Do you speak in tongues? Yes I do, but do you and why? Being raised Pentecostal and choosing to continue in the Pentecostal tradition as an adult, speaking in tongues has never been a scary or foreign topic. I have spoken to many Christians outside of Pentecostalism who have a variety of opinions on this matter. Most of the opinions come from cessationist, those who believe that there was a gift of tongues given to the early Christians but that after the days of the Apostles it ceased along with the other spiritual abilities such as healing, and prophecy. Those of us of the Pentecostal persuasion are considered continuationist, because we believe all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to the church on the day of Pentecost and have continued on up to the present day.
I love spirituality and the mystical nature of Christianity, I was born to be a Pentecostal. I always figured if God is alive in the world, he is speaking to us through spiritual means. God is spirit, he is doing miracles every day in each one of our lives; we just have to look for them. I believe he has also given you and me the ability to perform miracles for the kingdom of God. We are spiritual beings, this means we have spiritual abilities. This is awesome! Yet many conservative fundamentalist find it scary. Why, I really don’t know or understand. Jesus said himself, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7, NIV) The NIV translates the Spirit as Advocate others say Comforter, basically the same thing. We know then that the Spirit of God is upon the earth. Jesus is no longer physically with us, but the Spirit is. Most Christian traditions believe in the Holy Trinity and would never deny this fact. But what about that gifts of the Spirit, specifically the gift of tongues also called glossolalia. Many Pentecostals believe that tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. While my opinion differs from most mainline Pentecostals I understand why it is used. Spirit Baptism is another article. Today the focus is just tongues. So tongues it is. It is considered by some the least of the gifts, a personal gift, yet also a gift that can be used in the church under proper order. Such as when one may be able to interpret what the Spirit is speaking to the congregation. I have seen this take place many times in my life, although I speak in tongues daily I have never interpreted. Listening to a message in tongues and hearing the message interpreted is a holy experience to behold. It is part of the joy of being open to the Spirt of God and his gifts. It is also an amazing powerful experience to speak in tongues; but what is tongues you might ask?
Where did tongues come from?
As a Pentecostal Christian, I might look to the Biblical text to find out where tongues came from and of course look to the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2). What about prior to Acts 2 was there tongues before the coming of the Holy Spirit? Possibly. Some would look to Saul the first king of Israel “He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:25, NIV) to put it in a better perspective the ISV states that Saul was “Caught up in prophetic ecstasy.” Scholars often define tongues as a “disjointed, highly pitched, ecstatic series of ejaculations, similar to tongues spoken in times of spiritual awakening.”1 The book of Samuel also says the people thought he was among the prophets. This is interesting. Did all the prophets experience the gift of tongues during ecstatic experiences? It is a good question, without a solid answer. The Holy Spirit of God is God, and is not limited by time and dates of man. He has the discretion to do what he wills among us.
What about other faiths pre Pentecost and even today? We do have knowledge that spiritual awakenings and ecstatic experiences take place in mystical traditions around the globe. Hindus, Buddhist, Muslims, various shamanic traditions and mystical religions incorporate speaking ecstatically. Yet this surely is not the Spirit of God? No it is not. The Spirit of God is only moving through those of the Christian tradition because the Spirit is only going to point us to Jesus Christ. Then what the heck is these other religions doing? Is it the devil? I don’t think it is the devil I have another answer. I believe it is within our biology and spirit to be mystical beings. We are spirit after all. We are only temporarily living in these earthly temples. It is no wonder that other faith traditions are able to be speak in tongues because it may just be an ability that is in all of us.
The Christian experience of tongues that is still active today was initiated by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This ability to experience this awesome spiritual activity is available to you. All through the book of Acts one can see how tongues was passed from believer to believer, often through the laying on of hands. This leads us to examine how one can receive the gift of tongues.
How can I experience this gift?
Pentecostal denominations usually have doctrine that shows the process leading to the experience of receiving tongues. Many Pentecostals and many within my own denomination look at tongues as the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is where I disagree. I believe that we receive the infilling of the Spirit at the time of salvation. All of the abilities that the Holy Spirit may give to us are already within us; it just needs turned on. While many Pentecostals like to look at speaking in tongues as evidence of Spirit baptism, it is not an absolute. It is impossible to theologically know for sure. Sure we can derive a doctrine from the biblical text but so has 10,000 other groups, movements and denominations.
In short the answer is faith. If you want to experience the gift of tongues, you must have faith that you already have the ability. Remember you’re a spiritual being. Also after you receive it you must be able to believe what you are speaking is the gift of tongues. Often times as in my experience it was through the laying on of hands by my pastor. I not only spoke in tongues I felt the power of God moving through my body like electricity, it was a powerful spiritual experience. You must to let go of doubt and believe. Some Pentecostals believe that one must first be water baptized, while this may be ideal. I know it is not necessary, I have seen unbaptized believers speak in tongues. Although I highly suggest all believers to be baptized in water as the Lord commanded. I want to add that speaking in tongues should not be a one and done experience. It should be the beginning of a life long journey into a powerful prayer life that is beyond natural. So step into the supernatural and enjoy!
So what are the benefits?
Actually this could be one article in itself. There is many benefits for the Christian who have realized that they have been filled with the Spirit possessing the ability to perform spiritual acts such as tongues. Paul tells us that in 1 Corinthians 14 how people should speak in tongues. He tells us that we are speaking directly to God, that it is not the cognitive self which is praying but the minds or spirit; the true self. In my opinion, many of us do not know what to pray for in the body, tongues will allow your spirit to communicate to God’s Spirit and tells God exactly what needs to be spoken. This is supported by Paul’s letter to the Romans, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26, NIV) Tongues is a form of prayer that can be done all throughout your day in order to keep yourself better attuned to the Lord.
Paul states that we edify ourselves by speaking in tongues. Scientific research shows that speaking in tongues actually gives a boost to the immune system up to 40%. See for this and more medical benefits. https://beingunderthenewcovenant.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/medical-facts-about-speaking-in-tongues-%E2%80%93-carl-r-peterson-m-d/
Speaking in tongues brings one closer to God. It creates a shift in consciousness that allows the Spirit to speak to us in a way that ordinary prayer does not. Many receive a message in tongues for the church. Another brother or sister who is present may be able to interpret the message. Speaking in tongues allows you to be humble and not pray for your own interest but the interest of your true self. A person will receives peace of mind and better emotional stability. It allows us to pray without ceasing, to relieve ourselves of the stress of the day, and most importantly it is something I believe that God wants us to do. Jesus told his followers when he left to wait until they receive the Spirit. The first thing that they did after receiving the Spirit was to speak in other tongues. This is the power that created the universe on the tip of your tongue we just need to have the faith to receive.
In my opinion my personal ability to speak in tongues, as well as being around the phenomena is a holy and powerful experience. It brings your walk with Christ to another level allowing you to experience God in a refreshing way. I know there are detractors who believe that this is “strange fire” yet like many things all I have to say is, if you don’t know I can’t explain it. Speaking in tongues is one of the best benefits of being Pentecostal and I encourage you to speak in tongues as much as possible. If you have not yet tapped into your ability, use your faith that God has given you and begin your new journey in the Spirit. Blessings!
- Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1984. 1137.