Do I have to speak in tongues if I receive the Holy Spirit?

by Luke Wayne
11/2/16

No, you don't have to speak in tongues if you receive the Holy Spirit. God gives different spiritual gifts to different believers so that we will be able to bless and edify one another. As Paul explained to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:4, "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills."

The Spirit of God decides what gifts He will give to each believer according to His own will and purpose. The gift of tongues is listed here right alongside the other gifts as something that one believer has and another does not. Paul goes on to explain that it is God's purpose that we all have different gifts so that we need one another and function together like the many members of one body. He says, for example:

1 Corinthians 12:17-21, "If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; or again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.'"

In this context, Paul plainly says:

1 Corinthians 12:30, "All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?"

It is clear that many Christians have the Spirit and have been given gifts by the Spirit, but God has chosen not to give them the gift of tongues. In fact, Paul's logic here seems to assume that the majority of believers did not have the gift of tongues, just as the majority of the body could not be eyes, hands, or knees. Any Spiritual gift is only given to some believers for the sake of edifying all and bringing us together in local church communities.

Some have argued that in the biblical narrative, speaking in tongues was always an outward sign of a believer being filled with the Holy Spirit. First of all, even if that was true, just because we see that something happened in a biblical story doesn't automatically mean that it has to happen that way every single time, especially when there are texts like 1 Corinthians 12 that plainly say that it does not happen every single time. Second of all, the claim is not even true about the biblical narrative! We certainly see times where the Spirit fell on people and they spoke in tongues, but it did not happen every time. In fact, the filling of the Holy Spirit often has to do with bold and clear proclamation of truth. For example, the Prophet Micah says:

Micah 3:8, "On the other hand I am filled with power - With the Spirit of the Lord - And with justice and courage To make known to Jacob his rebellious act, Even to Israel his sin."

We also see that John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), his mother Elizabeth (Luke 1:41), and his father Zacharias (Luke 1:67) are all described as being filled with the Holy Spirit. In each case, it is related to clear proclamations they would make rather than to speaking in other tongues. Did this pattern change when Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit on the church? Not at all! For example, in the book of Acts we see examples like:

Acts 4:31, "And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness."

They are filled with the Holy Spirit, and the result is speaking the word of God with boldness, not speaking in foreign tongues. Acts 4:8 likewise describes Peter being filled with the Spirit in relation to his bold proclamation before the scribes and elders of Jerusalem. Speaking in tongues is not a necessary evidence that one is filled with the Holy Spirit. As humans, we may desire such flashy experiences (as the Corinthians did) but the Spirit does not fill us to accomplish what we want but rather what God wants. Don't fret just because you don't have the spiritual gifts you think you should have. Use whatever you have been given to love and edify your brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 12:6-8), and so fulfill the will and work of the Holy Spirit in you.