Tuesday, 24 June 2008

A Question of Tongues

A few weeks ago we were looking at the different baptisms that are mentioned in the Bible. One of the baptisms, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, had as one of it’s identifying marks, speaking in tongues. Just what is speaking in tongues?

There is a great deal of confusion today about just what this tongue speaking is. Some say it is a prayer language, others say that it is angelic languages, still others say it is the Holy Spirit himself speaking. Which is the correct answer?

As always the place to go to find the answer to a spiritual question is the Bible. God promises us that through His word He will equip us for “every good work” 2 Timothy 3:17. The Bible is a logical book, therefore it makes good sense to go for our answer to the first time that it is described. God, the one who inspired the book, does not need to explain what tongue speaking is every time He mentions it. He has told us the first time just what it is.

In Acts chapter two we read of the Day of Pentecost. We read of when the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit, we also read of the first time any one spoke in tongues. It is here in this chapter that we get a full description of what speaking in tongues is.
"And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Holy Spirit was giving them utterances. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.” Acts 2:4-6
The Jews gathered we amazed, not because they heard sounds that they could not understand, but rather they heard other languages! If we go on we read, “They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it we hear them in our own languages to which we were born?’” Acts 2:7-8. The miracle of tongue speaking was that those with the gift could speak in languages they had not learnt, but which could be understood by the hearers!

Many today speak in unintelligible sounds, that no one can understand and call it “speaking in tongues”. They do this with good hearts and good consciences, but what they are performing is not the tongue speaking that the Bible talks about. When people in the Bible are recorded as speaking in tongues, we read of a miracle taking place in which they speak in other languages. Languages that they have not learnt, but which their hearers can understand.

2 comments:

Jaz said...

I am very interested in what you wrote. It is really good and quite on target. But I do have one question for you. If there was only the talking in tongues so that others could understand in their own language and that was the only kind, why is it that Paul instructs people to talk in their own language rather than tongues which only edifies the individual? He told them to speak in a language that they could also interpret. But he specifically said that the person pray that they interpret. That would not be necessary if they were speaking in their own language, would it?

Here: (1Co 14:13) So then he speaking in a language, let him pray that he may interpret.

I do believe that on the day of Pentecost that happened just as it was written and as you said. However, I also believe that God was unlocking the language that got scrambled at the tower of Babel. This was a beautiful two-fold miracle of God.

Sometimes speaking in tongues is not in a language known to those close by. God does allow us a "prayer language". I know that because I do speak in tongues myself. I certainly hope that is not making me delusional. Is that what you believe?

Keith Thomson said...

OK - thanks for your thoughtful comments Jazz. The question of tongues can be a bit difficult given todays ideas. What we have to do is let the Bible interpret it self. It is a very logical book - the book the Lord has given us. The first place that the gift of tongues is mentioned it is identified. We are told in acts 2 they were speaking in tongues, that is they were speaking in unlearnt languages.

We don't need to be told again by Luke (in Acts) what tongue speaking is we already know from Acts 2. Paul did not need to explain what tongue speaking is to the Corinthians - they already knew (as we do from the Bible definition in Acts 2). It was speaking in unlearnt languages.

The problem in Corinth seems to be that they were miss using tongue speaking. They were using this unlearnt language but none understood (none but the speaker were edified. They needed the gift of interpretation to make it a useful gift in Corinth (1 Cor 12:30)

Anyway, hope this helped.

Keep up your study

Keith