“…And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
So is recorded1 the first time in the Bible that human beings spoke with other tongues. Speaking in tongues was, in fact, the very first utterance made by the Church. It was the first utterance of the Church ever heard by those outside of the Church. It was the first crowd-gatherer at what became the first ‘outreach’ of the Church. It was the cause that brought about the occasion of the first ‘sermon’ of the Church.
This first expounding of the things of God by the Church included: an explanation of speaking in tongues as the sign of the coming of the promised Holy Spirit; an explanation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; the identification of Jesus as the one who was sending the Holy Spirit with this accompanying sign; and instruction on what to do about it2.
In view of its prominence in the birth of the Church, speaking in tongues can be considered to have some importance – and indeed it does. While its use in church meetings is relegated in the Scriptures as among the least of miraculous gifts3, its significance for the individual believer is amply demonstrated by the momentous timing of its introduction.
Today, those who speak in tongues span church organisation, race, sex and national boundaries. They are the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the sophisticated and the plain, the highly intelligent and the simple, and every category in between. Theologians have studied the subject, people have argued over it and others have simply experienced it.
Of course, in the Bible, speaking in tongues was not just some strange isolated happening. It is described there as a sign and a gift. It is always associated with the work of the Holy Spirit. It was used as evidence of God’s acceptance, and it was used to edify or build up its users.
While some relegate it to the ‘icing on the cake’, and others believe that this sign died out with the early church; we stand with Scripture in identifying speaking in tongues as the unmistakable sign of God granting “repentance unto life”4.
Jesus said believers would “speak with new tongues”5.
Peter the Apostle identified speaking in tongues as a sign of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit6. Peter confirmed this again by his immediate reaction to the infilling of the Holy Spirit that occurred with the household of the gentile Cornelius. When these had been filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues – much to the astonishment of the other Church members that had accompanied Peter there. Peter was convinced when he heard them speak with tongues: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?7”
Paul the apostle, in the midst of instruction to a church that had gone overboard in its use of speaking in tongues in public meetings, nevertheless made this statement: “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all8“. Indeed, Paul wrote to a church where it was normal that all members could speak in tongues9.
These statements and events are a challenge to those who would put forward any other means of initially identifying “them that believe”.
The Church commenced with miracles, and each individual believer is to have his or her own miracle as they are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak with other tongues. The Church is intended to be a dynamic group of people, expecting the miraculous as a normal part of their lives.
Why Would You Want to Speak with Other Tongues?
Some don’t. They baulk at what they don’t understand and look for ways around.
The most obvious and readily understood reason to speak in tongues has already been discussed. Like it or not, this is the unmistakeable proof that the Bible puts forward of God having answered someone’s approach to Him. Jesus, Peter and Paul all spoke of this. The Church council at Jerusalem immediately accepted speaking in tongues as evidence that the (completely unexpected and even initially viewed with suspicion) coming of the gentiles to Christ was legitimate10.
Speaking in tongues is also used as a sign to unbelievers within a Church meeting11 (but not as a means of personal glorification – rather to be used in love12).
Paul also spent some time explaining the personal benefits of being able to pray in other tongues.
Firstly, he prayed in tongues a lot himself, and was glad he did13.
Secondly, he said that praying in tongues builds you up personally14.
Thirdly, he saw praying in tongues as a normal part of a Christian prayer life: “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also…“15. From the context it is clear that praying “with the spirit” is praying in other tongues.
Fourthly, Paul recognised that there were some things we just couldn’t express in our own words – things too deep, perhaps even below our conscious level. He describes this as speaking to God and not to other people; from the viewpoint of our conscious understanding we are speaking “mysteries”. He says that this is what we are doing when we are speaking in tongues16. He says we don’t always know even what to pray for, but again the Spirit helps us beyond our natural conscious words17.
So where do you stand on this? There are plenty of people who deny the necessity, benefits, relevance and contemporary timing of speaking with other tongues. Others, including the Revival Centres, see a wonderful provision of God – clearly articulated in the Bible, and as relevant to the Church as it ever was. They praise God that He has directly and individually confirmed their believing; that they have a direct means of communication with God that transcends their own limited capacities; and that the miraculous sign of speaking with other tongues is set within both the Church members individually, and the Church as a whole publicly.
Don’t resist God’s wonderful provision. Forbid not to speak in tongues18.
1. Acts 2:4 KJV
2. Acts 2:14-40
3. 1 Corinthians 14:5
4. Acts 11:15-18 (referring to events described in Acts 10:44-47)
5. Mark 16:15-18
6. Acts 2:4, 6, 14-18
7. Acts 10:44-47
8. 1 Corithians 14:18
9. 1 Corinthians 14:23
10. Acts 11:15-18 (referring to events described in Acts 10:44-47)
11. 1 Corinthians 14:22
12. 1 Corinthians 13:1
13. 1 Corithians 14:18
14. 1 Corinthians 14:4
15. 1 Corinthians 14:15
16. 1 Corinthians 14:2
17. Romans 8:26
18. 1 Corinthians 14:39
(This article first appeared in the Voice of Revival magazine – June 2009.)
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