What does the Bible say about Speaking in Tongues?

The Bible says “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.” (1 Cor. 14:5)

Unfortunately, speaking in tongues is misunderstood by too many Christians. This was also true during the ministry of the Apostle Paul. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he starts chapter 12 with, “Now about spiritual gifts,” (1 Cor. 12:1 NIV). This chapter is dedicated to clearing up the confusion about speaking in tongues. Much of the confusion lies in the way the Greek texts were translated into the English of our modern versions of the Bible. For example, if you check a King James Version on 1 Corinthians 12:1, you’ll see that the word “gifts” is italicized. This meant that there was no corresponding Greek word for the English word “gifts,” and this was the translators’ way of telling us that the word “gifts” was added for clarification. The addition of the word “gifts” has led many to think of speaking in tongues as a special gift that only certain Christians have. Some of the more literal versions of the Bible, like “Young’s Literal Version,” translate the above passage as “And concerning the spiritual things (1 Cor. 12:1 YLT).  So we see Paul is addressing “spiritual things or matters” that the Corinthians had concerns about. 

The Bible never calls speaking in tongues a “gift”. It is called a “manifestation” in 1 Corinthians 12:7. A manifestation is the outward showing or a tangible evidence of something that is not seen. We all know what wind is, but we can’t see the wind. What we see are tree limbs moving, we feel it on our skin and hair, and we hear it as it whistles past objects. In the same way, speaking in tongues is evidence of something that is not seen. Christians can’t see the holy spirit that’s in them, but they can see a manifestation or evidence of its presence. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 tells us there are nine different ways the spirit evidences itself. It also tells us that those manifestations are given to “all” (i.e. all Christians) for the good of all. The word “spirit” used in this section is referring to the thing that is a “gift,” and that is the gift of “holy spirit” that each person receives when they are born again and become a Christian (Acts 2:38).

Since 1 Corinthians 14:5 NIV says “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,” it’s important that Christians are knowledgeable about speaking in tongues, as well as the other eight manifestations of the gift of holy spirit. They are essential to our Christian walk as well as the power we need to compete in the spiritual battle of life. By following the links below, you’ll be able to gain a clearer understand of the spiritual matters concerning speaking in tongues:

What is Speaking in Tongues and why does God say to do it?

The Importance of Speaking in Tongues

Must one speak in tongues to be saved?

Walking in Power: The Manifestations of Holy Spirit

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