Speaking in Tongues in a Church Setting

I left off last time talking about how speaking in tongues can lead to spiritual pride. Paul says that unless we have love, speaking in tongues means nothing. Without love tongues sounds like a bunch of noise that need to be silenced. We also discussed the church of Corinth and why Paul had to address their use of speaking in tongues.

Today, we will continue that discussion using 1 Corinthians 14. Now I will start by saying that some people reading this post may not like what it says. I am okay with that. Yet, I do urge you to study this subject for yourself and when you do please put aside your tradition and what you have already learned. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truths and see what you get.  Until then please keep an open mind as you read this teaching.

In the church of Corinth there was a lot of confusion and disorganization going on when it came to the Spirit of God and his gifts as how they should be conducted during a congregation gathering. First Corinthians 14 addresses these issues.

The Purpose of the Gifts of the Spirit

Paul tells the Corinthians that all the gifts are for the edifying of the body of believers or to bring in new believers. They are not to make a person feel mighty or more superior. They are not meant just for leaders or only for special people. They are for everyone and should be done in decency and in order.

However, one gift was being singled out as the gift of all gifts. It was the gift of speaking in tongues. So Paul had to put some things into perspective. In this chapter he showed that

(1)    Everyone should not be speaking in tongues at one time.
(2)    Speaking in tongues must be for edification.
(3)    If tongues are exercised there must be two to three interpreters.

Speaking in Tongues All at Once

Now this is where I might get into trouble with some folks. A lot of churches have prayer meetings where everyone is praying however they see fit. They could pray in their native tongue (in my case it is English) or they could pray using the gift of tongues, in which case no one around them or themselves know what exactly they are praying for.

Let me start by saying I have been in several of these meetings myself. I have seen the power of God moving through individuals using the other gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy and healing. I enjoyed those prayer meetings and wouldn’t have missed one for the world.

However, I have also observed some things that I had questions about. For instance, I’ve seen a woman began to scream out like she was possessed by a devil. She disrupted the prayer service and the Ushers had to remove her. The comment which came over the pulpit was that the devil was angry about us praying and was trying to stop our prayers and get us distracted. He couldn’t stand in the presence of God, thus he started acting up. We were instructed to continue to pray. I did what we were told to do.

During another prayer meeting I sat at the back of the church a few seats from one of the aisles. Suddenly, I felt this evil spirit walk by me. By the time I opened my eyes I didn’t see anyone walking down the aisle. So I looked down the rows and saw a woman walking down one of the rows toward the center. I wondered how the people around her felt. I no longer felt her spirit because she was nowhere near me.

How can this Happen?

These are just two incidents I am recalling; however, there has been plenty more incidents. I wondered how the devil could enter into a place where there was so much prayer going on? After years of asking the question, I believe I finally have the answer. One comes from “He Came to Set the Captives Free,” a book about a lady who left Satanism behind to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

The woman said because the church does not practice the gift of interpretation during church services it is easy for Satanists to curse the people. Here is a quote from her:

“It is the custom in charismatic churches for many people to speak and pray in tongues at the same time without interpretation during their services and prayer meetings. Satanists take great advantage of this. During the time I served Satan, I spoke in tongues regularly in all the meetings…No one interpreted. We were cursing the church, the pastor, the members, and God! And no one knew!”1

While some people might not believe this woman’s report, I do believe it based on the things I have seen during some prayer meetings.

The confirmation to this answer came from the Bible – the source I should have consulted in the first place. Paul tells us that if everyone is speaking in tongues during a service and someone comes in who isn’t a believer then it looks like confusion abounds. It could also look like people dealing in the black arts.

I know a woman who invited a friend of hers to church one night. Unfortunately, the lady came at the time everyone was praying in tongues. This scared the unbeliever and she left. She didn’t know what to make of the whole scene. All she knew was that she didn’t want to be a part of something like that.

When we are speaking in tongues in prayer we are talking to God, not man. Therefore, it is not edifying anyone but our selves. If is only edifies us then we should do it alone or in a small group where non believers have no chance of seeing us. This is only wisdom.

Edification Mandatory

Speaking in tongues, just like the rest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are for the building up the body of Yeshua. They are for edification. It is used as a sign for unbelievers, not believers. It is a sign for unbelievers is because unbelievers can hear in their own language the message of God. If encourages them to believe fully in Yahweh Elohim.

If we are in a congregational meeting and tongues arise then the only way it can be edifying is if there is an interpreter. Otherwise, what benefit does it have for those around? Paul says he would rather say five words with understanding than 10,000 words in tongues, which no one understands.

He didn’t say you couldn’t speak in tongues during your private time. He actually wished everyone could speak in tongues. It just doesn’t do anyone any good to do it during service where no one understands. How can I agree with you by saying Amen when I don’t know what you spoke because you spoke in tongues? This is what Paul says. Tongues must edify others and the only way to do that is through two to three interpreters.

Interpreters Needed

If tongues are exercised during a congregational meeting there must be at least two interpreters with no more than three interpreters. Each interpreter is to take turns in repeating what they hear. If no one is present to interpret then tongues are to be silent during services.

The reason there must be at least two witnesses is it takes two to three witnesses to establish a thing as the truth. In the Old Testament God told Israel a person could not be put to death on the word of only one person. There must be at least two people willing to confirm something in order for a thing to be established. Nothing can be established on the word of one person.

In Matthew 26:59-68 there were plenty of liars who came forth to speak against Yeshua. However, none of their testimonies mattered because they lied. But when two witnesses came forth with the same testimony of the truth the high priest was satisfied enough to question Yeshua. When Yeshua finally spoke the high priest was satisfied completely. With Yeshua’s testimony (him being the third witness) there was no need for further witnesses. Everything was established as the truth.

There can never be only one interpreter because we cannot know for sure whether it was the truth or not. If two people hear the same thing, then we know the first interpreter wasn’t lying. This keeps people honest and humble. It keeps them from misusing their gifts and setting themselves up as some kind of god. I personally believe having several interpreters is the way to go, but then again I believe Yahweh Elohim is always right.

To summarize the proper use of speaking in tongues during a congregation gathering is

(1)    Everyone should not be speaking in tongues at one time.
(2)    Tongues must be for edification.
(3)    If tongues are exercised there must be two to three interpreters.

Now I know our tradition tells us something else, but this is what the scriptures say. If you feel I have misinterpreted scriptures, please let me know. If you like what I said, then definitely tell me so. Either way, I want to hear from you.

Prayer Time

Our Heavenly Father, who is in heaven,
       Open our understanding to your scriptures and teach us by your Holy Spirit so that we won’t err, but walk uprightly before you.
In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, Amen.

Scripture Reference

“If the gift of tongues is exercised, let it be by two or at most three, and each in turn; and let someone interpret.” (1 Corinthians 14:27 CJB)

“But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” (Matthew 18:16 KJV)

“This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (2 Corinthians 13:1 KJV)

“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19 KJV)

“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: (Hebrews 10:28 KJV)

“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:3 KJV)

“At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.” (Deuteronomy 17:6-7 KJV)

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15 KJV)


1. “He Came to Set the Captives Free” by Rebecca Brown, MD; page 236.

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