January 2024 | Conversion: Persecutor Turns Promoter

Experience of Other Tongues and Gift of Tongues

Experience of Other Tongues and Gift of Tongues

Pr. B. Saji

On the day of Pentecost, the apostles of Jesus were filled with Holy Spirit and began speaking in other tongues (Acts. 2:1-4,11).  Speaking in an ecstatic languages was common among members of the early Christian churches, but no one could understand this form of speaking in tongues (1 Cor.14:2).  Sometimes the speaker or another person would interpret the meaning.  Both were the work of the Holy spirit.  It is the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 cor.12:6-11, Rom.12:6-8; Mk.16:17, Acts. 10:44-46,19:4-6) Paul exhorted that speaking in tongues should not be forbidden (1 Cor. 14:39). 

The pentecostal and charismatic churches give importance to speaking in tongues, and it became  part of their worship. They teach that speaking in tongues is evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit, but it is not essential for salvation and eternal life.  In addition to the Pentecostal churches, there are charismatic groups within the Roman Catholic Church and traditional protestants who have experienced speaking in tongues.

The word in Greek used is “glossolalia” derived from two Greek words ‘glossa’ means ‘language or tongue’ and ‘lalia’ means ‘speech’,  Thus it means ‘speaking in languages or tongues’. It would be a real and intelligible language (1 Cor. 14:10).  It is for the purpose of communicating God’s word with a person of other language (Acts 2:6-12).  The phenomenon of tongues-speaking is wide spread.

There are three distinctions or types of speaking in tongues

i) Speaking in tongues as a supernatural out pouring and sign to unbelievers (Acts. 2:11).

ii) Speaking in tongues for the strengthening of the church.  This requires an interpretation of the tongues (1 Cor. 14:27).

iii) Speaking in tongues as a private prayer language (Rom. 8:26).

The church of Christ is crowned with spiritual gifts "diverse kinds of tongues’ is one out of several of spiritual gifts.  Paul  explained in chapter 12 the spiritual gifts and later uses another chapter to explain about ‘speaking in tongues’.  It indicates the importance of this topic (1 cor. 14).

Speaking in tongues is evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit 

On the day of Pentecost, the apostles and early Christians were anointed by the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in tongues (Acts. 2:4).  This event shows that, speaking in tongues is evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Book of Acts is the record of the early church, where we have several references for the same.  We need to notice two words on the experience of the early church that had on the day of Pentecost.  “They ‘ALL’ filled with Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues” (2:4).  If speaking tongues is only a spiritual gift then why did speak in tongues…..? On the day of Pentecost the church started to speak in tongues and it will continue till the return of Christ.

We read the experience of the Samaritan converts who received the spirit baptism when the apostles laid their hands on them and when Simon,  “saw that”, he offered money to get that power (Acts. 8:16-19). the famous Bible commentator Mathew Henry says that “Simon saw  that the Samaritan believers were filled with Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues”.  Apostle Paul after his conversion experience was filled with the Holy spirit (Acts. 9:17, 13:9). He speaks in tongues more than any one (1 Cor. 14:18).

Reason for not understanding

Many times the tongues that the believers spoke could not be understood by others.  They argue that the tongues  they heard was an exercise in futility and were not able to understand what was being said, and no one was interpreting the tongues which made it even worse.  But on the day of Pentecost, cloven tongues of fire rested on each of them and  all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them.  The language was understood by the hearers who said, "they declared the wonders of God in our own tongues" (2:11).  It means the tongues were those of a known language, with specific meaning and not just babbling.

Today, the tongues spoken by the believers is not understood by the listeners.  In the N.T. two lists of gifts appear, gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12:8-11, 28-30) which are called as ‘spiritual gifts’. Our Lord Jesus promised the disciples that they shall speak with new tongues (Mk. 16:17). A language new to them, a language that was not learned or used.  The disciples had the experience and began to speak with other tongues (2:4).  The Greek word ‘heteros’ for ‘OTHER’  indicate it as  ‘different from the normal language’.  The Greek word for ‘language’ from which the word ‘dialect’ come.  Thus the disciples spoke tongues (gloss) and language (dialektos).  The languages were identified but not tongues. It was a miraculous phenomenon which enabled the disciples to speak in languages which they never learned, and spoke in God given tongues which is pure and unperverted.

There are two types of tongues

the tongues of men and of angels (1 Cor. 13:1).  The tongues of men can be any language that exist in this world. 1652 languages in India alone. The language of the angels can be “Heavenly language”.  When a believer speaks heavenly language that can be understood only by the Heavenly father. Authoritative persons in the army use code languages that can  grasped only by the officials and not by all people.  Through speaking in mysterial languages, a child of God overcomes the attacks of the devil.  Children of God are in a battle field, and thus they speak in heavenly language which is a mysterial language.

Why should we speak in tongues

Paul in his epistle to the corinthians describes different types of spiritual gifts, mainly twelve (1 Cor. 12:8-12,28, Phil.1:29) but the gift of tongues is not a spiritual gift, but rather it is an evidence for the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Why should a believer speak in tongues?  Apostle Paul gives several answers to this question.

i) It is a means to talk to God :- Those who speak in tongues do not speak to men but to God (1 cor. 14:2).  God is a spirit, and whosoever would talk to God needs to be filled with the spirit.  A child of God can speak to God through prayer and God can talk to him through His word, but the spirit helps like when John the apostle was in Patmos, where he was in the spirit and God revealed heavenly mysteries. 

ii) Edifying himself: Prophecies help the church to be edified whereas speaking in tongues edifies the individual person (14:4). Jesus said, those who believe in him, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water (Jn. 7:38).  While a child of God prays and worships God in spirit and in tongues, it helps him to edify his spiritual life.

iii) Edification of the church: Speaking in tongues edifies the individual and also the church (14:5).  The Pentecostal churches are growing rapidly because they give importannce for speaking in tongues.  On the other hand those who neglect this experience, day by day they are declining.

iv) Helps to pray in spirit:- Those who speak in tongues, are praying in the spirit (14:14) and (Rom. 8:26) Holy spirit knows our weaknesses.  We do not know how to pray and what to pray and the spirit of God comes to help us and our prayer life becomes meaningful and fruitful. Praying in our wisdom and praying in the spirit are different.  Prayer with the help of the Holy spirit becomes more effective.

Speaking tongues and interpretation

 Apostle Paul says “Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word  of instruction (1 Cor. 14:6) .  According to Paul, speaking in tongues is valuable to the one hearing God’s message in their own language, but it is useless to everyone else unless it is interpreted or translated.  It means person with the gift of interpreting tongues (1 Cor, 12:30) could understand what a tongues speaker was saying even though he did not know the language spoken.  The tongues interpreter would then communicate the message  of the tongues speaker to every one else, so all could understand.  Paul says “for this reason everyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says” (1 Cor. 14:13). Paul’s conclusion regarding tongues not interpreted is powerful, but in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than  ten thousand words in a tongue (1 Cor. 14:19).  Again Paul says if any one speaks in tongues, two or at the most three-should speak, one at a time and some one must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God (1 Cor. 14:27-28).

Gift of tongues today

Some theologians and traditional church denominations argue that the gift of tongues ceased and was no longer given after the apostolic age in the first century.  The argument is, when that which is perfect comes, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:10) and thus that of tongues ‘ being ceased’. 

Joel. 2:28-29 says speaking in tongues was a sign of God’s coming judgment. 1 Cor. 14:22 explains, tongues as a sign to unbelievers.  Therefore, the gift of tongues was a warning to the Jews that God was going to judge Israel for rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah.  When God judged Israel, with the destruction of Jerusalem temple by the Romans in AD. 70, the gift of tongues ceased and no longer served its intended purpose.  But the scripture does not conclusively assert that the gift of speaking in tongues has ceased.

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus Christ  began to speak with other tongues and (Acts. 2:4) that still continues.  That speaking in tongues  completely stopped after the day of Pentacost is a baseless argument, because in Caesarea, at the house of Cornelius after the sermon of apostle peter, the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured upon the gentiles and they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God (Acts. 10:45-46). At Ephesus when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts. 19:6). By the end of the first century, the Holy spirit came upon the believers with the sign of speaking in tongues. Thousand of believers of Jesus Christ still speak in tongues.  The 20th century started with the coming of the spirit and speaking in tongues. The phenomenon of tongues-speaking is wide spread and still continues.

I received the gift of tongues at the age of 16. Four decades ago I speak in tongues, pray in tongues and my spiritual life become empowered, efficient and effective with the power of Holy spirit. 

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