The Purpose for Tongues in the Book of Acts
In the previous lesson we looked at Acts 2:1-21. We seen in this passage that there is no direct evidence that the purpose for tongues was to preach the Gospel. Before we look at other passages in Acts where tongues is spoken of, let’s look at what Jesus had to say about tongues in Mark 16: 15-18.
15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
17 "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;
18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.
Notice that the phrase ‘new tongues’ is associated with miracles. So, this we do know that to speak in tongues is a miracle. So, it is not something a person can learn.
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.
45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered,
47 "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"
In Acts 2, it was Jews who spoke in tongues. In this passage it was gentiles who spoke in tongues. Notice that in both instances the tongues came when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. In both instances they were exalting God. In neither instance does it say they were preaching the Gospel when speaking in tongues.
Here is a question? Why would the gentiles need to speak in tongues to preach the Gospel? They would not be preaching to other gentiles in tongues. At this time they would not be preaching to Jews.
1 It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples.
2 He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."
3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Into John’s baptism."
4 Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus."
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.
7 There were in all about twelve men.
8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.
10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
They started speaking in tongues and prophesying after being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Nothing saying they then spoke in tongues later to preach the Gospel, but, maybe they did and it is not stated. However, look at the context. Paul was in Ephesus for two years, taught in the school of Tyrannus, and all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. There must have been a common language that both the Jews and Greeks knew. If Paul did not need tongues to teach, he and the twelve did not need tongues to preach.
In the Book of Acts there is no evidence of tongues being used to preach the Gospel. There is evidence that the purpose of tongues is evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. There is evidence that the Gospel was preached and taught to those of various dialects, Jews, and Gentiles, but not by individuals speaking unknown tongues.
In our next lesson we will explore the topic of tongues in 1 Corinthians.