Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, spoke about the gift of tongues when He said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.” (Mark 16:17). The adjective “new” (Greek, kainos) means they were going to speak in languages new to them, i.e., languages they had not learned or used before. In Acts of the Apostles 2:4 a different adjective was used thus: “they began to speak with other tongues.” The word ‘other’ (Greek, heteros) simply means that they spoke in languages different from the normal language they were used to.
What is speaking in tongues?
Speaking in tongues is the New Testament experience where a person speaks in a language that is unknown to him. This language is either the language of angels or other earthly languages (1 Corinthians 13:1; Acts 2:6-8). It occurred in Acts 2 at Pentecost and also in the Corinthian church as recorded in 1 Corinthians 14.
“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.” 1 Corinthians 13:1 KJV
There seems to be three divisions in the use of tongues: (1) useful as a private prayer language that does not require interpretation, (2) useful as a language that requires interpretation if it is to be used in the Christian gathering, (3) useful in the missionary context of evangelism where people present the Gospel (Isaiah 28:11).
Today there is much debate as to the validity of speaking in tongues, especially since there is so much misuse of it in Christian circles.
Nevertheless, some Christian churches teach that all the charismatic gifts (speaking in tongues, word of knowledge, prophecy, etc.,) have ceased with the completion of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:8-12; 12:30; 14:5). Others maintain that the charismatic gifts are still for the church today (1 Corinthians 1:7). Although speaking or not speaking in tongues does not affect one’s salvation, it enhances Christian’s stand in faith. It is like an “end-to- end encrypted app” given to help in our personal relationship with our God, so that third parties can’t interfere.
The Ministry of Speaking in Tongues
God overcame the language barrier introduced in Babel through the miracle-gift of tongues. The Scriptures gave reasons why God gave the gift of speaking in tongues:
(1) To communicate the Gospel message (Acts 10:44-46; 19:1-6; 1Corinthians 14:22)
(2) To confirm the Gospel message (Mark 16:20; 2Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4)
(3) For self-edification and improvement (1 Corinthians 14:4)
(4) For the edification of the Church when it can be interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)
(5) Useful in prayer, especially in private prayer life (John. 4:24; Romans 8:26-27; 1Corinthians 14:15)
It would be naive and out of place to argue that Paul tried to discourage speaking in tongues in his letter to the Corinthians when he, himself boasted of speaking in tongues:
“I thank my God; I speak with tongues more than ye all:” 1 Corinthians 14:18 KJV
Since Our Lord, Jesus Christ, spoke of speaking in tongues by his believers and the Apostles experienced this in their ministries, Cornelius and his associates as well as Gentiles; therefore, it will not be out of place to encourage every believer to desire this gift. All the gifts are yours for asking and enjoyment as we serve Him (Acts 10:24, 44-46; 1 Corinthians. 12:31; 14:1; Matthew 7:7-8)
Consequently, if speaking in tongues is not a must because it does not affect one’s salvation, it should be considered a necessity in our Christian experience (pilgrimage on earth) (Proverbs 4:7; Matthew 25:3-4)
Pastor Dare Komolafe