Did Everybody Speak in Tongues on the First Day of Pentecost?

What really happened on that historic day about 2,000 years ago when something spectacular empowered Jesus’ disciples – and 3,000 folks who gathered for a Jewish festival became the first Christians? Did they all speak in tongues that day?

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Some churches today shun celebrating the day of Pentecost since they don’t practice speaking in tongues and shy away from any association with “Pentecostals” such as the Assemblies of God, the Four-Square Gospel Church or charismatic churches associated with such leaders as Kenneth Hagin or Benny Hinn.

What is speaking in tongues? Its formal name is “glossolalia.” It’s a phenomenon in which Christian believers testify that they have been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and receive spiritual gifts that vary from person to person. In the Assemblies of God churches, the test of whether a convert has received salvation is whether after believing in Jesus, confessing that belief, repenting of past sins and being baptized, the convert begins speaking in an ecstatic language – not necessarily in that order.

While the different-languages part sounds quite exotic to non-Pentecostals, it is considered completely normal to the millions of believers worldwide – and, in fact, they are convinced that all members of the early church practiced it regularly.

The Apostle Paul actually wrote that he was delighted that he spoke in tongues more than many people and that doing so “edifies” the participant. He also cautioned that non-believers who hear believers speaking in tongues are likely to be put off by it – and won’t get anything out of it since they can’t understand a word of what is being said.

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So, what did happen on the Day of Pentecost? Remember that the day before Passover, Jesus was crucified. The day after Passover, He rose from the dead and began appearing to His followers. He lived among them for 40 days, then ascended into heaven.

Before doing so, however, He told them they would be given a “Comforter,” the Holy Spirit of God. He also told them to go to the entire world, preaching what He had taught them and baptizing those who believed. Then He disappeared into the sky.

An angel appeared and chided the stunned disciples. “Why are you standing here, gawking into heaven?” he asked. Indeed, the disciples realized they were supposed to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Comforter.

What happened next is told in the Book of Acts, written by Luke. He indicates that disciples and a number of women waited while participating in constant prayer: "And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."

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