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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney


This week, we continue with our 1 Corinthians series, looking at some aspects of the gift of tongues from 1 Corinthians 14.

Summary: To receive the gift of tongues, ask for someone to pray with you and ‘step out’ - start speaking - in faith.

Many people fail to speak in tongues because they are wanting the Holy Spirit to take control of their speaking apparatus in some way. They don’t want to be fake and so they are reluctant to make any effort. However, if you look at any of the gifts, you will surely concur that they all require our response of faith: teaching, prophecy, healing, leadership, giving, evangelism, pastoring, administration, mercy… all the gifts require our involvement, so why should tongues be any different? Pauls speaks of the control we have in using prophecy, which surely is applicable to tongues:

‘The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.’ (1 Corinthians 14:32)

Chapter 14 has the air of choice about the use of all the gifts including tongues. Paul does not speak of tongues as being a moment when one is taken over by the Spirit in some way. His teaching on tongues encourages order and choice in using this gift. It seems to me that speaking in tongues is usually the choice of the person with the gift. What he says in 14:15, infers a choice:

‘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.’ (1 Corinthians 14:15)

In private, it seems, one can speak in tongue to edify oneself at will. In public, it seems that Paul is saying that one will receive a sense and conviction that they are to speak in tongues in public and another, or the same person, will similarly receive conviction to bring a Godward interpretation. Paul’s encouragement to limit the number and interpret each touch means that we are under control as to when and if to share a public tongue and interpretation. Again, the element of choice as whether to speak in tongues is inferred in 14:18-19:

‘I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.’ (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)

Surely Paul is not say, “I’m special in that the Holy Spirit takes over my vocal cords more often than any of yours!” Rather, he seems to be saying that “Like you I speak in tongues a lot in private prayer. However, I refrain from using this gift without interpretation in public because I’m choosing to serve others.”


To receive the gift of tongues ask for someone to pray with you and step out - start speaking - in faith. To grow in this gift, keep using it in private and be open to using it in public.

My experience is just this. I was prayed for but only later, in private, I started speaking in tongues. It was my choice. On only one occasion have I experienced the power of the Spirit in such a way that the gift of tongues came unbidden - but I was still in control!

Terry Virgo writes of His experience of first speaking in tongues:

‘I argued with them at length, but their love and patience were exemplary. They brought me back to the promises of the Bible and reminded me of my heavenly Father’s faithfulness and encouraged me to draw near to God once again. By now the pastor had gone. I prayed and once again they encouraged me to speak in tongues. Fearfully I started but quickly stopped, claiming that I did not want to make up some silly, meaningless language. Again they patently prevailed upon me to stick at it and again begin to pray. I did so and carried on the new language for a little while but it was as though hundreds of voices in my head were accusing, ‘You are making this up. This is not supernatural. This is mere nonsense!’ Quietly, my friend commented, ‘You are very clever making all this up.’ We laughed, I relaxed and carried on. Suddenly a rush of power went right through my being from head to toe. I found myself not only speaking freely in tongues but also calling out to God in the most loving and intimate terms that I could imagine. God was right here in my heart. His love was overflowing me. I truly loved him like never before. Abba Father suddenly took on new meaning.’ (Terry Virgo, No Well-worn paths)


1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


2. Icebreaker

What has God been speaking to you about from His word recently? How would you like prayer?


3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group

On Sunday, we continued in our series from 1 Corinthians looking at the gift of tongues from chapter 14.

Please read Acts 2:11; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 13:1; 14:1-2, 14:18, 14:23, 14:39-40.


The gift of tongues is praise, prayer and thanksgiving to God in a God-given language unlearned by the speaker.

i. Tongues is praise and prayer (See Acts 2:11, 1 Corinthians 14:14).

ii. Tongues is to God - Godward (See 1 Corinthians 14:2)

iii. Tongues is a language unknown to the speaker - (See Corinthians 14:14, 16)


The interpretation of tongues is the God-given inspiration to speak in the language of the hearers, the dynamic equivalent of what was spoken in a ‘public tongue’. (See 14:26-28)

i. This, I believe, ranges from translation to the sense - a paraphrase - of the revelation given in the tongue.

ii. In a public meeting, tongues must always be interpreted. Without interpretation, tongues can create confusion and fails to edify the church.

I encourage you to watch this video together:


i) Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?

ii) How would you define the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues?

iii. How are tongues to be used in a public worship gathering?

iv. What is the purpose of tongues in our private devotions?

v) Do you speak in tongues and how did you start operating in this gift?

vi) Would anyone like prayer to receive this gift?

SIV - Do you have any encouraging stories of sharing your faith with your friends?

SIV - How do you plan to 'serve, invest and invite' into your friendships?

SIV - Let's pray for the Spirit to lead us in reaching our community.

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