The public use of speaking in tongues

The public use of speaking in tongues is something which carries controversy. It has done so since the gift was given to believers on the day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:4-6 “ And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? … we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.’ And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others were mocking and saying, ‘they are full of sweet wine.’”

Paul addressed this subject with the believers in Corinth. The church at Corinth was probably the most undisciplined church that Paul was responsible for. There was infighting in the church 1 Cor 1:11. Immorality and moral laxness seems to have been commonplace 1 Cor 5+6. They took each other to court instead of being able to solve disputes amongst themselves 1 Cor 6:1-8. There was abuse of the communion meal including drunkenness 1 Cor 11:17-34. There was false teaching regarding the resurrection 1 Cor 15. They were so undisciplined in their use of spiritual gifts that their meetings were chaotic 1 Cor 14. During meetings there was people prophesying one after another without any judging process. There was public speaking in tongues without the accompanying gift of interpretation, which led to the unbeliever in their midst thinking they were mad! 1 Cor 14. Yet despite all of this immaturity he urges them to earnestly desire spiritual gifts!

1 Cor 12:31 “But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

1 Cor 14:1 “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts.”

The Greek for earnestly desire is zeloo (2206) and could be translated as zealously / jealously lust after!

Why did Paul encourage this desire in an immature church where person after person was speaking in tongues without interpretation, and prophesying one after another without judgement of the prophecy? They were mismanaging the spiritual gifts so badly that there was chaos in the church; should the use of the gifts not have been banned untill they had grown in maturity to the point where they were able to use them safely?


The gifts of the Spirit including speaking in tongues should be allowed but they must have order to be properly understood

Paul knew the importance of the gifts of God to the church. His message did not just consist of superiority of speech or wisdom.

“My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:4+5

He was therefore trying to bring order into the chaos of their meetings where the abuse of the gifts was bringing the believers into disrepute. Paul clearly states:

“Therefore my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.” 1 Cor 14:39+40

What this means in practice is that when a prophecy is brought in a public meeting there should be two of at the most three in one session and then these should be judged by an appropriate group. Click here for a section on “judging prophecy.” When a tongue is brought to the meeting there should be two or three in one session and then the interpretation of those tongues. (See the next section for interpreting tongues).

“If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be two or at the most three, each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.” 1 Cor 14:27+28

1. What is speaking in tongues?
2. Tongues restores our spiritual order
3. The promise of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues
4. Speaking in tongues builds you up inside
5. Tongues is your spirit expressing itself to God
6. Examples of the tongues of men
7. Under construction
8. The public use of speaking in tongues
9. Interpreting tongues
10 Tongues as a sign for unbelievers
The secret of moving in the power of God
The word of knowledge
Please sign the guestbook