Speaking In Tongues - The Biblical Record
Speaking in Tongues: Introduction
"Speaking in tongues" is a topic of widespread interest in the Christian church. Many who are not familiar with speaking in tongues are often perplexed, amused, or disturbed when they first witness the phenomenon. Their reactions are understandable since it seems to depart from the natural. Even seasoned Christians with a thorough understanding of theology wrestle with the nature of the subject. Adding to its mystification is the fact that many Christian cults, the occult, Eastern mystics, and New Agers claim to exercise speaking in tongues. Thus, with all the confusion surrounding the subject, speaking in tongues deserves a look. While it is beyond the scope of this text to present the rationale for every viewpoint, we will do our best to briefly present the common views on this topic and explore what the Bible has to say about it.
Speaking in Tongues: The Biblical Account
Speaking in tongues by Christians first occurred during Pentecost. Luke records the account in the book of Acts. Fifty days after Christ's crucifixion, a group of believers were gathered in Jerusalem at a room near the temple. Jesus had "commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4, KJV). Many Jews that had traveled far were also there to celebrate the traditional festival of Pentecost. It is with this backdrop that Luke records what happened:
...Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4, KJV)
Filled with the Holy Spirit, the believers began to speak in other languages they neither learned nor understood. The result was that many passers-by heard the gospel proclaimed in their own languages. In bewilderment, they became convicted by the message they heard and became believers in Jesus Christ.
Speaking in tongues occurred again in Caesarea 38 years after Pentecost, this time in the home of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48). Unlike Pentecost, where Jewish believers spoke in tongues, here the tongues were spoken by gentile believers. As declared by Peter, this served as a sign to verify to many Jewish Christians that the gospel applies to the Gentiles as well (Acts 11:15-18). The last incident of tongues recorded in Acts takes place 13 years after Caesarea in Ephesus. Paul laid his hands on twelve disciples, baptizing in the name of Jesus, when suddenly they began to speak in tongues (Acts 19:1-7). If this incident is consistent with the other accounts in Acts, these men spoke in dialects unknown to them but known by others.
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