THE GIFT OF TONGUES
The gift of Tongues has been a topic of discussion for the Universal Church since the post apostolic era.
All agree that is was a supernatural gift granted by God to the apostolic Church, but from the mid of the III century, when it disappeared or fell in disuse, its appearance has been only occasional and isolated, generally but not always, associated to dissident movements, like in the case of Montanism.
Later in history, it reappeared with strength in revival movements, like with John Wesley, Charles Parham, and William Seymour, until finally extended to formal Churches like Assemblies of God, Wesleyan Methodist, or Foursquare Churches; and also in sections of traditional Churches like the Roman Catholic Charismatic Movement. However, most traditional non-charismatic Christian churches, reject all supernatural gifts, and specially the gift of Tongues, or Glossolalia, as useless and false, product of fanaticism.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE GIFT OF TONGUES
The NT clearly speaks of two different gifts of speech given by God to his Church.
THE PENTECOST GIFT – ACTS 2:1-6
It occurred only once, at the Jewish Festival of Weeks (Leviticus 23:16), when the Apostles, the mother of Jesus, and other disciples, 120 in total (Acts 1:14-15), received the Holy Spirit in themselves as our Lord had promised them (Acts 1:4-5). This gave the believers the ability to proclaim the faith in different understandable languages to everyone who listened to them (Acts 2:5-11), as a testimony that Jesus’s promise was open to everyone who wanted to listen to it (Acts 2:38-39).
THE PRAYER IN TONGUES GIFT – 1CORINTHIANS 14:1-2
This is an ongoing gift that allows the believer to pray to God with strange sounds and words (1Corinthians 14:2, 9; Romans 8:26), which are expressed by the Holy Spirit directly to the Father, by-passing human understanding, in order that the prayer may not be limited by our own minds (Romans 8:26).
This gift it is not to be a known human language by the subject, but it could be an ancient dead language, or angelic dialect (1Corinthians 13:1; 14:9-11), in order to trespass human intellect and not be contaminated by our own limitations.
For this reason, this gift can have two uses: Personal prayer, or prophecy.
During personal prayer, the believer prays to God in private, and does not need to intellectually understand its meaning, but only feel it (1Corinthians 14:4, 13-14, 28).
During Prophecy, the subject speaks a message in an unknown language, but it gets interpreted by another person, to express its message to the whole congregation (1Corinthians 14:5-6, 13, 27).
IS THIS GIFT TEMPORARY?
There are not ‘end of use’ date or sign given in Scripture about supernatural gifts.
All supernatural gifts, like healing, liberation, or even prophecy and tongues, were given as a sign to unbelievers and a blessing to the Church (1Corinthians 14:23-25), and they still play that role today, until the Second Coming. Only when the ‘perfect comes’, meaning the Kingdom of Christ, will all supernatural gifts cease, as there will be no purpose for them, and only Love will remain among the saints and the Trinity (1Corinthians 13:8-10).
But as in all cases, no gifts will be send to those who have a premeditated attitude of unbelief and rejection; and all prophecies can be falsified, therefore, they all must be judged under the supreme light of Scripture.