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“A friend asked me if I spoke in tongues. I have heard of this but am unaware of what it actually is and if it is something I should do.”
The New Testament gives several accounts of people who, when “filled with the Spirit,” spoke in a language that was not their own. In one instance, this language (actually, languages spoken by several different people) were known languages recognized by others for whom the language was native. This is the well-known event at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12).
In other instances, “tongues” more closely resembled “ecstatic utterance,” a verbal outburst which though not necessarily a known or spoken language, was nevertheless an expression of overwhelming joy in God’s presence (Acts 10:45-46; 19:6). This utterance might or might not have meaning for the immediate listeners.
Some important things to note: This gift is not for everyone. There is no biblical evidence that it is given to all believers. There is some debate as to whether this gift is still given at all in the modern age, but that debate is pointless from the standpoint of conclusive Scriptural teaching.
Some problems accompany this practice. On occasion, its use has given rise to division, disorderliness and even chaos within the churches. It has also been abused, erroneously purported by some to be a mark of higher spiritual maturity. Thus, Paul himself prescribes rather strict guidelines for its use in public: for edification only, two or three speakers at most, one at a time and only when an interpreter is present (I Cor. 14:26-28).
Paul makes a telling comment in this passage: he does not deny the right use of speaking in tongues, but he repeatedly emphasizes that he would rather speak a few words people can actually understand than many words which no one comprehends (I Cor. 14:1-19).
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