‘The Gift of Tongues’ Biblically Defined (Part 2)

Previously we looked at the first recorded instance of the gift of tongues is in Acts 2. From that study we biblically defined the gift of tongues as:

“The ability for a person to supernaturally speak a language that was previously foreign (unknown) to them.”

The second instance of people speaking in tongues is found in Acts 10. Following God’s divine pattern (Rom. 1:16), after the gospel was presented to the Jews, it would now be presented to Gentiles. The situation we come into is the gathering of Gentiles at the house of Cornelius to hear the gospel preached by Peter.

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:44–47, ESV)

These verses note that the “speaking in tongues” was an evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost being given to the Gentiles also. Some Jews in Jerusalem were troubled by this, so Peter gives a detailed account of what happened in Acts 11:15-18.

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:15–17, ESV)

Just as the Jews had spoken in tongues when they first received the Holy Ghost, these Gentiles were speaking in tongues after that they had received the Holy Ghost. Since the disciples only experience with the gift of tongues was what happened on the day of Pentecost, then it follows that the display put on by the Gentiles had to be after the same manner! Otherwise, how would these disciples know that this was an evidence of the Holy Ghost?

We can then discern that these Gentiles were speaking in foreign languages that could be understood by the people of that land. In fact, the Jewish disciples probably heard a bunch of Gentiles glorifying God in their own language!


David Harris is the Senior Pastor at Faith Baptist Church. A former programmer, in his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife Kim and trying his hand at the illusive craft of smoking meat. You can follow him on Twitter @rdharriswv