What Does It Mean To "Speak in Tongues"?
When you hear people today talk about speaking in “tongues,” they likely are talking about something completely different from what the apostles and Christians practiced in the first century. When the Lord’s church first began, the Gospel needed to be preached to people all over the world. But since there were many different languages, it would have taken many years for the apostles and early Christians to learn those languages. For this reason, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles and other Christians the ability to speak languages they had never studied. In Acts 2, when the church was established, the apostles were able to preach the Gospel to people from nations all over the world. Those people were astonished because they knew the apostles were all from Galilee and had never studied those languages (read Acts 2:5-7). Some people today believe that “speaking in tongues” means saying a lot of gibberish that no one can understand. But that is not what the Bible says. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 14:10 that all the languages that the Holy Spirit empowered the early Christians to speak were languages that were important, because they were used by certain groups of people. Although the Holy Spirit does not empower us to speak in tongues today, it would be like if you suddenly had the ability to speak French, Russian, or Italian, even though you had never studied those languages. That is what the Bible is actually talking about when it mentions speaking in tongues.
Thanks for the great question.