Hello Ernest. I got born again a few years ago. I was baptised as well. The Holy Spirit gave me a gift of administration and giving and I have seen Him work through them to give glory to God. Recently I met an old friend of mine who told me that I cannot be spirit-filled and have gifts of the Holy Spirit yet because I do not speak in tongues. He said all believers must speak in tongues. I asked him to show me the scriptures where that is provided and he said it is obvious and it needs no scripture. Please clarify this issue for me. Are all believers meant to speak in tongues?
Hello Beloved. Thank you for writing. Let me start by unequivocally stating that it is a heresy to teach that all believers must speak in tongues. Your friend is most likely an imbalanced charismatic. The Spirit of God does not contradict the word of God. The scriptures are 100% clear that all believers are not expected to speak in tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (ESV). The answer to all the rhetoric questions aforementioned is a resounding no. Perhaps the New Living Translation will clarify this. 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 “Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not!” (NLT). Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 14:5 wished that everyone could speak in tongues, noting the impossibility of all believers having one gift.
There are no compulsory gifts. No church should never teach that you must speak in tongues. All spiritual gifts are given at the discretion of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:11 “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (ESV). They are varied in their type and in their distribution. That means that some are given administrative gifts, some are given prophetic gifts, some tongues and so on and so forth. Not all believers speak in tongues. And a church teaches that you must speak in tongues, they are in error and heresy.
The false doctrine that all believers must speak in tongues was pushed by radical charismatics who made the error of the Corinthian church- to uphold the gifts of the Spirit above the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They often try defend the heresy by stating that all believers who were filled by the Spirit in the book of Acts spoke in tongues. But this is not true. Acts 4:8 and Acts 4:31 are two example of instances where people were filled by the Spirit and they did not speak in tongues. In Acts 6:3, the Apostles are looking for men who are filled with the Spirit of God to do a certain task and the qualification., and the proof of being filled with the Spirit, in this case, is not speaking in tongues but being fruitful men. Ephesians 5:18 task of being filled with the Spirit as being self-controlled, temperate and sober as opposed to being drunk with wine- not speaking in tongues. To be filled with the Spirit is not to speak in tongues, it is to allow the Holy Spirit of God full access into one’s life and to surrender completely to His doing. In Acts 9:17, Ananias reaches Paul to heal him and have him filled with the Spirit. Ananias is not doing this for Paul to speak in tongues. He is doing this for Paul to surrender to God. And you find that proponents of this false doctrine often say that certain famous preachers of our time believed this teaching. But you must, understand Beloved that when it comes to truth, the final authority is not a Nigerian preacher; the final authority is the Word of God. And not just part of the Word of God while ignoring the rest but rather the whole counsel of God’s word. 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 is usually a scripture that proponents of this false teaching conveniently ignore.
Some may try to insist on the false idea that all must speak in tongues by quoting the Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (ESV). These scriptures do not teach that all believers must speak in tongues. They are not a prescription of the regenerate life of an individual believer. Rather, they are a description of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ as a whole. Not all believers speak in tongues. That false teaching that has pervaded many churches has achieved the following:
1. Classism and religious pride on account of those with such a gift. This has resulted in being puffed up just like the Corinthian church. You are not more spirit-filled because you speak in tongues. In fact, the ultimate sign of a spirit-filled believer is evidenced by the fruit of the Holy Spirit not the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
2. Inferiority and feeling less of a Christian for those without the said gift. You are not less of a Christian because you do not speak in tongues.
3. A neglect of other equally important (if not more important supernatural gifts) in the church. Yes, Paul said some gifts were greater than others. And in the hierarchy in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, tongues come last in rank. In our Laodicean church age, I personally think we need more gifts like discernment of spirits, teaching and genuine prophecy.
4. An abandonment of the necessary gift of interpretation of tongues (BTW: I know of three people who can genuinely interpret tongues)
5. Spiritual abuse. People faking to speak in tongues or being pressured to speak in tongues. PS: The gift of tongues cannot be taught or “unlocked.” The Bible teaches no such thing.
6. Skeptism and ridicule from the world on the authenticity of supernatural gifts in the church.
7. Tares planted among the wheat. Demonic activity masquerading as speaking in tongues. Satan has found a place to lodge an internal attack. Read on the Kundalini spirit in Hinduism and yogi masters. One manifestation of this spirit is speaking in strange tongues. Not all tongues that you hear are biblical.
Bonus pointers from 1 Corinthians 14 (please take time and read it):
a. Did you know that many churches today that teach the false doctrine that all believers must speak in tongues, give that gift more prominence and glory than the Bible does. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 insisted that we ought to desire the greater gifts. In his hierarchy, tongues were last on the list. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, he insisted that we desire prophecy more than tongues.
b. Did you know that those with the gift of tongues can personally edify themselves spiritually? The gift has the capacity to help one get a spiritual recharge. Read 1 Corinthians 14:4.
b. Did you know that speaking in tongues aloud in the gathering of believers without an interpreter is unscriptural? If you must speak in tongues to edify yourself, speak in a private way between you and God. When you speak aloud in a public gathering, you must have an interpreter. Read 1 Corinthians 14:13-17.
c. Did you know that some tongues are actual human languages? Read 1 Corinthians 14.
d. Did you know that some tongues are unknown speeches? Read 1 Corinthians 14.
e. Did you know that interpreting tongues can be a necessary sign for an unbeliever to consider believing the Gospel? Read 1 Corinthians 14.
The cessasionists may accuse me of defending a dead craft. They claim that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased. There is no biblical proof of that heresy. And the continuationists may accuse me of not being spirit-filled. To both groups, I would like to assert that I personally speak in tongues. Let us be true to the Bible. The authenticity of a biblical doctrine is not measured by how long a church has taught it, or by one’s subjective personal experience or by one’s emotional investment in the teaching. It is measured by its biblically supported proof in the written word of God. When we disagree on a doctrine, the appropriate response should be “What does the whole counsel of God’s word say about this matter?” Not just part of scripture, but the whole counsel. Paul warns that if you go beyond what the scriptures say, you set yourself up for the danger of pride, self-righteousness and strife within the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:6 “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another.” (ESV). The scriptures are our best unification.