Can Every Christian Speak in Tongues?

Paul said that he wished that all of us had the gift of speaking in a foreign language (he spoke in several “tongues”). When you remember the focus of his ministry was “first to the Jew and then to the Gentile” this really makes sense. The previous section explained that the purpose of speaking in tongues was to reach the Jew with the gospel.

God distributes His Spiritual gifts as it pleases Him. Just as God chooses who He wants to be a teacher in the church, He also chooses who He wants to speak in tongues. He doesn’t give everyone in body the same gift. There are many gifts for the many functions of the body of Christ, but each one is for building up and unifying the body of Christ.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

Ironically, we Christians have made speaking in tongues into a big issue, yet it is least in the list of the gifts of the Spirit.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 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? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-30)

There are much more important gifts than speaking in tongues, but everyone should desire the greatest gift of the Spirit: To communicate God’s love –His good news– to others that He has placed us with (our family, neighbors, coworkers,acquaintances). And that is done by living a life motivated by that love.

And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3)