Importance of Speaking in Tongues in Christianity

Table of Contents

Introduction

Speaking in tongues is a term that is common especially when referring to the Pentecostal churches. It is a supernatural language that is believed to be imparted to Christian believers when they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. The issue of speaking in tongues has raised a lot of issues especially among the non-believers about its origin. It has been difficult for some people to believe that someone can receive such inspiration and start talking in unknown tongues (Conzelmann, 1987, 65). What causes more confusion about the same is the fact that the people that speak in tongues do not understand what they are saying.

It is usually considered to be a supernatural way in which Christian believers talk to their maker and strengthen their faith. In this paper, we will focus on the mystery of speaking in tongues, where it originated from, and its significance especially to the Pentecostal Christian believers.

The Origin

Speaking in tongues originated from the early years of Christianity which is considered to be a fulfillment of the promise to the disciples. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised his disciples that he would be sending them a helper that will strengthen and guide them in their spiritual walk (Gasque, 1975, 25). They were to wait in Jerusalem for the promise which was fulfilled in the day that is commonly referred to us as the Pentecost.

The book of Acts chapter two describes the incidences that took place when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. The disciples were gathered in the upper room during their normal praying routine when all of a sudden there was a strong earthquake that sounded in the room that was followed by an observation of tongues of fire on their heads. As this happened, each one of them started speaking in different languages as they were enabled by the Holy Spirit1. It was after this experience that the disciples displayed an extraordinary boldness to preach the gospel of Christ.

Speaking in tongues has hence been considered to be an important requirement for a Christian believer that has to engage in the ministry of the gospel. Before the disciples received such baptism, they were afraid of speaking in public. This was basically because the Christ that strengthened them in ministry had been subjected to the crucifixion and hence leaving them helpless (Hagner & Murray, 1980, 28). There was a lot of mockery on the disciples following the death of Jesus which made most of them go into hiding. Jesus had been their mentor all through their ministry work and they could do nothing without him.

His death was hence considered to be a final blow to their ministry work. Even though Jesus had promised them of his resurrection on the third day, it was hard for them to believe considering the painful death that he was subjected to. Most people were also against his ministry which also weakened their faith. The Pentecost day was hence a remarkable day for the disciples who have revived once again. They were able to do much more things in their service to God than they did when they were with Jesus. This has hence been a day that has been celebrated by Christian believers as a sign of their victory over the enemy that is commonly referred to as Satan or the devil.

The significance of speaking in tongues

Speaking in tongues has been considered to be a foundation of Christian ministry. A reference is always made towards the same when Jesus was commissioning his dispels to spread the gospel to the world. In the book of acts, he told them that they shall receive power when the Holy Spirit descends on them and they shall preach the gospel to all Judea and Samaria2. Speaking in tongues comes only when a Christian believer has been baptized by the Holy Spirit.

It is the outward evidence that can confirm such a baptism. The hardships that are involved in spreading the gospel require a believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit which will enable them to overcome the challenges that come with their ministry. Speaking in tongues is also an outward sign of the commitment that a believer has towards serving Christ (Hemer, 1989, 52). The baptism of the Holy Spirit comes only after a believer has diligently prayed to God for the same. This hence shows the level of spiritual maturity that he or she has attained.

Speaking in tongues also enables the believer to be effective in their prayer life. It is usually believed that there are certain spiritual battles that the believer may not be aware of. Speaking in tongues hence enables them to fight unknown battles that were a hindrance to their spiritual growth. Speaking in tongues may also be known as the tongues of the angels3, this means that it is only the angels that can comprehend what is being spoken.

The Holy Spirit will hence enable the believers to speak mysteries through such tongues which will prompt the angels to bring about results. Angels are significant spiritual beings in a believer’s life as they minister to their needs. It is usually believed that not even the devil can understand the language of speaking in tongues. This is hence significant as he is denied the opportunity of hindering such prayers from being answered. Believers are usually encouraged to speak in tongues especially when they are fighting major spiritual battles in their lives.

Speaking in tongues is a personal issue that should not be extended for public use. Christian believers are mainly encouraged to speak in tongues when they are praying to edify themselves and not use it when preaching or addressing a public meeting. They are however encouraged to use them if only there would be a person in their midst to translate it to the others4. This is basically because it may confuse the people who will be contemplating what it means (Wenham, 1988, 53-55).

Tongues are only important to the person that is speaking them and have nothing to the third party as they do not understand what they mean. Speaking in tongues is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that only several people will poses. It is hence not supposed to be used by the believers to brag about their spiritual maturity. The Bible recognizes that, just because a person is not speaking in tongues, they should not be disqualified from being a believer. They may be gifted in other areas that need to be appreciated by the church.

Criticisms

Speaking in tongues has been criticized especially by other non-Pentecostal Christians. This came about after it was identified that there was a misuse of the same. The argument was based on the fact that nobody understands what the other is speaking and hence providing an opportunity for some people to speak anything (Hengel, 1979, 85). There are also some Christians who considered speaking in tongues as a religious practice of the early Christians which can not be applied in the current world.

This has been one area that has been a source of conflict among Christian believers. Speaking in tongues has been considered to be a complex way of communication that discourages the people that do not have such an ability to join churches. This has been mostly because of the common and frequent use of tongues even in public places. Pentecostals usually pray loudly in tongues which makes the rest of the congregation that does not have similar gifting feel out of place.

Some Christian believers are discriminated against because of their inability to speak in tongues. They are looked at as people who are not serious with their spiritual walk or are entangled in certain practices that are contrary to the Christian faith. These have been some of the major reasons that have made some Christian churches discontinue the practice of speaking in tongues and made it a contentious issue in the church.

Conclusion

Speaking in tongues, just like any other religious practice can only be understood by those who practice it. It has been difficult to explain it to people who do not believe in the practice. It is a supernatural practice that only requires a person to be similarly connected for them to understand. Them that practice it has enough scriptural pieces of evidence to justify the practice as well as those that do not practice it. The safest thing about it is that it is not a compulsory practice among Christian believers who have a choice to adapt it or not. It is however advisable that one acquires divine understanding about it before they involve in it to avoid any confusion to them and others around them.

Reference list

Conzelmann, Hans. 1987, Acts of the Apostles. Translated by James Limburg, A. Thomas Kraabel, and Donald H. Juel. Hermeneia. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.

Gasque, W., 1975, A History of the Criticism of the Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Hagner, Donald A. & Murray J. Harris. 1980, Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to Professor F. F. Bruce on His 70th Birthday. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Hemer, C., 1989, The Book of Acts in the Setting of the Hellenistic History. Tübingen:

Hengel, Martin, 1979, Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity. Trans. J. Bowden. Mohr/Siebeck.Philadelphia, PA: Fortress.

Wenham, David. 1988, “The Paulinism of Acts Again: Two Historical Clues in 1. Thessalonians.” Themelios.

Footnotes

  1. Acts 2:1-5.
  2. Acts 1:8.
  3. 1corinthians 13:1.
  4. 1 Corinthians 14:6.

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