What is the biblical gift of speaking in tongues?

The first demonstration of this gift was at Pentecost when the disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues” (Acts 2:4). The Scriptures leave no doubt as to what happened. “Everyone heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:6).

The gift of tongues is simply the miraculous ability to speak a previously unlearned language. This gift is given in special circumstances to convey the Gospel across language barriers. It is not given to all believers. The Spirit gives gifts “to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Many of us have witnessed Satan’s counterfeit gift of tongues on TV or in internet videos. This is when a person, claiming to receive a message from the Spirit, speaks gibberish that no one understands. This behavior does not glorify God, neither does it benefit His church. “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

God blesses His church with spiritual gifts so that we may be His witnesses to the world. Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me… to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). The gift of tongues is not about muttering nonsense in order to prove we have the Holy Spirit. Rather, the gift of tongues is for breaking down language barriers to reach the world with the wonderful news of Jesus.

Dig Deeper

Mark 16:14-20; Acts 2; Acts 10:44-48; 1 Corinthians 14

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