Question: What is speaking in tongues? Is it important and what are the functions?

What is speaking in tongues? Is it important and what are the functions?

In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, speaking in tongues ranks last on the list of nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. Does this mean that it is not important? What are the functions of speaking in tongues?

Speaking in tongues is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We should not consider unimportant what God has given to the church. It is naive to judge the importance of a gift by its ranking. James puts it right, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (Jas 1:17) The gift of speaking in tongues undoubtedly comes from the Father, which is good and should not be slighted or detested. Prejudice against tongues can easily tantamount to blaspheming the Holy Spirit, a sin against which we must be on guard.

What are the functions of speaking in tongues?

Besides, speaking in tongues is the most common proof of receiving the Holy Spirit. It serves two main functions which are praying and preaching.

1. Praying: The primary purpose of tongues is self-edification through prayer: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…” (1 Cor 14:4). In this case, they are directed at God and cannot be understood: “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries” (1 Cor 14:2). Paul tells the church, “Do not forbid to speak with tongues” (1 Cor 14:39) and expresses a wish that everyone spoke with tongues (1 Cor 14:5). This type of spiritual tongue is given to everyone who receives the Holy Spirit and is the primary sign of baptism in the Spirit

2. Preaching: The tongues for preaching are a special gift. The Bible calls this gift the “different kinds of tongues” (1 Cor 12:10). It is only given to some believers, as the Holy Spirit wills (1 Cor 12:11), for the edification of the church (1 Cor 12:7). For this reason, the tongues require interpretation (1 Cor 14:5). Paul advises, “But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God” (1 Cor 14:28). In other words, when there is no one to interpret their meaning, the speaker should refrain from using them to address the congregation, and only to speak in tongues for prayer.

Having know the importance of speaking in tongues, let us not doubt the importance of speaking in tongues but instead  pray for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

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2 thoughts on “Question: What is speaking in tongues? Is it important and what are the functions?”

    1. Hi, thanks for asking! Spiritual tongues serve two main functions, which are praying and preaching. Though not every believer can preach in tongues to edify the church, everyone who has received the Holy Spirit speaks in tongues. Speaking in tongues is definitely the sign of receiving the Holy Spirit. The apostles received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and spoke in tongues (Acts 2:1-4). Peter and the other disciples were certain that Cornelius and his relatives and friends received the Holy Spirit because “they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-47; see also Acts 19:6). Feel free to write to us again.

      May His Spirit lead us to all truth and understanding!

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