Bible Questions: Speaking in Tongues

 

“Some friends of mine at work were very excited when I told them I was a Christian, but they were very disappointed when I told them I don’t ‘speak in tongues.’ They said speaking in tongues is a sign that we possess the Holy Spirit. Am I missing something?”   — Tongue Tied

Dear Tongue Tied,

Many Christian groups still believe we live in the age of miracles and practice faith healing, handle poisonous snakes and speak “in tongues.” However, I believe the age of miracles has passed. The miracles were signs to show that the Christian message was from God. Yes, it would be nice if we could heal the blind and raise the dead, but now we live in the age of faith. God confirmed the Gospel with miracles, but to demand miracles today seems to me to be the same as saying, “Lord I don’t believe. Show me a miracle now.” The miracles were like the scaffolding that surrounds a building as it is being constructed. After the building is complete, the scaffolding is removed. Let’s take a closer look at the phenomena of speaking in “tongues.”

Open your Bible to Acts chapter two where we first find people miraculously speaking in a language they had never learned before. Dr. Luke, the author of the book of Acts, is writing to Theophilus, a Roman who is unfamiliar with these things. When Luke mentions something Theophilus might not understand, Luke is very careful to describe it. Thus, when the apostles speak in “tongues” for the first time, Luke carefully explains what that means by having the crowd ask, “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” (Acts 2:7, 8). Notice Luke uses the two words: “tongues” (v. 4) and “language” (v. 8) interchangeably.

The word “tongue” (glossa in Greek) is used three ways in the Bible (just as it is in English):

  1. It describes a physical tongue (Mark 7:33).
  2. It describes a tongue-shaped object (Acts 2:3)
  3. It describes what we do with our tongues, that is “language.” For example, in a bad cowboy movie, the Indian Chief might say, “White man speaks with a forked tongue.” In other words, he believes John Wayne is lying.

If you would like to learn more, let me recommend a book written by one of my mentors, Jimmy Jividen. It’s entitled, Glossolalia: From God or Man? and is available from Amazon.com.

Blessings,
John

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