Speaking In Tongues

The gift of tongues is a sign that follows believers in Christ Jesus.

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues…” (Mark 16:17).

Is the gift of tongues an earthly or heavenly language? Can Christians prophesy and preach in tongues? What are tongues? Must all speak in tongues? Is there just one gift or many gifts of tongues? How do you know if you are really speaking in tongues? Are Pentecostals and Charismatics really speaking in tongues?

The Greek word translated tongues literally means “languages”. To understand the gift of tongues, we must understand its manifestations in the early church. In the Bible, the manifestations of the gift of tongues is recorded in the book of Acts. Its first manifestation was on the day of Pentecost. Another manifestation of the gift of tongues was in the house of Cornelius.

Manifestation Of The Gift Of Tongues On The Day of Pentecost

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine (Acts 2:1-12).

Manifestation Of The Gift Of Tongues In Cornelius’ House

Peter was still speaking when the Holy Spirit came upon all who listened to the Word. And the believers of Jewish origin who had come with Peter were amazed, “Why! God gives and pours the Holy Spirit on foreigners also!” For indeed this happened: they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God (Acts 10.46). 

Signs Of An Authentic Gift of Tongues From The Above Manifestations

1) “Tongues” means languages

The disciples spoke with “other tongues”. Native Jews from every nation on the earth were at Jerusalem and heard them speak in their respective native languages.

2) Tongues are earthly languages

Other Jews did not understand the languages but the native Jews from all nations understood them. To the non-native audience, the language/tongue is unknown (a mystery) since they do not understand. A mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. The native Jews of the spoken languages “were amazed” that the disciples spoke in languages that they had never learned. The non-native audience who could not understand considered the disciples drunk. The tongues were not an unintelligible babble/heavenly language rather it was an intelligible earthly language.

3) The tongues were words of praise

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were magnifying God and declaring his wondrous works. In the house Cornelius, the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages offering words of praise to God.

4) The tongues were spoken to God

Their words were directed to God and not men. They were loud in their praises, such that it pulled crowd including the native speakers of the various languages.

Corinthians 13 & 14 DO NOT Contradict The Manifestations on Pentecost and Cornelius’ House

The writing of Apostle Paul to the Corinthians does not contradict the manifestation of the gift as it occurred on Pentecost or Cornelius’ house.

The Tongues Were Different Earthly Languages of Men

Pentecost The native speakers of each country under heaven understood their respective languages
Apostle Paul “I give thanks to God because I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14.18). Apostle Paul could speak many different languages.

Tongues are Spoken Unto God (Words of Adoration and Thanksgiving) and Is Not For Prophesy or Preaching

Pentecost ‘”We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God”. The disciples were praising God and declaring God’s wondrous works. Praises are made unto God and not unto men.
Apostle Paul “The one who speaks in tongues does not speak to people, but to God (1 Corinthians 14.2). Otherwise, if you say a blessing with your spirit, how can an otherwise uneducated person say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you’re saying? It’s good for you to give thanks, but it does not build up the other person (1 Cor 14:16-17). An interpreter is needed to interpret words of thanksgiving spoken in an unknown tongue so that others can be edified.

The Tongue, When Unknown, is a Mystery

Pentecost And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. The non-native audience did not understand the words spoken and considered the apostles drunk. A foreign language is unknown to its hearers except it is interpreted
Apostle Paul There are many languages in the world, and each of them has meaning, but if I cannot find any meaning in what is said, I become a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker to me… (1 Corinthians 14.17). For no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries (1 Corinthians 14.2). If you are praying in a foreign language that you do not understand, your mind is idle.

The Gift of Tongues Is Only a Sign to the Unbeliever and Not For Prophecy or Preaching.

Pentecost The faith of the unbelieving native-speaking Jews was stirred when they heard the strangers speak in their native languages. This satisfies the purpose of speaking in tongues. Not only did they speak in the languages of the foreign Jews, they were also glorying God before the unbelieving Jews. This was a sign of God that God was with the disciples. There was no prophesying or preaching in tongues.
Apostle Paul God says in the Law: ‘I will speak to this people through those talking other tongues and through lips of foreigners, but even so they will not listen to me. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (1 Corinthians 14.21-22). The gift of tongues is different from the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14.4; 1 Cor.14.5)

There Are Diverse Tongues but There is Only One Kind Of Manifestations of Gift of Tongues

Pentecost The disciples spoke  in different tongues (languages). The gift of tongues manifested in the same way on Pentecost and in Cornelius’ house. The non-native hearers considered them drunk and mad.
Apostle Paul “…to another divers kinds of tongues” (1 corinthians 12.10). If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? (1 cor 14.23).

What is the gift of tongues?

The gift of tongues is a foreign earthly language gifted by the Holy Spirit to a non-native speaker of that foreign language. The non-native speaker speaks unto God in words of prayer, praise and thanksgiving and not unto men. A language/tongue should be spoken audibly as a sign only in the audience of an unbelieving native speaker(s). Believers do not need the sign but they can receive edification from the uttered words if they understand. If the audience is native speaking believers, they will understand but if the audience is non-native believers, then there must be an interpreter.

What Does It Mean To Pray In An Unknown Tongue (Praying In Tongues)

Praying in tongues is prayer that is made by the Holy Spirit with the human spirit unto God by word of mouth in a foreign earthly language (1 Corinthians 14.13-17). When we pray in tongues, our minds remain idle for we do not understand what we speak.

 What Is Praying In A Native Language

Praying in my own language is prayer that is made by me unto God. I can pray from my spirit or my head either with words or just from within. It is the prayer of the heart (spirit) that moves God and not head prayer. When I pray in my own language, my mind is fruitful.

What Is The Holy Spirit’s Prayer

The Holy Spirit can pray to God on our behalf. When he prays, the prayer is without words. Only a groaning sound may be heard The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. He makes perfect prayer for us because He prays according to the will of God.

“We are weak, but the Spirit comes to help us. How to ask? And what shall we ask for? We do not know, but the spirit intercedes for us without words, as if with groans. And He who sees inner secrets knows the desires of the Spirit, for he asks for the holy ones what is pleasing to God” (Romans 8.26-27).

 The Strangeness Of The Gift Of Tongues Today

In the early church, not all those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit could speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12.30). All spirit-filled believers must not speak in tongues. There may be some in our time who may be operating in the true gift of tongues. If so, they must regulate the use of the gift to avoid confusion and disorderliness. The purpose of the gift is mainly to activate the faith of unbelievers. Any manifestation that defeats this purpose should be avoided. There are many fake tongues and crazy manifestations which scares away the unbelievers. Some babble, others use repetitive syllables. Everyone can babble. Everyone can repeat some syllables, and everyone can fake moods. We must be careful that what we speak is indeed an existing identifiable earthly language. We must be careful not to enter evil spiritual manifestations. We need to be sure that the tongues are truly of the Holy Spirit.


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