Speaking in a Tongue – Known Language or Unknown – Private Use or Public Use – For Building You Up or the Church – For Believer or Unbeliever – For the Apostles or for Today?

Hey GCT:  Have you ever looked deeply into Scripture, putting aside your own traditions, and sought out what are the biblical tongues of the Bible?  We cannot do an exhaustive study in this email but here is a synopsis.  There seems to be two types of tongues in the Bible.  When your Bible uses the word “tongues,” it means, literally, languages. The Greek word (glossa) that’s translated “tongues” in the English translation actually means languages – and so there are various languages in this world, right?  How many tongues of different nations are there in this world?  There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. About 2,000 of those languages have fewer than 1,000 people speaking that language.  The most popular language in the world is Mandarin Chinese. There are 1,213,000,000 people in the world that speak that language.
At Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descended and filled the believers and they began to speak in tongues or languages of the people from “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God (2:9).”  We are even told that they heard “the mighty works of God” in their own dialect, “And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own dialect” (2:6).
This type of gift of tongues is speaking a known language to a known people who understand the language to receive the message of “the mighty works of God” (2:11) and so in Acts 2 when this happened there were added over three thousand souls that day (2:41).  This biblical tongue, speaking a known language to people who understand the language is for the public demonstration and communication of the “mighty works of God.”  This is a public use of tongues. Paul wants to make sure that if there is ever a public use of tongues that there is always an interpretation of this known language so that the “mighty works of God” will be understood and that there is not any confusion or chaos in the church (1 Corinthians 14:6-19, 26-27).   His concern is for the church to be edified and God glorified not an individual. There is another biblical tongue that we find in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  This would be considered a private use of tongues.  This is a tongue that is not understood by the speaker and Paul calls this tongue “an angelic language” (13:1).  This tongue is used to speak to God uttering the mysteries of the Spirit (14:2).  The one who talks in this type of tongue builds himself up not the church (14:4).  This type of tongue is also not for believers but for unbelievers (14:22).  From the Old Testament we see that this tongue was actually used as a form of judgment in Isaiah 28:11-12.  God used unintelligible speech to judge the Israelites through the Assyrians speaking a foreign language that they did not understand.  That would have been discouraging, getting a word from God you do not understand.  What Paul says in 14:23-25, is that unbelievers will be repelled by these tongues and reject the Gospel.  Paul says, use Prophecy not tongues to communicate God’s goodness to the unbelievers and the believers.
That is a very simple description of the Biblical understanding of the use of tongues in the New Testament. There are many more questions to be answered individually and as the church  So, the big question out there amongst individual Christians and churches is, “Do you believe that these miraculous gifts of tongues ceased when the Apostles died or are they for the church today?”
We will be spending some time this Sunday looking more deeply into the use of tongues in the New Testament and how it applies for us today as a Bible believing church that wants to honor God is all that we do and say. I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday,  Steve

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