I recently googled “proving speaking in tongues is biblical” and was surprised that most of the results were blog posts and articles speaking against speaking in tongues. I decided to try to balance out those results by writing a simple blog post proving that speaking in tongues is biblical and answering some of the biggest complaints/questions regarding it.
First, let’s look at what the Bible says about speaking in tongues.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4 ESV)
This is the first mention of a group of people speaking in tongues in the New Testament. There are a few things to note regarding this passage:
- Disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time
- They all spoke in tongues
- The utterances they spoke didn’t come from them, it came from the Holy Spirit
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39 ESV)
I think it’s important to mention that the gift of the Holy Spirit isn’t location-based. When Peter said it’s for “all those who are far-off”, he was talking about generations (you, your children, etc). That means this gift is for my generation, my children and even my great-great-great-great grandchildren. Peter states that this gift isn’t a seasonal thing, this is here for all peoples, for this entire age of time.
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (Acts 10:44-48 ESV)
“They were speaking in tongues and extolling God.” What a statement. When someone speaks in tongues, they are glorifying God! This is also the first time that Gentiles spoke in tongues, which means the Lord designed it for all people, not a particular race or people.
And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all. (Acts 19:1-7 ESV)
This is an epic story and after reading this I don’t know how people can doubt the gift of tongues and being baptized in the Spirit after reading it. There are several things to point out:
- Holy Spirit baptism was something new back then. Many people hadn’t heard of it yet.
- There are two baptisms: a water baptism focused on repentance and a Holy Spirit baptism focusing on Jesus
- This baptism can be given with the laying on of hands
- The two evidences that they were baptized in the Spirit was speaking in tongues and prophesying. They go together.
- All twelve men were filled. None were left out.
This verse is what John the Baptist said of Jesus:
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11 ESV)
It’s also what Paul references in the story that I just listed above in Acts 19:1-7. What happens when you get baptized in the Holy Spirit? All these verses say that you start speaking in tongues. Has Jesus ministry changed? No. So He is still baptizing people in the Holy Spirit? Yes. So that means people are still speaking in tongues? Yes. It’s that simple.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV)
Several things to point out here:
- “Same Spirit”, “same Lord” and “same God”. He doesn’t change.
- Each person is given a manifestation of the Spirit in their lives. These are all supernatural things.
- Miracles, healings and prophecy are put in the same category. If one is happening still, the others are too.
- The Spirit does all these things.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28 ESV)
This is pretty much the same point as the last portion of scripture. If the other gifts are still in effect (like helping, healing and administrating) then it means tongues is as well.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. (1 Corinthians 14:18 ESV)
This is Paul speaking. Do you want the impact of your life to be like Paul’s? Speak and pray in tongues more. Also, this was something that Paul was thankful for. He didn’t see it as a detriment. He saw it for what it was — a generous gift that God gives.
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. (1 Corinthians 14:5 ESV)
Paul is stating that prophecy is more important in a corporate gathering because people can understand it, but we can’t overlook the words “I want you all to speak in tongues.”
Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. (1 Corinthians 14:22 ESV)
This is pretty clear. Tongues are a sign to unbelievers that God speaks to us and we speak to Him personally. Tongues can go away once there are no more unbelievers. I’ll talk more on that point later, but since there are still unbelievers, there are still people speaking in tongues.
So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. (1 Corinthians 14:39 ESV)
Here is the clearest verse in the Bible about the role of tongues in the church. Desire these things and don’t forbid them. This command is given for public gatherings. How much more for personal life?
So as we have seen, speaking in tongues is very scriptural. The problem comes when we decide to make the Word and Spirit of God line up to our carnal mind. We tend to reject things we don’t understand or comprehend. Let’s look at some of the basic questions and criticisms people have against speaking in tongues.
Q: Didn’t tongues die out with the apostles?
A: I have never heard a direct reference in the Bible to this. On the contrary, Acts 2:38-39 says they are for the apostles generation, the next generation and for every generation that calls on the name of the Lord.
Q: But doesn’t 1 Corinthians 13:8 say: “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”
A: Yes it does, but the following verses say: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10 ESV) What Paul is saying is that once Jesus comes back, there will have no need of tongues or prophecy or words of knowledge cause He will be with us. One day tongues will end. We will also be perfect and sinless then too. I should also mention that since 1 Corinthians is post-cross book, meaning that Jesus had already came, died, resurrected and ascended. When Paul talks about the “perfect” coming, he wasn’t talking about Jesus’ first trip to Earth, but His return.
Q: I’ve heard that Hebrews 1:3 says because Jesus came, we have no more need of prophecy or tongues.
A: Let’s look at what that verse in context actually says:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV)
What the verse is actually saying is that at one time God used other people to speak to us and used other people to describe what He was like, but now Jesus speaks to us and He shows us what God is like (Colossians 1:15). That’s exactly what tongues is: God speaking to us and we in turn speaking to God. It’s also good to remember that man didn’t invent tongues. God did. This isn’t something man-made that goes out of style over time Like praying, worshiping and fasting, tongues is something God designed to be a part of our life in Him.
Q: I’ve heard that since we now have the complete Bible, we don’t need tongues anymore.
A: As good as this sounds, it is not scriptural or found anywhere in the Bible.
Q: Is speaking in tongues a requirement for salvation?
A: No. Plenty of people are saved and don’t speak in tongues. I should mention that the Bible emphaizes being “filled with the Spirit”, not speaking in tongues. One of the multiple evidences that a Spirit-filled believer can possess is speaking in tongues, but it is not a must (1 Corinthians 12:30). Other evidences can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. The New Testament does lead us to believe that the “normal Christian birth” in Acts consisted of people believing in Jesus and confessing that fact, repenting from their sin, being water baptized and becoming filled with the Spirit. At the same time, we cannot make “gifts” requirements for salvation.
Q: I heard the reason the baptism of the Holy Spirit was needed back then was because of the unreached people groups.
A: At that time there were probably 300 million people that hadn’t heard the gospel. We have millions if not billions more now. We need the baptism of the Holy Spirit more now than ever!
Also see here for some of my supplemental thoughts and confirmations regarding speaking in tongues.
Hopefully this helps some questions and arguments regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. I encourage you to ask the Lord for the fullness of His Spirit. He longs to give you what you ask!
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13 ESV)