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Should Tongues be spoken in public?

Today’s Question: I am not an expert on the subject of the Holy Spirit or speaking in tongues, but I have read the Lord's teachings on these subjects. With this in mind, I have a problem with how speaking in tongues is being allowed to be the focal point in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches today. 

The Bible is very clear on how tongues are to be used in the church, and so far the majority of the people that I have seen use tongues have done it unbiblically. From what I have read if a message in tongues is spoken, then there must be an interpretation. All I want to do is have someone show me in the scriptures where the Lord says we can pray in tongues or speak in tongues in public, out loud, without an interpretation.

Melissa Barker

Bible Answer: The confusion that people have regarding tongues has more to do with misunderstanding the many purposes and use of tongues. It seems to me that you have made the same mistake by assuming that the only public purpose for tongues is to provide a message to a group of people. As far as tongues as used to bring a message to people, yes, that tongues must be interpreted or else as Paul says, "the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God" (1 Cor. 14:28).

Notice that Paul did not say that the speaker cannot speak in tongues, but he simply says that he should speak in tongues for God alone to hear. Obviously, this personal way of speaking in tongues will probably not be interpreted unless the speaker knows his own interpretation.

As far as speaking in tongues in public and out loud without an interpretation, it depends on whether or not the tongues is designed as a message, or as thanksgiving and prayer to God, or if the person speaking in tongues is doing it for the first time when he is baptized in the Holy Spirit. If the tongues is a message to the congregation, then definitely the tongues must be interpreted.

However, if the tongues are simply used in a setting where only believers are gathered to pray or praise God then there is no need to interpret the tongues since everyone understands what tongues are. In this situation there are no unbelievers who will say that "you are out of your mind" (1 Cor. 14:23). And if a few unbelievers or new believers are present, it might help if the leader explained to them what was going on. In our church, we provide a brochure to all visitors with a list of Scriptures that they can look up if they are concerned about a particular manifestation of the Spirit. This helps answer some of the inquirers about the gifts of the Spirit.

There are also times when people are being filled with the Spirit with the evidence of tongues for the first time as was in the case with the house of Cornelius (see Acts 10). At this event everyone spoke in tongues out loud without an interpretation. This happened also in Act 19:6 when the new believers "spoke in tongues and prophesied."

As you can see, Melissa, there is much about tongues that we need to learn, and hopefully, we are opened enough to keep learning.


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