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

Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Allow for Believers to Give Messages in Tongues?

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Does the Bible Allow for Believers to Give Messages in Tongues?

The Gift of Speaking in Tongues – Question 16

There are some people who believe that it is proper for believers to give and receive messages in tongues. Is this a biblical practice?

Support for Receiving Messages in Tongues

There is a passage which is used for support of this idea that message can be given by means of speaking in tongues. Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians.

I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification (1 Corinthians 14:5 NKJV)

This has been understood to mean that through the tongue-speaking God would give messages to other believers. The congregation would be edified or built up through the interpretation of the message given in tongues. Paul said this is something which is even greater than receiving a prophetic message. This being the case, we should assume that the gift of tongues, along with the gift of interpretation of tongues, can be used the same way today.


There are a number of things to say in response to this idea or receiving messages by means of someone else speaking in tongues.

First, the phrase “message in tongues” is not found anywhere in the New Testament. From Scripture, it seems that no messages were ever given in tongues.

From Scripture we find that God gave His messages through speakers who spoke in a language the people could understand. Neither in the Book of Acts, nor in the writings of Paul, do we find an example of something receiving a direct message from the Lord by means of speaking in tongues. The evidence is as follows.

Prayer, Praise and Thanksgiving

In the New Testament, speaking in tongues was used in three basic ways. It was used as a way to praise and worship the Lord, to give thanks to God, and to pray to God. Notice that each of these uses is directed to God and to Him alone. This is why the gift was seemingly used more in private than in public.

Tongue-speakers Speak Directly to God

In fact, we are explicitly told that the one speaking in tongues did not speak to other humans but rather to God.

For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:2 NKJV).

This being the case, it seems to rule out the idea of tongues being used to deliver God’s message.

The Episode at Pentecost

On the Day of Pentecost, the Bible says that those who heard the disciples of Jesus speaking in tongues heard them extol the mighty works of God

Both Jews and converts to Judaism; Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11 TNIV).

No message was found in their display of tongues.

The Episode of Tongues at Caesarea

At Caesarea we find the same thing. The Gentiles were praising God with their tongue-speaking

For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God (Acts 10:46 TNIV).

In each of these cases the tongues were used to give thanks to the Lord as well as to praise Him. In other words, the tongues were directed toward God not toward the people.

The Lord did use tongues to give messages to believers. Rather He did this through the gifts of teaching as well as the gift of prophecy.

The Word of God Is Completed Today

There is something else which should be noted in this. Even if it could be argued that tongue-speaking was used to deliver God’s messages to the congregation this usage would no longer be necessary. Today we have the written Word of God which we can read and study. It tells us everything we need to know about who God is as well as what He wants from us. Thus, a message for the church is not necessary.

In sum, there is no biblical support for the idea that tongue-speaking somehow is to be used to give messages to believers. The Lord has established other means to accomplish this.

Summary – Question 16
Does the Bible Allow for Believers to Give Messages in Tongues?

There are some people who believe that speaking in tongues can be used to deliver messages to other believers. The support for this comes from Paul’s statement to the Corinthians. He says if someone speaks in tongues in the church, and it is interpreted, then the entire group which has gathered can be built up or edified. If this was true for the church then, there is every reason to think that it is still true today.

However, this does not seem to be what the New Testament is teaching on the subject of the use of tongues. A number of points can be made.

First, each example in Scripture of tongue-speaking has the speaker directing his or her words toward God. Indeed, they are not directing them not toward other people which had gathered.

While there were other people present when this took place the speaking was not for the purpose of teaching or instruction. Rather the gift was used to praise God, give thanks to God and pray to God. There is no specific reference of the gift being used to teach Bible doctrine or truths about God.

The church can be built up or edified by the fact that God is praised and worshipped. There need not be any substantive teaching through tongue-speaking to edify or build up the church. The people of the church are instructed through the direct teaching of God’s Word; not through any message in tongues.

In addition, we are in a different situation today than the church in Corinth. We have the written Word of God. He has said all that He needs to say to us. Consequently, we do not need any further messages from the Lord.

Therefore, if someone attempts to deliver a message to other believers through speaking in tongues we should not consider their attempt, no matter how rightly motivated, to be something that the Lord is doing.

Is It Proper to Gather to Speak in Tongues? ← Prior Section
Why Were Women Told to Keep Silent in Church? Next Section →
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