What is Speaking in Tongues in the Bible?
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What is Speaking in Tongues in the Bible?


Speaking in tongues is a widely debated topic within the Christian community. For some, it’s an essential aspect of their faith, while for others, it’s a topic that raises questions and uncertainties.

The practice of speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, has its roots in the Bible and is mentioned throughout the New Testament, most notably in the books of Acts and Corinthians.

The purpose of this blog post is to explore the biblical understanding of speaking in tongues and provide insight into its significance for Christians today.

In the New Testament, speaking in tongues is often associated with the work of the Holy Spirit. It is considered a gift from God, given to certain believers for the edification of the church and to communicate the gospel in various languages.

This gift is not intended for personal gain or glory but for the benefit of others and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

To understand the biblical concept of speaking in tongues, we will delve into the scripture, examining key passages from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible. We will also discuss the role of speaking in tongues in the early church and how it is practiced in modern Christianity.

As we explore this topic, we hope to provide a solid foundation for understanding this intriguing and sometimes controversial spiritual gift.

Tongues in the bible

The Biblical Foundation of Speaking in Tongues

The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12)

The first significant account of speaking in tongues occurs in Acts 2. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, filling them and enabling them to speak in various languages (Acts 2:4, NKJV).

This miraculous event allowed the disciples to communicate the gospel to the diverse crowd gathered in Jerusalem, resulting in many conversions (Acts 2:41, NKJV).

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The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48)

In Acts 10, the Apostle Peter witnessed the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, just as the Jewish believers had experienced on the Day of Pentecost. This event confirmed that God’s grace and salvation were available to all people, regardless of their ethnic or cultural background (Acts 10:45, NKJV).

The Apostle Paul’s Teaching on Speaking in Tongues (1 Corinthians 12-14)

In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul addressed the issue of spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues. He emphasized that each gift is given by the Holy Spirit for the common good of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7, NKJV).

Paul also noted that not all believers would speak in tongues, as the Holy Spirit distributes gifts as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11, NKJV). However, he encouraged those who did possess the gift to use it for the edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:26, NKJV).

The Role of Speaking in Tongues in the Early Church and Today

Speaking in tongues played a significant role in the early church, serving as a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and empowering believers to spread the gospel across linguistic and cultural barriers. It also served to build up and encourage the church, as evidenced by the Apostle Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians.

In modern Christianity, the practice of speaking in tongues varies among different Christian denominations. Some churches place great emphasis on this spiritual gift, while others may not practice it at all.

The use of tongues in church can be a powerful expression of worship and a means of deepening one’s personal relationship with God. However, the Apostle Paul’s teachings remind us that speaking in tongues should be practiced with order and respect for the edification of the entire church body.

Interpretation of Tongues: A Complementary Gift

In addition to speaking in tongues, the Bible also mentions the gift of interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10, NKJV). This gift enables a believer to understand and translate the message spoken in tongues so that the entire church can benefit from the revelation.

When used together, these two gifts can bring edification and encouragement to the church body (1 Corinthians 14:5, NKJV).

The Apostle Paul encouraged the use of the interpretation of tongues in the church, stating that it is more beneficial for the congregation to hear a message they can understand than to hear someone speaking in tongues without interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:19, NKJV).

This highlights the importance of using spiritual gifts for the common good and not for personal gratification.

The Purpose and Benefits of Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in tongues serves various purposes and offers numerous benefits for believers and the church. Some of these include:

  1. Edification of the Believer: When a person speaks in tongues, they are communicating with God in a spiritual language, which can build up their faith and deepen their relationship with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:4, NKJV).
  2. Edification of the Church: When used in conjunction with the gift of interpretation, speaking in tongues can bring encouragement, comfort, and edification to the entire church body (1 Corinthians 14:26, NKJV).
  3. Evangelism: The initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost enabled the disciples to share the gospel in various languages, reaching a diverse audience and leading to many conversions (Acts 2:4-12, NKJV). The gift of tongues can still be used for evangelism today, as it demonstrates the power of God and can draw people to Christ.
  4. A Sign to Unbelievers: In some instances, speaking in tongues can serve as a sign to unbelievers, revealing the presence of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the gospel (1 Corinthians 14:22, NKJV).

Debates and Controversies Surrounding Speaking in Tongues

Despite the biblical foundation for speaking in tongues, there are ongoing debates and controversies surrounding this spiritual gift. Some of the main points of contention include:

  1. Cessationism vs. Continuationism: Cessationists believe that the gift of speaking in tongues, along with other miraculous gifts, ceased with the death of the apostles and the completion of the New Testament. Continuationists, on the other hand, believe that these gifts continue to be present and active in the church today.
  2. Public vs. Private Use of Tongues: Some argue that speaking in tongues should be reserved for private prayer and not used in public worship services, while others believe that it can be a valuable part of corporate worship when practiced with order and interpretation.
  3. The Role of Emotion and Experience: Critics of speaking in tongues sometimes claim that it is an emotional or psychological phenomenon rather than a genuine spiritual gift. Advocates, however, point to the biblical accounts and the life-changing experiences of countless believers as evidence of the gift’s authenticity.


In conclusion, speaking in tongues is a fascinating and powerful aspect of the Christian faith that has its roots in the New Testament. As believers, we should approach this topic with open hearts and minds, seeking to understand the biblical foundation of this spiritual gift and its role in our lives today.

By doing so, we can appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, both in the early church and in our own Christian journey.

Whether or not we personally experience the gift of speaking in tongues, let us remember that the Holy Spirit continues to work within us, empowering us to share the gospel and build up the church.

As we seek to understand and embrace the diverse gifts within the body of Christ, we can grow in unity and experience the fullness of God’s love and power in our lives.

As we navigate the debates and controversies surrounding speaking in tongues, it is important to maintain a spirit of humility and openness, recognizing that our understanding is limited and that the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways.

By focusing on the core teachings of Scripture and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can continue to grow in our faith and understanding of this remarkable spiritual gift.

For those who have experienced the gift of speaking in tongues, it is essential to use this gift responsibly and in accordance with biblical principles. As we explore the Bible verses about the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, we can gain insight into how to practice this gift in a way that honors God and benefits the church.

It is also crucial to remember that speaking in tongues is just one of many spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church. As believers, we should seek to cultivate and use all of the gifts God has given us, recognizing that each one plays a vital role in the health and growth of the body of Christ.

In summary, the gift of speaking in tongues is a powerful and mysterious aspect of the Christian faith with deep roots in the New Testament. By exploring the biblical foundation of this gift, we can better understand its significance and role in the lives of believers today.

Whether we personally experience this gift or not, let us be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the lives of our fellow believers, striving to grow in unity, love, and the knowledge of God.

Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
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, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.