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May 7, 2012

Why We Need More Focus on Tongues: The Linguistic Thread of Scripture and God's Plan for the Nations

When Jerry Rankin and I wrote Spiritual Warfare and Missions: The Battle for God's Glory Among the Nations, we discussed a "linguistic thread" in Scripture. When traced throughout Scripture, this thread reveals God's missionary heart and relentless pursuit of men and women from every tongue, tribe, and nation.

When you consider the issue of the "tongues of men and women," you notice something significant: God seems to have an agenda that connects to seeing men and women, speaking in different tongues, praising His name. God inspired the writers of Scripture to clearly point out that languages were scattered, gathered, and utilized in God's plan. So, it is worth considering this emphasis and asking why.

The study of languages or tongues, from their clear emphasis at Babel in Genesis 11, provides insight into the mission of God-- the story is not there by chance. At Pentecost, tongues took on new role: "And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech" (Acts 2:3, 4). Regardless of your view on the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, you can't miss that an important point is being made now about tongues... but it does not end there.

We witness God's final gathering of every tongue, tribe and nation to worship Him in Revelation: "After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands" (Rev. 7:9) .

In the coming days, we will see God's heart and plan for the nations is evident through tongues. The linguistic thread helps us gain a greater perspective on the Great Commission and see it as more than simply a task or responsibility. The Great Commission is about spreading the gospel, yes, but we cannot miss the focus of the nations-- and their tongues (languages)-- to the mission of God. Every tongue, tribe, and nation matters-- and tongues show us this.

Today, I begin a series that unpacks the linguistic thread in Scripture. Why does God inspire the writers of Scripture to make such emphasis on the tongues of the nations-- and how does that relate to our priorities today.

In my next post, I will go back to where the linguistic thread first appeared-- Babel.

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Posted:May 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

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