Speaking in Tongues

We are approaching the beginning of our centennial year as a fellowship.  The Assemblies of God was begun by a group of men and women who had experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, receiving the gift of speaking in tongues.  To this day, our churches are distinguished from other evangelicals by our emphasis on the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in contemporary society.

I.  Baptized in the Holy Spirit:  Acts 1:4,5 & 8

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The primary purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is to give us power to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Yes, there are other effects, such as a heightened awareness of God’s presence, a greater fervency in worship, and an opening of understanding of God’s Word, but the primary purpose is the proclamation of the gospel.

II.  Speaking in Tongues: Acts 2:1-4

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

In the Assemblies of God we recognize speaking in tongues as the initial physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  There are three types of speaking in tongues.

1. A sign to unbelievers:  I Corinthians 14:22

Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.

This form of tongues is when an individual speaks in a human language that is unknown to them, but that is known by the person’s hearing the message.  It is a powerful sign to unbelievers.  Sadly, it is not a very common occurrence, although I have heard contemporary testimonies of it occurring.

2.  A word to believers:  I Corinthians 14:26-28

How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.

This form of tongues happens much more frequently.  Someone will give a message in tongues by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and then someone will give an interpretation of that message.  These are two separate gifts of the Spirit: a message in tongues and an interpretation of tongues.  These gifts are meant for the edification of God’s people as they are gathered together.

3.  The individual believer:  I Corinthians 14: 2, 4

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.

He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

This is the most common form of speaking in tongues.  It is the individual praying without the barrier of human language.  We are able to pour out our hearts to God, and it is a powerful experience for the individual.  I strongly encourage people who have received this gift to use it regularly in their private devotions.  It is also acceptable during certain portions of corporate worship to use our tongues to praise or to pray, speaking out loud, but quietly, to the Lord.

III.  Offered to All:  Acts 2: 38-39

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Obviously, we are among those who are “afar off”.  Yet, I believe that, although not all Christians speak in tongues, that all Christians could speak in tongues.  It is a gift that is offered to all.

IV.  To the Gentiles:  Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.

Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

In this second recording of the gift of tongues being manifested on a new group of believers: there are no tongues of flame, no rushing mighty wind, but the gift of the Holy Spirit of speaking in tongues is again manifested.  The way that people receive this gift may vary, but the evidence of speaking in tongues is a common thread.

V.  Ask God, Trust God  Luke 11:11-13

If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

I firmly believe that if we ask God for this gift, that we will not receive a substitute.  God gives good gifts to His children and certainly the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues is a good gift.  This can take place at a service or in the privacy of our own homes.  Seek and you will find, ask and it shall be given to you.

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6 Responses to “Speaking in Tongues”

  1. Rocky Munoz Says:

    Curt, thanks for posting this. I’ve often wondered how exactly Pentecostals drew their theology of tongues from Scripture. It was simple, condensed, and clear. I do have a question, however. You listed 3 types of tongues – (1) a sign to unbelievers, (2) a word to believers, and (3) the individual believer – and you drew these from Paul’s teaching on tongues and other gifts in 1 Corinthians 14.

    The problem I see is that although your understanding of all of these types comes from this one chapter, Paul himself doesn’t make a distinction between three different types of speaking in tongues. Where Paul does talk about different types or kinds (vv 10-11) he uses the word “language” (phōnē) instead of “tongue” (glōssa), since he is speaking specifically about different languages and not different spiritual gifts. So as I read through chapter 14, I just don’t see anywhere that Paul indicates to his audience that he is talking about different types of gifts of tongues. Your three types seem to be presuppositions which you brought to the text rather than distinctions that are clear from the text itself.

    But I don’t want to assume a motive or anything, and I am curious as to your response. Thanks for helping me understand this issue, even if I am a tough cookie to crack 🙂

    • Pastor Curt Says:

      Thank you for your interest, your comments, and your question. Perhaps the issue can be solved simply by changing the phrase “types of tongues” to “useages of tongues”. That would work for me.

  2. Corrine David Says:

    You don’t have to prove to anyone else that you’ve been saved. It’s between you and God. If you want to inquire of God what your spiritual gifts are and ask someone to pray with you to reveal them that’s one thing, but don’t let anyone try to question your relationship with God based on a particular gift.

    • Pastor Curt Says:

      David, I certainly agree that we do not have to prove our salvation to anyone, and I don’t think that my article implies in anyway that our salvation is determined by speaking in tongues. I do know that some groups teach that, but not me. If I wasn’t clear in the article, let me be clear now; you do not have to speak in tongues to be saved. Salvation is by grace, through faith, resulting in works. (c.f. Ephesians 2:8-10)

  3. Arlene E. York Says:

    What kind of ministry do you enjoy the most and shows the most fruitfulness? That probably indicates where there are spiritual gifts operating in your life. If you enjoy teaching and find that people are edified through your teaching ministry, it is likely that the Holy Spirit has given you a gift of teaching. If you find that the Lord puts people in your path who are ready to surrender their life to Christ, you probably have a spiritual gift of evangelism. If you enjoy inviting people to your home, either for a meal or to stay, you probably have a gift of hospitality.

    • Pastor Curt Says:

      There is a distinction between the baptism in the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues,for the edification of the believer, which is available to all believers: and the public use of tongues, which is for the edification of either believers, or unbelievers, which is more correctly classified among the gifts of the Spirit. We each receive our gifts as the Spirit wills.

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