Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Do All Speak in Tongues? The Context Gives the Answer

Summary:  “Do all speak in tongues?” This short question in 1 Corinthians 12:30 expects a “No” answer — in the context! It does not give a “No” answer to this broader question: Is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues, for all believers? To that the biblical answer is “Yes!” Let’s examine this.

1 Corinthians 12:1, 29-31  Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed… [29] Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

First Corinthians chapter 12 is Paul’s teaching about the gifts of the Spirit. At the end of the chapter, he lists 7 spiritual gifts and ministries and asks about each one: “Are all apostles…all prophets…all teachers…all workers of miracles…do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” The obvious answer in all 7 instances is a clear “No.”

The context is all-important. The list is of seven God-given ministries and spiritual gifts. It is indisputable that not all believers will be apostles. Not all will be prophets, and so forth. And not all will speak in tongues, but in what context? — as a gift of the Spirit to be followed by the companion gift of interpretation of tongues for the edification of the church. This is clearly stated in vss. 8-10: “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom … [10] to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”

As two of those 9 mentioned gifts of the Spirit, speaking in tongues with the companion gift of interpretation of tongues is a normal part of the new Testament church service. 1 Corinthians 14:26 describes the gathered church meeting: “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.” in this spiritual-gift context, “Do all speak in tongues?” No, not any more than all bring the “word of instruction.”

So no, not all speak in tongues in the sense of a gift of the Spirit to be followed by the companion gift of interpretation. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1971, with the immediate evidence of speaking in tongues. In my personal devotional life, I have spoken in tongues very often these past 49 years. But not once in the church service has the Holy Spirit moved upon me to bring a public message in tongues for interpretation. Other believers have that spiritual gift; I do not. But I do have the blessed Holy Spirit enablement to speak in tongues in prayer, devotion, worship, etc., as often as I wish. This is not one of 1 Corinthians 12’s nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is the immediate, universal evidence that comes to every believer who is baptized with the Holy Spirit. Let’s see this in the Scriptures.

Acts 1:5,8; 2:1-4  [Jesus said] “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… [8] “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” … [2:1] When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place… [4] All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

120 of Christ’s disciples were gathered together in one place. It was the biblical Day of Pentecost, one of Israel’s three great spiritual festivals. Suddenly the room was filled with the sound of a rushing, mighty wind. Visible tongues of fire settled on each of them. They were “ALL filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues,” as Jesus had prophesied (“In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”). On that first, great New Testament Day of Pentecost, the 120 believers were filled with/baptized with the Holy Spirit. The immediate evidence of that Holy Spirit baptism was all 120 speaking in tongues by the Holy Spirit’s enablement.

Acts 10:44-46  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Peter was preaching the Gospel in the home of the Gentile Cornelius. The hearers believed, and the Holy Spirit “came on all” of them. And the immediate evidence of that filling/baptizing with the Spirit was all of them speaking in tongues. In fact, that was how Peter and his companions knew that they had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit: “FOR they heard them speaking in tongues.”

Sad to say, some preachers have tried to convince their audiences that this was some different kind of experience from that of Acts 2. But that is clearly false; it was the very same baptism with the Spirit, with the very same evidence of tongues. In Acts 11:1-18, the Jewish Christian leaders at Jerusalem were questioning Peter about his ministry at Cornelius’s house. Peter’s reply settled the fact that this was the same Holy Spirit baptism that they had received in Acts 2 (and believers continue to receive today!): “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:15-17)

The Gentile converts to Christianity in Cornelius’s house were born again. And they all received the baptism with the Spirit (16), with the biblical evidence of tongues (Acts 10:46). Peter also had them immediately baptized in water (Acts 10:47-48).

Acts 19:5-7  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

This spiritual activity in Ephesus is now the third clear illustration of believers in the Book of Acts being baptized with/filled with the Spirit (the terms “baptized with” and “filled with” mean the same thing [See Acts 1:5 with 2:4]). In all 3 instances all the people filled with the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues as the immediate, initial evidence of their Holy Spirit baptism.

The apostle Paul too was filled with the Spirit (Acts 9:17). And he declared, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18). Earlier (vs. 5) the apostle had said, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues.”

To summarize: In Acts 2, Acts 10, and Acts 19 we have groups of believers being baptized with the Holy Spirit, and they all immediately began to speak in tongues as evidence of that experience. The great apostle Paul spoke in tongues, and he encouraged that experience for “you all” as well.

Acts 2:37-39  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

To recap:  In vss. 1-4 the 120 had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. This became known and heard in Jerusalem and crowds gathered. Peter preached a Spirit-inspired sermon and many came under conviction. When they asked Peter what they should do, Peter replied, Repent, be baptized, and you too will receive the Holy Spirit — in the sense of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues, that Peter and the 120 had just received. And Peter assured them that this Pentecostal promise was not just for them in that day, but “for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

If you have been born again through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the promise of the baptism with the Spirit, with speaking in tongues, is “for you … for all who are far off.” Look to Jesus and receive that Spirit baptism from Him today.

Summary: “Do all speak in tongues?”

1) As a spiritual gift for interpretation in the church service? No. That was the context of Paul’s question.

2) As the universal evidence of the baptism of the Spirit? Yes! That is the clear Bible teaching.


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©2020, James H. Feeney.
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Pentecostal Sermons &
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.