Three Types of Tongues Every Christian Should Know
Content by David Diga
When it comes to the gift of tongues, what becomes apparent as we read the Scriptures is that there are various expressions of the gift. I like to refer to these expressions of the gift of tongues as the personal tongue, the proof tongue, and the prophetic tongue. Now these terms are not in the Bible, just as you won’t find the term “trinity” in the Bible, yet we know that it is a foundational truth in Scripture.
In the same way, I am using these terms to simply embolden the distinctions between the expressions that the Bible shows us very clearly.
Read: How to Speak in Tongues
1. The Personal Tongue
In 1 Corinthians 14:1-4, Apostle Paul talks about the strengthening that happens personally when speaking in tongues.
Now, oftentimes people will misread this portion of Scripture and believe that Paul is condemning the gift of tongues. Not at all. He is not condemning the gift of tongues, he is comparing this gift to the gift of prophecy.
He’s not saying that praying in tongues is bad, but that prophesying is better. Why? Because specifically in a church setting, it’s better to do something that edifies the group as a whole rather than it is to do something that only edifies an individual. In mentioning this truth, Paul also reveals the fact that when an individual prays, they are also edified and strengthened personally (1 Corinthians 14:4).
2. The Proof Tongue
In Acts 2:4-6, we see that those in the Upper Room began to speak in other tongues. Those who heard them could understand them in their own language.
I’ve done some study on the subject to find out whether they were speaking in the listener’s actual languages, or if the Holy Spirit, by supernatural intervention, was interpreting the gift of tongues on the listener’s end.
The Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not the believers were speaking in those languages, or if the people were hearing them in those languages. All we know is that there was a supernatural element being proven to the listener.
This tongue is spoken aloud but heard in another language. People will often take this verse in Acts and say that this is the only gift of tongues. However, this couldn’t be the case considering 1 Corinthians 14:1-4 speaks about a tongue that no man can understand only God. That could only be describing a heavenly language. This expression of the gift is meant to benefit the unbeliever (1 Corinthians 14:22).
3. The Prophetic Tongue
We see the mention of this expression in 1 Corinthians 14:26-28. The prophetic expression of the gift of tongues is exercised in the assembly of believers who’ve gathered for the purpose of being edified.
For instance, in a church setting an individual will stand up and pray in tongues and then another will stand up and provide the interpretation of what was being spoken. This is the prophetic tongue, which is used to benefit the church (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26).
The Differences Between the Expressions
These three different expressions are described in their function in three different ways entirely throughout Scripture. Although these are the same gift, they are not the same expressions because they benefit differently:
- The Personal Tongue: Benefits the individual (1 Corinthians 14:4).
- The Proof Tongue: Benefits the unbeliever ( 1 Corinthians 14:22).
- The Prophetic Tongue: Benefits the church (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26).
Not only do we see differences of benefit made in Scripture, but we also see the differences in interpretation requirements:
- The Personal Tongue: Requires no interpretation or interpreter in order to be beneficial to the individual (1 Corinthians 14:4).
- The Proof Tongue: Requires no interpreter for the interpretation to be understood by the unbeliever (Acts 2:8).
- The Prophetic Tongue: Requires an interpreter in order to benefit the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Here is one more line of distinction between the three expressions. This is based on how they are understood:
- The Personal Tongue: Is understood by no one but God (1 Corinthians 14:2).
- The Proof Tongue: Is supernaturally understood by the unbeliever (Acts 2:8).
- The Prophetic Tongue: Is understood by the church with the aid of an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27).
These are the three expressions of the gift of speaking in tongues. The confusion can be clarified once you see these different expressions in Paul’s writings. Paul wasn’t putting a restriction on the expression of the gift, but rather on the prophetic expression of it.
Get Weekly Content.Sign up below to receive weekly emails and updates.
I pray this was a blessing. Please share this blog and let me know what you think!