Holy Spirit – Understanding Glossolalia
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Sermon #2: Understanding Glossolalia

Main Verses: Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 14


If you have been around church for a very long time, you have probably heard the phrase “speaking in tongues” or the term “glossolalia”. Yet, the concepts are mysterious to most. So today we will dive into this topic by answering these questions:

  1. What does the word “tongues” mean?
  2. Are the “tongues” in Acts 2 the exact gifting as in 1 Corinthians 14?
  3. And how are we to understand the use of this spiritual gifting in today’s church?


Key Terms

Glossais- (γλωσσαις) tongues, meaning the body part, or a recognized language or dialect used by a people group.


One Term – two experiences in two texts

  • Acts 2 – speaking a recognized language that was previously unknown by the speaker for spreading the Gospel.
  • 1 Cor. 14 – impromptu (some say ecstatic) utterances during a corporate worship service that can edify the church but could potentially lead to confusion.


Discerning the Text Carefully

The word “tongues” is used in both Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14. But these seem to be two very different experiences for two very different reasons. Here are the reasons why I think the Bible is referring to two distinct ideas that happen to be using the same word.


  1. Principle differences between the Occasion of the Writing
    1. Two different authors: (Luke and Paul)
    2. Separated by 25 years and 1,200 miles.
    3. Two Different audiences
      1. General Greco/Roman audience
      2. A particular congregation in Corinth
    4. Two different occasions
      1. Mission activity (Acts 2)
      2. Church worship service (1 Cor. 14)
    5. One was completely intelligible, the other was in desperate need of interpretation.
    6. One was the beginning of Christ’s unifying vision in Acts 1:8, and the other was a division inside the body of Christ.
    7. Both are biblical.


  1. Key differences between the texts themselves.
    1. Difference in intent:
      1. Tongues in 1 Cor (14:2) is directed toward God.
      2. Tongues in Acts is directed toward people (2:4, 6)
    2. Different in their nature
      1. Tongues in 1 Cor. is a mystery of the Spirt (vs. 2)
      2. Tongues in Acts 2 is a dialect (2:8)


  1. Different in significance
    1. Tongues in 1 Cor is inferior to prophecy (vs. 4, 5, 12 19)
    2. Tongues in Acts 2 is in fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy
  2. Different in its effect
    1. Tongues in 1 Cor. 14 can cause confusion when there is no interpretation.
    2. Tongues in Acts 2 is a miraculous translation that brings no confusion (2:8, 14-15)


  1. So what about Tongues in worship today?
    1. Tongues is a spiritual gift recognized by the Scriptures (14:39)
    2. The purpose of tongues is to build up the church (14:26)
    3. Due to its easy abuse Paul gives specific instructions (14:26-27):
      1. 2-3 people at a time
      2. Each must have an interpretation.
  • If there is no interpreter, then the tongues speaker should be quiet (v. 28)
  1. Let all things be done in decency and order (14:40)



  • Speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift.
  • Having a spiritual gift does not negate the need for having a plan.
  • There have been many historical abuses of this gift.




Take notes below