Why Speak in Tongues?

The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit's Gift

July 2012


Speaking in tongues was the norm in the first century church. Luke included five records of speaking in tongues in the book of Acts and Paul wrote extensively on speaking in tongues in his section on spiritual matters to the Corinthian church.

Speaking in tongues continued to be prevalent in the early church until the fourth century according to some church fathers. From then, until the western Middle Ages, during the dearth of all historical records in what has been called the Dark Ages, records of speaking in tongues cease. From the Middle Ages onward sporadic revivals of the manifestation of the gift from the Holy Spirit occurred. In recent centuries the most noted, widespread and far-reaching was the charismatic renewal that occurred in the United States from the mid 1960's through the mid 1970's. Subsequently, Brazil, likewise, experienced a wave of charismatic renewal in the 1980's and 1990's. Currently, Nigeria and other Central African nations are experiencing a dynamic wave of charismatic renewal.

Speaking in tongues is a simple matter of responsive faith. It then nurtures individual faith unto salvation. That is, it nurtures the soul for spiritual growth towards a mature understanding of the great mystery of Christ and the church, revealed, first and foremost, by the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, to the apostle Paul.

It is a language of other men or of angels that was never learned by the individual who speaks it. By it an individual speaks divine mysteries and the wonderful works of God. It is the outward seal on the soul destined for salvation.



The Purpose: The apostle Paul

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise

Ephesians 1:13

Sent by the Father, at the request of the Son, and given to the soul by and for nurture and strengthening through the Holy Spirit.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, she shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26

Instructions in His resurrected body

And when he had said this, he breathed on them (disciples and apostles), and saith unto them, Receive (lambano = into evidence) ye the Holy Spirit: John 20:22

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. Acts 1:8,9

Day of Pentecost

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4

Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. Acts 2:11

Luke, further in Acts

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.

For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.

Acts 10:44-46


Apostle Paul on the subject

For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. I Corinthians 14:2

He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself;

I Corinthians 14:4

For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

I Corinthians 14:17,18

Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

I Corinthians 14:39

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 5:19,20


Jude, Jesus' natural earthly brother, on the subject

But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude 1:20



A Study

Some say that the practice of speaking in tongues ceased in the first century with the deaths of the apostles. Others, in similar manner, say that it ended with the development of a mature church.

Both employ I Corinthians 13:11 within Paul's three chapters on spiritual matters to purpose such. The apostle Paul wrote:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

In the underlying Greek texts the word became is in the 2nd perfect tense and should be translated as have become.[1] A. E. Knoch's ultraliteral English translation of the oldest standardized Geek texts translates this Greek word properly as have become rather than became.

The Greek word for man used here is aner. It, among all Greek words for man, emphasizes a mature married man.

This verse appears within the context of Paul's specific discourse on spiritual matters. (I Cor. 12:1) Spiritually, a saint like the apostle Paul does not become a married man until the marriage supper of the lamb during the advent of the kingdom of heaven on earth still yet future.

The next verse offers a confirmation of this. It reads:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Face to face is an Eastern figurative expression referring to the moment in the Eastern marriage ceremony when the bride's veil is first lifted allowing the new husband and wife their first open gaze at one another.

Another section of verses that obstructionists use to deny that speaking in tongues is the elemental sign of Christian faith is found in First Corinthians chapter twelve.

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

It appears that Paul was questioning whether all of those that believe speak in tongues. However, when the context of the section is considered this is not the case. Paul was writing to a discordant church whose services were disruptive.(1 Cor. 14:26) All were speaking in tongues at the same time in their church services. In the next two chapters Paul admonished and instructed the church on the proper attitude and procedures for the utilization of the spiritual gifts in their services.

So the practice of manifesting the spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues continues until the union of the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.



[1] The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 76, & Sec. 25, #4




Speaking In Tongues: A Scriptural Study, Mackay, Harold, Everyday Publications, 1977 Canada

They Speak With Other Tongues, Sherrill, John L., Baker Book House, 1964 Michigan USA

So You Want To Speak in Tongues, Wade, Peter, The Word, 1979 Adelaide, Australia

The Gift of the Holy Spirit, Stiles, J. E., USA 1970

A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism, Basham, D., Whitaker House, Springdale, IL, USA 1969



Early Chirch History


The Holy Spirit and the early Church: The experience of the Spirit


Some History of the 1960's Charismatic Renewal








Helpful Hints on How To:


Speaking in tongues is very simple. It is not necessary to wait for a sign or a feeling. Bringing out the subjective reality of the gift is a matter of faith and corresponding action. You can be alone or with another or others of faith to pray with you or lay hands upon you. Simply acknowledge your belief in the Lord Jesus as the Son of God who remitted your sin by his blood sacrifice. Next, in prayer, thank God that He has given you the ability by the gift from the Holy Spirit. Then speak or sing the words and syllables given to you - not your language but the new language given to you by the Holy Spirit. You use your own voice and form the words as they come to you. God will not force you to speak. You can speak and stop at your will. When you speak or sing one syllable or word, go on to a phrase and then a sentence and then sentences. With some repetition it will begin to flow from you without much forethought then soon without any. You now have the spiritual means to contemplatively commune with the eternal divine. You are now participating in what untold numbers have done since the day of Pentecost about two thousand years ago and the faithful will do during the entry way into to this earth's coming paradise.



For More Understanding

Speaking in Tongues as the Betrothal Gift


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