The Gift of Tongues
by Bobby Bruno 3/20/2014 / Christian Apologetics
In observing the Holy Spirit descending on those who had gathered for prayer, what is the reason for all believers (in comparison to just the disciples) receiving the Holy Spirit?
Stott's opening paragraph for chapter two tells us that without the life-giving Spirit there could be no Christian discipleship (p. 60). Without the Holy Spirit we could never come up with the right words that would convince people of their need for Jesus Christ simply because we ourselves cannot even say the words that Jesus is Lord. Before the Spirit came upon them, the disciples were cowering in the upper room for fear that they would be killed as Jesus had been killed. Without the Spirit they were immobilized both physically and vocally and were stuck in that room where they believed they were safe. But when the Spirit did descend upon them they couldn't keep their mouths shut and immediately went out and proclaim Jesus to the masses. We were the same way. Before Jesus came into our lives, we had no zeal and no knowledge of Him to tell to others, but when we accepted Jesus into our own lives we couldn't keep our mouths shut either, as the disciples couldn't. We see in the world today that those who don't have the Spirit are silent when it comes to even thinking about Jesus, but those (prayerfully) that do have the Spirit are turning the world down-side up for the glory of God.
What was the immediate result of the Holy Spirit's influence?
When the time came the Spirit descended upon the 120 disciples in three ways -- the sound of a mighty wind, tongues of fire, and the ability to speaking in other languages not their own. The Bible says in Acts 2:6 that, not only did the 120 disciples hear the sound of the wind, but so did the people in the surrounding area near where the disciples were meeting. This was no secret encounter; the Spirit wanted everyone to know that He was here. The tongues of fire though were only for the 120 in the room, all of whom preached the Gospel on other languages they've never spoken before. Even though, when we read this section of scripture, we only read about Peter's message, but we must realize that all 120 had to be doing the same thing since they, too, were energized by the Spirit's dramatic touch upon their lives. As the Spirit moves, so do the people affected by Him.
What are some implications of this example in understanding the gift of tongues?
Many people in the church today seem to think that speaking in tongues is a mystery in that when we speak in tongues, we are speaking a language that only the Holy Spirit can understand. But the bible makes it quite clear that these languages can be understood by those who at least speak those languages. Nowhere that I understand does the Bible ever say that these tongues are some kind of angel language that needs a Spirit-filled interpreter for others to understand the language being spoken. Yes, Paul in 1st Corinthians writes about speaking in tongues, but, as Stott says many scholars agree that speaking in tongues in the book of Acts is the same kind of speaking in tongues in 1st Corinthians. In my own mind, I believe these scholars because, these days, too many Christians are "speaking in tongues" that no one understands. Knowing that the Spirit doesn't just non-chalantly give out His gifts, and that speaking in tongues is only mentioned twice in scripture, then how can it be that so many people are speaking in tongues today they themselves can't even understand?
As an aside, I want to mention something about tongues when I've felt that a teaching about it was wrong. My example is during a Joyce Meyer conference, Joyce will teach her audience how to speak in tongues as if it were a subject in school that should be easy to learn. She believes that every Christian should be able to speak in tongues. During this part of the conference I grow skeptical. If the gift of tongues is something that the Spirit willingly gives to those whom He wants to, how can someone think that the gift can be handed out like a piece of candy that everyone can enjoy? Isn't that trying to "force" the Spirit to follow your belief, instead of you following what the Spirit tells you to believe? The Spirit gives to whom He will only when He desires to. So, how can a person think that if they say or do the right formula that the Spirit will hand out an important gift like tongues to 10,000 people standing in a sports stadium? Don't get me wrong, I love going to Joyce's conferences (been to 15 of them at least), but at that point I shut down and wait until she's done. Yes, I've tried to follow what she says but have never spoken in anything but my own language. Tongues are not a toy for all ages; it's only for those the Spirit calls to it.
Stott, J. (1990). The message of acts. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press
Question: "The implications of all of the examples can be seen through those who were effected when they heard the hundred and twenty glorifying God in their own individual language"
Author Response: Has anyone noticed that at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:9) God gave the people each a different language, but on Pentecost the disciples began to speak in different tongues, not languages, even though that is what they did? What was the difference between a language and a tongue? From my readings in the commentaries they both mean the same thing. But one dictionary (Holman's) says that the difference was because, in the Babel incident, the people were forcing God to change their languages because they were trying to make a name for themselves, but in the case of Pentecost, it was the Holy Spirit gifting the disciples with the ability to speak in other languages. I assume this is how the Bible helps us differentiate between languages and tongues.
Question: "She fell to the ground, rose up by what seemed like invisible hands and she started speaking in a language I could not understand and it was very guttural in nature."
Author Response: Here is my take on speaking in tongues during a church service. I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit does not waste any gift that He gives a person to use to fulfill the command of making disciples and preaching the Gospel. I believe that He only allows the speaking in tongues at any time when there is a purpose for the gift to be used otherwise, as the apostle Paul said, it is nothing more than a noise, a clanging cymbal. If nothing more than guttural sounds are being made, and if there is no one in the church who can translate what is being "said" then it is not the Spirit guiding that person, but something else entirely. I believe in everything the Bible tells me. Not once when tongues were spoken in the Bible was it wasteful and needless. Only when the gift was needed to be in operation for the sole purpose of speaking to those in different languages to preach the Gospel to them, was it not wasteful and empty, but was fulfilling in the lives of those who heard that language. I have heard many people speak in what they call tongues. They seemed to be able to call up their language as quickly as they speak English. Is that telling me that they are in the Spirit at all times? I don't know, but I am skeptical when a roomful of people begin speaking in an unknown language all at once for the sole purpose of speaking in an unknown language. I can't understand them and no one ever comes forward to interpret. Maybe it's just me but I can't get into anything that seems faked to me, especially when it comes to being a follower of Jesus Christ. If it's not of God, I want no part of it. Questions anyone???
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.