Friday, December 14, 2007

Speaking in Tongues: Edifying to whom?

Today when you walk into a church, and hear people in the congregation, or the preacher even, speaking in a different language (mostly words you don't understand) that makes no sense at all, this is what we call speaking in "tongues." Mostly these people who speak in tongues are called "Charismatics," well, because they are charismatic about their faith. You may find yourself asking, what exactly is tongues, aside from speaking a bunch of mumbo jumbo? Well, let's take a look at what the Bible says:

  • Act 2:4-11 - And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
  • Basically the disciples of Jesus stood up in front of a crowd of men from many different places that spoke many different languages, and the Spirit of God filled them and when they spoke the Word of God, every man understood the disciples, even though they all spoke in one language... now how amazing is that? I think that's pretty cool. But you'll notice that the scriptures say: And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? The many people didn't here mumbling and words that they didn't understand... what they heard was the disciples speaking the word of God in their own language... every person there understood every word being said. Now that's a little different than speaking in tongues today. Today when people speak in tongues, it is speaking in words that do not mean anything, that nobody understands.

  • So, what else does the Bible say about speaking in tongues?
  • 1Corinthians 14:5 - I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
  • In 1Corinthians 14:5 we see that it is better to not speak in tongues, but to prophesy instead... and if you have something to do with speaking tongues, you should be interpreting what the person speaking in tongues is saying so that the church may be edified... that's not to say you should jump up and say, "I know what he's saying!" when a person starts speaking in tongues, so that you can receive the credit... it is lying to say you know what is being said if you don't know. Jeremiah 23:31 says Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. God clearly does not like people who lie about what he says... if God today did cause somebody to speak in tongues, and somebody else jumped up and said, "he is saying this, this, and this," and you don't know what is being said, God isn't going to be happy.
  • 1Corinthians 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
  • While 1Corinthians 14:12 doesn't speak directly to us about speaking in tongues, it does say that while we want to have spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, or healing powers, we should always seek to edify the church, not ourselves. I find that most people say or act like they have a spiritual gift, because they want the credit for having it, not giving the credit to God. We need to realize, that if a person does have a spiritual gift, it isn't because they are special, it isn't because they have done something great or can do something amazing, it is because God is an amazing God and has blessed that person with a gift, from Him. Not because the person was worthy of the gift from God, but because God is good, and gave the person that gift. 1Corinthians 15:10 says But by the grace of God I am what I am.
  • 1Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
  • 1Corinthians 14:26 asks how come each one of us, or most of us seem to speak in tongues, or have a revelation about God, or know how to interpret tongues, or seem to have some kind of spiritual gift? We need to realize that God doesn't bless everyone with spiritual gifts, and it's ok for us not to have one. God blesses all of us in different ways. And if we do have a gift, again, it should be used to edify the church, not ourselves.
  • 1Corinthians 12:1-14 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.
  • 1Corinthians 12:1-14 tells us that there are many different blessings that God gives us, and that even being saved and confessing Jesus is a blessing from God. It also tells us that no matter what gift God gives you, it is God who gave you that gift, and that it is the same God who has blessed other people with other gifts. It also says that once you are saved, you are not the only one... you, and everybody else is baptized into one body, the body of Jesus Christ... we are all one after we are saved. This again works into edifying the Lord, and edifying the church... see, if you are edifying the whole body, you are also then edifying yourself, but if you only work to make yourself look better, and lift yourself up, you aren't helping anybody but yourself.
  • 2Corinthians 12:19 - Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
  • Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
  • Ephesians 4:29 is telling us that we need to speak the truth, not corrupt words or mumblings. We need to speak so that others can understand, so that we can tell them of the grace of God, and lead them to Him. What good is it if you are there "speaking in tongues" and nobody can understand you? Will that really help lead somebody to God?
  • Acts 10:46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
  • In Acts 10:46, we see that they spoke in tongues to "magnify" God, or to praise God and lift him up so that others may see how great he is. When they spoke in tongues, they weren't thinking about their reputation in the church, and they weren't thinking about how special they were because they had been blessed with this gift. They were only thinking about God, which is what we should be doing, whether we speak in tongues or not.
  • Acts 19:6 - And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
  • Now, if you are saved, you have the Holy Ghost in you... you don't need to speak tongues to have the Holy Ghost in you, so it is ok to not speak in tongues. But to speak in tongues, you must have the Holy Ghost come on you as the scripture says... God has to give you this gift. This isn't something you can give yourself.
  • 1Corinthians 13:1-4 - Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up...
  • You can speak in tongues, and do miracles, and have a great amount of faith, but if you don't have charity (love) in your actions, you have nothing, and are nothing... love envies not, love is not full of itself, and love does not try to build itself up. 1John says, "God is love." God doesn't build himself up... if you are pretending to have a gift of God... speaking tongues, interpreting tongues, prophesying, and God has not given you this gift, you have nothing... you know you have nothing if you are trying to build yourself up instead of edifying the church, and edifying God. When John says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal," he's telling us that if you don't have God in you... if God hasn't given you the gift of tongues (speaking in one language that people of many languages all understand... in otherwise, not mumbo jumbo) that you will only speak mumbo jumbo, or words that don't make sense (sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal... not words). Can you play a set of drums, and not say a word, and all the sudden everybody around you knows what you were thinking about God and salvation? Of course not... people who claim to speak in tongues today are doing just as much good as just going up to an unsaved person and playing drums without saying a word.
  • 1Co 14:2-4 - 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. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
  • When people prophesy it is in a language that other people can understand, so it is edifying to the other people. When you speak in a language others don't understand, you are only building yourself up.
  • 1Corinthians 14:6 - Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
  • Again, what does it do for other people if you are walking around speaking in tongues and it doesn't match doctrine, and they can't even understand you and what God is trying to say through you?
  • 1Corinthians 14:22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
  • Telling people who are unbelievers about prophecies of God does nothing to bring them to God, but to teach God's prophecies to believers is a good thing. 1Corinthians 14:22 also says, that to speak in tongues in front of a bunch of people who are already saved does no good... speaking in tongues is supposed to be a sign to unbelievers that God is there, and that God is real, just like in Acts when the disciples spoke in tongues to a large group of unbelievers, and each person heard them speaking in their own language so that they understood... again, they weren't speaking words that didn't make any sense to anybody. Wouldn't you believe in God if you were standing in a group of people, and some were Americans who only spoke English, and some were Germans who only spoke German, and some were French, who only spoke French, and a Spanish man who only spoke Spanish walked up and began preaching to you about God and his Word in Spanish, but you all understood him as if he were speaking your own language?
  • 1Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
  • 1Corinthians 14:23 is very important... if you are in a church speaking in tongues, and a non-believer walks in to see what God and church is all about, he or she is going to think you are all crazy and walk out, because they are going to hear you saying, "halalujia chemloliki blachmoogo boogo googo..." instead of hearing you say, "God has a plan for you. God loves you. God wants you to be in heaven with him for eternity so he gave his only begotten son, Jesus Christ so that you could get there and be with him in the end."
  • 1Corinthians 14:14-17 - For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 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 the understanding also. 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? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
  • Again, if you pray, or sing, or speak in a language others don't understand, you aren't helping others at all, only yourself.
  • 1Corinthians 14:27-28 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
  • The above verse states that if you do speak in tongues, it should be only one or two words at a time, and you should only speak in tongues if there is somebody to CORRECTLY interpret what you are saying. If there is no interpreter, the person speaking in tongues should remain silent, and speak to themselves and to God only, not to others around them or in the church, or at least not while they are still speaking in tongues, again, because it is not edifying to the church to speak in tongues. The Bible has quite a lot to say about speaking in tongues and doing things that are edifying to you vs. doing things that are edifying to the church.

  • In summary:
  • For the record: speaking in tongues is not speaking in a way that other people don't understand, it is speaking in your own language, but other people in their own language understand you.
  • When you prophesy you are edifying the group as a whole, including God. When you speak in tongues, you are only edifying yourself, even if you aren't trying to.
  • All things should be done unto edifying God and the church, not yourself.
  • God does not like it when you claim to know what somebody speaking in "tongues" is saying when really you do not, because that is saying you know what God is saying, and you are probably going to say something different than what God is trying to say.
  • God gives the gift of tongues, not people. You can't give yourself the gift of tongues.
  • If you don't speak in tongues, even though other people you know may have that gift, that's ok, because God gives different people different gifts, because God has different purposes for different people. Even just being saved, is an enormous gift from God.



  1. You have shallow knowledge of Scriptures, brother.


  2. Sidharth, please share with me the scriptures I have no knowledge of. I have shared with you the scriptures straight from the Bible.


  3. I enjoy it when people use more of God's word than their own opinions. I am glad to see the effort put into this site.

    Sid, if JAWorley is missing something - it would be nice if you would point out the appropriate study on your site or the verse you are talking about.

    I too don't think this is ALL there is to speaking in tongues - but the world would get along fine without it. I think that Glorifying God and showing others love is much more important.

    Thanks for this study.

  4. There is a scripture in the bible, can't exactly tell you where it is, but I know it says that we should not engage in controversies, because this will corrupt us. I have been worrying so much about all my problems, that I am losing tough with God and now I have just found out that my son, aged 21, does not believe in God. I am so heartbroken; and his younger brother thinks that I should not make a big deal about it because God is just religion and helps people think that they are good. Well, I feel like a failure, because I have lost my 3 children to the world. I turned to God when I was in the midst of a crisis. Maybe that is the only way they will ever come to God too. I want to spare them the pain. So the subject of tongues is not important to me; only believing in Jesus and God. I need faith right now and I want my children to be with me in heaven someday. If anyone has any suggestions for me that will help me convert my children, ages 13, 17 and 21, I would appreciate them. Thank you,
    Mary, single mom of 3 sons.

  5. I think the first step is to pray for them to come to God... don't just pray once, pray often.

    My question to you is: Have they ever accepted Christ as their personal Lord and savior at any time in their lives? If they have, even if they stray now they will go to heaven. If not, have you seen our article on Salvation here:
    and shared the scriptures in it with them? Have you spoken to your pastor about this? Let me know and I will see what else I can come up with for you. You and your family will also be in our prayers. Also, if you want thousands of prayers for you, fill out a prayer request here: and they will broadcast it on the air to get some prayers for your family.

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