A Look at
Speaking in Tongues

by
Jack M. Lane

In this article, based on a message given at Pentecost, we will look at a few of the aspects of tongues speaking, primarily noting the differences between what Peter says in Acts chapter 2 and what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 14.


Let's begin in Acts chapter 2, which describes what happened on Pentecost in the year Messiah was crucified and resurrected.  This event has often been called the birthday of the New Testament church.

Acts 2:1-21 (NIV):

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
7 Utterly amazed, they asked:  "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?
9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome
11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs -- we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:  "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose.  It's only nine in the morning!
16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
By the way, this passage presents a problem to those who think the definition of "prophesy" is to deliver a sermon.  God's Spirit will be poured out on both men and women, and both men and women will prophesy!  If prophesying is preaching a sermon, and women aren't allowed to preach sermons, where do you go with that?

No, prophesying generally means to receive a message from God, through His Spirit, to deliver to a specific person or group of people, at a particular time.  Prophesying can be speaking or singing under inspiration.  That's a side point, but an interesting one.
 

What's It All About?

In all the years I've been studying the Bible, I've been unable to resolve what this business about speaking in tongues was all about.  We know the disciples spoke in tongues.  We know the Jews from around the empire heard them in their own languages.

It also looks like Peter is using the reference in the prophet Joel, about prophesying, to explain the miracle of the languages.  In other words, by way of explaining how it was that everyone heard the disciples speaking in a familiar language, Peter quoted Joel, as if this was a fulfillment of how the Spirit would be poured out and everyone would be prophesying.  These scriptures may be telling us that speaking in tongues is not only a manifestation of God's Spirit, but may also be one way the gift of prophecy is manifested.

I think we've been aware that speaking in tongues is a gift of the Spirit, and prophesying is another.  And, if the need arose, God could cause any one of us to prophesy here, in our language, or go somewhere else and prophesy, but perhaps in that country's local language, by the additional gift of tongues.

That seems to be what's happening here, in Acts 2, but we see in these verses a triple reference that
each of the Jews heard the disciples speak in his familiar language.  This amounted to a tremendous attention-getter, and gave the disciples validation in the eyes of the Jews around them.  Other scriptures tell us that people who were baptized later were given gifts through the Spirit, including speaking in tongues, and that there was a fear of the apostles that fell over the people, as I can well imagine.

But what about today?  We don't speak in tongues.  We may have prophesied a bit here and there, or spoken by inspiration, as God thought He needed it, but it's not something we do on a regular basis.  The scriptures tell us that one of the gifts of God's Spirit is the ability to speak in tongues.  We often wonder exactly what that means, and we question why we don't have that gift.

If we don't speak in tongues, does that mean we don't have the Spirit?  There are some churches that teach that.  If we don't speak in tongues, does that mean we should  call out to God and insist He give us the ability to speak in tongues, or else we're going to hold our breath until we pass out?  Is that appropriate?

What does "speaking in tongues" mean, anyway?  The word glossa is used 50 times in the Greek scriptures.  Each time it's translated as "tongue."  Glossa refers to the physical tongue, the organ of speech and taste, and it also means "language," just as our word "tongue" does in English.

In Mark chapter 7, Jesus heals a man's tongue -- the Greek word is glossa.  James refers in his epistle to the damage that can be done by as little an organ as the tongue -- glossa.  Romans 3:13:  "Their throats are open graves; their tongues [glossa] practise deceit."  These are a few examples of glossa referring to the literal tongue.  Most of the other times the word glossa appears in scripture, it's in reference to languages.

Peter quoted Joel chapter 2 on the Day of Pentecost.  These verses in Joel are tied into end time events.  If you read Joel chapter 2, you'll see that this pouring out of the Spirit and prophesying and dreaming dreams comes after a time of great distress and calamity.  That's where Peter begins quoting, in Acts 2:

18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And [presumably at that time] everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
After the Tribulation, come the heavenly signs, followed by Christ's return.  This is what Joel wrote about, and this is what Peter referred to, by way of explanation of what happened.  What we're looking at are the 5th, 6th, and 7th seals from the book of Revelation.
 

The Seals of Revelation

Revelation 6:9-17:

9 When he [the Lamb who was slain -- Messiah] opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.
10 They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"
11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
The 5th seal is great tribulation and martyrdom.
12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal.  There was a great earthquake.  The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,
13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.
14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
The 6th seal, the heavenly signs, will be a fearsome time of anguish, and incredible devastation on the earth.  Then, after that, things will really get bad, as God intervenes!

Revelation 8:1-6:

1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.
4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.
5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
6 Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
And what follows, coming on the heels of everything that's gone before, makes me really want to be hiding safely in the grave until it's all past.  It's not going to be a pretty picture.

Then, there's going to be some good news, and there's going to be some bad news:

Revelation 11:14-15:

14 [The time setting]  The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.
15 [Between the 2nd and 3rd woes]  The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."
And following some more intervention from God, peace will finally break out around the world, and the King, our Messiah, will set up His throne and begin His 1,000-year reign on earth, with his younger siblings at His side.
 

Fulfilled in Type

So, what does this scenario have to do with the Day of Pentecost, or with speaking in tongues?  If Peter was correct in using the quotation from Joel, so long ago, then it was a "typical" fulfillment of the prophecy.  You may be familiar with the principle that prophecies are often fulfilled in more than one way and more than one kind, often being fulfilled by a smaller "type," then later in a larger "antitype."  Peter indicates this was the prophecy of Joel 2 being fulfilled in "type."  If that's the case, the real fulfillment will be in the future, during the 5th seal tribulation.

What about the rest of Joel's prophecy?  Were the other aspects of the prophecy fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost?  Were the other parts of the prophecy fulfilled in type on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem?  Was there tribulation before the day they spoke in tongues?  Were there heavenly signs after that day?  Did the Lord and His Christ establish their kingdom, in some small way?  There's no clear indication of this; apparently only this one feature of Joel's prophecy was being fulfilled when Peter spoke.  But if you know what the Greek word translated "kingdom" means, you'll have one of the answers.

Should we expect to be able to speak in tongues today?  Should we be expecting new converts, arising out of the water, to start speaking another language?  Why not?  Isn't it a gift of the Spirit?

Also, how do we define speaking in tongues?  Is it speaking in another existing language, or is it speaking in a completely unknown language, or perhaps just mindless gibberish?  There are several references in the Greek scriptures to speaking in tongues, and how it is one of the gifts or manifestations of the Spirit, especially at baptism.  But exactly what this manifestation was, or why it was important to God, has been difficult to pin down.

One of the question marks I've had is in 1 Corinthians 14.  In the King James Version, the translators added the word "unknown."  When they came to the word glossa in 1 Corinthians 14, they translated glossa as "unknown tongue."  Most of the later translations don't continue this practice.  Most translations simply render the word glossa as "tongue," or "language."  But what does it mean to speak in tongues?
 

A Bible Contradiction?

The best and most instructive references to speaking in tongues are found in Acts chapter 2 and in 1 Corinthians chapter 14.  Yet, I found that these two passages seemed to contradict!  That kept me from understanding tongues speaking for a long time.  Let's look again at Acts chapter 2::

1  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all [at least the 12, presumably all 120] together in one place.
2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3  They saw what seemed to be tongues [Greek glossa] of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
4  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak [Greek laleo -- to have a vocal utterance] in other tongues [Greek heteros, meaning "other," and  glossa, meaning a language] as the Spirit enabled them.
5  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
6  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking [laleo] in his own language [Greek dialektos -- dialect!].
7  Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking [laleo] Galileans?
8  Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language [dialektos]? …

11  … we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues [glossa]!"

This indicates the Jews heard "them" -- each one of these Jews apparently heard all the disciples speaking in his own familiar language or dialect!  I had thought that one disciple might have been speaking Parthian, while another one was speaking Pamphylian.  But that doesn't seem to be what the scripture is saying here.  They were all, apparently, being heard in the local dialect of each Jew!

To illustrate, let's suppose that God suddenly gave one of us the ability to speak German.  Okay, now we're speaking German to a guy from Germany.  No big deal -- this is easy!  We have the gift of tongues!

What we might not know is, this guy is from Bavaria.  In Bavaria, they speak a low form of German, noticeably different from the higher form of German spoken in other parts of the country.  We wouldn't know that.  But here's the fellow we're talking to, and he's thinking, "Wow, I hear this person speaking to me, in German, speaking with a flawless Bavarian accent!  He sounds just like somebody from my home town!"  That's how the miracle of speaking and hearing took place on the Day of Pentecost.

Now, let's compare this to what Paul wrote to the Corinthian congregation, many years later.

1 Corinthians 14:

1  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
2  For anyone who speaks [laleo] in a tongue [glossa] does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no-one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.
3  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
4  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
This, by the way, is where we derive the term "glossalalia."  "Tongue" is translated from glossa, and "speaking" is translated from laleo, so the two terms are put together as glossa + laleo, or glossalalia, the act of speaking in tongues.

But now, in the church in Corinth, it looks as if Paul is differentiating between speaking in tongues and prophesying, even though Peter, quoting Joel chapter 2, made it sound as if they were closely related.  Is there a contradiction?  Paul says, if you speak in a tongue, you speak to God and edify yourself.  Ah, but if you prophesy, you speak to men, to strengthen them, and you edify the assembly!

Continuing in 1 Corinthians 14:

5  I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.  He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.
6  Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?
7  Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?
8  Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?
9  So it is with you.  Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue [glossa], how will anyone know what you are saying?  You will just be speaking into the air.
10  Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages [Greek phone, "a sound," usually translated in KJV as "a voice"] in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.
11  If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.
12  So it is with you.  Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
13  For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.
14  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
15  So what shall I do?  I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
16  If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?
17  You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
18  I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
19  But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
20  Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
What's he saying?  Edifying the assembly is good; building up the assembly is good.  Not grasping the meaning of what you're saying is not so good; having people not understand what you're saying is not so good.
21  In the Law it is written:  "Through men of strange tongues [Greek heteroglossos -- other tongues] and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord.
22  Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.
This is a key point here.  When I was in college, I had a professor who said that if he were lecturing, and he flagged a point as being a key point, you could be sure it was going to be on the final exam.  This is a key point, in verse 22!
23  So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
24  But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all,
25  and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare.  So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"
You know what this suggests, in verse 24 and 25?  Someone could come into the congregation as a visitor, the members would be prophesying, or speaking through God's inspiration, and one or two of the members could walk up to the visitor and lay bare the secrets of his heart!  Only God could reveal deep, dark secrets like that!  The visitor would be convinced that he's a sinner, and that everybody in the place knows all about him, and they're all going to be judging him!  So he'll fall down and have to admit that God is really here!
 

Tongues Are a Sign!

But wait.  Did anyone catch the apparent contradiction in this passage?  Look at verse 22:  "Tongues … are a sign … for unbelievers; prophecy … is for believers …."

But then, in verse 23, an unbeliever comes in, hears us speaking in tongues, and thinks we're nuts.  Or, in verse 24, an unbeliever comes in, hears us prophesying, and is convinced.  Doesn't this contradict what it just said in verse 22?  But look what happens.  The unbeliever becomes a believer because of the prophesying!  If an unbeliever hears us speaking in tongues, and goes away thinking we're a bunch of loonies, and remains an unbeliever, he's still seen the sign!  Tongues are a sign for unbelievers.  There's a reason for this.

1 Peter 2:11-12 (NKJV):

11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
This and other scriptures tell us that, one day, every person will be given the opportunity to accept the love and forgiveness God has shown to us.  When their day of visitation comes, they need to remember us by our honorable conduct and good works, even if they think right now that we're evildoers.  We need to be leaving a trail of good works and honorable conduct, wherever we go, as we go through life.  That's a sign, too!

When the visitor's day of visitation comes, and he looks back over his experiences with various congregations he's visited, how will he remember us?  As people who were hooting and hollering, jumping around, rolling on the floor?  We should hope that a visitor would remember us as people who were dignified, orderly, but had this one unusual characteristic -- we spoke in tongues.

Speaking in tongues is a sign, for a specific audience, for a specific purpose.  The gift of tongues isn't to make us feel righteous or holy, but to accomplish a task God has in mind.

Back to 1 Corinthians 14 (NIV):

26  What then shall we say, brothers?  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
27  If anyone speaks in a tongue, two -- or at the most three -- should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.
28  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.


Two Different Types of Speaking in Tongues?

Part of the problem I've had in getting a real handle on what it means to be speaking in tongues comes from the apparent contradiction between these two chapters, Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.  They seem to be saying different things.  But what if these two chapters, while both addressing the idea of speaking in tongues, are not describing the same phenomenon?

Suppose what took place in Jerusalem in Acts 2 is a different manifestation of the Spirit than what Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 14, or it was done for a different purpose.

In Acts 2, the disciples spoke in other tongues, or other languages; yet, the Jews from all over the Empire heard the disciples speaking in each man's local dialect!  I would imagine the miracle continued as Peter spoke, and they all heard and understood Peter quite clearly.  It looks as if the disciples were "speaking in tongues," but the Jews were also "hearing in dialects"!  This was the miracle God used to begin spreading the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul was writing, many years later, to a Gentile church way off somewhere in the Roman Empire.  True, he was also writing about speaking in tongues.  But was he writing about the same thing we read about in Acts 2?

In Acts chapter 2, God gave the gift of tongues (whether in speaking or in hearing) in order for the message to be understood.  In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is explaining that what the Corinthians were doing was failing to get the message across.

Acts 2 -- yes, let's speak in tongues.  1 Corinthians 14 -- no, don't speak in tongues.  This is what has confused me all these years.

However, the reason is the same in both cases:  Do what you need to do in order to get the message across.  If speaking in tongues gets the job done, do it.  If speaking in tongues keeps you from getting the job done, you probably don't want to do it.

Then, why did the gift of tongues exist at all, if the one who has the gift might need to keep quiet and not use it at times?  We saw the answer to this question in 1 Corinthians 14:22:  "Tongues … are a sign for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers…."
 

Tongues Are to Edify

You see, in Acts 2, it was necessary to get through to the non-believing Jews in order to make them believers, and bring them to repentance and baptism.  Paul is reminding the Corinthian congregation that, in a room full of believers, during regular Sabbath services, speaking in tongues doesn't edify the members of the group; prophesying, however, does.

The gift of speaking in tongues has its place.  There is value in being able to speak in tongues.  There are times when it's appropriate, and there are times when it would be better not to use that gift.  The common denominator is knowing what is edifying to the people you're speaking to.  If prophesying would have value by building up the listeners,  and speaking in tongues would have no value, then by all means, prophesy!  Edify the group!  That was Paul's message.

What about the mindless gibberish some people think is speaking in tongues?  I have yet to see any scriptures that explain how mindless babbling has any communicative powers.  Tongues are not for the benefit of the believers in the room; Paul says you're speaking directly to God.  I would hope that what we perceive as mindless babbling is really the person speaking directly to God.  If it truly is mindless babbling, it may not be speaking to God.  If it's truly speaking to God, it may not be mindless babbling.

As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, if no one in the room can understand the language, it's pointless to speak to the group in that language.  But there's nothing to indicate that anyone would be given an "unearthly" language, or that doing so would serve any useful purpose, other than speaking directly to God.

How about those who fall to the floor yelling and screaming?  Is that speaking in tongues?  Is that prophecy?  Consider these verses again:

1 Corinthians 14:2:  "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit."

Verse 9:  "Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying?  You will just be speaking into the air."

Verse 12:  "Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church."

Verse 19:  "But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue."

And then it says, in verses 32-33:  "The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace."

And I can't help but think that, if the spirits of prophets are under the control of the prophets, the spirit of speaking in tongues should also be under the control of the tongues speaker.  It's only logical.  What Paul is describing here is orderliness, and not getting out of control.  And Peter wrote later, in his epistle, that at some point, someone we have met will be called by God, and when he looks back at his time with us, we hope he will remember that our conduct was honorable, and that we did good works, not that we were out of control, mindlessly jumping around and jabbering.

From these verses we derive the principle that our worship times together are to be peaceable and orderly, so that actual edifying, or building up, can take place.
 

Why Not Today?

That leads us to one final question:  Why is it that we don't seem to be aware of anyone today who has the gift of prophecy or the gift of speaking in heteros glossos -- other languages?  Why aren't we aware of anyone with these gifts today?  (Notice how I'm phrasing the question.  I'm not saying there aren't any people with these gifts, but rather, they may be out there somewhere, but we don't know about them yet.)

We expect to see gifts of the Spirit during and after the Tribulation.  Joel says so, and Revelation says so.  But what about now?

To arrive at the answer to this question, we need to consider why people were given the gifts of tongues and prophecy.  When disciples went into a foreign land, it seems likely they may have already possessed the gift of tongues, and could communicate orally with local people.  Tongues, after all, is a sign for unbelievers.  Once these people were exposed to the gospel, many of them were convicted in their hearts, repented, and came to baptism.  Then what happened?  The new converts would quickly spread the gospel and begin to build fellowships, before the Jews or the Romans could stop them.  And then, once a congregation of believers was established, what was needed?  Prophecy!  Then the congregations would need the gift of prophecy to edify them and build them up.

God supplied the gift of tongues to help raise up new congregations, and the gift of prophecy to edify the members and build them up.

Why, then, don't we see this pattern today?  The answer is found in the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  In Luke chapter 16, Messiah is telling about the fat cat who wakes up to find himself in a bad place.  But over there is Lazarus, in the bosom of Abraham.

Luke 16:24

24  "So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue [glossa], because I am in agony in this fire.'"
Abraham says no.
27  "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house,
28  for I have five brothers.  Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29  "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30  "'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31  "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Why don't we have manifestations of the Spirit, like prophesy and tongues-speaking?  We don't need them!  We have Moses and the Prophets.  We have the Writings.  We have the Gospels, and Acts, and the Epistles, and Revelation.  We have all seven divisions of the scriptures.  We have it all!  Especially in the last century or two we've had it all, bound neatly in a book, so everyone can have it in their homes.  Today, we have low cost printing and publishing, we have computers, we have the internet, we have radio and television -- and we have no excuse!

And we do have Someone from the dead who has come and told people to repent.  Yet most people don't!

We have Moses and the Prophets, and all the rest of it.  We have understood the message, in our own language.  We have seen and heard the prophecies, in our own language.  The message is translated into hundreds of languages and dialects, with more languages and dialects being added constantly.

We have the gospel -- we have it in our language.  We have the prophecy -- we have it in our local dialects.  We have responded, and come together in congregations, and continue to hear the prophecies -- the Word of God.

However, not everyone believed the teaching of the apostles.  Not everyone came into the fellowship of faith.  The same is true today.

God is still calling more and more people, in every language group on earth.  But the majority still want to fight, to reject the free gift, to refuse delivery of the package that we received with joy.  God will deal with them later, in their day of visitation.  He's working with us now.

We have received the gift of grace, which is better than a thousand gifts of tongues.  We have received the ability to internalize the prophecy, the inspired Word of God, which is so much better than foretelling the future.  And we have come into the assemblies of the righteous, which is infinitely better than a drop of water on the tongue.

For now, the rest of the world won't be convinced, even if Someone rises from the dead.

But they need to hear the message.  It will be so much gibberish to them.  We might as well be speaking a foreign language.

What is this telling us?  Maybe we should go tell everyone the message, even if they don't understand, even if they don't become believers, even if they don’t understand what we're saying.  After all, we might as well be speaking a foreign language.

Tongues are a sign for unbelievers.  Yet, we are supposed to have our conduct honorable among the Gentiles, so they can see our god works.

Maybe they won't respond.  Maybe they won't understand.  Maybe it will be as if we're speaking in tongues.  Tongues are a sign to unbelievers -- even if it's in plain English!

Who's going to go tell them?

Who here has a tongue?
 
 

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