What does the Book of Acts say about speaking with other tongues?

People’s opinion concerning the gift of speaking with other tongues are devided and very different. There is an extreme that denies the speaking with tongues and the other one that says that he who doesn’t speak with other tongues doesn’t have the Spirit of God. This article is the second from the following category of articles:

The Book of Acts relates three particular cases when the sign of speaking with other tongues was manifested. Let us analyse each of these cases and see what we learn from them.

Manifestation 1 – The Day of Pentecost

The first manifestation of the sign of speaking with other tongues took place in the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to abide in all those who believe in Jesus Christ. Here is what the Scriptures say about this:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:1–4)(NASB)

These other tongues were tongues that the disciples hadn’t previously used, but they began to speak them only at that moment, because the Holy Spirit gave them. It is evident that they hadn’t learnt and hadn’t spoken those languages before. That was something supernatural and unusual. What kind of tongues were these then? The following text of the Scriptures explains this thing:

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:5–12)(NASB)

The text specifies that at this feast many pious people came. These were people who were looking for God truly, people who were hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness. It seems that many of them knew Hebrew language, but the miracle was that they heard the diciples speaking with their tongues, even if they had never learnt them. Nevertheless, there were some other people from Jerusalem, or from Judeea there and they didn’t know any other language but Hebrew. They didn’t understand what the disciples were talking about and here is what the Scirptures say about them:

But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” (Acts 2:13)(NASB)

It is clear that this speaking with other tongues gathered very many people near the disciples. Then Peter and the rest of the disciples raised up and talked to all. Firstly he explained them that they saw the fulfilment of the prophet Joel’s prophecy about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Then, he preached the message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. All who were there and listened were unbelievers and speaking with other tongues of the disciples was a sign for them that made them listen carefully to the mesage of the Gospel and believe it. Here is the result of thi speaking with other tongues and of Peter’s sermon:

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)(NASB)

Manifestation 2 – In the house of the centurion Cornelius

After the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Day of Pentecost, the disciples, who were Jews were preaching the Gospel only to Jews. In chapter 8 of the Book of Acts the Holy Spirit sent Philip to preach the Gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch. We don’t see any other case. The disciples were concerned about the salvation of the people from their nation and they didn’t give the same prority to the people from other nations, whom they were calling Gentiles, or pagans. But God doesn’t look at appearances and He loves all people equally. Here is what the Holy Book says:

Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” (Acts 10:1–6)(NASB)

Cornelius did what the angel told him immediately and he sent a pious soldier and two servants after Peter.

On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. (Acts 10:9–18)(NASB)

The servants sent by Cornelius told Peter what happened and the next day Apostle went with them. At Caesarea, Cornelius was waiting for him with his friends and relatives. He told Peter what the angel told him. And Peter said:

And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.” (Acts 10:28–29)(NASB)

Then he began to preach the Gospel of salvation until he came to this phrase:

“Of Him (Jesus Christ) all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:43)(NASB)

It is for the first time in his sermon when he speaks about the importance of faith. Even if those who were listening to him didn’t manage to say anything or to express with words their faith, here is what happened immediately:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 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. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” (Acts 10:44–47)(NASB)

Who were unbelievers in this situation? Circumcised Christians, the Jews, who thought along with all other Jews, including Peter, that salvation is only for those from their nation. They were amazed to see the gift of the Holy Spirit given to Gentiles too, and speaking with tongues was a proof for this. Those who were in Cornelius’ house were understood by those who were circumcised, because they understood that God was honored. Compared to the first case, in the Day of Pentecost, this time the language that was spoken was understood and known by all people.

Manifestation 3 -The baptism of John’s disciples from Ephesus

Here is how the Scriptures relates this case:

It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. 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.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 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.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men. (Acts 19:1–7)(NASB)

Luke, the author of the Book of Acts doesn’t specify and doesn’t explain too much concerning the speaking with other tongues, because he explained it in the previous cases and so, this time was not something different than those cases of speaking with tongues. It is evident from this short passage that the knowledge of these disciples of John concerning the holy things were very limited and they forgot what John had taught them. John the Baptist testified for many times before the people he was baptizing:

John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, his is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ (The Gospel of John 1:32–33)(NASB)

So, John spoke much about the Holy Spirit, and these disciples said they didn’t know that a Holy Spirit was given. We can realize then, from that answer, how much they knew about Jesus Christ. That’s why, Apostle Paul told them about the faith in the Lord Jesus, they believed and were baptized in the Name of Jesus. Immediately God gave them the Holy Spirit and He accompanied it by the sign of speaking with tongues, that was a proof concernig the Holy Spirit they had received. What were they speaking with other tongues? The text says they were prophesying, that’s nothing else but saying the Word of God.


On the basis of those three cases when the sign of speaking with tongues was manifested, we can draw the next conclusions:

  • Speaking with other tongues was a sign for the unbelievers to be convinced about the Holy Spirit, to listen to the message of the Gospel and to believe it.
  • Those to whom the Holy Spirit gave to speak with other tongues spoke tongues that were understood by people who were there and who were doubting. After this sign the unbelievers believed.
  • The listeners understood well what was spoken with other tongues, that were beautiful things about God, He was honored or prophesied.
  • Speaking with tongues is not mentioned in every case from the Book of Acts when one received the Holy Spirit.

Translated by Djugostran Felicia