Click to Change

Return to Top

Return to Top

Printer Icon


Prior Section Next Section Back to Commentaries Author Bio & Contents
The Blue Letter Bible
Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Speaking in Tongues

Don Stewart :: What Is the Proper Procedure for Using Tongues in a Meeting?

toggle collapse
Choose a new font size and typeface

What Is the Proper Procedure for Using Tongues in a Meeting?

The Gift of Speaking in Tongues – Question 18

If the gift of speaking in tongues is still a valid gift for the church today, then how should it be exercised? The Bible makes it clear that tongue-speaking in a Christian assembly should follow definite rules. They include the following.

There Should Be an Interpreter Present When Exercised Publicly

Whenever the gift is exercised in a meeting, there must be an interpreter present. The Bible says the following.

Therefore the person who speaks in [another] language should pray that he can interpret (1 Corinthians 14:13 HCSB).

If there is no interpreter present then the person should remain silent. This is absolutely crucial. Otherwise the person is just speaking into the air and the congregation receives no edification or building up whatsoever.

Speaking in Tongues in Church Should Build up Believers

This brings us to our next point. The purpose of exercising the gift of tongues at a meeting is to build up believers, not for personal edification. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the use of the gift of tongues he stressed this truth.

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12 ESV).

Edification, or the building up of fellow believers, is primary.

Paul again emphasized that everything had to be done for the strengthening of the church. He put it this way.

What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church (1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV).

Therefore, when the gift of tongues is properly exercised the church will receive strengthening – not merely the person exercising the gift.

There Should Be Limited Numbers Who Speak in Tongues

The Bible places a limit on the number of people allowed to speak in tongues during a meeting. Paul commanded the Corinthians as follows.

If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God (1 Corinthians 14:27, 28 ESV).

Tongue speaking should not go on indefinitely during a meeting. Indeed, there should only be a limited number per meeting.

There Is No Congregational Tongue-Speaking

The entire congregation is not supposed to speak in tongues. Paul made this very clear! He stated the obvious.

If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (1 Corinthians 14:23 NRSV).

The Bible does not allow entire congregations to speak with tongues. Otherwise those coming for the first time to the meeting will think that everyone in the place has lost their mind.

The Gift Is Totally Controllable

The one who speaks in tongues has control over both his volume and his behavior. Speaking in tongues, in a biblical sense, has never consisted of a person being in some ecstatic trance or uncontrollable frenzy. Therefore, any one who exercises the gift in an uncontrollable manner is not being lead of God. Paul wrote.

Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can wait their turn (1 Corinthians 14:32 NLT).

Since the gift of tongues is a supernatural gift, the person speaking in tongues cannot control the content of their speech. However they can control when they start and stop speaking. This is crucial to understand.

The Gift Needs to Function in an Orderly Manner

When tongues are operating in a biblical manner there is order in the service. Paul emphasized that the God of the Bible is a God of order. He wrote.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints.. But all things should be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40 ESV).

When the gifts are properly operating there will not be chaos but rather there will be order in the church.

The Gift Is Not Forbidden to Be Exercised

Even with these restrictions, Paul said tongue-speaking is not to be forbidden when believers meet. He commanded.

So, dear brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39 NLT).

The gift is to be exercised, not neglected.

In sum, the Bible gives a number of rules for using the gift of speaking in tongues at a public gathering of Christians. If the gift is to be exercised then these rules must be followed.

Summary – Question 18
What Is the Proper Procedure for Using Tongues in a Meeting?

The New Testament lists speaking in tongues as one of the spiritual gifts which God has given to the church. Furthermore, it sets guidelines for speaking in tongues in a worship service. They include the following.

First, the gift should be exercised to build up believers – it is not for personal edification or building up oneself. This is primary. In fact, each and every spiritual gift is given to build up believers rather than the person exercising the gift.

If tongues are used in a meeting then an interpreter must be present. This is also an essential rule for use of the gift. Without an interpreter, the person must keep silent. There should also be a limited number of people speaking in tongues. In other words, the speaking in tongues does not go on endlessly. Indeed, there are many more things which are to be part of a worship service. Speaking in tongues should not be seen as the highlight.

There is no basis for the entire congregation speaking in tongues. For one thing, not everyone has the gift of tongues. Also a visitor to the meeting will think everyone is crazy if they are all speaking in tongues at the same time. Tongue-speaking is something controllable. The person speaking does not go into some type of uncontrollable frenzied state. Rather they are in complete control of their senses. This means the volume of their speech, as well as their physical movements, are under their own control. Indeed, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is that of self-control. Thus, any tongue speaking should be done in an orderly way. Chaos in the service means the Holy Spirit is not in control.

Even with all of these rules, Scripture also says that no one should forbid tongue speaking. The key is to follow the guidelines that have been laid down.

Why Were Women Told to Keep Silent in Church? ← Prior Section
Could Tongue-Speaking Actually Be Ecstatic Utterances or Heavenly Languages Rather than Known Earthly Languages? Next Section →
BLB Searches
Search the Bible

Advanced Options

Other Searches

Multi-Verse Retrieval

Daily Devotionals

Blue Letter Bible offers several daily devotional readings in order to help you refocus on Christ and the Gospel of His peace and righteousness.

Daily Bible Reading Plans

Recognizing the value of consistent reflection upon the Word of God in order to refocus one's mind and heart upon Christ and His Gospel of peace, we provide several reading plans designed to cover the entire Bible in a year.

One-Year Plans

Two-Year Plan


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.