Misconceptions about Speaking in Tongues

Common Misconceptions and Fears
About Speaking in Tongues

"What in the world was that strange language?" This was my declaration upon hearing speaking in tongues for the first time. It sounded rather odd. This was a whole new spiritual experience for me. I was becoming very apprehensive to the idea of my speaking in tongues. As with anything that is new or that seems odd at first, it is quite normal to build up a fear against it.

Unfortunately, many misunderstandings have snaked their way into the minds of those who are looking into the manifestation of speaking in tongues. They all stem from the fear of the unknown and from compromising the integrity of God's Word.

This chapter will be helpful in dispelling what a minister from Great Britain wrote me in response to the reading of the first edition of Speaking in Tongues: A Biblical Perspective by saying, "tongues are generally looked down upon and are not spoken about or are regarded as some outlandish…over -the-top weirdo babbling…" Unfortunately, there are many who have carried erroneous thinking about speaking in tongues into their Christian life. A careful investigation of God's Word should eliminate any fears or misconception about speaking in tongues.

Misunderstanding the Scriptures about speaking in tongues has formed a number of misconceptions and fears that discourage Christians from investigating this wonderful manifestation. If it were not for certain errors that have been promulgated through the years producing unfounded fears, many believers would be experiencing an exciting, life changing episode in their life.

When I first heard about speaking in tongues and learned about its significance, several fears crept into my heart. These included: "Am I good enough before God to utilize this awesome manifestation?" "Was speaking in tongues really available to do after its origination some 2,000 years ago as recorded in the book of Acts?" There were some people that declared, "It went out with the First Century Apostles." There were even some well meaning believers that said, "Such speaking of other languages was of the devil." These and other obstacles of misunderstanding have cheated many well meaning Christians away from manifesting one of the most rewarding abilities in Christianity.

The following are a number of misconceptions and fears that have thwarted the loving attempts of many well deserving Christians from manifesting one of God's most precious experiences. One source that dispels fear is the truth of God's Word. Many have been inundated with ideas from what other people have taught and not what the Bible teaches. We will use God's matchless Word to discover what our Heavenly Father has to say about these concerns regarding speaking in tongues.

Psalms 34:4 
I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 

Many people call speaking in tongues a gift while God calls it a manifestation 

When we are born again, we receive the gift of holy spirit. Wrapped up in that gift are nine manifestations. These nine manifestations are not separate gifts, but they are evidences of the one gift of holy spirit. 

The concept of calling the manifestation of speaking in tongues a gift, ushers in the concern for people to question themselves, "are they good enough to receive it?" Some people will say, "I am born again, but I have not received the gift of speaking in tongues." This is an incorrect understanding of the Scriptures. God is not a respecter of persons. Everyone who is born again, receives the gift of holy spirit which includes all nine manifestations, including speaking in tongues. 

I Corinthians 12:7:
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

The following verses contains a list of all nine manifestations.

I Corinthians 12:8-10:
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 

The usage of the words "for to one" and "to another," refer to the words "to profit" in verse seven. This emphasizes that each one of the manifestations is to profit the person using them. In the next verse God puts it all together by saying: "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (I Corinthians 12:11). This verse confirms that all the manifestations stems from one spirit, and the person operates them as he wills. It is not saying, "as God wills," as some teach, but as the man wills, himself. God gives man freedom of will to utilize the spirit. God does not force any of the manifestations on an individual. 

Since people mislabel speaking in tongues as a gift; they feel that God gives it only to certain deserving individuals 

Many believers fear that speaking in tongues is reserved only for the most deserving. Our loving Heavenly Father makes a point in His Word to say that He is not a respecter of persons. "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:" (Acts 10:34). He may be a respecter of conditions, such as when people believe, they receive, but He does not hold back from people to whom He has made His promises.

God has no favorites. He does not neglect some and favor others in giving what He has made available to all those who believe Him. We "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," it says in Romans 3:23. No one deserves, nor has earned the right to have God's gift of holy spirit. Yet, Jesus Christ paid the price for every man on the face of the earth. 

John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The "whosoever" includes any and everyone. No one is excluded when it comes to the new birth. He loves everyone, and that is why there are no exceptions when it comes to the new birth and manifesting the gift of holy spirit.

I John 4:13-15:
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 
And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. 
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 

Romans 8:9:
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 

What counts in life is to have the spirit of Christ in you. This comes as a result of believing upon the son of God. Whenever anyone, regardless of who they are, does Romans 10:9 and 10, they get saved or born again, filled with the gift of holy spirit.

Romans 10:9 and 10: 
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine 
Heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

They then have the capacity to speak in tongues. Just like the new believers did on the Day of Pentecost when they declared "we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11).

If God only allowed the "very good" to manifest speaking in tongues, then the Apostle Paul would have never qualified. Paul consented to the death of Christians and had many put into prison. Yet, God forgave Him and allowed him to speak in tongues. "I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all." (I Corinthians 14:18). Paul obviously recognized the value of speaking in tongue. 

A believer may have to wait or "tarry" before they speak in tongues

Many misled believers are taught that they have to wait for just the right time before God would have them experience speaking in tongues. This is a sad injustice to God's desire for every believer to speak in tongues right after they are born again.

The example in God's Word is that once people were filled with the gift of holy spirit, they manifested speaking in tongues immediately. On the Day of Pentecost, they did not wait to manifest speaking in tongues. Cornelius and his family in Acts chapter ten did not wait to manifest speaking in tongues. Our Heavenly Father desires to hear you worship Him (Philippians 3:3), giving Him thanks well (I Corinthians 14:17), and magnify Him (Acts 10:46). God's Word states, "I would that ye all spoke in tongues" (I Corinthians 14:5). He also declares that no one is to forbid anyone in speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:39). All of these together demonstrate a God Who desires His children to operate the spirit given to them without any waiting period. 

Children should not speak in tongues until they are mature young adults

Children and Speaking in TonguesMany who believe in speaking in tongues are hesitant to lead their children into speaking in tongues. They question whether they are capable of handling the spirit of God at a young age. God's Word does not say anything about age limits when it comes to manifesting the spirit of God. 

For someone to get born again, they have to be able to understand who Jesus Christ is and what he did in redeeming mankind. They also have to grasp the concept of Jesus Christ being raised from the dead. Believing in the Son of God and making Christ lord as well as believing in the resurrection is the basic requirement for salvation.

Romans 10:9:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

When a child is ready to believe in these realities, then they can take on having the gift of holy spirit abiding within. I have heard of five and six year olds manifesting the spirit. They must have been very mature for their age. One thing is for sure, we should not rush the process. They need to act on freedom of will. Once their understanding comes together, then they can get born again and walk by the spirit and speak in tongues.

Speaking in tongues went away with the close of the First Century Church

The book of Acts reveals a vibrant and power filled church that many say has never been repeated. Many have said that this was a unique time in history. All the miracles and healings were only for that period of time including speaking in tongues. This kind of thinking is erroneous. God's work did not end only in the First Century Church, but continued all through time to even now. 

Today, people continue to be born again and do all the works of the holy spirit that was manifested in the First Century Church. I have personally witnessed and have been a part of many healings, miracles and have heard thousands of people speaking in tongues.

All through history, the Christian Church has witnessed all the signs, miracles, healings and other activities indicative of the power of God in manifestation. Included in these workings are speaking in tongues. In recent history speaking in tongues became very prevalent with the modern Pentecostal movement that started in Los Angeles in 1906. Hundreds of thousands of people speak in tongues today. 

Speaking in tongues is placed last on the list of manifestations in I Corinthians 12 so it is least important

This error is easy to defuse, because when a person opens their Bible and reads the listing they quickly find that it is listed second to the last!

II Corinthians 12:10:
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits;
to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 

Whenever you have a list of items, something has to be last or second to the last. I like it when people, who adhere to this misconception, happen to be from a large family and they are one of last children of the group. The point is easily revealed, when I say, "Since, you were one of the last born in your family, are you least important?" This does not sit very well with those that are confronted with such logic. 

Speaking in tongues is uncontrolled babbling 

People are fearful of hearing others speaking out with sounds they cannot understand. There have been a number of movies and even some documentaries that have shown speaking in tongues in an unfavorable light.

When speaking in tongues, the person maintains his or her freedom of will, so one can speak loudly or softly. They can fully control the process and stop and start at one's own will. 

One aspect believers need to be aware of is that God instructs born again ones to walk in love, operating the manifestations decently and orderly.

I Corinthians 14:40:
Let all things be done decently and in order.

The things of God are to be orderly and are not to bring confusion. A person speaking in tongues correctly will do so under control. 

Speaking in tongues is of the devil

The unusual behavior of some when they speak in tongues, have led others to declare that the act must be of the devil. Again, non-Biblical based movies and documentaries have shown speaking in tongues to be a matter of confusion. Then people quote the Bible to say that God is not the author of confusion: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (I Corinthians 14:33). When people witness the confusion of people speaking in tongues and rolling around the aisles, and being "slain in the spirit," they attribute this all to the works of the adversary. The tongues are genuine, but the foolish acts are influenced by the devil.

Satan has worked overtime to discredit speaking in tongues and make it look ridicules. God has given us freedom of will, so we are responsible for how we act while speaking in tongues. We need to remember what I Corinthians 14:20 states, "Let all things be done decently and in order."

Will I get a counterfeit experience when I speak in tongues?

This is a common concern that people have when trying something new. When it comes to the operation of the spirit of God, our heavenly Father would not want us to experience anything counterfeit. One section of Scripture clearly declares this.

Luke 11:11-13:
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 
Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? 

God would not give something evil to His son if he had asked for spiritual matters. This is true of any believer who approaches God to operate the manifestation. In your efforts to speak in tongues, go boldly to the throne of grace, knowing your heavenly Father would not give you anything but the best. 

I may misuse the manifestation of speaking in tongues

As we have already seen, God would not give us a counterfeit experience. We want to do our best for our Heavenly Father, so we should learn the proper operation of the manifestations. If we make any mistakes, just remember that God is faithful to forgive us of our sins.

I John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

We love God and He loves us and will work with us. Anyone with a loving, sincere heart that goes before the Father with a desire to bless Him will certainly manifest speaking in tongues correctly. We do our part in manifesting, which is moving our lips, throat and mouth, pushing out the sounds. It is just like speaking in our native language, but we do not have to think what to say, because He does that. We just speak forth. By doing this we will not misuse this wonderful manifestation. 

Some think they are not good enough before God to utilize the manifestations of holy spirit

It is easy for man to think he can never be good enough to have the things of God. As Romans 3:11 says, "…There is none righteous, no, not one." Everything we get from our Heavenly Father is by grace. He loves us so dearly that he wants the best for us.

Our Heavenly Father obviously loves us in spite of how sinful we were, because He sent His son to die for us so that we could have all the new birth qualities including the gift of holy spirit and its manifestations. When He looks at us, all He cares to see is the fullness of Christ within. In the end, it is not how good we are, but it is how good God is to give us the fullness of the gift of holy spirit, along with the ability to speak in tongues and incorporate the other manifestations in our life. 

Some people think speaking in tongues is the "gift of languages" so that they can become missionaries and speak the local language.

The whole idea of speaking in tongues is to pray in the spirit to the Heavenly Father. There is nothing in God's Word that infers that people speaking in tongues would be sent out as missionaries to other countries. 

Obviously, people who speak in tongues, will probably have a strong prayer life and could be suited for missionary work. The fact that they do speak in tongues does not mean they will speak the language of the native people where they are sent. The only record of people understanding the tongues spoken is on the Day of Pentecost when those listening recognized their native language. God did this as a special blessing in introducing the receiving of the gift of holy spirit. At no other time did this ever happen as recorded in God's Word.

There are accounts of people hearing someone speaking in tongues and recognizing the language that was in tongues. They report that the language they spoke was with clarity and according to God's Word in content. Someone with a background of languages spoken in Iran commented that my tongue at that particular moment (I was working with her on manifesting speaking in tongues) was of a certain dialect from her country. 

Some people associate speaking in tongues with being possessed by God and losing physical control of their bodies.

I have experienced being in a church service, when all of a sudden people are babbling sounds and flopping about on the floor. This embarrassing scene happens all too often in certain churches that believe they are possessed by the spirit of God and give over their physical bodies to roll around and do all sorts of contorted movements. 

The True God and Father of our Lord and Savior performs all things decently and in order. He expects us to do so, as well (I Corinthians 14:40: Let all things be done decently and in order). God loves us and would never put us in awkward situations that would not bring glory to Him. 

When someone speaks in tongues, it is by the freedom of will of that individual. They start and end when they so choose. The evil one tries to trick people into giving over their minds and bodies to his control. That is why someone may be speaking in tongues and yet possessed by the devil doing weird things. An example of this is when someone handles poisonous snakes while speaking in tongues. The tongue is probably genuine, but the handling of the snakes is either wrong teaching or devil spirit possession. As we operate this manifestation, our actions should be with the love of God.

There are some churches that handle snakes while speaking in tongues.

This is another situation where people do not renew their minds and fill it with error about the proper function of speaking in tongues. In this case, they literally take what Mark 16:18 says, "they will take up serpents;" They forget to read the rest of the verse that indicates that if they would do such an act by mistake, as the Apostle Paul did in Acts 28:3-5 and was bitten by a snake. In this situation he was not harmed. As the verse in Mark goes on to say, "and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them;" What is being communicated is that if a believer is bitten by a poisonous snake or drinks a contaminated liquid, that believer can be delivered unharmed.

The integrity of God's Word is always at stake. We must continue to be workmen of God's Word, rightly dividing it. In this case, the Scriptures were misunderstood and therefore misapplied, causing a most awkward error to occur. The sad result is that this turns many people off from speaking in tongues, because they do not want to be associated with snake handlers. 


These misconceptions and fears should not hold the believer back from manifesting speaking in tongues. Once someone recognizes that God desires to hear from you via speaking in tongues, you will simply walk out and do it. There is absolutely no fear once God's Word is fully known. At that point, nothing will inhibit you from speaking in tongues.