Do All Speak with Tongues? A Study of 1 Corinthians 12

This is a non-WLC article. When using resources from outside authors, we only publish the content that is 100% in harmony with the Bible and WLC current biblical beliefs. So such articles can be treated as if coming directly from WLC. We have been greatly blessed by the ministry of many servants of Yahuwah. But we do not advise our members to explore other works by these authors. Such works, we have excluded from publications because they contain errors. Sadly, we have yet to find a ministry that is error-free. If you are shocked by some non-WLC published content [articles/episodes], keep in mind Proverbs 4:18. Our understanding of His truth is evolving, as more light is shed on our pathway. We cherish truth more than life, and seek it wherever it may be found.



The words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 have been misunderstood and misinterpreted when it comes to “speaking in tongues.” The last five verses clearly say that not everyone spoke in tongues. Not everyone had that gift. But in the organization I was involved with for many years, Paul was contradicted by a couple of “explanations.” First, it was stated that the context was speaking of a church meeting, and so not everyone would speak in tongues in the meeting. “If they did, you’d never get home,” said our teacher. The problem with this is that the context of the chapter is clearly talking about members in the body of Christ as a whole, and their various functions, not a church meeting. Besides, tongues is not the only thing mentioned in this section. That same explanation cannot be applied to apostles, or workers of miracles. Nobody in our meetings ever said, “Someone please stand and work a miracle,” or “stand and raise the dead.”

Another explanation, still frequently used, is that everyone who is born again has the ability to “operate all nine [gifts] all the time,” but not everyone does, depending on their willingness or their believing. According to this explanation, different people have different adeptness, different “long suits” in one or more manifestations. But they really should or could operate all nine gifts. The basis of this was the result of misinterpreting the earlier part of the chapter, especially verses 4-11. Verses 4 to 6 speak of varieties of gifts, ministries, and effects (gifts, administrations, and operations in the KJV). Then verse 7 begins with “but.” It was said that this set in contrast what follows with what came before. Thus manifestations were different from gifts. The gift, we were taught, is the holy spirit, and the nine things listed in the following verses were manifestations of that gift.

The word for “but” in verse 7, however, is not the word alla, which marks a strong contrast. It is de, which is used to mark a transition between phrases, or a contrast that is not a strong one. It can be translated “and,” “thus,” “now,” or “moreover.” The next verses list ways in which the spirit is manifested, but there is nothing to indicate that they are not gifts. They are all gifts listed in no particular order, and when compared with other lists of gifts (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:27-31; Eph. 4:7-13; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), it can be seen that these nine are gifts, but not an exhaustive list.

In addition, verse 7 speaks of “the manifestation of the spirit,” not “manifestationS.” It means evidence, or showing forth. There are many varieties of gifts, ministries, and effects, but the same spirit energizes them; thus the evidence of the spirit is given to each one 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” (1 Cor. 12:8-11).

I was once taught that the word for “to” in verse 8 should be “for” and the “one” meant “one profit,” and these verses should read: “For one profit is given the word of wisdom, and to another [profit] the word of knowledge...” However, the Greek does not give even a hint of evidence for such a grand mistranslation, and many followers or former followers have rightly given up this explanation. However, it is still maintained that anyone who is born again has the ability to operate all nine of these gifts. Verse 11 says they are distributed to each individual as “he” wills. I was taught that “he” referred to the one who receives the gift, thus indicating that what manifestations one operates is up to one’s own will. But regardless of how you interpret the “he” in verse 11, verses 18 and 28 still clearly state that Yahuwah has put the members of the body where He wants them. No commentary imagines that the “he” in verse 11 refers to the Christian believer.

Verses 12 and following compare the Church with the human body. The foot doesn’t say it’s not a part of the body because it’s not a hand. The ear doesn’t say it’s not part of the body because it’s not an eye. Each member has a particular function, and is placed in the body to perform it. But notice what this passage does not say. It does not say that every part of the body has the ability to be any other part. It doesn’t say that the eye is not an ear, but it could be if it wanted to, or that the foot could be a hand if it wanted to. Nor does it say that every part of the body should aspire to do all functions. Every member has its own function which is determined by Yahuwah.

Furthermore, verses 7-11 clearly state that to one is given a gift, and to another is given another gift. If a gift is not given to you, you don’t have it! This is another proof that verse 11 can’t mean “As the person wills.”

“Now you are Christ’ s body, and individually members of it. And Yahuwah has appointed in the church, first Apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not Apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way” (I Cor. 12:27-31).

The whole notion that all believers have the ability to operate all the gifts has been read into this and other passages, but there is no Scriptural basis for it. One of the reasons for reading it into the Scripture is the misunderstanding of what the holy spirit is. In the Bible, it is the presence and power of Yahuwah, or the risen Yahushua, at work in people or events.
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This is a non-WLC article written by Mark Clarke.

We have taken out from the original article all pagan names and titles of the Father and Son, and have replaced them with the original given names. Furthermore, we have restored in the Scriptures quoted the names of the Father and Son, as they were originally written by the inspired authors of the Bible. -WLC Team