Speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, is a phenomenon that has intrigued and divided people for centuries. It is a practice often associated with religious and spiritual experiences, particularly within Christian circles. But what does the Bible say about speaking in tongues?
What Is The Gift of Tongue?
Speaking tongues is based on the idea that individuals can speak in a language unknown to them, often seen as a form of direct communication with the divine.
An individual endowed with the ability to interpret tongues (as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:30) possessed the capacity to comprehend the utterances of a tongues-speaker, even if they were unfamiliar with the language being spoken.
Subsequently, the interpreter of tongues would then convey the content of the speaker’s message to the rest of the audience, facilitating a mutual understanding.
Pentecost and Acts
The most prominent mention of speaking in tongues in the Bible occurs in the New Testament, specifically in the book of Acts. The event of Pentecost, described in Acts 2, is a pivotal moment in the early Christian church that has come to be closely associated with speaking in tongues.
According to the narrative, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles on Pentecost, enabling them to speak in various languages they had not previously known. This miraculous event allowed them to communicate with the diverse crowd of Jews from different regions gathered in Jerusalem.
The Purpose of Speaking Tongues
The apostle Paul also addresses the concept of speaking in tongues in his letters, notably in 1 Corinthians 12-14. In this context, Paul elaborates that the person speaking in tongues utilizes a language that isn’t intelligible to others.
This verse, 1 Corinthians 14:2, underscores that the speaker, while not understood by those around them, engages in a form of communication that reveals spiritual mysteries in a personal realm.
Nonetheless, Paul acknowledges the value of this spiritual gift among believers. While the language spoken may not be immediately intelligible to others, it can still serve a purpose in Christian gatherings, contributing to the growth and edification of the community.
The Gift of Tongue In Today’s Time
People in modern Christianity often discuss whether the gift of speaking in tongues is still around today. In 1 Corinthians 13:8, the Bible talks about this gift eventually stopping, connecting it with something “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10. This has caused different opinions and talks among scholars and believers.
Some experts point out that there’s a grammar difference in the Greek words used for prophecy, knowledge, and tongues stopping. Prophecy and wisdom are said to “stop,” while the word for tongues suggests they are “stopping.” This could mean that tongues stopped before this “perfect” thing came, but the Bible doesn’t clearly say this.
Also, people use parts of the Old Testament, like Isaiah 28:11 and Joel 2:28–29, to show that speaking in tongues was a sign of a significant judgment from God. 1 Corinthians 14:22 says tongues are a “sign for people who don’t believe.”
Some say this means that speaking in tongues warned the Jewish people that God would judge them for not accepting Jesus as the Savior. This view says that once this judgment happened when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, the primary purpose of tongues was done. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the gift entirely stopped.
The Bible doesn’t clearly say whether the gift of speaking in tongues has wholly disappeared. If people today had this gift, they should follow what the Bible says. They should use a real language that makes sense (1 Corinthians 14:10), and it should help them share God’s message with others who speak a different language, like in Acts 2:6–12.
Also, if someone uses this gift in church, they should follow the rules God gave through Paul. They should only speak in tongues if someone can translate their words (1 Corinthians 14:27–28). And everything should be done peacefully and organized (1 Corinthians 14:33).
While the scriptural evidence is inconclusive, it does not explicitly indicate that the gift of tongues has gone. If the gift were to be used in modern times, it would have to follow the Bible.
While it’s within God’s power to grant individuals the ability to speak in tongues for cross-lingual communication, this manifestation appears less common today. Unlike the occurrences in the New Testament, contemporary instances of tongues seem limited.
Moreover, many believers who profess the gift of tongues do not adhere to the earlier scriptural guidelines. Given these observations, one might infer that the gift of tongues has waned or become infrequent in its role within today’s church according to God’s design.