What Is The Tongues Gift Mentioned In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11?
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 states: "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."
This miraculous gift was used by an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12). In Acts 2:1-4, Peter and the rest of the apostles were able to speak by the Holy Spirit the native languages of those distinctive groups of people who had come to visit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). In that historical time period, Koine Greek was the common language of the time because of its cultural impact from the past efforts of Alexander the Great to "hellenize" (spread the Greek culture) across the known world. These people were in amazement when they witnessed Galileans whose area (Galilee) of the world was not known for being an area of educational elitism like Athens had been.
The ability to speak in tongues was also imparted to other 1st century Christians by the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 8:14-18; 19:1-7; 2 Timothy 1:6) to help the infant church mature in the faith (Ephesians 4:7-16) since it did not have as yet the fully revealed, written New Testament disseminated among all the congregations (as we have it today).
1 Corinthians 14:22-25 states: "Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you."
Paul states that these tongues (different human languages) are a sign for those who were not Christians in the first century A.D. The honest, non-Christians would view this miraculous gift as a sign pointing to something supernatural - the God of the Bible (the very idea that uneducated Christians could speak fluently in their native language). This is exactly what occurred on the Day of Pentecost when unbelievers in the Messiah witnessed the sign of their native tongues being spoken by Galilean men. Such obvious, miraculous ability confirmed that the apostles' message of the gospel was from God.
Today, we no longer have the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit available (other than what is recorded in the written New Testament). Miracles were given in the early church for the purpose of confirming the word of God (Mark 16:17-20). We have the fully confirmed and revealed written word of God that is sufficient for us today (2 Peter 1:3; Jude 1:3). If we are going to spread the gospel in other foreign countries, then we must study the native language in order to effectively communicate to the people.
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