Paul wrote that love is eternal. But the gifts of prophecies and knowledge are temporal. A 3rd gift is tongues. “Whether there are tongues, they will cease” (1 Cor. 13:8, NKJV). “Tongues” is plural of glossa, “language; utterance” (Concise Greek-English Dictionary, s. v. γλωσσα). This is the ability to speak in actual, human languages, not ecstatic babble. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4, NKJV). It was no ordinary prayer meeting for the 120 believers on the day of Pentecost. There was a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind. Wind symbolizes the presence of God. Then fire appeared before them. This fire divided itself into smaller tongues of fire which sat upon each of them, which most likely, on top of their heads. Fire symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Luke wrote that the Spirit filled each of them and they began to speak in tongues (Acts 2:1-4).
We note 5 things about the Pentecostal gift of tongues. 1st, it was a gift received, not a skill learned. They received it “as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4, ESV). They did not learn tongues by practicing it through coaching.
2nd, it was the gift of dialects (Gk. dialektos). The tongues were understood by the listeners who spoke it as their native tongues (Acts 2:8). Their audience came from various geographical regions of the Jewish dispersion (Acts 2:9-11). Yet they spoke all the dialects of their listeners.
3rd, the tongues-speaking proclaimed “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11, ESV). It was a pre-evangelistic miracle. It prepared the listeners to hear the Gospel later on (Acts 2:22-36).
4th, it was a gift of speaking, not hearing. The emphasis is that they spoke in many tongues (Gk. glossais), which is plural in number. The apostles spoke in numerous, different dialects, not in only one language. Had they spoken in one language only, the gift would have been the listener’s ability to hear and understand the languages. Yet there was no miracle of hearing, but of speaking.
5th, it was a sign, not to the 120 believers during worship, but to the unbelieving Israelites. It signified God’s judgment upon them because they have rejected Christ (Acts 2:23, 37).
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