Speaking in Tongues

“Cretans and Arbs – we hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages.” Acts 2:11 HCSB

I once visited a church where the people were speaking in tongues or ecstatic utterances. There seemed to be no sense to what was being said. Additionally, there were people who were coming forward to be healed. I had never experienced anything like that and it made me feel very uncomfortable, so I got up and left.

Quicksource produced by Lifeway Christian Resources reports that the modern Pentecostal movement started at a revival in 1906 in Los Angeles, California. At the revival and at other Pentecostal gatherings there was the presence of ecstatic utterances or speaking in tongues. The events of Acts 2 are radically different than what one would hear from the revival in Los Angeles. Those who spoke at Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages. These were not ecstatic utterances, but rather understandable speech. Those in the crowd could understand what the disciples were saying in their own language. The focus was on the unbeliever hearing and understanding the Gospel message rather than on the person who was speaking in tongues. The speaking in tongues at Pentecost was designed by God as a way for the message of Jesus Christ to be taken to other parts of the world.

Challenge: Paul warns that if anyone speaks in tongues there must be an interpreter (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). The purpose of the speaking in tongues should be for the purpose of spreading the Gospel and glorifying God. Some churches say that a person must speak in tongues as evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit, but Peter only speaks of repentance and baptism to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Paul reminds us that he would rather speak words that are understandable rather than ecstatic utterances (1 Corinthians 14:19). Seek to always speak in words that are understandable rather than ecstatic utterances so that the church is built up and unbelievers understand and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

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