would be endued with power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. (Acts 1:8)

The Apostle Paul said that He would pray with the Spirit and pray with his understanding. He would do both. He was giving the same instruction to the believers in Corinth.

Speaking in tongues privately is also giving thanks to God.

Paul also says that when people are speaking in tongues, they are giving thanks to God. (1 Cor. 14:16-17)

I cannot think of one person who would be opposed to a person giving thanks to God.

So when you are praying or singing in the Spirit, you are doing things that are spiritually beneficial for you.

After looking at both of these things you tell me. Is speaking in tongues bad? I think not!

Using The Gift Of Tongues

When it comes right down to it, the gift of tongues is the least of the gifts. It is the highest regulated and the least effective of all the gifts.

Is speaking in tongues real? You bet! However, Pentecostals and Charismatics have made more of it than it should have been.

It became a source of pride and spiritual elitism for many, yours truly included at one point in his life.

The Apostle Paul exhorted us to seek after spiritual gifts but especially that we would prophesy not speak in tongues.

I believe that this gift is available for any believer for private use.

However our focus is not to be on our private spiritual life, but to be used for the benefit of others thus it is the lowest of all the gifts.

That does not mean not to use it, or to avail yourself of the strength that comes from praying and singing in the Spirit, but it means that your goal should not be just to build yourself up, but your goal should be that you are used by God to build others up.

The Apostle Paul put it this way

1 Corinthians 14:5

5 I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more, I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened.

Go here to learn more about how to receive the gift of speaking in tongues.

image of a man speaking in tonguesDo Not Forbid The Speaking Of Tongues In Church

I believe that is why Paul instructed the church not to forbid the speaking of tongues in the church.

Both because of its evangelistic power and for the strength that it brings the believers in their private spiritual life.

Thus I must also say to my non-Charismatic and barely Charismatic churches, If you are forbidding the speaking of tongues in public service, you are in direct contradiction to the word of God.

The Bible clearly states that when we come together that we are to have a song, teaching, a revelation, and a tongue and interpretation. (1 Corinthians 14:26)

It is meant for our public services and to come to any other conclusion is to twist the explicit instructions of the scriptures with caveats drastically.

So my friends, regardless if you agree with me or not, you are called to love. On that, we all agree.

So put those ropes away and leave them for another day.

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love. Moreover, please, do not forbid speaking in tongues in the church.

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Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of L.I.F.E. Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988. Pastor Duke specializes in healing hurting churches and bringing revival, renewal, and restoration of the presence of God to the body of Christ in America to make the church spiritual again. Pastor Duke has a few limited dates available to speak in other churches. If your church needs a fresh move of the Spirit of God or has gone through a painful and wounding season, click here. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world. He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center.

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