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Question

Should every Christian speak in tongues?

Answer

Thank you for your question - it is one that many Christians ponder, and there are different Christian opinions about it. However, from the Bible I note a few important things.

Firstly, we are not sure historically what speaking in tongues was like. In Acts 2 it seems to be the miracle of speaking a known human language without having learned it. In 1 Corinthians it seems more like some kind of unearthly language - some think the language of the angels (1 Corinthians 13 is usually quoted about this).

Second, the gift of speaking in tongues was a frequently given gift in the book of Acts when men and women were filled, or baptised, in the Holy Spirit for the first time (see Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46 and Acts 19:6). Some Christians therefore believe that every believer, once filled with the Holy Spirit, will be given the gift of speaking in tongues.

However, the stories we read of it in Acts are narrative portions of the Bible. They are descriptive but not necessarily prescriptive (i.e. they tell us what happened and what people did, rather than what should always happen, and what we should always do). We should therefore look for more information in the Scriptures.

It seems that the answer is simply found in a few verses from 1 Corinthians 12. Paul is speaking about the church as the Body of Christ with many different members (or parts), who have been given gifts to serve the rest of the body:

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit...to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

Paul is showing the Corinthian church (and us too) that each part of the body is different, but each is necessary for the growth of the whole

He goes on to ask: Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)

In the language in which Paul wrote these words (in ancient Greek), these questions are all negative: 'Not all are apostles, are they? Not all speak in tongues, do they?' In other words, the answer is no, not all speak in tongues. We don't all have the same gifts - the church is not meant to look exactly the same because we are each a distinct part of the 'body of Christ.'

So in summary, the answer to your question is no, not every Christian should necessarily speak in tongues, though we must be careful that we do not swing to the opposite view and despise the gift of tongues in any way - in fact, later in 1 Corinthians Paul says I wish you all spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5). The gift of tongues is a good gift that God gives to many of His children, and there is no problem in seeking the Lord for that gift. However let me finish with these words

But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31)

It’s easy to let idea of the gifts of the Holy Spirit take over our lives, so that we become consumed with them. Paul never wants that to happen, and so in 1 Corinthians 13 he shows us the more excellent way - and that way is love!

Bible Verses for further consideration:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
  • 1 Corinthians 14:5

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*All Scripture references are taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

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