|Speaking in Tongues – What does that Mean?|
The first example of “speaking in tongues” in the Bible is in Acts 2. When the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, “they began to speak with other tongues” (v.4). The word “tongue” refers to a language. Other tongues are other languages – languages other than their own language. Specifically, the languages the apostles were speaking were the languages of people from various parts of the world: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Rome, Cretans, and Arabs. These on-lookers asked: “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? …we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (v.7-8, 11).
The tongues that were spoken in the Bible were various languages of the people that were present. The result is an obvious, verifiable miracle. Read Acts chapter two and understand what is being said.
Much later, the apostle Paul is writing a letter of correction to the church at Corinth. This was a church in which there were members with miraculous power (1 Corinthians 12). Because of their competitive spirit, Paul reprimands them for their misuse of the miracles and teaches them a better way. The better way (1 Corinthians 13) is to love one another and behave properly.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is establishing that in the assembly of believers there should be teaching / prophesying that can edify. He emphasizes that everything done there should be edifying. Therefore, speak so as to be understood rather than creating a show of chaos by speaking in other tongues. “Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe” (1 Corinthians 14:22).
The miracle of tongue-speaking was a powerful proof because it is impossible for a person to speak a known, human language he has never learned. That is what people in scripture did. Who can do that today?
Let me know if you would like a list of all the scriptures in the New Testament that talk about “speaking in tongues.”