Definition of Glossolalia


The locus classicus of glossolalia is found in Luke's account of the first Pente-cost after Christ's resurrection: "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2 :4. Glosso-lalia, the technical term used to describe this phenomenon, does not appear as one word in Greek. It has been coined as a descriptive expression of the phenomenon of speaking languages that one does not know by the enablement of the Spirit of God, from tongues and to speak. A more precise term would be "heteroglossolalia," since it is distinctively "other languages," which are specified in this foundational passage (cf. 14:21 also).

Antecedents of Glossolalia

One feature of Spirit theology should be briefly delineated here as a back-ground to glossolalic study. The work of the Spirit of God is not to be temporally limited to one occasion in the experience of an individual. Christ is unique in His experience of the Spirit (J n. 3 :34). However, Jesus, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit was later anointed with the Spirit at the Jordan. The significant point is that He was born by the Spirit, which was the basis of  His holy life as the Incarnate Son of God, and yet the Spirit thirty years later is said and seen to descend upon Him at the outset of a  ministry in the power of the Spirit.

Yet Christ, with all the gifts and operations of the Spirit, never spoke in tongues. Why? His temporal ministry was only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," while His primary service was the universal act of offering himself to God to atone for man's sin. Thus because His manhood was lived under the old dispensation, the law (Gal. 1:4), the Holy Spirit did not choose to operate through Him in any oral manner other than that common to the Old Testament saints and prophets, i.e., by prophecy. Having ascended, He is linked with glossolalia, not as a recipient, but as the One who together with the Father is responsible for all that was seen and heard (Acts 2 :33) on the day of Pentecost. The Apostles likewise had several experiences chronologically of the Spirit.

On Christ's first encounter with them subsequent to His resurrection He breathed out from Himself into them "Holy Spirit" (In. 20:22-anarthrous construction). Thus they became united with Christ in a  new way in the experience of receiving Christ's Spirit; this may properly be called their Christian "regeneration" or "the renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). Fifty days later these same men were "filled with Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4) and began to speak in other languages in evidence of this "filling," and in Acts 4:31 in response to prayer in a crisis they again were "all filled with the Holy Spirit" with the result that "they spoke the word of God with boldness," i.e., prophesied, in the sense of speaking God's message.

I. The Biblical Incidents of Glossolalia in Acts Exegetically Analyzed In Acts 2: 1-21 is found the initial "filling" with the Holy Spirit of one hun-dred and twenty of the most faithful of Christ's disciples-those who had received and obeyed His post·resurrection order to wait in Jerusalem until they should be clothed with power from above (Luke 24:49). Upon these "first-fruit" Jewish be-lievers assembled together the Holy Spirit came in a mighty manifestation.


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