I’ve always been a bit bemused about speaking in tongues. I have admittedly only witnessed it once ir twice , though have seen it in video clips. Why would God talk through someone in an incomprehensible stream of sound? There was no interpreter on the occasion that I witnessed this occurrence and it left me pretty baffled and in no way left me feeling as if the Spirit had spoken.
Acts 1 (in various translations of the Bible) indicates different languages or different tongues. The understanding is that the gift is the ability to speak to those from different nations. It does not say that they were babbling.
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” (Acts 2:3-12 NKJV)
And as Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke in [foreign, unknown] tongues (languages) and prophesied. (Acts 19:6 AMP)
Also in 1Cor 14:6-25 Paul admonishes that the gift of tongues should be used with care to teach and glorify God. He also says that if there is no interpreter present then the person speaking in tongues should not do so aloud.
But now now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? (1 Corinthians 14:6 NASB)
If I speak in tongues and I do not understand what I am saying, and there is no interpreter available, what is the point? No one is edified by this as none have gained knowledge from my utterances. How can I expect anyone to say “Amen” if they do not understand? Indeed should we ever say “Amen” if we do not understand and agree with the prayer that has been spoken?
What then is the conclusion, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification. If any person speaks in another language, there should be only two, or at the most three, each in turn, and someone must interpret. But if there is no interpreter, that person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:26-28 HCSB)
Today in our Pentecost service we were reminded that the Holy Spirit came upon all who were gathered in the upper room. Men and women. All heard a sound like a great wind, all received the Holy Spirit and were given the gift of tongues so that they may share the Gospel far and wide. The many visitors to the city heard the good news in their own language and dialect, no translators were needed. The Church was born in power but also in the simplicity of each person’s mother tongue. All could understand the message. All could take Gospel with them back to their own land.
Are we doing likewise?