Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Rayola Kelley

Q:     “What is your position on the popular acceptance of speaking in tongues, as the Assembly of God church teaches?”

A:     The issue of tongues in the Church has been controversial. It is not that the gift of tongues are wrong, for the Bible is clear that as believers we are not to forbid the speaking of tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39). However, the type of emphasis that is put on tongues is what creates the debate and confuses the real purpose for tongues to be in operation. 

We must consider the whole counsel of God to understand the place the gift of tongues should have in the Church Body. One of the beliefs is that if you do not have tongues, you have not been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Granted, tongues can be evident of this baptism, but it is not the only manifestation of this spiritual baptism. After all, the gifts of the Spirit is evident when the Spirit is manifesting Himself or making Himself apparent to do a work in God's people's lives, according to the plan of the Father, for the purpose of edification of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:5-11). For example, when the Holy Spirit comes down on people, they have also been known to prophecized such as King Saul did and some of the people in Acts (1 Samuel 10:5-7; 19:18-24; Acts 19:6).

The main emphasis that we should have in regard to the baptism of the Spirit is not just gifts that can be counterfeited by the kingdom of darkness, but a life that has/is being changed to express the glory of Christ, as well as being empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a living, effective witness for the kingdom of God (Acts 1:4-8). Signs, such as the different manifestations (gifts) of the Holy Spirit, will follow the message of salvation, as a means to confirm the message (Mark 16:15-18). Therefore, to put the emphasis on the manifestation of tongues, rather than the purpose for the baptism of the Holy Spirit to empower us to be walking epistles that can be read of men, is to pervert the will purpose and work of this spiritual baptism from above.

The gift of tongues must be followed by interpretation to edify the Body. The purpose for tongues is so that the Spirit can reveal mysteries of God through revelation, knowledge, prophesying, or doctrine (1 Corinthians 14:2-6). Unknown tongues are God's way of getting His people attention that He is about to speak and they need to listen to what He has to say through the Holy Spirit.

There is also a debate about prayer language, where an unknown tongue foreign to our understanding is used by the Spirit to pray according to the heart and mind of God (1 Corinthians 14:14-15). Prayer language will edify the person praying, but it will not edify the Body. However, the gift of tongues and interpretation edifies the whole Body.

The Holy Spirit does not give one specific gift to verify His presence or movement upon, in and through a person. He does not give gifts for the purpose of ensuring others that one has been baptized from above. Rather, He gives gifts as He will to the Church for edification. To put emphasis on tongues as being the only sign that the person has been baptized by the Holy Spirit has is wrong according to my Scriptural understanding of how the Spirit moves, and His purpose behind making Himself apparent to God's people.

I do hope this answers your question, but if it does not, please feel free to clarify your concerns or struggles regarding this issue.

God bless as you search for His truth about all matters pertaining to His kingdom and work.