“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” – 1 Corinthians 14:2 NKJV
It is not unusual to hear a lot of myths about tongues. This has been the case since the day of Pentecost. In light of this, it is important to rightly divide the scriptures in order to come up with the right conclusions. (2 Timothy 2:15).
To achieve this, one must consider all scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Let’s dig in.
In Acts 2, two controversial issues concerning tongues leap out at us immediately. The first is that a person speaking in tongues can be likened to a drunkard. The second is that the tongues gift is another human language.
The first issue was exhaustively explained by Peter in Acts 2:14 and Acts 2:33. The second issue was exhaustively explained by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14.
Before looking into the explanations by these Apostles, there is a need to point out that the book of Acts is a journalistic account. It is a narrative about events. It is not necessarily meant for doctrinal extrapolation.
The word “necessarily” is used because sermons preached therein were reported by Luke, the author of the book. However, you will find that scriptures were used to back up these sermons. Therefore, they can be used for establishing doctrine. Examples are the sermon by Philip to the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:30-35), Stephen’s sermon (Acts 7), Paul’s defences of the Gospel and so on.
Another sermon that is remarkable in the book of Acts is that of Peter in Acts 2. In this sermon, he cancelled the myth that the tongues gift is an expression of drunkenness or intoxication. While there might be similarities in behaviour, the source is different.
In Acts 2:15-16 (HCSB), he said, “For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning. On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel…”
After this, he pointed them to the prophecy of Prophet Joel in Joel 2:28-32. It was confirmed by Jesus in Mark 16:17.
The other myth was addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14. In Acts 2:8-11, it was reported that the people gathered around heard the wonderful works of God in their own distinctive language as the disciples spoke in tongues. “How could this be?” they asked.
It’s a worthy question to ask because you and I both know that it’s hard to distinctively decipher what is spoken by 120 persons at once not to talk of various languages being spoken at once. So what really happened?
In Mark 16:17, Jesus called tongues “new” meaning “fresh”. In 1 Corinthians 14:2, Paul called it “mysteries” which cannot be understood by men. That means if one can understand it NATURALLY, what is spoken is not tongues (1 Corinthians 14:6). It can only be understood supernaturally.
Also, it is only one who is saved that can understand what is said in unknown tongues and that is only made possible by another utterance gift of the Spirit known as the interpretation of tongues. When unknown tongues are interpreted by the Spirit, it becomes prophecy to the hearer (1 Corinthians 14:5).
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the disciples indeed spoke in tongues and the people (who were unsaved) miraculously heard their own language or the Apostles actually prophesied (interpreted what they said in tongues).
This might still seem strange to some of us but like I always say “if it is biblical, strange is okay.” Choose to believe the realities of the word rather than myths.
Seeking further explanations? Do listen to the message “Kindle 2: The Why, the What and the How of Praying in the Spirit.”