Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (Acts 2:9-13)
Before I read the New Testament, I went to a Bible Study where people spoke in tongues. It scared me, and I never returned. I can imagine if I hadn’t been a Christian, I may have run from Christianity. 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 commands us not to speak in tongues in public unless there is an interpreter. If there is none, the speaker should keep quiet. Otherwise, Paul tells us, people will think you are out of your minds. (1 Corinthians 14:23)
The apostles and early believers didn’t understand what they were saying when they spoke in foreign tongues to Jerusalem’s visitors on Pentecost. Of course people from other countries interpreted because the Galileans spoke in their native languages. It was a miracle that helped Jews believe Jesus was the Messiah.
According to Paul, one with the gift of tongues can also speak to God. It is different than prayer. In doing so, their spirit speaks to God’s spirit, and it is greatly edifying even though their mind doesn’t understand what they’re saying. (1 Corinthians 14:2, 4). Since I don’t have the gift of speaking in tongues, I find it hard to wrap my mind around it. Perhaps those with the gift are speaking to God in the language of heaven. Maybe we will all speak and understand that new language someday. Therefore, Paul tells us not to forbid speaking in tongues but make sure it’s done in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Corinthians 14:40)
Speaking in tongues is biblical, even today. It should not be done in church unless there is an interpreter. Today, if one has that gift, it should usually be done in private while praising God. If a church chooses to do it without an interpreter, it is not biblical and one may choose not to go there. But it still isn’t our job to judge. Many of those churches do great mission work.
Father God, holy is Your name. Give me the spiritual gifts you want me to have and the desire to use them. Help me not to make fun of people even when it seems they’ve had too much wine. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.