Speaking in Tongues
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. ~ Acts 2:4, KJV
If you really want to understand the real significance of the Day of Pentecost’s spoken tongues, then you first must understand that the “tongues” spoken by those 120 men and women (cf. Acts 1:13-16), who were filled with the Holy Spirit, were not human languages. Indeed, the “other tongues” phrase in Acts 2:4 doesn’t mean that various dialects or languages were being spoken, but rather the “other tongues” phrase refers to the physical tongue that each one of these 120 individuals uses to speak. Perhaps this Divine Truth is why even in the Strong’s New Testament Greek Lexicon, the first definition for glw’ ssa (the “tongues” in Acts 2:4) is “the tongue, a member of the body, an organ of speech.” Moreover, glw’ ssa in Hellenistic Greek could only mean a single gloss, and a gloss is a tongue or a language.
Secondly, based on the above-stated information about glw’ ssa, it is important to see that these 120 individuals were all speaking ONE language—they were speaking the heavenly language of the Holy Spirit! The Scriptures support this Divine Truth. According to the author of the Book of Acts, on the Day of Pentecost, “…there appeared unto them cloven 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 2:3-4).
Now, the Greek word poorly translated into the King James’ English as “cloven” is “diamerivzw.” “Diamerivzw” means to divide or to distribute. Therefore, these 120 men and women were not speaking with forked tongues, as some denominations have assumed. The Divine Truth is that on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit’s manifestation looked similar to fire-shaped tongues, for “it” (the fiery source, which is the Holy Spirit) had split (had divided) Himself into 120 fire-shaped tongues that spread like wildfire until the Holy Spirit had distributed to (had set one each on) the 120 Upper Room followers of Jesus the Christ.
For sure, God is making it emphatically clear that on this Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit is the One who has come from Heaven bringing with Him Heaven’s language (ONE strange tongue). Thus, Father God not only has given His Holy Spirit the power and authority to speak through the 120 Upper Room believers (given Him the power and authority to give them the utterance, to inspire them to speak out) but also God has given ONLY His Holy Spirit the power and the authority to interpret this uncommon language!
Knowing that it is God the Father who is the One who gives His Holy Spirit the power and authority to divide/distribute/give God’s various spiritual gifts “…to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:11, KJV) also should help you to understand that the source of the supernatural “tongues” spoken on the Day of Pentecost could never be the 120 men and women. The source of the “tongues” spoken on the Day of Pentecost is the Holy Spirit! In other words, these 120 born again from above and filled with the Holy Spirit believers are God’s children to whom, via His Holy Spirit, the Father also supernaturally endows and empowers with the ability to speak a new language.
This new language—God’s heavenly language (“new tongues”)—is the language that Jesus the Christ mentions to His disciples shortly before His Ascension. On the Day of Pentecost, ten days after Jesus the Christ ascends and then sits on the right hand of the Father, His closest followers speak in “other tongues”—they speak in a language that is nothing like the normal language they were used to speaking, plus it is a language that they never studied. Jesus the Christ not only mentions this “new tongues” to His disciples but also He promises that every one of God’s NEW CREATIONS (those who believe in Him and are born again from above) will be able to speak with “new tongues,” which happens to be the same language as the Day of Pentecost’s “other tongues” (cf. John 3:8). Once again, the phrases “new tongues” and “other tongues” pertain to a language that is NOT like the foreign languages of this world.
The Lord says:
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18, KJV; the underlining is this writer’s emphasis)
The new tongues Jesus the Christ speaks of in Mark 16:17b also is mentioned in John 3:8. Jesus the Christ says to Nicodemus:
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (John 3:8, KJV).
In this verse, wind = Pneuma (the Holy Spirit who is the third person of the triune God; moreover, Pneuma comes from Pneo); therefore, bloweth = Pneo (spirits); listeth = Thelo (desires, wishes, purposes); heareth = Akouo (to understand, perceive the sense of what is said); and sound = Phone (phonetic—Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech—as in the sound of language . . . tongue). Thus, John 3:8 paraphrased is as follows:
The Holy Spirit spirits wherever He desires and you Nicodemus can perceive the sense of the language (Divine Voice) He speaks, even though you do not know where the language comes from or where the language is going; nevertheless, the Holy Spirit gives every born again believer the ability to speak in new tongues (a new language . . . a heavenly language).
Now, because humans cannot intelligently figure out “new tongues,” even though God, Jesus the Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the heavenly angels understand this language, humans are quick to call “new tongues” a strange language or an “unknown tongue.” In fact, in 1 Corinthians 14:2, the following is written:
For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. (KJV)
Of course, the apostle Paul did not write the italicized term “unknown.” In fact, both the italicized unknown and the italicized him have been inserted into the above biblical text to help make the meaning of this text clearer.
In the above-cited 1 Corinthians 14:2 verse, even though “unknown” has been added to the biblical text, it still is the apostle Paul who is saying that NO MAN can understand God’s “new tongues,” because the apostle’s use of the word “tongue” is an abridgment for Jesus the Christ’s “new tongues.” Therefore, in the 1 Corinthians 14:2 verse, apostle Paul is talking about a private language—one that is not the customary earthly foreign language! Moreover, the speaking in “tongues”—an unknown tongue, tongues of angels—as spoken in Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 13:1; 14:2) is the identical language, or “tongues,” spoken in Caesarea (see Acts 10:46), and in Ephesus (see Acts 19:6). For this reason, it should be evident that the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Corinthians 14:2, and Acts 19:6, is NOT referring to any worldly foreign languages in these Scriptures. He is speaking ONLY about beyond-your-understanding words that are inspired by the Holy Spirit!
How does all of this information relate to the Day of Pentecost’s “tongues”? Here’s how. The “tongues” spoken on the Day of Pentecost set the stage for two miracles to happen: (1) a supernatural speaking miracle, “and” (2) a supernatural hearing miracle.
THE SPEAKING MIRACLE: Contrary to what is taught in MOST of today’s churches, the 120 Upper Room believers never speak in different human languages. They speak in ONE heavenly language, and the Holy Spirit is the One who gives them the utterance. Since God knew that NO ONE would be able to understand this heavenly language, He provides the interpreter. The interpreter is the second half of the speaking miracle: The Holy Spirit interprets His own heavenly language into the 14+ different human languages that the Jewish pilgrims would normally speak!
THE HEARING MIRACLE: Only those men from the 14+ different countries who were receptive to this move of the Holy Spirit HEARD their native languages being spoken and, thus, were able to understand what the 120 were speaking. However, even though these men HEARD and understood what the 120 believers were saying, these visiting Jewish men still were perplexed and amazed. They were both confused and astonished, because these Jewish pilgrims thought that these 120 Upper Room Jews only knew how to speak in their own local dialects (cf. Acts 2:8-12). Thus, it is clear that these men were unable to comprehend that the Holy Spirit is the One who actually is interpreting the spoken heavenly language into these Jewish pilgrims’ human languages.
Therefore, the Day of Pentecost’s speaking in “tongues” was both a speaking and hearing miracle, because even though the Holy Spirit interpreted into 14+ foreign languages the heavenly language spoken by the 120 believers, every Jewish pilgrim from the 14+ countries mentioned in Acts 2:9-11 did not HEAR their own language being spoken. The men who did not HEAR their native tongue were men who were not receptive to the move of the Holy Spirit, which is why what they did HEAR was gibberish. What they did hear also was the reason why they made fun of the 120’s “tongues” and accused these “tongue” speakers of being drunk with wine!
Now, where the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is concerned, the Scriptures declare that the 120 in the Upper Room are filled first with the Holy Spirit, and after the infilling they then begin to speak in “tongues.” Being filled with the Holy Spirit means that you have surrendered your total self—your whole body, your whole soul, and your whole spirit—to God; in yielding your whole self to God, you are allowing the Spirit of God, who dwells in you, to diffuse (to spread like wildfire) His Divine Presence until He permeates (saturates) all of you. In other words, being filled with the Holy Spirit is allowing Him to take full possession or full control of you so that He can influence, prompt, teach, lead, and direct your steps in the Word of God, and remind you about the teachings of Jesus the Christ. Once you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the most dominant initial sign or evidence of this infilling is speaking in “tongues.” Although many people debate this last statement, it nonetheless is true, as well as can be supported with Scriptures.
For example, in Acts 2:4; Acts 2:33; Acts 10:46; and Acts 19:6, the Scriptures are clear about the infilling of the Holy Spirit being followed immediately by some specific supernatural signs. However, in Acts 2:38-39; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:17; Acts 9:17, these Scriptures ONLY imply that some physical manifestation of supernatural signs take place after the infilling. Now, while it might be difficult with these latter Acts verses to build a sound, logical argument about speaking in “tongues” being the first sign that confirms that a person has been filled with the Holy Spirit, in Acts 2:4; Acts 10:46; and Acts 19:6, these Scriptures are the irrefutable evidence that supports the sound and logical conclusion that the supernatural sign of speaking in “tongues” should follow the infilling of the Holy Spirit experience.
Furthermore, it is evident in Acts 2:4; Acts 10:46; and Acts 19:6 that the people in these Scriptures are NOT speaking or hearing foreign languages of this world, but rather they are speaking and hearing a language that differs from all known languages. This is the reason why the spoken unknown language needs an interpreter, because it is the language of the Holy Spirit—it is the prophesied new spiritual language (cf. Mark 16:17)!
Concerning the importance of speaking in “tongues,” the apostle Paul definitely says: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not…”(1 Corinthians 14:22a, KJV). In this verse, “sign” refers to that “of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men [and women] sent by him, or by which men [and women] prove that the cause they are pleading is God’s” (Strong’s Number 4592).
Even though speaking in “tongues” is basically a supernatural act, which means it belongs to the realm of “signs and wonders,” without a doubt, believers do benefit from speaking in “tongues.” Some of the major benefits from speaking, singing, or praying in tongues are:
Unfortunately, because there is very little sound, logical, and scriptural teaching as to the scope and value of speaking in “tongues,” this supernatural gift remains the least understood biblical subject among today’s believers, and one of the most feared! As a result, too many Christian naysayers are like some of the Acts 2:9-11 Jewish visitors from foreign countries. Many Christian naysayers also are quick to scoff at the gift of speaking in “tongues,” and/or they are quick to assign “tongues” to the emotional Christians—they are swift in pigeonholing speaking in “tongues” as being ONLY a Charismatic experience. Moreover, many of these non-Charismatics often declare, about speaking in “tongues,” that ‘it doesn’t take ALL THAT to serve the Lord!’
As it happens with other spiritual gifts, speaking in “tongues” often is counterfeited—often is faked. Therefore, every unintelligible sound is NOT necessarily God’s heavenly language. “Tongues” is a full-blown language, so sometimes it is spiritually wise to discern if those tongue talkers who only mutter a few syllables or repeat the same words over and over and over again are really speaking in “new tongues.” Most times, these individuals are just copying what they have heard others speak—they are just faking tongues.
Be that as it may, God still wants believers to know that the spiritual gift of speaking in “new tongues” (tongues of angels, or an unknown tongue) is for EVERY believer! God also wants believers to know that the spiritual gift of “new tongues” has NOT been discontinued, and neither has any of the other spiritual gifts that flourished during the apostolic age.
The primary reason why the “tongues” spiritual gifts, and other spiritual gifts, are not witnessed or practiced profusely in today’s institutional church is because after the apostolic age, over time, the majority of Christians have decided to choose to refuse to allow themselves to be caught up in any rapturous feelings. These Christians also have chosen to prefer to sing, pray, and glorify God with calm, intellectual, and controlled emotions. As a result, they have developed a spiritual blindness where speaking an unintelligible language is concerned—their hearts have become hardened by their unbelief!
The bottom line, then, is this: Only a remnant of Christians down through the centuries have come to understand the importance of the Day of Pentecost’s “tongues.” Nevertheless, the Divine Truth is that God always has intended for the spiritual gift of “tongues” to be understood as believers’ external (natural) manifestation in the senses’ world of the internal (spiritual) reality and the presence of the Holy Spirit’s power. This Divine Truth is why believers are admonished to not be drunk with wine, but instead they are to be spiritually intoxicated (filled) with the Holy Spirit, of which the initial evidence is speaking in “tongues.” To those who have an ear, let them hear what thus saith the Lord!