The issue of what the gift of speaking in tongues means comes up in four categories. I call them Controversial, Pentecost, Conversions and I Corinthians.
The controversial use is in one place. By controversial I mean that it is in a place that many scholars find to be questionable. I will leave that discussion for another day, but understand that in the Greek manuscripts there are at least three different endings to the Gospel of Mark. One ending that is found in the KJV contains this verse:
(Mark 16:17 NASB) "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;This is the only place that Jesus refers to this gift. This does not help in any way our understanding of the use of tongues. All the discussions and disagreements apply.
Then we have the use of tongues at Pentecost. This is found at the beginning of Acts 2. When I read over this as a passage and don’t cherry pick verses and clauses that support a particular presupposition, I see that whatever happened, it was more a miracle of hearing than a miracle of speaking. I might call it the gift of ears rather than the gift of tongues. Notice that people from many different lands were together in the crowd, listening to the same people and each one heard in their own native language. Awesome. For this reason I personally reject the use of Pentecostal for the modern movement that stresses speaking in tongues. I have not seen heard or read about anyone claiming this gift of ears.
Another thought I had about Pentecost was that this gift of tongues was the use of a universal language that is understood by everyone. I would call it the language of angels from the next chapter.
(1 Corinthians 13:1 KJV) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.The “tongues of men” is an obvious statement. What are the “tongues of angels?” Let me speculate that this is a language, spoken by the angels, that is understood on an instinctual, built-in way by all human beings. Sounds like science fiction, but so do angels.
What about the conversion experiences? We have several places in Acts where new groups of people are being presented the Gospel and in the process it says they spoke in tongues. It does not explain what that meant. It can only be assumed that the people reading understood it. In Acts 10:44 tells us that the group of Gentiles led by the centurion Cornelius began speaking in tongues. It almost looks to me that they are speaking in tongues before they are converted. They certainly are speaking in tongues before they are baptized. And notice the response of those with Peter,
(Acts 10:45 NASB) All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.They were surprised that this happened, whatever it was.
That brings us to the Corinthians. As the verse at the top of this post shows, speaking in tongues is listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit. That much is clear. No one who believes that the Bible is the word of God can deny that there is something called tongues that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Beyond that the arguments begin. I would submit that what is presented in I Corinthians 12-14 is something different that what occurred in Acts. That is for the next post.
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