|Series Theme: The Gifts of the Spirit|
Title: 9. The Gift of Tongues
A Series that considers the Gifts given by the Holy Spirit to Believers
This page is one of a number that seeks to provide basic study material for the Christian who wishes to see what the Bible says about the gifts of the Spirit.
Tongues, appearing to have a more limited usage in the New Testament only needs to be considered in a different way from our previous pages. We observe first of all the limited number of times it is recorded as happening in the New Testament, and then go on to the teaching about it, of which there is plenty. Finally we consider why this gift was not observed in the Old Testament or in Jesus.
1. The Gift
Tongues Definition: a supernatural utterance in an unknown language
References to it happening: (In Acts)
2. Teaching: (In 1 Cor)
3. But what about Jesus?
In considering all the other Gifts of the Spirit so far, we have observed such gifts in the Old Testament, in the ministry of Jesus and in the life of the early church as seen in the Acts of the Apostles.
In the case of tongues and interpretation there is no reference to tongues in the Old Testament or in the ministry of Jesus. Why is this?
a) Absence of Tongues in the Old Testament
No express reason is given but the following is suggested as an answer. In the Old Testament period, the Holy Spirit came upon individuals on specific occasions and for specific purposes. In the New Testament period, after belief, the Holy Spirit indwells and fills the believer.
We have observed above, that the release of praying in tongues comes as an expression of the filling or overflowing of the Spirit in the individual believer. Because that did not seem to happen in the Old Testament period, it would thus not have occurred.
b) Absence of Tongues in the Ministry of Jesus.
Jesus on earth was God-man. In ways that deny our understanding He was both fully God and fully man. Although he regularly prayed, he did not ebb and flow in the Spirit as most Christians do. Similarly he did not need to switch off his mind when he wanted to keep on thanking and praising his Father. Unlike us, he would not come to the end of his vocabulary.
4. And So?
The above two paragraphs are only suggested answers to the absence of tongues in places where the rest of the gifts are obvious. The Bible does not give specific reasons. All one can say is that tongues and interpretation are Christian experiences to which the New Testament testifies as clearly as any other gift - more so in fact. The fact that we may not understand it should not mean that we write it off.
We simply suggest, if you still have queries, you again read through the notes on the page above.
The need for all the other gifts is still obvious and did not cease with the arrival of the New Testament canon as some suggest. If that is so, then for similar reasons we would suggest that the need for and use of tongues legitimately has not ceased.