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  • Steve Derenge

10 Reasons a Ministry Shouldn't Always Forbid Speaking in Tongues in a Corporate Gathering


1) The word of God says so:

“So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:39‭-‬40 ESV

2) The word of God says that speaking in tongues is a sign that shall accompany those who believe: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;” Mark 16:17 ESV 3) Throughout the book of Acts, speaking in tongues (and prophesying) is the sign that confirms the baptism in the Holy Spirit. One may ask, isn't the true mark of baptism in the Holy Spirit the production of spiritual fruit? Is that the sign they looked for in the book of Acts? In Acts 10, as Peter was preaching the gospel to Cornelius' household, when they started to speak in tongues and praise God, what did Peter declare?: "‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”

Acts 10:47‭-‬48 ESV Did Peter wait for spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) before concluding that they had received the Holy Spirit? Or was it clear to him that they had received the Spirit by the confirming sign of speaking in tongues? Is joy the confirmation that one has been baptized with the Holy Spirit? Not necessarily, for the disciples were filled with joy, continuity praising God, before they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost: "While he [Jesus] blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God." Luke 24:51‭-‬53 ESV (1) 4)To forbid speaking in tongues publicly may forbid some from exercising their spiritual gift in order to build up the body of Christ: "And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." 1 Corinthians 12:28‭-‬31 ESV The implied answer to the question in the passage "Do all speak in tongues?" is "No." Does this mean that some do not speak any syllables in tongues when receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit or afterwards? Does it mean that not all believers have it within them speak in tongues in their personal communion with God after receiving that baptism? Or is this particular passage NOT referring to the baptism in the Holy Spirit nor to the believer's personal prayer language (see reason #9), but to the exercise of the gift of tongues for the building up of the church? That question demonstrates that there are at least three different instances regarding speaking in tongues: tongues confirming the baptism of the Holy Spirit, tongues as a personal prayer language, and the public exercise of tongues as a spiritual gift. Thus any policy regarding the use of tongues must understand and take into account those different situations or manifestations of tongues. Blanket rules or policies forbidding tongues corporately may thus demonstrate ignorance of these different kinds of tongues through which the Holy Spirit may choose to manifest. 5) Blanket policies forbidding the use of tongues could endanger a ministry to being guilty of grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit. Consider these Scriptural commands as potential warnings:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Ephesians 4:29‭-‬30 ESV “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16‭-‬22 ESV 6) Forbidding tongues altogether may prevent the Holy Spirit from having His way in a congregation. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV Such can likewise be rendered from the Greek, "Where the Spirit is Lord, there is freedom" (2). The Holy Spirit is God, the Lord and Master of all. We cannot boss Him around and tell Him what He can and can't do. Such is equivalent to slapping Jesus in the face. Shouldn't this cause us to approach forbidding how He may desire to manifest Himself with great caution? Since every worship session or meeting requires being in tune and in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25), isn't it a bit presumptuous to make blanket policies on forbidding the use of tongues in the event that the Holy Spirit may desire to manifest Himself in that way?

7) Forbidding public tongues doesn’t glorify the Son nor the Father.

Since Jesus is identified in all the gospels as the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit, putting restrictions on public tongues then grieves not just the Holy Spirit, but also the Son. The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to glorify the Son (John 16:14). If we forbid public tongues, then we might give Jesus restrictions for how he can baptize people with the Holy Spirit. Does that sound very submissive to you? Does that religious attitude glorify Jesus, telling the Lord what He can and can’t do? The Trinity is quite interconnected. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost describes how all three are participants in the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he [the Son] has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33 ESV italics mine). The Son’s purpose is to glorify the Father. How can God the Father be glorified if we quench His Holy Spirit and prevent His Son from being glorified as baptizer in the Holy Spirit?

8) Forbidding tongues altogether could indicate not keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

To be sure, there may be times when people will speak in tongues improperly to make an arrogant show. They will be walking in the flesh rather than in the Spirit, insensitive to the Spirit's direction. Since God's gifts are without repentance (Romans 11:29), some can abuse those gifts to draw attention to themselves rather than to glorify the Lord and build up the church. During those instances, it is necessary and proper for the spiritual leaders to put an end to the display of arrogance. Such takes great discernment and requires being in step with the Spirit to know when and how to intervene. My point is this: To forbid speaking in tongues before it even occurs, might we be getting ahead of the Holy Spirit rather than in step with Him? Might we be so afraid of losing control of the meeting that we don't permit the Holy Spirit to do whatever He wants to do? 9) Shying away from tongues may keep the congregation from learning to edify or to build themselves up.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26‭-‬27 ESV

“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” Ephesians 6:18 ESV

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” Jude 1:20 ESV (3).

“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:2‭-‬4 ESV By communing with God through tongues, the believer edifies himself or herself. By building him/herself up in this way, they then can be in a full position from which they can bless or build up others. Imagine what a powerful resource this could be to a believer, especially of s/he is in a place of discouragement.

10) We are admonished to earnestly desire spiritual gifts, including tongues:

“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy…Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” 1 Corinthians 14:1‭, ‬5 ESV

  1. These insights I learned from Derek Prince’s resources, including his “Laying the Foundation” audio series.

  2. This line I also heard from Derek Prince.

  3. It is true that the phrase “praying in the Holy Spirit” could also refer to praying the word of God in accordance with His will. C.f. Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:17-21. I completely agree. Communing with God in a personal prayer language should not contradict the aspect of praying in the Holy Spirit as praying out God’s Word, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit.



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