If You’re Going to Prophesy or Speak In Tongues, Then Do It His Way

God in heaven

Last updated on October 10th, 2019


God in heaven

It’s always important to follow how God wants things done through His Word. So if you’re going to prophesy or speak in tongues, then do it His way. Now personally, I’m skeptical of anyone who claims to have miraculous gifts of the Spirit for scriptural reasons that I’ll choose to withhold for now. However, being that some do believe people have these kinds of miraculous gifts of the Spirit; people should at least educate themselves on how things were conducted in scripture. Let’s review 1 Corinthians 14 and we’ll understand how these two most popular spiritual gifts were instructed to be used within the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 14:26-33

1 Corinthians 14:26-33 states, “26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for God is not a God of confusion but of [m]peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”


So Paul states to these Corinthian Christians that all things should be done for edification. The Greek word for edification is oikodomē, which essentially means to build up growth in one’s faith. So in order for that to be accomplished, Paul sets an order in which gifts are to be conducted by anyone during an assembling of the body of Christ. For tongues, he says that only two or three at most should be speaking them, each in turn which I assume means one at a time. While one is speaking the tongue, the other must be interpreting. Remember, reviewing Acts 2 you learn that a person speaking in tongues is speaking in another language, not random babbling as you might see on television or some YouTube video. Paul even makes it clear if you look back at verse 10 through 12 of the chapter we’re reviewing. Paul concludes that if there is no person with a gift to interpret, then the person who speaks in tongues must be silent, and just speak to himself and God. I’ve seen preachers impulsively act is if they’re speaking tongues in the middle of a sermon which is wrong, because Paul commands any speaking of tongues to be interpreted, which usually those preachers aren’t having anyone interpret them.


For the gift of prophesy, the instruction is just about identical to the usage of tongues during an assembly. Only two or three prophets are to speak. It’s worth pondering that after that Paul states let others pass judgment. It seems as if Paul was saying one should come to their own conclusions whether any prophet’s words are valid. Instructions then go on to state a revelation made to person who is seated, the first prophet has to keep silent. But similar to tongues, prophecy is to be conducted one by one, so all can learn and be exhorted. Interestingly earlier in the chapter in verse 4, Paul deems it more valuable for a Christian to prophesy to edify people than it is for a person to speak in tongues, who just edifies themselves. He concludes these instructions by noting the spirit of prophets are subject to prophets, and God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, perhaps further emphasizing the type of order in which it’s expected for things to be done. The final 2 verses of chapter 14 gives us more of that indication when Paul states, “9 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.


So, as I stated earlier, I’m skeptical of their actually being any modern usage of such gifts as was conducted during the times in scripture. I would suggest that there seem to be specific reasons as to why these gifts were needed for these times, which I’ll leave you to speculate for now given that’s not the intention of this post. The intention of this post is to get anyone who claims to have such miraculous gifts to at the very least use these gifts in the way that God wanted them to be used. As always, questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a response below. If this post enlightened you I’d appreciate if you shared it, because it can help someone else just as much as it helped you. Peace to all those who are in Christ.


29 thoughts on “If You’re Going to Prophesy or Speak In Tongues, Then Do It His Way

  1. This is interesting especially for the fact that I’ve seen and heard people speak ‘in tongues’, and as you mentioned, incorrectly. I felt that for people of God they should know better, however, I didn’t want to judge. Did my own studies on this and agreed with your post. Went to a church recently however, and someone began speaking in tongues. The preacher stopped all activity and brought the mic to the individual to hear what was being said. The person spoke in tongues and interpreted what she said. They had a message for that particular church. It was the first time I believed it was the Holy Spirit speaking and not some random babbling with no meaning or edification. My thought though, was why did the Pastor allow the other “ramblings”, not allowing any interpretation to be done, and with this one, he stopped everything. I believe they should be held accountable for allowing these, thus misleading would be followers. This Preacher also has the gift of deliverance. Thanks for the post.

    1. Hi kernacjohn. Thanks for your comment. Interesting you say she spoke and interpreted her own tongue speaking. I suppose 1 Corinthians 14:13 would suggest that could be possible, though I ponder if verse 27-28 suggests it has to be another person doing the interpreting. But putting aside that possible technicality, I think it’s wonderful if the purported tongue speaking and interpretation of said tongue is an encouragement to the church in some way to be more fervent and dedicated to living for God. I agree with you also that the pastor shouldn’t have been allowing those ramblings if there was no interpretation happening. Hopefully with future purported tongue speaking they choose to do so with interpretations being a part of allowing these occurrences.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

      1. Thanks for the reply. I went back to 1 Corinthians and found that in verse 5, it makes mention that prophesy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless he who speaks in tongues can interpret what he said. That in itself is like prophecy. Must admit I was skeptical at first since it was my very first encounter, but something about the entire situation was different.

        1. Paul also states he would rather speak five words with his mind rather than 10,000 words in a tongue (1 Cor 14:19). A pretty extreme choice of preference there. With whatever is used during an assembling, which he acknowledges in verse 26 that a tongue can be one of a few things utilized during an assembling, ultimately what Paul appears to want accomplished in carefully following these instructions is edification of the church (1 Cor 14:12, 1 Cor 14:26) and order (1 Cor 14:40).

  2. Yes, when trying to help people to find Jesus it’s so important to keep ‘man’s heart, mind and soul’ out of it, and just do God’s will. This is so very difficult to do, because of our human weaknesses, however with Jesus by our sides, the truth of God’s word does flow through us. Praise the Lord. Nice post.

    1. Hi sja316. Thanks for your comment. Praise the Lord indeed. To simply follow what the Word of God explicitly states is so important in following God’s will and the Word flowing through us.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed reading this! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I’ve always had my reservations regarding the simulation that I believe I see when people speak in tongues these days. I’m not sure that I can make the claim that everyone is faking it, but I was definitely enlightened by your post and how well you use the scripture to support your ideas–after all, that’s what it’s for right? Thanks again and God bless!

    1. Hi Joezette’s Journey. Thank you for your comment. I have my own skepticism as well, but I figure as long as people are doing things properly (in order) and doing things for the purpose that Paul instructed (edification of the Church), then I can accept people’s beliefs in their purported miraculous abilities. I could may well have my mind changed someday if I ever personally witness or experience such occurrences. Always open to however God chooses to operate.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  4. Good article. I personally believe in the speaking in tongues, since I have experienced it myself. Over the years I have seen some do it wrong or use it in the wrong way. One thing I think about this is that each person is at a different level. They could be in a learning phase. It is just like a new believer teaching things from God’s Word. Sometimes they will start off with wrong beliefs or ways of interpretation, only to later learn and do it better. It is a learning process for every believer.
    I strongly believe that God still uses tongues today just as He did in the Bible. I also believe that not every person will be used by God in every way that God uses people in the Bible. Some may speak in tongues, while others may never do so. Each person needs to do what God leads them to do.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Tom. Thank you for your comment. Personally, I do find it fascinating to listen to people’s beliefs of having had these supernatural experiences. I’m always intrigued to hear descriptions of what happened and why a person feels so sure what they felt and experienced was divine inspiration. Even if one such as myself who has my reasoning for slight skepticism of miraculous working, it’s still quite an intriguing mystery. But I think as long as we’re all edifying the church in what we do and doing things in reverence to God through carefully following the scripture, I think whatever side anyone leans towards on this issue, we can still be unified in Christ.

      Peace to you in Christ! 🙂

      1. I fully agree that we can still be unified in building up the body of Christ. I don’t agree with those who demand that people speak or not speak in tongues. That should be an individual thing with consideration of those you are around. Many blessings to you also!

  5. This was refreshing, thank you! Just finished a series on Spiritual gifts in my small group and we approached it with the same attitude – they may have ceased, but if they are still around today those practicing it must make sure they do so in line with Scripture!

    1. Hi roguemillennials. Thank you for your comment. Glad you found the post refreshing. Definitely an excellent topic for any church small group to review, and I’m glad that you all seek to find how things are supposed to be according to scripture.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  6. Thank you for this. I tend to agree with your feeling on speaking in tongues. I always felt the moment I was speaking in tongues, so to speak, was when I spoke using vocabulary or vernacular that is not typical in the way I speak… a certain word or phrase. It is in plain English but just a word or phrase that isn’t something I would normally say. And, I always acknowledge the Spirit when I do it. I don’t doubt that it happens a different way for others, but that just seems to be how it occurs for me. Interesting post! Have a blessed day.

    1. Hi themomofmayhem. Thank you for your comment. I always find it fascinating to hear of other’s personal experiences on this topic. I appreciate you opening up and sharing, and I hope with whatever words you may have shared with your church that it was very edifying to all of them.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  7. Also important: verses 37 and 38. One of the things that Paul says, is that these things are the Lord’s commandments. And if anyone does not recognize these, he is not recognized.

    1. Hi aner327. Thanks for your comment. Excellent observation. It emphasizes the importance even more that those who use these gifts are to use them properly as the Lord commands. So to use these gifts improperly would be to disobey the Lord’s command and thus commit sin.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  8. Hello Eric. I enjoy teaching people the truth of Holy Scripture, and I particularly enjoy teaching people to know our Lord. I am new to your blog, and I deeply appreciate your approach to teaching, your refusal to argue (humanistically speaking), and your encouraging people to study. The principle you continue to propound (in various ways) is excellent: be willing to discuss but do not demean others. While I may disagree with you on some Biblical points, I agree with you on most points, and I honor you for the way you point people to Jesus and to the Bible. I honor you for taking the time to give thorough and complete explanations to your readers.

    Keep up the good work, and may the Lord continue to bless you.

    1. Hi Genelinzey. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your very kind observations. I do my best to be thoughtful, respectful, and polite in all my words to my commenters through engaging in a dialogue even when some seem to not be as respectful and choose to be argumentative. Though I can say the majority of my commenters have been generally equally as thoughtful and respectful to me, even some of the ones who started out argumentative but then later responded in a more respectful tone. All in all, I really appreciate all my commenters that have challenged me in the accuracy of my understanding of scripture, which is something we all need to be collectively challenged on. But yes, pointing people to Jesus and scripture is ultimately what I want to accomplish even if we come to different conclusions on certain things.

      Thank you again for your comment. Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  9. I agree speaking in tongues should be in concordance to the Bible.. I understand that several denominations feel speaking in tongues ended with Acts.. and it can even be considered “demonic”.. Speaking in tongues can be widely misused.. but if praying unto God alone, He understands all languages.. 1 Corinthians 14:2
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Hi Mary Ann. Thank you for your comment. Yes indeed, whether one believes or questions such gifts are in occurrence today, as long as people are doing things according to scripture, people can choose to believe and do as they will with regards to this topic. I certainly welcome having my skepticism changed one day, as I support whatever God wants to do.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  10. Love this post! Very informative. My husband and I have recently done a study of 1 Corinthians and we dwelt a lot on this issue of speaking in tongues. It really made me sit back and wonder if we are doing it as we are supposed to, His way, because if we are all speaking in tongues at the same time, who explains it? Like Paul said, won’t an unbeliever think we are all mad if he entered our service and everyone was speaking in an unknown language? Should a whole church be speaking in an unknown language at the same time? #justwondering

    1. Hi Sharon. Thank you for your comment. Wonderful that you and your husband studied this chapter. Indeed, as Apostle Paul appeared to express, he desired of things to be done orderly, for edification of the church, and with simplicity for the potential unbeliever that approached the assembly. Amazing text to read through.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  11. Nice, but in respect to speaking in tongues, when I speak to myself and to God, is it scripturally necessary for me to speak silently?

    And in a congregation, is it bad for us to edify ourselves via speaking in tongues? Since in Acts 2:1-4, there was this practice.

    1. Hi cmartinspiration. Thank you for your comment. As I understand it according to the verses in 1 Corinthians 14, it seems to be the case that one should do so silently if there is no interpreter to interpret within the assembly. Edification by tongues seems to only be permitted when one with the gift of interpretation is available to interpret so people can understand what’s being said to them for their edification. Hope that helped clarify things for you.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

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