What Does it Mean to “Speak in Tongues”?


I cannot find anyone who can satisfactorily explain to me the issue of speaking in tongues. Can you help me understand?


Speaking in tongues, as it was called, was one of the Divine gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the Apostles had following the outpouring on the day of Pentecost. By these gifts they were able to prove that God was behind their work.

Speaking in tongues apparently took several different forms. On the day of Pentecost, those who received the power could be understood by the listeners, each in his own native language (17 different languages were present). At other times it seemed that the Holy Spirit made a person able to praise or to utter Divinely inspired words in a language he had not learned (1 Corinthians 14). On such an occasion, the presence of an interpreter was required so that the message could edify the hearers.

We do not know all we would like to know about the gift of tongues speaking, but we do know that the apostle Paul did not consider it of primary importance. In fact, he even discouraged its use. “I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue” (2 Cor. 14:19).

The gift ceased along with the withdrawing of the Holy Spirit at the end of that Age (1 Cor. 13:8-10), and has not been reinstated. Hence, anyone today who professes to speak in an unknown tongue by means of God’s Spirit is a deceiver. Today we can be instructed by what is revealed in the written Word of God, and in no other way.