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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Speaking in Tongues

Don Stewart :: Is It Proper to Gather to Speak in Tongues?

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Is It Proper to Gather to Speak in Tongues?

The Gift of Speaking in Tongues – Question 15

Is it proper procedure for believers to assemble for the purpose of speaking in tongues? Do we find an example of this in Scripture? The answer to this question is clearly no. There is no justification whatsoever for believers in Christ to gather together to speak in tongues. A number of important points need to be made.

There Are Only Two Types of Tongue-Speaking

The Bible records that there was tongue-speaking on the two types of occasions. They are as follows.

In Groups, at the Coming of the Holy Spirit

In the three instances in the Book of Acts where speaking in tongues is recorded, they all have to do with the initial coming of the Holy Spirit on that particular group.

On the Day of Pentecost the disciples of Jesus spoke in tongues. This fulfilled the promise of Jesus that they would be given this power from on high. However, they had not gathered together for the purpose of speaking in tongues. Indeed, nothing whatsoever was said beforehand about this ability they would be given. They were probably as shocked as the crowd that they were able to speak forth praises to God in languages which they had never before learned.

In the city of Caesarea, the Holy Spirit likewise fell upon certain Gentiles who were listening to Simon Peter. Again, they had no expectation whatsoever that they were going to be able to praise God in languages never before learned. These Gentiles had gathered together to hear the words of Peter about Jesus Christ; they had not gathered to speak in tongues. Indeed, most likely they had never heard of anything like this happening.

The same hold true for certain men which Paul met in Ephesus. We also find them speaking in tongues in connection with reception of the Holy Spirit. Again, it was a spontaneous happening, not something that was planned. On none of these occasions did the people gather for the purpose of speaking in tongues. Therefore, these people did not gather into groups to speak in tongues.

Individually during Worship Services

The only other biblical example that the Bible gives of tongue-speaking was during the gathering of believers for a worship service. However, on these occasions the believers assembled for the purpose of instruction, not for speaking in tongues. The Apostle Paul made this clear when he wrote to the Corinthians.

Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue (1 Corinthians 14:19 NRSV).

Paul indicates his purpose was to teach them God’s truth. It was not for the purpose of speaking in languages unknown to him.

Furthermore, the tongue-speaking that did occur was by individuals who spoke one at a time. These were the rules which were set down. Indeed, there was to be no such thing as group tongue-speaking or gathering together to speak in tongues. Paul wrote the following words to the Corinthians about this:

So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (1 Corinthians 14:23 NIV)

Gathering together to speak in tongues would only cause unbelievers to assume that the believers had lost their minds. Consequently, such a practice was forbidden.

Add to this the fact that not every believer had the gift of speaking in tongues. Thus, the idea that the entire congregation could gather together to exercise this gift has no biblical support.

Therefore the practice of believers in Christ gathering for the purpose of speaking in tongues has no biblical basis. It should never be something Christians practice.

Summary – Question 15
Is It Proper to Gather to Speak in Tongues?

Today, there are times when believers gather together for the specific purpose of speaking in tongues. Is this something which has any biblical basis?

The answer is no. In fact, the Bible records that group tongue-speaking occurred in only two different situations.

The first was at the coming of the Holy Spirit in a unique way. This occurred on three separate occasions as recorded in the Book of Acts.

On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples spoke in tongues or languages which they had never before learned. However, they had not gathered together for this purpose. Their assembling together was to wait for the Holy Spirit to descend upon them. Tongue-speaking was not the purpose of their being together.

We also have the record of Gentiles first receiving the message of Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit fell upon them they too were able to speak in languages which they had never before learned. However, they had gathered together to hear about Jesus; not to speak in tongues.

There is also an incident which took place in Ephesus. The Apostle Paul preached to a group of men who had been disciples of John the Baptist. When he explained Jesus to them they too spoke in tongues as the Spirit of God fell upon them. Again, there was no gathering together to exercise the gift of tongues.

The second instance of tongue-speaking was during worship services. In this case, the Apostle Paul plainly stated that any exercise of the gift would be from one person at a time. Congregational tongue-speaking was ruled out. Thus, it was not proper for these believers to gather together for the sole purpose of speaking in tongues.

Furthermore, Scripture explicitly states that not everyone has the gift of speaking in tongues. Therefore, it would be worthless for a group of people to gather together to exercise the gift seeing that not everyone has been given this particular gift of the Spirit. In sum, there is no example of believers gathering for the sole purpose of speaking in tongues. Thus, this idea has no biblical support whatsoever.

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