The Christian Bible Reference Site

What Does the Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues?

Frequently Asked Questions

The Bible

Speaking in tongues means speaking in a way or in a language that is not normally understood by the speaker or the listeners. The bible mentions two types of speaking in tongues:

Both cases were the work of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul classified speaking in tongues as just one of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:6-11, Romans 12:6-8). Paul was thankful for his own gift of speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18-19). But Paul told his churches that it was better practiced in private than in church, unless someone could interpret the ecstatic speech (1 Corinthians 14:23, 27-28). The gift of speaking in tongues was less important than the gifts of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:2-5) and love (1 Corinthians 13:1). Nevertheless, speaking in tongues should not be forbidden (1 Corinthians 14:39).

Several other New Testament passages point to speaking in tongues as evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:17, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:4-6).

However, there is nothing in the Bible saying speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation.

Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches

Speaking in tongues is an important part of worship in a number of Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Some Pentecostal churches, including Assemblies of God, teach that speaking in tongues is evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit, but it is not essential for salvation and eternal life. Some other Pentecostal denominations teach that speaking in tongues is experienced by everyone who has truly been saved.

The Pentecostal movement began in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the space of 100 years, it has become a major sector of worldwide Christianity, along with the Catholic, Orthodox and traditional Protestant churches. In addition to the Pentecostal churches, there are charismatic parishes within the Roman Catholic Church, and many traditional Protestants have also experienced speaking in tongues.

Many traditional Christians, however, believe that the gift of speaking in tongues was no longer given after the apostolic age in the first century (1 Corinthians 13:8), or consider the gift to be of minor importance.