Skip to main content


1. Introduction

This study is about the gift of tongues used for encouraging the church, which is different from our personal prayer language.
In Tongues: A Personal Prayer Language, we looked at how this manifestation of the Spirit edified us, bringing our relationship with the Father more resounding; as Paul says in his letter to the Romans:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

As we look at the gift of tongues, we will find this is different from speaking in tongues.

Being blessed with having both the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues, I can testify that my gift of tongues is an entirely different tongue language than my personal prayer language. When I use the gift of tongues, I realise God has given me numerous languages.


2. The Gift of Tongues

As with all the gifts of the Spirit, the Spirit of God gives the gift of tongues.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: …to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:7-10

Although anyone who desires may have a personal prayer language tongue, not all may have the gift of tongues:

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? And are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? And do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

1 Corinthians 12:29-30

Some quote this scripture to say that not all people can have a personal prayer language. However, looking at the rest of 1 Corinthians 12, the context concerns gifts that edify the church, not speaking mysteries to God.


3. The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues

Before we look at the purpose of tongues’ gift, we need to look at another gift the Holy Spirit gives; the interpretation of tongues.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: …

to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:7-10

A. Gift of Tongues Must Be Interpreted

The gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues work together to benefit the hearer.

I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

1 Corinthians 14:5

B. Interpretation is Not for the Prayer Language

The gift of interpretation of tongues is not for interpreting the personal prayer language.

Our prayer language is for edifying ourselves where we speak mysteries to God.

For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries

1 Corinthians 14:2

Therefore because the prayer language is between you and God, not for other people, it does not require interpretation. So if someone offers to interpret your personal prayer language, beware; they are deceiving you.


C. Desire Both Gifts

We now understand that we need to interpret the message brought by the gift of tongues. And if no one present can interpret, then the person with the gift of tongues should not bring the tongues message. For this reason, it is wise for the person with the gift of tongues to pray that they might receive the interpretation of tongues themselves.


4. Purpose of the Gift of Tongues


A. To Encourage the Church

The gift of tongues is to edify the church.

I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

1 Corinthians 14:5

Did you notice in the scripture that the gift of the Spirit is for the profit of all?


B. To Bring Revelation

The Gift of Tongues brings revelation to the church (speaking in tongues as your language will bring personal revelation).


C. To Release Prophecy

The gift of tongues brings prophecy to the church.

I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

1 Corinthians 14:5

In this scripture, Paul says that the gift of tongues, needing interpretation, is likened to prophecy.


D. To Bring Teaching

The Gift of Tongues may, on occasion, bring teaching. When a person uses the gift of tongues, the interpreted message must agree with the letter or intent of the word of God.

As an aside, I have found that when I see a difficult passage in the Bible, sometimes speaking in tongues for some time will unlock the revelation of what I am reading.

But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?

1 Corinthians 14:6

We know this refers to the gift of tongues rather than our prayer language because the scripture says Paul is coming to them.


5. Various Languages in the Gift of Tongues


A. Earthly Languages

The gift of tongues can be in different languages worldwide.

There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.

1 Corinthians 14:10-11

An example of different tongues is on the first Pentecost when people from other regions could understand the disciples declaring the wonders of God.

And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Acts 2:6

B. Angels’ Languages

The gift of tongues can be the language of angels:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, …

1 Corinthians 13:1

I have an angel who ministers on my behalf and has a particular language.

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

Hebrews 1:14


6. The Gift of Tongues is A Sign to the Unbeliever

There must be an interpretation of the tongue’s message so that the prophecy, revelation or teaching that comes out of the tongue’s message can benefit the unbeliever and believer alike.

Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

1 Corinthians 14:22-25


7. Summary

  • Tongues – Our Personal Prayer Language is speaking mysteries to God for our own edification.
  • The gift of tongues is to edify the church, and must be interpreted.
  • The Holy Spirit gives this gift to some, whereas the personal prayer language is for any who want to receive it through faith.
  • The gift of tongues is to encourage the church through either teaching, prophecy or revelation.
  • The Gift of Tongues is a sign to the unbeliever or uninformed person.




© Use by Permission Awakening Impact Ministries/Dr Neville van Eerten 2022

Leave a Comment