Speaking in Tongues


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In the New Testament, the book of Acts recounts how "tongues of fire" descended upon the heads of the Apostles, accompanied by the miraculous occurrence of speaking in languages previously unknown to them, but recognizable to others present as their own native language.
The phenomenon described in the Book of Acts (2:1-11) is variously interpreted either as religious xenoglossia, the speaking of an actual foreign language, or as the gift of interpretation being given to those present: the ability to understand the tongues (each person in his own language).
The Apostle Paul commands church brethren, "Do not forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Cor 14:39), and that he wishes those to whom he wrote "all spoke with tongues" (1 Cor 14:5). He further claims himself to speak with tongues more than all of the church at Corinth combined, though indicates more value is found in short, understandable teaching (1 Cor 14:18-19). Paul discourages simultaneous speaking in tongues in the presence of unbelievers or the unlearned; believers are to prophecy and be understood rather than speak unintelligibly. As 1 Corinthians 14:22-25 says, "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." In 1 Cor 12:7-11 and 1 Cor 12:28-30 some find that Paul indicates that not all believers speak in tongues, although some state that Paul was talking about a gift of "diverse tongues", not all tongues, as the gift of "faith" is also here mentioned, and all believers must have faith by definition. There are many that believe that all believers have the ability to speak in tongues (Mark 16:16-17) as a form of prayer, based on 1 Cor 14:14, Eph 6:18 and Jude 20. Paul also refers to the prophecy of speaking in tongues written by Isaiah (Isa 28:11-12).
Some connect this prophecy in Isaiah with Christ's promise of "rest" (Matthew 11:28-30), thereby stating that speaking in tongues was the sign of conversion, or spirit baptism. Following Christ's description of "the new birth" (John 3), that "you hear the sound" of the spirit, some state that this was the evidence to which the apostle John was referring in 1 John 4, to tell believer and unbeliever apart.
Biblical descriptions of persons actually 'speaking in tongues' occur three times in the book of Acts, the first two coupled with the phenomenon of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, and the third with the laying on of hands by Paul the Apostle (at which time they 'received the Holy Spirit'), which imbued them with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Outbreak of Glossolalia, 1901 to 1906

The modern Christian practice of glossolalia is often said to have originated around the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States. The city of Topeka, Kansas is often cited as the center of the Pentecostal movement and the resurgence of glossolalia in the Church. Charles Fox Parham, a holiness preacher and founder of Bethel Bible College in 1900, is given the credit to being the one who influenced modern Pentecostalism. During what has been called a sermon by Parham, a bold student named Agnes Ozman asked him for prayer and the laying on of hands to specifically ask God to fill her with the Holy Spirit. This was the night of New Year's Eve, 1900. She became the first of many students to experience glossolalia, coincidentally in the first hours of the twentieth century. Parham followed within the next few days, and before the end of January 1901, glossolalia was being discussed in newspapers as a sign of the second advent of Pentecost.
Parham now found himself as the leader of the movement and traveled to church meetings around the country to preach [in the terminology of that era] about holiness, divine healing, healing by faith, the laying on of hands and prayer, sanctification by faith, and the signs of baptism of the Holy Ghost and Fire, the most prominent being speaking in tongues.
Word of the outpouring of the Spirit spread to other Holiness congregations. Parham wrote, studied, traveled, preached, and taught about glossolalia for the next few years. Parham and others who believed in or manifested tongues were persecuted from both inside and outside of the church. In 1905, he opened a Bible school in Houston. It was there that William J. Seymour became indoctrinated. It is notable that Seymour was black, and Parham was white. It is further notable that Seymour did not speak in tongues while in Houston.
When Seymour was invited to speak in Los Angeles about the baptism of the Holy Spirit in February 1906, he accepted. His first speaking engagement was met with dispute, primarily because he preached about "tongues" being a primary indication of the baptism of the Spirit, yet he did not himself speak in tongues. It was not until April that his preaching and teaching about glossolalia paid dividends, first to a man named Edward Lee, and later to Seymour. Similar to the experience of Parham in 1901, Seymour's students received the ability to speak in tongues a few days before he did.
By May 1906, indeed only one month after the Great San Francisco Earthquake which was seen as an "act of God", Seymour was leading a major movement of the Spirit known as the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. It has been characterized as an inter-denominational, inter-racial, inter-sex Pentecostal revival during a time in the United States in which women and non-whites were not afforded the same civil rights as white men. People from many denominations and races gathered daily to see and hear, to preach and pray, to sing and shout, and to speak in new tongues. Newspapers, clearly biased against the movement, reported the happenings as a wild and weird group of mostly "colored" people acting as if they were pretty disturbed, exhibiting behavior unheard of in most Protestant churches of the time: intense shouting, vigorous jerking, dancing, passing out, crying, howling, emotional outbursts, and speaking gibberish. Many religious leaders in Los Angeles and other places were quick to disparage the goings on at Azusa Street, informing their flocks that the new Pentecostal movement was (at worst) sensational, Satanic, Spiritualism, and (at best) too overly focused on the Holy Spirit instead of Jesus Christ. The matter of glossolalia was then (as it is now) hotly debated within the Church as being either heresy or exemplary and necessary for a spiritual rebirth in Jesus Christ.
Witnesses at the Azusa Street Revival wrote of seeing fire resting on the heads of participants, miraculous healings in the meetings, and incidents of speaking in tongues being understood by native speakers of the language.
Contemporary Christian, 1915 to present
The revival at Azusa Street lasted until around 1915. But from it grew many new Protestant churches and denominations, as people visited the church in Los Angeles and took their new found beliefs to communities around the US and abroad. Many denominations rejected the doctrines of Parham and Seymour, while some denominations adopted them in one form or another.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit was a doctrine that was embraced by the Assemblies of God (est. 1914) and Pentecostal Church of God (est. 1919) and others. Glossolalia became entrenched into the doctrines of many Protestant churches and denominations in the twentieth century. The later Charismatic movement was heavily influenced by the Azusa Street Revival and Pentecostalism's glossolalia.
Some Christians practice glossolalia as a part of their private devotions; some accept and sometimes promote the use of glossolalia within corporate worship. This is particularly true within the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions. Both Pentecostals and Charismatics believe that the ability to speak in tongues, and sometimes the utterance itself, is a supernatural gift from God.


Pentecostalism is a religious movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on the direct personal experience of God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as shown in the Biblical account of the Day of Pentecost.
Pentecostalism is similar to the Charismatic movement, but developed earlier and separated from other denominations. Charismatic Christians, at least in the early days of the movement, tended to remain in their respective denominations.
The Pentecostal movement finds its historic roots in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, USA from 1904 to 1906. Several years earlier, in 1901, Bible college students at a school founded by Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas prayed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (other languages). Parham moved to Houston, Texas, where in spite of segregation, William Seymore, a one-eyed African-American preacher was allowed to listen in to the Bible classes. Seymore went to Los Angeles, where his preaching helped spark the fires of the Azusa Street revival. Most Pentecostal denominations can trace their roots to the Azusa Street revival or were strongly influenced by it.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Christians from mainline churches in the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world began to accept the teaching that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available for Christians today. Charismatic movements began to grow in mainline denominations. There were Charismatics Episcopalians, Lutherans, Catholics, and Methodists. During that time period, 'Charismatic' was used to refer to these movements that existed within mainline denominations. Pentecostal was used to refer to those who were a part of the churches and denominations that grew out of the earlier Azusa Street revival. However, in recent decades, many independent Charismatic churches and ministries have formed or have developed their own denominations and church associations. In the 1960s, many Pentecostal churches were still strict with dress codes and forbidding certain forms of entertainment, creating a cultural distinction between Charismatics and Pentecostals. Nowadays, many Pentecostal churches put little emphases on dress and entertainment issues. There is a great deal of overlap now between the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements.
Theologically, most Pentecostal denominations are aligned with
Evangelicalism in that they emphasize the reliability of the Bible and the need for the transformation of an individual's life with faith in Jesus. Pentecostals also adhere to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Pentecostals differ from fundamentalists by placing less emphasis on personal spiritual experience and more emphasis on the Holy Spirit's work within a person than other Protestants.
One of the most prominent distinguishing characteristics of Pentecostalism from the rest of Evangelicalism is its emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. Most Pentecostals believe that everyone who is genuinely saved has the Holy Spirit. But unlike most other Christians they believe that there is a second work of the Holy Spirit called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in which the Holy Spirit dwells more fully in them, and which opens a believer up to a closer fellowship with God and empowers them for Christian service. Some Pentecostals have modified the view teaching that Spirit baptism is not considered a second chronological work of grace, but a second aspect of the Holy Spirit's ministry. His first ministry is to save and sanctify the believer by working in them; His second ministry is to empower the believer for service by working through them. Most Pentecostals cite speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, as the normative proof, and evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism.
Pentecostals believe it is essential to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to obtain salvation, and in the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Many believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an additional gift that is bestowed on believers, generally subsequent to an intermediate step termed sanctification, Santification refers to a work of grace wherein the effects of past sins are ameliorated and the natural tendency toward a sinful nature is likewise set aside through the working of the Holy Spirit. Other Pentecostals believe that Holy Spirit Baptism is a necessary step in God's plan of salvation citing Peter's answer to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost. The crowd asked Peter what they must do to be saved, and Peter told them to repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Most Pentecostal churches hold the belief that preaching the Gospel to unbelievers is extremely important. The Great Commission to spread the "Good News of the Kingdom of God", spoken by Jesus directly before his Ascension, is perceived as one of the most important commands that Jesus gave.