Q. For a long time my friend and I have been trying to figure out the issue of speaking in tongues. The Bible talks about different tongues, various tongues, strange tongues, other tongues and new tongues. It also mentions the tongues of men and angels. How many kinds of tongues are there? And why do some seem to repeat a few words over and over when speaking in tongues?
A. Because some groups put pressure on their members to prove they’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues, there’s a lot of abuse of this gift. Those who repeat a string of “words” over and over are violating the Lord’s command to avoid “babbling like pagans” (Matt. 6:7) but they’re just trying to convince their leaders and friends that they’re really saved.
When you boil it all down, the gift of tongues is the Spirit-given ability to speak in a language you haven’t acquired through learning. It’s meant to be a sign to others of the Lord’s presence. Paul said that this gift is not to be used unless there’s also someone present to translate. Otherwise it does no good for anyone. (1 Cor. 14:28)
The idea of angelic tongues being a prayer language that doesn’t need interpretation stems from 1 Cor. 13:1. But what Paul said was, “If I speak in the language of men and angels and have not love I’m only a resounding gong.” He wasn’t claiming to have the ability to speak in angelic tongues, nor was he saying that any one else did either. He was only describing the importance of showing our love to the world.