WHAT IS SPEAKING IN TONGUES (1)?

(Message by Tanny Keng)

0. Introduction

a) What is the New Testament gift of speaking in tongues? Is it the only evidence of whether or not someone is a Christian? Is it a sign of a mature believer and one who has a close relationship with God? Did Paul teach it was the GREATEST manifestation of God's power a person could possess? What can be the TRUE inspiration for this gift in modern churches?

b) The Greek word for tongues is glossa. It can refer to the tongue that is part of the human body OR a known language on the earth. It appears 50 times in the New Testament, the majority of which refers to a literal tongue. Examples of these two usages are below.

Send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and cool off my tongue (glossa) (Luke 16:24)

And they sang a new song . . . (you) did redeem us to God by Your own blood, out of every tribe and language (tongue - glossa) (Revelation 5:9)

c) There exists only two main parts that discuss tongues speaking in the entire Bible. This article takes a brief look at each of them.

1. Birth of the church

a) On every Pentecost, one of God's annual Feast days, Jews from around the known world would flock to Jerusalem. In 30 A.D., the year Jesus died, a small group of 120 of his disciples gathered in the city. Around 9 am the Holy Spirit was given to each person in the group - with attention drawn to this fact by the sound of a mighty wind. Then a manifestation of God's power that could be seen was given through a fire-looking tongue above each person's head.

b) The disciples gathered received God's holy spirit and then spoke other languages as the Holy Spirit moved them (Acts 2:4). They spoke in KNOWN languages that they themselves had not heard of before! In other words, they took the shortest foreign language course in history!

There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world. (Acts 2:5)

c) Note that the crowd on this holy day, though all Jewish, lived in a variety of countries. When the disciples began speaking in other languages a crowd naturally gathered to see what was happening. It was very quickly realized by those in the crowd that over 12 different languages were being spoken.

And when word of this went out, the multitude came together and were confounded, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. (Acts 2:6)

d) What the above verse tells us is that the REAL miracle of Pentecost was centered on the ear - hearing - and not in the speaking! Note that all those present CLEARLY were able to understand all the words that were spoken since the good news of God's kingdom was being announced in the language they grew up with. The next verses in the chapter help us further understand the meaning behind Acts 2:6. The crowd knew the apostles were all from Galilee by their accent.

They were excited and amazed, and said: Don’t all these who are speaking come from Galilee? (Acts 2:7)

e) Verse 8 then tells us exactly what was happening.

"Then how is it that we HEAR each one in our own language in which we were born?" (Acts 2:8)

f) On the holy day of Pentecost God caused a miracle in hearing AND speaking. What took place on this eventful day can be summarized as follows:

i) Peter gave a message in a language known by those to whom he spoke.

ii) Visitors to Jerusalem from around the globe heard, at the same time, the message given in their native language.

iii) The listeners of the message asked Peter a question (see verse 37) and received a reply that they heard in the language they grew up with.

iv) Nowhere in Acts 2 does it state or imply that tongues speaking entailed making sounds that no one could understand. 

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