“Speaking in tongues is a sign, therefore, not for believers but for unbelievers”. I read this portion of scripture in 1st Corinthians 14 and it left me scratching my head.
I have the gift of speaking in tongues and for a moment I was confused as to what that scripture meant. My simple rule in salvation has always been all things must agree if they are from God.
This means that if speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit, it must be in agreement with God’s word and Jesus.
Thankfully, the answer is never far away if you are a believer. The Holy Spirit is our teacher who leads us into the whole truth.
As for speaking in tongues being a sign for unbelievers, this is what I learned…
Speaking in Tongues for Unbelievers
1. Speaking in Tongues is only practiced by believers
At first, the scripture that says speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers makes it sound as if the gift of speaking in tongues is for unbelievers.
The truth is that speaking in tongues is a gift of the Spirit of God and only people who have the Spirit of God can exercise it. No unbeliever can speak in tongues.
For unbelievers, they don’t have the Holy Spirit to guide them. Since speaking in tongues is an act of the Holy Spirit using the tongue of a person to speak, unbelievers can’t do it.
Even if unbelievers imitate the utterance of speaking in tongues, their words won’t have any power. The Holy Spirit is the power behind the utterance.
2. Speaking in Tongues is a SIGN for Unbelievers
The scripture in 1st Corinthians 14 clearly states that speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers. That is true.
Some gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant to draw the attention of unbelievers. Speaking in tongues is one of them.
Right from the first day that speaking in tongues manifested, it drew the attention of unbelievers. From the reaction of the unbelievers on the day of Pentecost, we see that they didn’t know what was happening.
Some claimed that the disciples of Jesus were drunk. Others said they could hear them praising God in their language.
The bewilderment that speaking in tongues caused was intentional; it was to draw the attention of unbelievers.
Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit is like the wind; the world cannot see him neither can it know Him. The only way the attention of an unbeliever will be drawn to the Holy Spirit is through signs and wonders.
Apart from speaking in tongues being a sign for unbelievers, the gift of performing miracles is also a sign for unbelievers.
Jesus performed miracles and the controversy that arose from the miracles attracted the attention of unbelievers. As a result, some unbelievers became believers.
3. The Interpretation of Speaking in Tongues is a Sign for Believers
While speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers, the interpretation of tongues is a sign for believers. When tongues are interpreted, they serve the same purpose as prophecy; to instruct, warn, encourage etc.
This is why Apostle Paul insists that if tongues are spoken in a church, it is good to have an interpreter or else the one speaking in tongues will only benefit himself.
For believers, we benefit when we understand what the tongues spoken mean. Once we know the meaning of tongues spoken, it is a sign that God is among us.
This is true. I struggled to believe that the tongues I was speaking were from God when I first got baptized. But the doubts ended when someone interpreted the tongues I spoke.
The interpretation was a prophecy for a girl who was in the prayer fellowship. She confirmed that the prophecy was accurate.
As a believer, the interpretation to the tongues I was speaking was a sign that they were tongues from God.
4. Believers can Speak in Tongues in the Hearing of Unbelievers
Since speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers, believers should not shy away from speaking in tongues in the hearing of unbelievers.
Of course speaking in tongues in the hearing of unbelievers is intimidating. Some believers prefer to speak in tongues in their private rooms. Me too!
While there is nothing wrong with speaking in tongues in your private room, if you have an opportunity to speak in tongues in the presence of unbelievers do it.
The reaction you get from unbelievers will vary. Some will brush you off, others will hate you, others will accuse you of having a mental illness and pretty much anything. But the few who will be filled with awe and wonder and give their lives to Jesus as a result, you will be credited for it.
Being a servant of God is never short of drama. If Jesus went through the drama and accusations, who are we to shy away from it?
Will it be hard? Absolutely!
Will we give up? For the love of Jesus, NO!
5. Speaking in Tongues does more than being a Sign for Unbelievers
Even though speaking in tongues can serve as a sign for unbelievers, it is not limited to that. The same speaking in tongues that is a sign for unbelievers will edify you.
It is not that there is a version of speaking in tongues that edifies and one that is a sign for unbelievers. It is all in one.
When you speak in tongues, you speak mysteries to God, you get edified, it draws the attention of unbelievers and much more.
If you have the gift of speaking in tongues, don’t limit your perception of the gift to a few benefits. The gift of speaking in tongues is from the Holy Spirit and it accomplishes whatever God intends it to accomplish.
Speaking in Tongues is a Sign for Unbelievers Conclusion
I know there are people who use this scripture to discredit the gift of speaking in tongues. Why would you discredit speaking in tongues yet it is a gift from the Holy Spirit?
Speaking in tongues being a sign for unbelievers is perfectly in the plan of God. It is God who ordained it to serve that purpose. It doesn’t make it any less valuable. In fact, it makes it more valuable.
Speak in tongues boldly child of God!