The Gift of Tongues

The Gift of Tongues

The last of the nine…

The Spirit gives special faith to another, and to someone else he gives the power to heal the sick. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and to another the ability to prophesy.

He gives someone else the ability to know whether it is really the Spirit of God or another spirit that is speaking. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, and another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.

It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

Tongues and Interpretation –

For many this is a hot topic. For others it is a new topic. For most, it is a topic we tend to avoid.

I have goals for us in this teaching. I want to:

a. Approach this study in neutrality
b. Allow the Scriptures to teach us what this gift actually is
c. Dispel fear and bring healing to poor history & understanding

Question: Can we move into this study with these goals, together as a family?

I believe we must take this in two sessions to grab even a general understanding of the gift of tongues and interpretation. For this first session, I want to deal with the 1 Corinthians moment and what is happening in this passage.

So, what is Paul talking about here in 1 Corinthians 12 and why?

If we go back to the genesis point of this writing, Paul is addressing questions from this young church. I would imagine their questions were:

“What is this unknown language stuff? What is it for? How do we do it?”

His context seems to suggest that some were open to it, others were not, and some were using it totally incorrectly.

He identifies two distinct gifts:

1. The ability to speak in unknown languages

– the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations.

2. The ability to interpret what is being said

– to give the meaning or definition of Glossa

Baseline truths for this conversation:

Truth#1 – Tongues & Interpretation are gifts from the Holy Spirit. They are God’s idea, not man’s.

Let that sink in. God gave us a linguistic gift, a language we don’t understand that we can supernatural interpret.

Simple question: Do you believe that every gift from God is good and desirable?

Why? Why not?

So we could say it this way:
If the Father is giving out a gift, I want it?

What is my point?

I believe there are gifts that we don’t treat as gifts because of how we have seen them used, because we don’t understand them and because we are afraid of them.

This gift is from Him. Period.

Truth #2 – The early church must be our model for how to understand what these gifts are, not modern practice or experience.

I would like to approach both of these truths in the rest of this study.

Is there a moment when the concept / idea of tongues comes into the Old Testament?

Kind of…Consider the Tower of Babel –

There was a unity available to humanity through unified language. The sin nature of mankind made that unified language dangerous…so much so that God determined it was necessary to bring intentional disunity through linguistic confusion.

What we see in the Tower of Babel was a situation of God’s judgement. What is revealed at the Tower of Babel is that:

He has the ability to influence and control communication.

Where is the first mention of tongues in the Post-Ascension era of the church?

Acts 1v4-5
In one of these meetings as he was eating a meal with them, he told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised. Remember I have told you about this before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus asks the young church to hold tight and wait for something.

The Baptizing of the Holy Spirit. He tells them it is, “necessary,” for who they are to be. He tells them there will be a transformational power released to them. The obey and wait for, “whatever,” is coming.

Acts 2v1-4
On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them, and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

It is here that this specific type of unknown language officially appears for the first time.

-It is important to note that no one in that room was asking for that gift.

-No-one in that room would have the bandwidth to even imagine this gift as a possibility.

It is also important to note that this moment may represent for us a very pure response to Holy Spirit encounter.

There was no grid to create any knowledge prior to this. Their speaking in unknown language was a native reaction to encountering the Holy Spirit.

If we consider what was actually happening, the Holy Spirit was being released to fill these believers. THE SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD WAS MOVING INTO THEM TO DWELL.

Could we then understand this unknown language as a natural outworking of that encounter?

Could it be understood that this language is the native tongue of the spirit man to God?


A more important question in this week’s study, in my opinion, is why did God give it?

In this moment in Acts, there was an immediate effect of this gift that must factor into that answer:

Acts 2v5-8
Godly Jews from many nations were living in Jerusalem at that time. When they heard this sound, they came running to see what it was all about, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. They were beside themselves with wonder. “How can this be? they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking the languages of the lands where we were born!

There were people needing to hear the Gospel and connect to the reality of Jesus. As the believers spoke in these unknown languages, soon those languages became known…to others in the crowd.

It was a sign to these Jews. It was grace to them.

Please note: Those speaking had no idea what they were saying. There were two gifts happening at the same time. One for the speaker, one for the hearer.

I would submit that this gift is another expression of God controlling communication, and I would suggest that God gave this unknown language in this moment because of His passion and desire to win the lost.

There were several things accomplished in this Pentecost moment:

1. Communication of the Gospel to various languages was facilitated
2. God’s power was displayed as a sign for the unbelievers
3. He established a supernatural linguistic conduit for unity within His people. (Babel issue redeemed)

My Canada Story…a living picture

How did the Early Church use this gift after Pentecost?

Did they formulate any beliefs ?

In studying the early church, there are two aspects that we see them function in:

Public unknown language (Tongue & Interpretation)
1 Corinthians 12 / Acts 2

Private unknown prayer language (to God)

to be continued….

Study Questions :

Should we want it?

Why should we want it?

How should we approach it?

Why is there fear around it?

Do we see it as a gift, not a badge.

What does it look like to desire it?

If it is not given, should it connect us to shame and un-love?