Speaking in Tongues: Is it Biblical? Is It For Today?

Old Testament Prophecy Concerning Specifically Speaking in Tongues.

Isa 28:9-13 (9) Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. (10) For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:  (11) For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. (12) To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

(13) But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.”

Let’s start out by saying, NO ONE should use one scripture to validate a doctrine or practice.  Neither should they use one scripture to invalidate the same.

Many, today find themselves faced with this question that was asked in the days of scripture. Their answer will vary based upon what they have been taught. So often how they have been taught has more to do with tradition than the pattern and message of scripture.

What is it that has absolute authority concerning salvation? Is it man, an organization or tradition? Or would you agree with me that truth finds its beginning and ending in the body of writings we call–the Bible?  If the scripture is the authority and supersedes all other’s opinions, traditions or preferences, we must ask this question, “What saith the Scriptures?”

This was sparked in my heart when someone asked me this question, “Why, based on scripture, do you believe that people should speak in tongues?”  From that question, I attempted to answer this solely upon what the scriptures state.

An Overview

Let us start at the source of the promise and foretelling of the promise of the Holy Ghost.

Just as Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, He told His disciples,  “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues…” Mark 16:17

So as the disciples were leaving this experience (as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke), the ascension, we find the disciples went to Jerusalem to wait until they received the promise that was foretold by John the Baptist and Jesus, Himself. “…he cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with Fire…”  Matt 3:11

This promise, recorded in the beginning of the Book of Acts,  is the sequel of the life of Christ as demonstrated in the Church. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost 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.” Acts 1:8

So they, the disciples, were in Jerusalem waiting on the Lord. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all in one place and in one accord. And it happened. The promise of the Father, the Holy Ghost, The Comforter, The Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Christ, and The Spirit of Resurrection, “…filled all the house where they were sitting and there appeared cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon on each of them.  And they were ALL filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  Acts 2:2-4  This caused such uproar, that men from all over the world who were in Jerusalem for the feast gathered to see this spectacle that happened at the Feast of Pentecost.   Men of Judah were all heard to speak in languages of their native lands and they said, like they do today, these people are drunk.

Peter stood up and said, “For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;  And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…”  Acts 2:15-18  He went on to convince them that this was further evidence that Jesus was more than just a prophet–but the Messiah they had crucified. When they were convicted in their   hearts, they asked the question, “Men and brethren what shall we do?”Acts 2:37   And Peter standing up with the other disciples (including Matthew and Luke) began to share for the first time the New Testament message of Salvation.  Peter, who had the keys to the kingdom of Heaven; Peter, whose revelation was the very Rock that the Lord said He was going to build His Church upon; and, Peter, the same, stood and told them what they had to do to be saved.  “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38

So, let it be established in your minds that the Gospel message of Salvation is for those of us in the New Testament. It is the message that was preached by every apostle recorded in the History Book of the New Testament, Acts.

Many people take the salvation message to sinners from passages written to saints.

Matthew through John are books about the Life of Christ. Jesus, Himself, always pointed to the day when He would not be with them and the experience He would give them. Jesus was born under the Law and died under the law. The New Testament did not come into full effect until Jesus died and His words were fulfilled, and the promise came as it is described in the Book of Acts. So dispensationally speaking, Matthew through John are books written in the Old Testament. The New Testament and Covenant was not realized until Jesus had died.

The Book of Acts lets us know what the apostles preached to those that needed to be saved, what happened to those that needed to be saved, and what they told them to do.

The Epistles were all letters written to people that were ALREADY saved. So, the context of each one is written to a church or church leader.  These teachings were based upon the foundation of salvation. To read Romans and apply these teachings to people who are just coming to Christ is failing to “…rightly divide the word of truth.”  2 Tim 2:15

The only true guide to know what we should do and preach and practice in the church and ministry is to follow the guide that the Church is built upon– the apostles, the prophets, and Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone.

On the birthday of the Church, Peter preached that they should all repent, be baptized in Jesus Name, and that they would receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  Peter pointed out to the converts that the birth of the Church was three distinct experiences/ processes in salvation. These three steps coincide with the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is  His death, burial and resurrection symbolized by us in repentance, water baptism and the Spirit Baptism.

Philip in Samaria

Philip went to Samaria and preached, and notice what happened.

“And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.” Acts 8:5-8

“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)” Acts 8:12-16

In Summary

They believed, were baptized and had great Joy!  They did not and had not yet received the Holy Ghost. They sent for the apostles to ensure that they had received the Holy Ghost. How did they know they had received the Holy Ghost after the apostles laid hands on them? Let’s study further.

Peter Goes to Cornelius

In Acts 10: 1-6, we read that a certain man, a devout man, who gave much to the poor and prayed always, still had more that he needed to do. It was so important that God sent him an angel who told him to send for Peter who would tell him what he “ought” to do.

Peter came with other apostles and preached Christ unto them, and while he preached the Holy Ghost fell upon his entire household, and the apostles were amazed. Do you know why?

“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 Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…” Acts 10:45-48  So again, we see this sequence of events as demonstrated in Acts 2, Acts 8 and repeated in Acts 10. A seeking of the Lord, a baptism in Jesus Name, and an obvious sign and proof of Spirit baptism is demonstrated by speaking in tongues. For they knew they had received it as well, or just like the Jews had because they heard them speak in tongues.

And finally as if that was not enough, we have another interesting story that teaches this same principle.  In Matt  18:16,  “…in the mouth of two or three witnesses, let every word be established.”

“Baptist” Converts Urged to Receive the Holy Ghost!

In Acts 19, Paul meets disciples of John.  He asks them a question, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” They answer and say, “What Holy Ghost, we have never heard of it.” He goes further and finds they have not been baptized using the New Testament plan of baptism.  And,  they were all re-baptized as every other convert was at that time, “In the Name of the Lord Jesus,” and then laid hands on them and the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

So I will ask you the same question, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” I will tell you that if you are like those living in Samaria, who believed and had been delivered and blessed by their faith in Jesus, but you have not received the Holy Ghost as demonstrated in Scripture, “You don’t know what your missing.”

Some would say that there is too much emphasis on speaking in tongues. To put it simply, the Bible puts its significance.  Acts is a history of the first, few decades of the Early Church and in it are recorded those things that were deemed necessary for understanding the operation of the apostles and the Church.

On Pentecost, the birth of the Church, was when they all received the promise of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, The Spirit of Truth, and it was signified by speaking in tongues.  IT happened again in Samaria; It happened again for Cornelius and his household; and, It happened again for the disciples of John.

They all showed a desire to serve God in repentance. They were all baptized in Jesus Name. They all received the Holy Ghost. The proof was in the outward sign of Spirit inspired speaking in tongues.

I think the question for you is, “Why don’t you speak in tongues?”  Can you show any reason why you should not, and why your church should not display the proof of a truly New Testament Church?

So often I am asked to defend what I believe and practice when it is in scripture and,  all the while, people ignore great and significant portions of scripture.

“Despise not prophesyings.” 1 Thes 5:20

”Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak in tongues.” 1 Cor 14:39

In fact the scripture teaches that we should DESIRE spiritual gifts. That if we speak in an unknown tongue, though our understanding is unfruitful and others cannot understand us, there are some very good things accomplished by it.

What happens when a person speaks in tongues without an interpreter?  The Paul writings to the Corinthian Church to help them and us in the proper administration of the Gift gives us some insights of this unspeakable gift.

When you pray in the spirit, or speak in tongues, you:

  • Speaketh unto God
  • Speaketh mysteries
  • Your spirit prays
  • You are edified, or built up.

So, the real question to all of you.  Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?

I think it is fair to ask, “If it was obviously a commonly held practice throughout the history of the early church as demonstrated throughout the book of Acts, why don’t you speak in tongues?”  We know Jesus foretold of it in Mark.  We even find thorough teaching on the right and wrong way it should be done in the Epistles. This establishes the legitimacy of the practice, and that these spiritual experiences should be encouraged, rather than discouraged.

Paul went so far to say, “I speak in tongues more than you all.”  The New Testament Church did it, accepted, encouraged it, boasted concerning it and instructed that no one should forbid it.  Is it not a perfectly Biblical conclusion that we should not only practice this blessed activity, but pursue it.

Who should have the greater burden to justify their teaching? Those that teach and encourage this Biblical experience, or those that view it through the spectacles of skepticism.

These texts do provide proof of the fact that:

When someone received the Holy Ghost, they spoke with tongues

Holy Ghost Baptism was not automatic with faith and believing, but was a separate experience that they EXPECTED to happen.  If it did not happen, they sent for the apostles to lay hands on them so that they would.

Further, Paul even asked the “Baptist” if they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed and what followed was rebaptism in Jesus name.  Paul went further and laid hands on them that they might receive this experience that was demonstrated by speaking in tongues.

These are not interpretations. This is not my private interpretation. This is a historical and Biblical fact.

The doctrine of proof springs from the Biblical record, more than a specific teaching that says, “THOU SHALT SPEAK WITH TONGUES.” Granted, Jesus did say that those that believed on His name would, “Speak with new tongues.” For the casual observer, that would seem to be enough clarification for the things that followed.

Tongues – A Sign of the Holy Ghost or a Spiritual Gift?

Speaking in tongues is both a sign and a spiritual gift, in addition, to an aid to prayer and communication to God.

Speaking in tongues provides all three of these.  Everyone that has experienced speaking in tongues does not necessarily possess the Gift of Tongues. Similarly, everyone has faith, but not everyone has the Gift of Faith, anyone can pray for the sick for healing, but not everyone possesses the gifts of healing.

The spiritual gift is a more advanced level of a spiritual manifestation that is common in the life of a believer. Any of the descriptions of the nine spiritual gifts (the word of wisdom,  the word of knowledge,  faith, gift of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of Spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues) may operate in a person’s life on some level, but someone that has one as a gift operates in a much higher level of confidence and faith.

Speaking in Tongues Is

  • A sign for a person to know that God has taken control of their tongue, that unruly member, as an outward sign of Spirit Baptism.
  • It is the Comforter, given to all to help in prayer to God through the spirit. This aids us in the area of praying when we do not know the answer, but the spirit maketh intercession for us.
  • It is also a Gift of the Spirit. The purpose of this is coupled with the Gift of Interpretation.  It would bring edification to a public meeting. These two gifts combined are equal to the Gift of Prophecy.

Here is another question, “Why are so many people scared of Spiritual Gifts?” Not only do they disobey scripture in forbidding speaking in tongues, but they despise prophesying.
Again, they disobey the scripture in that they despise prophesying. The scripture teaches that one should prophesy and two should judge which teaches us that it must be checked to be in keeping with scripture.  It is possible for someone to be “prophesying” and miss it  and get it wrong; therefore, we must check it and see if it is right and if it indeed happens.

The Question for You

Have you received the Holy Ghost by evidence of speaking in tongues, since ye believed?  If not, I will ask you, “Why don’t you speak in tongues and prophesy when the Bible straightly charges you to desire spiritual gifts, and rather that ye prophesy?” Would it not be in keeping with our desire to fulfill scripture by speaking in tongues and desiring spiritual gifts?

Who should you listen to concerning this very important experience? Those that make place and promote the use of it, or those that quench the Spirit and make no room for the work of the spiritual gifts?

I do not intend any offense, though I am sure it does offend. That is not the purpose. The purpose is to shine the light on this Biblical and blessed experience of the Holy Ghost and the baptism in that name that is above every name.

What is right? Scripture and the teaching of it or a theologian that says that is not applicable?  I have no doubt that you have faith in Jesus and have great joy from this, but like all of the other examples cited, you need to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost that is evidenced by speaking in tongues.

The problem with much of the Christian world is that they take one scripture to the exclusion of one.  For Example:

John 3:3and John 3:16, is the same setting, but it doesn’t fit their theology. We should have no problem qualifying either, for they are both part of the whole.

Jesus tells Nicodemous the first thing, “…except  a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”   He goes further and says thirteen versus later, “He that believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Having faith and obeyed in repentance, as per Bible record, does not equal water and spirit baptism. Jesus said it was necessary to see or enter the kingdom of Heaven.

The focus is not tongues, but the focus is spirit baptism. However, when the spirit baptizes you, there will be an ecstatic utterance.   “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover, also my flesh shall rest in hope:” Acts 2:26

It is not my place or anyone to judge another man’s experience. However, it is incumbent upon me to lead people into fullness. If the Bible shows a pattern that I, myself, and countless others also have experienced, why would I not encourage them to “desire” a good thing God has for them?

I have seen people speak in tongues that were not very Christ like, conversely, I have seen some wonderful people who have not spoken in tongues that were some of the best people in the world. As a Christian leader, why would I not want you to pursue and grow in the spirit and receive a fullness of faith as experienced in the Bible?

What is the consequence? Best-case scenario, your missing out on a Biblically encouraged, demonstrated and commanded experience for all believers. Worst-case scenario is that it is a sign of spirit baptism, and if you have not received the baptism of the spirit, you are not born again as instructed by Jesus in John 3.  Jesus said, “Ye cannot see,” and “Ye cannot enter” the kingdom of God.

Coupled with what we know happened in Acts, to me, I believe it gives us a compelling case.  At the very least, we should encourage people to ask for and pursue this Biblical and Promise of the Holy Ghost.

Salvation Is By Grace, Through Faith

However, to allow grace to work and faith to be activated, people must obey the declaration and the requirements for salvation to a lost generation. This man, who Jesus declared had the revelation, and would be the very ROCK that the Church would be built upon, was the same man who Jesus gave the keys to the Kingdom.  This same man declared and gave us the keys to the Kingdom in his message to the first converts to the New Testament Church.   “Then Peter Said unto them, Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.”  Acts 2:38

The message of salvation is beyond ascent or accepting.  Though this is an important part of it, we must endeavor to obey to the best of our knowledge what the Bible says. It is not proper to take one scripture to the exclusion of others. They all are powerful scriptures, however, they do not invalidate the other when dealing with New Testament scriptures.

They Sing in Harmony the Song of Salvation

I don’t mean to come off in a negative way when I am very positive. I feel pretty passionate about the fact we should not have to defend practicing what the Bible plainly teaches. Sure there are Bible scholars that make excuses for the deficit in Biblical operation of spiritual gifts, but that does not make them right.

Have You Received the Holy Ghost Since Ye Believed?

If you have not received the Holy Ghost with the outward manifestation as Jesus promised, it is demonstrated over and over in the book of Acts, and is encouraged in the Epistles.  It is time to start making preparations for the greatest blessing you have ever received.  To be buried with Him in baptism and be filled with His Spirit, this will change your life.


Scriptural References

1 Cor 14:1-2 (1) Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.  (2) 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.

1 Cor 14: 14-19 (14) For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.  (15) What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with -he understanding also. (16) Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?  (17) For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.  (18) I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:  (19) Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Col 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Gal 3:27  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Heb 6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

1 Pet 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Matt 28:19-20 (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:16-17 (16) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (17) And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

1 Cor 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

Acts 19:1-6 (1) And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,  (2) He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. (3) And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. (4) Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. (5) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  (6) And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

Acts 10:44-48 (44) While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

(45) 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 Ghost.  (46) For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,  (47) Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (48) And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Acts 8:15-17 (15) Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:  (16) (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) (17) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

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

Acts 2:37-39 (37) Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.