What does the Bible say about speaking in tongues?

Speaking in tongues, a miracle of communication mentioned in the New Testament, has often been misunderstood and misused.


Many have asked what the Bible says about speaking in tongues.

What many churches call "speaking in tongues" today is nothing like what the Bible records in the books of Acts and Corinthians. The miracle that occurred on the Day of Pentecost in A.D. 31 (Acts:2:4-8) was one of communication—apparently both in the speaking and the hearing. The Greek word translated "tongues" is glossa and means "languages." The miracle of speaking in tongues meant that every member of the audience could hear in his or her native tongue (language, see Acts:2:9-11).

Also, some in the early Church, particularly in Corinth, had the ability to speak in different languages. In that case, it seems that people were showing off their abilities, speaking every language they could, regardless of whether the people who heard them could understand. They were caught up in their vanity, having lost sight of the fact that one should always use spiritual gifts to serve others. Paul wrote chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians specifically to deal with this problem. He pointed out that the proper use of the gift of languages would be to speak the language or languages that the congregation could understand. It would be like speaking Spanish to a Spanish-speaking audience or French to a French-speaking audience.

Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth that speaking different languages was of no real value if an audience could not understand the words. He admonished them to concentrate more on understandable communication than on their linguistic abilities.

All biblical examples of speaking in tongues stand in stark contrast to the type of "speaking in tongues" done in some churches today, where the speaker utters a "language" that sounds like gibberish, not an actual human language.

In other letters, Paul and John warn Christians not to be taken in by spiritual-appearing phenomena, indicating that demon spirits sometimes imitate spiritual gifts in an attempt to confuse people (1 Timothy:4:1; 1 John:4:1).

For more information, please read this reprint article in PDF format  A Closer Look at Speaking in Tongues .


Mikki64's picture

I stopped attending church for the reason that I could not speak in "tongues" like the rest of the congregation. I felt uneasy and out of place. Even the pastor admonished me for this and said I did not have the spirit within me.
I read and reread my Bible for answers but could not find them. I served my community in volunteering as well as in the church but still felt I wasn't a real Christian because of this one flaw.
God has led me to your website that I can learn the truth and that He accepts and loves me for who I am.
Thank you for your enlightening teachings. I have found my way back to my Lord and Saviour with much joy.

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