Tongues Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Tongues

Used metaphorically, tongues refers to utterances in different languages. In common parlance a mother tongue is one's native language as distinguished from a second or a third language one may learn in school or by living in a different country. Early in Scripture, when people were trying to mount up to heaven by building a giant tower at a place called Babel (Gen. 11), God frustrated their attempts by creating a diversity of languages that caused people to scatter. Thousands of years later this Babel of confusion was reversed on the Day of Pentecost, when the first manifestation of God's Holy Spirit being poured out on the disciples was that they appeared to be able to speak in the whole range of foreign tongues represented in Jerusalem that day. There is some dispute as to whether the disciples actually spoke different languages or whether the hearers could understand them (in a miracle of hearing, not speaking) in their native tongues. Subsequent to this event, however, "speaking in tongues" referred to the gift of the Spirit in which a person is caught up in a spiritual ecstasy and so speaks a language possibly not of this earth. Paul and others make clear that for this to be a proper part of worship, someone else with the gift of interpretation had to translate this divine utterance for the benefit of others or it needed to be a private speaking with God as a kind of prayer (1 Cor. 14). In recent history the gift of speaking in tongues received new attention when it became a fixture of Pentecostal worship in the early twentieth century through the present day.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.