The Importance of Speaking in Tongues


This article is not intended to be an exhaustive study on the subject of tongues, and I do not intend to deal with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in this article. This article is SPECIFICALLY on the importance of speaking in tongues, so that is all we will be focusing on here

If you have questions regarding tongues, for example ‘is tongues for everyone or for today?’, ‘what is the connection between the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Tongues’ or ‘What is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and is it relevant to us today?’ (or similar questions); please see the other articles on the Holy Spirit where we deal with issues people question, doubt or struggle with in this area.

Over the years there have been many controversial doctrines regarding the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues.

The devil has done a LOT of work trying to keep people out of this because he knows how powerful it is in the life of the Spirit filled Believer. He has done all he can to stop the church praying properly in tongues because he is afraid of its effects, so he gets us disputing over doctrine to keep people out.

As a result of the confusion that has been caused, Christians as a whole are not using tongues to the degree and level that God intends us to. Many are missing out on this amazing resource that God has given to us to benefit our spiritual lives and relationship with Him.

Don’t let ‘one verse or passage’ that has caused confusion rob you of the Bible truth in that area

The Bible has a lot to say about tongues, however often people get so caught up in controversy on the subject and constantly focus on one passage of scripture (usually 1 Corinthians 12 or 14) and as a result miss out on everything else the Bible says about it!

I have noticed when trying to teach Bible subjects that people’s mind often get stuck ‘in a rut’ on issues. They switch off to what the whole Bible says on that subject, because of one scripture they are confused about. No matter what you try to teach them from the rest of the Word on the issue, they keep trying to pull you back onto their ‘one’ verse.  As a result they miss what God wants to show them from other verses.

Every time you point something out from another verse, they respond with something like, ‘yes, but what about this verse…’ and go right back to their one verse.

We need to grow up a bit in this area if we want to grow in understanding of God’s Word. Don’t close off to the whole of God’s Word on a particular subject just because of one verse you are struggling with!

You may find that getting answers to what you are struggling with on ‘that one verse’ will come as you grow in understanding of the whole subject from other verses!

(but if you keep trying to pull back onto that one verse all the time when God wants to show you things from other verses, you will close off to growing in understanding!)

The devil uses this ‘confusion over one verse or passage’ to keep people out of important subjects. He gets people to close off to the whole teaching of the Bible on the subject just because of one verse they are stumbling over. Don’t let the devil rob you of what God has for you in this or in any area by using that tactic in your life.

On the subject of tongues, I will say that 1 Corinthians 14 is not as confusing as it has been made out to be and we can solve the confusion. However not in this article, I will do that else where.

For now, have enough openness to God and His Word to listen to the rest of the New Testament on the subject and don’t allow your mind to keep trying to pull you back onto the one verse you may have questions about.

You can miss what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach you through other passage, because you are too busy trying to pull onto another verse, that ‘your’ mind wants to talk about.

The Bible never speaks all of its mind on one subject in one place so to get a proper picture you must bring together all the verses on a subject to promote balance and not try to set one scripture against another.

We do not interpret and understand the Bible by setting scriptures against each other! Just because in one place the Bible is referring to some guidelines for speaking in tongues in a public setting does not mean we can use that to negate the use of tongues in our private prayer lives, and what the rest of the New Testament teaches on the issue.

For the purpose of this article, I am specifically focusing on tongues in your own personal life. I am not getting into tongues in a public setting which is interpreted, bringing a message similar to prophecy. (see the other articles on tongues which will cover this)

Scriptures referring to tongues in a public setting have been incorrectly used by people to try to say that speaking in tongues is not for everyone at all, including in their private prayer life.

This is incorrect and has robbed the church of the powerful tool of tongues that God has given us.

Speaking in tongues has a very important role to play in the life of the New Testament Believer. It has great benefits to your Christian life and your prayer life, and if you will begin to stir it up and use this powerful gift God has given us, you will soon begin to experience those benefits.

The Holy Spirit and our prayer lives

John 14:16-17

:16 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever–

:17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Jesus said that The Holy Spirit has been given to us as our Helper. There are many areas of our lives that He helps us with, because helping is part of His ministry.

Romans 8:26

:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

This passage in Romans 8 again speaks of the Holy Spirit and his ministry of helping.

Reference is made to Him helping ‘in our weaknesses’. Now don’t let your mind wander around trying to figure out what ‘weaknesses’ is referring to here, because he goes on and tells you exactly what is being referred to: ‘…For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought…’

There are areas we are limited in connected to our prayer lives. That is an area of weakness to us in and of ourselves, but with the Holy Spirit’s help, those limitations are lifted. With His help, we are not longer alone and weak in those areas.

When you learn to draw from the Holy Spirit’s help in your prayer life, the areas that you were weak in, can become strengths.

We have a Prayer Helper :The Holy Spirit who helps us pray

Without accessing the Holy Spirit’s help in your prayer life, the limitations and weaknesses will remain. Many people have not drawn from the Holy Spirit as our Helper in prayer and they are trying to ‘do it alone’ which is why they see less results. On your own, you have weaknesses and limitations in prayer.

God gave us a prayer Helper, to lift those limitations.

Part of His help is giving us utterance to speak in other tongues, which can (and should) be used in prayer. As we look through the Word on the subject we will see that praying in tongues will greatly assist your prayers and your spiritual lives.

Praying in tongues is an important part of New Testament Praying.

Let’s take a look at when the Holy Spirit came to get involved in the church, as Jesus had promised:

Notice in the following passage, the connection between the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues.

Acts 2:1-4

:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

:3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.

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

This is toward the start of the book of Acts, on the well known ‘Day of Pentecost’ where the Holy Spirit was poured out on the newly formed church. The Holy Spirit makes His ‘entrance’ with a spectacular demonstration and at the same time, those present are ‘…all filled with the Holy Spirit …’

The Holy Spirit is certainly not a new Character in the Bible at this point. He moved in the Old Testament and through the life and ministry of Jesus. However with the introduction of the New Covenant by Jesus, some new aspects of the Holy Spirit’s ministry that no one had previously experienced were made available to humanity. 

One of these was ‘speaking in tongues’

Here we see that one of the consequences of this group being filled with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. ‘…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance

The speaking in tongues here is directly connected to being filled with the Holy Spirit, and the verse even tells us that ‘the Spirit gave them utterance…’ In other words, The Spirit, who they had just been filled with, gave them the words to speak in tongues.

If the Spirit had not been there, they would not have spoken in tongues, because HE was the One giving them the ‘utterance’ to do it, so the tongues is directly connected to The Spirit’s ministry in and through them.

Some say, ‘Yes but that was just for them’.

As I stated previously in this article, we are not going into the issue of ‘who is this for’ here, as that will be dealt with in other articles, however see what this passage DOES show us without trying to pull your mind around on things we are not discussing right here!

Let’s see what these verses DO show before we try to cloud them with our preconceived ideas on the subject!

In this passage in Acts 2, how many of them were filled and how many spoke in tongues?

For now, whether you agree or now that The Holy Spirit is for everyone today, or whether tongues is for everyone, look at what THIS group in Acts 2 experienced, even if just to acknowledge that that is what THEY got.

Acts 2:4

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

‘And THEY WERE ALL filled with the Holy Spirit’

So that answers the question about how many of that group were filled. ALL of them!

Now notice the next word: ‘…AND…’

‘And’ is a connecting word, it connects what has just been said with the next phrase.  What is the next phrase?

‘began to speak with other tongues’

‘Who’ began to speak in other tongues?

Well the word ‘and’ shows that it is referring to the same people being spoken of before the word ‘and’. In other words ‘all’.

ALL of them were filled and ALL of them spoke with tongues. You would have to add in another word to adjust things after the ‘and’ if it was not referring to the same ‘all’. Since the Bible does NOT add in a qualifying phrase (like ‘some of them spoke in tongues’) then we have no right to do so, otherwise we are adjusting the Bible.

They were ALL filled and they ALL spoke in tongues.

This passage in Acts shows a direct connection between the Holy Spirit’s ministry and tongues.

He is our Helper, and part of the Help He gives us in in our prayer lives. One of the ways He Helps us is to give us utterance to speak in tongues, which is given by God to help and develop our prayer lives.

Tongues: A Characteristic unique to the New Covenant

Tongues is an experience that is specific to the New Testament church. The Holy Spirit did move through people in the Old Testament, but never through tongues. The ability to speak in tongues was a new addition available from the New Covenant onwards.

If there was not real point to tongues, then why did God add this new dimension in?

Why give this gift to us if there was no use to it and no point teaching about it?

Why would God give us something if it were not of any use?

Since God brought in this element to the New Testament church, then we should go with it!

God was not just messing around when He gave us tongues. There is purpose for giving us this powerful tool which we need to tap into, there is a reason for giving us a language we have never learned and don’t understand!

I believe in the importance and power of speaking in tongues! It is a benefit unique to the New Covenant and for the New Testament believer and church. God would not add in this new ability to the New Covenant if it was pointless.

Continue to speak in tongues once you are filled

Sadly many Christians receive the Baptism, speak in tongues, then hardly ever do it!

They hardly ever use this wonderful gift God has given us! Some only use it in prayer meetings with other people, but never spend time praying in tongues in their own lives.

Many do not see the need or importance of spending time speaking in tongues, so they don’t do it

Firstly let me say this, if God has taken the time to give us this gift, then it must have a place in our Christian lives.

Why would God take the time to add something like this in to the New Covenant, that was not available before if it was pointless and redundant?

Lets not receive this gift from God, then lay it aside unused and neglected. Connected to this, some Christians do not see the importance of teaching about tongues. My answer is this: God has not put anything unnecessary in His Word. If it is in the Word, we need to teach it.

God has given us this language to use! It has a purpose and a role to play in the life of the New Testament believer. Once we as believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are to maintain a continual experience of speaking in tongues which will enrich us and our prayer lives.

Did Paul think is it really necessary & important to speak in tongues?

Some have badly interpreted some things in 1 Corinthians 14  to indicate that Paul PLAYED down the importance of tongues. However if you really look at what he was saying, you cannot conclude that! These people have failed to take into account the CONTEXT Paul was speaking in (he was speaking in context of using tongues in a service to try to speak to other people)

Paul was not talking about tongues in the individual prayer life of the believer when you are talking to God but rather he was referring to some areas connected to it’s use in church.

He was just bringing teaching and correction to certain misuses of tongues, not laying down an entire teaching of the subject that was intended to override everything else the New Testament teaches on the subject!

If I was teaching people about swimming, and I said to them, ‘when you swim in the ocean, you must beware of sharks’ it would be foolish for someone to take what I said and apply it broader than I meant it!

For someone to claim that I was saying, ‘beware of sharks when you swim in a swimming pool in your back garden’ would be twisting what I was saying. I may have been talking about swimming, but was referring to it in a particular context: swimming in the ocean.

People do this with Paul’s comments on tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. They see that he makes some comments about tongues, but fail to understand the setting and context he is referring to, so they apply it broader than he meant it!

Yes, Paul is talking about tongues, but he is referring to it in a particular setting, to take what he is saying out of that setting and try to apply it to the broader use of tongues is to MISAPPLY what he said.

So was Paul trying to play down the importance of tongues?

Well if he did not believe in the importance of speaking in tongues, why would he say the following:

1 Corinthians 14:18

:18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;

Paul certainly was not playing down the importance of tongues, seems more like he is showing its importance. He spent time speaking in tongues in his own life to a point that he was doing it more than other people.

Why would Paul do this in his own life, then try to get everyone else NOT to do it?

No, Paul did not try to convince them not to do it! Paul believed in the importance of spending time speaking in tongues.

God has given us this gift. He has given us this language to use. He added it in to the New Covenant for a purpose, not just to be a redundant side part!

It has powerful benefits to your spiritual life when used consistently. Many things can be done through praying in tongues that cannot be achieved any other way. If we neglect speaking in tongues in our prayer lives, we will miss out on an entire realm of prayer that God has for the believer.

I am convinced that if we would spend more time praying in tongues, as individuals and in our church prayer meetings, we would experience more results in prayer, greater sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and more of the move of the Holy Spirit in and through us.

I encourage you to begin to realise how important it is to pray in tongues and stir it up in your life on a daily basis. Take time each day to speak in tongues, you will soon begin to experience the benefits.

In the next article, we will go more into what those benefits are

‘Part 2: The Benefits of speaking in Tongues’

This article, along with others by the same author can be found at www.exceedingfaith.com

Unless otherwise stated, all scriptures used are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.

(C) 2008 Exceeding Faith Ministries International & Owen Walton.

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