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  • Writer's pictureTrai Evans

What Does the Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues? (Pt.2)

Can Christians speak in tongues today? What about in a heavenly language? There are two major views within Christendom: there are those who believe that Christians cannot speak in tongues as the apostles did on the day of Pentecost. By way of contrast, others believe with great conviction that you can speak in tongues (which to them would be a heavenly language) which is a spiritual gift given from God. Before we begin, there are two terms we should know: xenoglossia and glossolalia.

Xenoglossia is the ability to speak in a foreign language without having learned it. This term is also derived from two Greek words: Xenos, which means "foreign" or "foreigner", and glõssai, which means "tongues'' or "languages." On the day of Pentecost, a miraculous sign had occurred. This miracle allowed people to hear the apostles speak in their native tongue: “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language?” (Acts 2:8, NASB). Glossolalia is referred to as “ecstatic utterances,” which is an incomprehensible speech. It is also known as religious ecstasy. There are many in Christendom who practice this form of speech and associate it as a gift from God. They believe wholeheartedly that they are speaking in a heavenly language. In recent years, some have disassociated themselves with this belief and practice because it is not scriptural. There is nowhere in the bible that addresses men speaking in a heavenly language.

A passage that is typically used by those who believe in speaking in heavenly languages comes from I Corinthians 14:2, “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit, he speaks mysteries.” When studying the word of God, it is critically important to read the entire context; by doing so we can potentially avoid false doctrine. When it comes to understanding I Corinthians 14:2, we must read the entire text to fully understand what is being said.

In summary, Paul is saying that those in Corinth were speaking in foreign languages that were not understood by those who heard them (v. 3 – 12). When these men were speaking, no one could understand them but God. As a result, Paul describes them as musical instruments producing noise rather than a melody (v. 7-9). The phrase “speak in tongues” in verse 2 is thus referred to as a foreign language, not a heavenly one.

There is no denying the biblical spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. For the church in its infancy during the first century, it was necessary for the gift of tongues to be used only temporarily in order to advance the gospel to other surrounding countries. Scripturally speaking, tongues were used to communicate to people who spoke other languages in order to spread the message of Christ. Paul mentions in verse 22, “tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers.” Foreign unbelievers in the first century needed to hear the gospel of Christ.

Today, now that the New Testament has been completely written and the Bible has been translated into more than 2,000 languages (it is the most translated book in the world), what need is there for speaking in tongues? The question stands: can a person speak in tongues today? No. Not miraculously as it occurred in the first century.

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