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Gift of tongues: The 4 administration of speaking in tongues

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The Gift of TonguesDid you know that there are 4 different administrations of the gift of tongues?  Most churches speak on one type of speaking in tongues and they talk about it from their doctrinal point of view instead of teaching on the 4 types.  This leads to a lot of confusion in the church.  We hope that by the end of this post you will have further clarity on this gift.

First, the 4 administration of the gift is broken down into 2 for public use and 2 for private.

1.  Public; known tongue (a language that is understood but not by the speaker); for the benefit of the hearer; no need for interpretation because it is a known tongue

We see this type of tongue used in Acts 2 after the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples.  They were in essence speaking in 10 different languages.  They didn’t understand those languages and neither do they speak those languages but the Holy Spirit gave them the ability to speak these different languages so they could preach the Gospel and see 5,000 people come to know Christ. So this would be people who only speak Hebrew suddenly speaking Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, etc.

Acts 2 English Standard Version (ESV) “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Here’s a question for you?  Have you ever spoken in tongues and it was a known language?  If you have not, then you have not been used by the Holy Spirit to administer this gift of tongues…yet.

2. Public; unknown tongue; someone with gift of interpretation must be present; for the benefit of the hearer, including the speaker; usually used in churches

This administration of the gift is the one we generally see used in Pentecostal churches.  When this gift is properly administered there must be someone to interpret the tongues.  If there is no interpretation it is out of order and should be viewed as not coming from the Holy Spirit.  Notice it is interpretation of the tongue and not an exact translation.

Notice that this administration of the gift needs interpretation while the first one in Acts 2 didn’t because they were speaking known languages.  So this is clearly not the same thing.




Romans 12 “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

We see from these scriptures that this is a gift that is given to some believers and not to others because God gives as He determines.  Do you know that there are people who interpret tongues but don’t speak in tongues?  There are also those who have both gifts, they speak in tongues and they interpret tongues.  They can even interpret their own tongues.

Further in the same chapter we see that not everyone has this gift…

Romans 12: 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

The answer to the question is No. So, not everyone has the gift of tongues and not everyone can interpret tongues.

This adminstration of the gift must also be done in order and decency

1 Corinthians 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.”

3. Private; unknown tongues; speaking to angels; for the benefit of God and to dispatch angels

1 Corinthians 13: 1 New International Version (NIV) “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

So this scripture says that we have tongues that we speak to men (a known tongue) and a tongues that is used to speak to angels (unknown tongue).  It makes sense that since there are different languages here on earth then there must be other languages spoken in heaven as well.  What language do the angels speak?  Since there are different classifications of angels there is a possibility that the different angels also speak different languages.  Also, do angels that have assignments over different regions speak different tongues?  This is speculation but it is possible.

4. Private; unknown tongues; speaking to God and building up your own spirit

This is the tongues that builds your own spirit.  This is done in private, or sometimes under your breath when you are in a prayer meeting praying with others.  It is not for the benefit of others but for yourself and in communicating with God.

Now this scripture in 1 Corinthians 14 shows the different kind of tongues and you can see the difference in the scriptures but we also want to point out when it talks about this private use of tongues

1 Corinthians 14 New International Version (NIV) “ For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.

So based on this scripture we see that this tongues is not like the others that were mentioned before because this is a tongue that speaks directly to God.  It is not for the benefit of others and there is no interpretation needed.

Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:

“With other tongues
    and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
    but even then they will not listen to me,
says the Lord.”

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

From these scriptures we see that there are tongues to edify oneself, tongues that need to be interpreted.  We also see that we should not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues. Understanding that there are 4 different administration of this gift brings further clarity to the scripture 1 Corinthians 14. Otherwise,  it would seem that one verse contradicts the other.




Misconceptions of the Gift of Tongues

#1  If you don’t speak in tongues you are not saved and this is the scripture that is used to support that point….

Mark 16:17-18 New International Version (NIV) “ 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Following that doctrine it means that all of these same people would need to pass the “snake test” and the “poison test” and the “healing test” as well.  I’m pretty sure they will fail one of these.  You do not need to speak in tongues to be saved.  You can be saved and not speak in tongues.

#2 Tongues are demonic.  This is just not true.  If it were then everyone who spoke in tongues back in the bible days were demonic too.  Here is what is true…

Since we now know that when you speak in tongues you could be speaking to angels then it is safe to say that some who are speaking in tongues could also be speaking to demons.  Yes, this is true.

However, not everyone who speaks in tongues are conversing with demons.

Many times in churches when it is preached that you must be saved to speak in tongues people feel pressured into speaking in tongues and end up tapping into something demonic. Or hooking up with those practicing witchcraft and then tap into demonic tongues.

Those who have the gift of discerning of spirits can tell when the tongues are “unclean” and something is not right about the tongues.

If you feel like you may be a part of a group where there are demonic tongues you just need to stop speaking in tongues around them and find another group.  Pray that God would cleanse you from these unclean spirits and purify your tongues.

#3  This is a gift given by the Holy Spirit and therefore cannot be turned on and off like a light switch.  The answer is YES and NO.  Obviously if you are administering this gift in public (points #1 and #2) then you are totally not in control as to when the Holy Spirit starts using you in this gift.  You would have absolutely no control over it.

However, if you are administering this gift in private (#3 and #4 scenarios) you determine when and how long you speak in tongues.  When you are alone in your house speaking in tongues to edify your own spirit you do start this by yourself.  You can actually practice by starting out praying in tongues for a minute to 5 minutes per day.  It will feel and sound strange at first but as you go along and increase the time you will suddenly start to receive revelation from God, new giftings you never had before and an understanding of things in the spiritual realm you never had before – directly from God.  After awhile you’ll be able to speak in tongues for 1 hour everyday in private.  This is a really good way to build your own spirit, especially if you are in an intense spiritual battle.

When you are doing this alone at your home then you don’t need to be concerned with how it sounds.  If you practice on your own then you build your confidence and your spirit and when you are in public you are more likely to be the person God uses to administer the gift in #1 and #2.  Hope this makes sense.

Before you think I’m crazy for even suggesting this, pay attention to what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

He says he speaks in tongues more than any other person, but in church he would rather speak a known tongue….  This means he’s speaking in tongues more than anyone else in PRIVATE.  You can do this at home alone to build up your spirit.  This completely explains why Paul was able to go through what he did and remain strong.  When you start to speak in tongues for an hour or more per day your spirit takes dominance over your flesh and you are able to walk and move in the supernatural.  Try it!

Here’s hoping that if you read all of this you have a better understanding of this gift.  You can let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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