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    The Genuine Gift of Tongues

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    JesSDA
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    The Genuine Gift of Tongues

    Post by JesSDA on September 1st 2012, 12:00 pm

    The Genuine Gift of Tongues

    Let's begin with a definition. The word "tongue" in the Bible simply means "a language."

    God gives all the gifts of the Spirit to fill a practical need. What was the need for tongues?

    Jesus told His followers, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). This command posed a problem. How could the apostles go out preaching to all the world when they spoke only one or two languages? After all, Jesus' disciples were very bright, even though most of them were not formally educated. In order to fulfill the great commission, He promised to give them a unique gift from the Holy Spirit. It was a miraculous, supernatural ability to speak foreign languages they had not formerly studied or known for the purpose of spreading the Gospel.

    "And these signs shall follow them that believe; ... they shall speak with new tongues" (Mark 16:17).

    The fact that Jesus said these new tongues, or languages, would be a "sign" indicates that the ability to speak them would not come as the result of normal linguistic study. Rather, it would be an instantaneous gift to fluently preach in a previously unfamiliar language.

    There are only three actual examples of speaking in tongues recorded in the Bible (Acts chapters 2, 10, and 19). If we look at these three cases, we should find a clearer picture of this controversial gift.

    "When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And 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 [divided] 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 2:1-4).

    Fire is a symbol for power. God sent this gift in the form of tongues of fire so they would know that He would empower their feeble tongues in the same way He strengthened Moses to go before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:10-12) and touched Isaiah's lips with a coal from the heavenly altar (Isaiah 6:6, 7).

    Why did the Lord wait until Pentecost to bestow this gift? Acts 2:5-11 sets the scene: "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? ... We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God."

    The day of Pentecost was a Jewish holy day that fell 50 days after Passover. Devoted Israelites would come from all over the Roman empire to worship in Jerusalem. God chose this timely opportunity to bestow this gift of tongues upon the disciples so they could preach to the visiting Jews in their native languages. At least 15 different language groups were represented in the crowd that day (Acts 2:9-11)! As a result, thousands of these visitors were converted. Then, after Pentecost, they in turn carried their new faith home to their respective countries.

    From this example it should be very clear that the gift of tongues was given to communicate the gospel in different existing languages of the world.

    Some have mistakenly suggested that the miracle on Pentecost was a gift to hear and understand different languages. It was not a gift of hearing given to the listeners, but rather a gift of the Spirit given to enable the believers to speak (Acts 2:4). It is not called the gift of ears for the listeners, but the gift of tongues for the speakers. Furthermore, the sign was not ears of fire on the listeners, but tongues of fire on the ones preaching.

    It is also sometimes suggested that the gift of tongues is a "heavenly language" understood only by God or those with the gift of interpretation. The Bible is clear in Acts chapter 2 that both the disciples and those listening understood what was being preached-"the wonderful works of God" (Verse 11).

    Let's look now at the second example when Peter preached to Cornelius and his household: "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God" (Acts 10:44-46).

    Acts 10:1 tells us that Cornelius was Italian, while Peter was a Jew and spoke Aramaic. History also tells us that the servants in a Roman home could be from anywhere in the world. Because there were obvious language barriers at this meeting, Peter likely began to preach through an interpreter. But when the Holy Ghost fell upon Cornelius and his household, the Jews with Peter could understand the Gentiles speaking in languages other than their native tongues. The record is that the Jews heard them "magnify God" in these languages. When later reporting this experience to the church leaders, Peter said, "The Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning" (Acts 11:15, emphasis added).

    Peter here plainly tells us that Cornelius and his family received the same gift of tongues in the same way the disciples did on the day of Pentecost. In other words, they spoke languages they had not formerly known in a way that could be understood.

    The third and final example of speaking in tongues is when Paul preached to 12 Ephesian disciples. Acts 19:6 records, "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied."

    Paul was the most educated and widely traveled of the apostles, and he spoke many languages (1 Corinthians 14:18). When the Holy Spirit came upon these 12 Ephesian men, Paul recognized that they were prophesying, or preaching, in new languages. Most likely they spoke in languages common throughout the Roman Empire, since that would be practical for spreading the Gospel. Luke does not say that they received a form of tongues different from the first two examples, so we must assume that it was the same type of gift given at Pentecost.

    You'll find that the only times the gift of tongues was associated with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is when people from more than one language group were gathered together, thus creating communication barriers.

    Notice that in Acts chapter 4 you have a repeat of the experience described in chapter 2. The place was shaken and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, but because there were no foreigners present, the gift of tongues was absent. Acts 4:31 says, "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."

    The purpose for the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not to mutter or babble unintelligible sounds, but rather to have power for preaching. This is why Jesus said, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8 ).

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