Speaking in Tongues
By: David Martin
Speaking of utterance gifts, Acts 2:7 describes the day of Pentecost and says, “they were all amazed, and marveled, saying one to another, “Behold are not all of these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own language?”
On this occasion there were 17 different people groups represented in the gathering. Parthians, Medes, people from Mesopotamia. What started with 120 believers in a room when they became filled with the Holy Ghost was about to have profound consequences. Thousands of people were outside, gathered for the feast of Pentecost. Their corporate encounter with these 120 believers obviously did not compute. A large number were transfixed by Peter’s message as they listened in their native language. About 3,000 of them believed Peter’s account of Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection and were baptized the same day.
On the day of Pentecost, they all heard in their own language. Now fast-forward about 2,000 years to when my sister and I got saved.
We were both into the drug world when we got saved. She went from drugs to Mormonism, and even encouraged me to do the same. But I was very successful and prosperous where I was and was not easily persuaded. Two to three years later, I found God and got baptized with the Holy Ghost. I recognized very quickly that my sister was into a cult. Neither she nor my parents could understand my appeals. It caused so much of a problem in the family, the subject was declared off limits. Then, about the time she was in her senior year at Brigham Young University, I was entering into ministry and I recognized the reality of God’s miracle power.
I was like a kid with a new toy and I wanted to pray for everybody. When my sister Debbie came home for Thanksgiving, we had our big Thanksgiving dinner. I wanted to share with my family about this power of the Holy Spirit and how I pray for people and the power of God comes upon them — “That’s cool. That’s nice, David, that’s great.” I said, “Well, let me show you.” They weren’t spirit-filled and they were not interested.
But I have a certain bulldog tenacity so they finally relented. I said, “Stand in front of the couch, so when I pray for you, when you fall you can land on the couch.” They said, “David we are not going to fall. You go ahead and pray, but we’re not going to fall over.” There was a big coffee table between us. I couldn’t even reach them because of the table. And the power of God hit them and I saw something I’d never seen before. They went up in the air, maybe six or seven inches, up in the air before they went back on the couch. I looked at my wife and we both had the same kind of, “Ahhh, did you see that?!” Of course, my sister was there, the Mormon, and I said, “Debbie how about I pray for you?” and she said, “Do you feel led with our differences of beliefs?” and I said, “Well, it can’t hurt.” So she agreed to let me pray.
Again, I’m just praying, asking God to bless, but a phenomenon happened that I’ve never seen before or since, and it was probably one of the most weird things I’ve experienced. I’m just praying in English, and without thinking about it, I kicked into praying in tongues. But what happened is I was hearing it in English. I was saying one thing but I was hearing in my native language. I’m confident this is what happened on the day of Pentecost.
What I was hearing was amazing because it was about the power that’s in the blood. I’m pleading, I’m declaring, I’m prophesying the blood of Yeshua over her life. All of a sudden she lets out this most horrible scream. She didn’t fall backwards, it was like she melted. She collapsed straight down, kind of like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, down between the couch and the coffee table with an ear piercing scream. I said, “God, what is this?” And He said, “It’s the spirit of deception. She was delivered from the spirit of deception.”
That was 33 years ago. The point I want to make is about the operation of tongues. I was saying one thing, but we were hearing something else. What we know from the Word of God is 17 different people groups were hearing preaching in their language. And that’s what the gift of tongues does. The miracle of the tongue is in the hearing.
The gift of tongues has nothing to do with learning a foreign language. I know people who have been on mission trips without an interpreter and when they started speaking, the people that they ministered to were hearing perfect German, perfect Russian, perfect whatever the case may be, because it was the Holy Spirit speaking who knows all languages. But the Holy Spirit was giving them the ability to speak a foreign language. That’s one of the manifestations of the utterance gifts.
In 1 Corinthians 12, it says there are various kinds of tongues and it implies that there are multiple types or ways that the gift can operate. The gift will normally function in a public assembly. It is going to happen where believers are gathered and someone is going to have the gift. Usually it is a fellowship service, where God wants to bring a message to the people in that assembly. One person is going to have the operation of the gift of tongues and then another person is going to have the companion gift, which is the interpretation of tongues. Whenever there is an unknown tongue, somebody is going to interpret. Sometimes it is one and the same person. Not all Spirit-filled believers have this gift, but all Spirit-filled believers can speak with the tongues of men and angels, which is their personal prayer language.
Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 12. Verse 28 says, “And God has appointed in the congregation, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various tongues. All are not apostles, are they?” Now I want you to follow along with me and answer these questions.
So the question is, “All are not apostles, are they?” Answer: no. “All are not prophets, are they?” Answer: no. “All are not teachers, are they?” Answer: no. “All are not workers of miracles, are they?” Answer: no. “All do not have the gifts of healings, do they?” No. “All do not speak with tongues, do they?” No. People try to put a “yes” here but it doesn’t work. All do not have the gift of tongues. The right answer is “no.”All believers have the ability to communicate with God in a heavenly language, but this is a public ministry gift of speaking in tongues or interpretation of tongues.
In 1 Corinthians 14 we read this, “In the Law it is written,” this is a quote from Isaiah 28:11, “In the Law it is written, ‘By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to me,’ says the Lord.” But in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is addressing the issue of tongues, interpretation of tongues and prophecy. Paul is quoting from a Jewish Scriptures source, Isaiah 28, which declares it was going to happen at a future time. It happened on the day of Shavuot. First Corinthians 14:29 says, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or by most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret;” going on to the next verse, “but if there be no interpreter, he must keep silent in the congregation; and let him speak to himself and to God.”
What we are seeing here is the protocol for this gift to operate in a public assembly, rather than a personal prayer language. And what often happens is when you speak out the little bit that you have, then God gives you more.
Next, we will move on to interpretation of tongues. Often times what someone says is very brief in public tongues, but the interpretation is twice as long. The reason for that it takes more words to explain. God says it in one sentence, but for me to explain it to you, it is going to take a paragraph or two to explain that concept. So the interpretation often times is going to take longer than the presentation.
The other reason for longer interpretation is that the end result of tongues and interpretation of tongues is prophecy. Prophecy’s primary value and purpose according to the Word of God is edification, exhortation and comfort.