A gracEmail subscriber who goes to other countries to preach wishes that he had the gift of tongues, so he would not need a translator. A different subscriber asks what is meant by the New Testament gift of tongues.
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Scripture speaks of supernaturally-empowered languages (glossai = tongues) both human and angelic (1 Cor. 13:1). We see examples of divinely-given human language at Pentecost (Acts 2), at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10) and perhaps at Ephesus (Acts 19). Angelic language seemingly is a metaphor for a supernatural prayer vocabulary. This grace-gift (charisma), facilitates praise and thanksgiving to God, intercession for others, and personal edification (1 Cor. 14:1, 4, 14, 17; Jude 20).
Not all believers receive this gift of tongues (or any other particular one), although Paul wished that everyone did (1 Cor. 14:5; 12:30). This grace-gift is usefully exercised in private, but not in public assembly without an interpretation. In a public gathering, understandable prophecy is 2,000 times preferable to uninterpreted tongues (v. 19). Yet we are not to forbid speaking in tongues but rather to earnestly desire this and all other grace-gifts (1 Cor.14:1, 39).
Like all grace-gifts, this one will cease when Jesus returns (1 Cor. 1:4-8; 13:8). Grace-gifts do not indicate superior spirituality or spiritual superiority. They are entrusted to believers to use for the ultimate good of others. Grace-gifts, including tongues, are not a personal trophy — either to show off, or about which to boast.