Hermeneutical Triangle

Biblical Theology and the Gift of Tongues

Learn Biblical Theology and understand the gift of tongues

A little background

I take walks with a Christian coworker at lunch, talking about spiritual things. One day he asked me if I knew anything about Biblical theology. I had to admit I did not know about it. He was not sure what it was himself. God often brings new things into my view and then expounds upon them. That is what happened. I started to look into it, and then the Bible project did a series on reading the Bible. In the podcast, Tim Mackie talked about Biblical theology. I was beginning to understand it when I happened upon Cary Schmidt’s podcast where he and another pastor discussed this subject. The illustration they gave made Biblical theology very clear. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leading-in-the-gospel/id1411948813?i=1000542841148

The Hermeneutical Triangle

They used a triangle to help us read the Bible correctly. The triangle’s three points are systematic theology, exegesis, and Biblical theology. We know that systematic theology takes different teaching found in various places and harmonizes them. Exegesis is a very granular look at scripture where you go verse by verse and bring out the meaning. These two practices are prevalent in churches, but Biblical theology is not.

Biblical theology

Biblical theology is simply having a good understanding of the biblical story as a whole to figure out what is happening in the account you are reading. If you don’t get the movie’s storyline, you will be lost quickly; that happens with the Bible. 

Seeing the gift of tongues through biblical theology

I want to give an example of Biblical theology as I understand it, and I will use the gift of tongues for this example. As one reads through the book of Acts, it is clear that it is a historical account of the early church, and it was not written to define doctrines. It is crucial to understand what is going on in the Biblical story to understand what was happening in Acts. People have read about the disciples speaking in tongues. Yet, it appears the biblical narrative has not directed their conclusion. 

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Acts 2:4

If one follows the Bible story, their minds should be triggered by the disciples speaking in tongues to go back to Genesis chapter eleven. 

“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.”

Genesis 11:1

“Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Genesis 11:7

Tongues divide, and then they will unite.

There was a time when all people spoke the same language, but God had to divide them into nations because of wickedness, and He did it by causing them to speak in different tongues (languages). Then God found Abram and promised that he would be a great nation in which all the nations would be blessed. There would have to be some way to bridge this language gap to fulfill this promise.

“Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?”

Genesis 18:18

When Jesus gives His great commission, this is what He tells them.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

Matthew 28:19

If God divided the nations by tongues, how will Jesus’ disciples bring the gospel to these nations? How can you teach all nations when countries speak different languages? So in the book of Acts, we find the beginning of change where God is jumpstarting the process with the miraculous gift of tongues. When the gentiles receive salvation, the gift of tongues was manifested as a sign of God bringing back the world into His kingdom—one kingdom. 

“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”

Colossians 3:11

Overcome cultural differences.

With the gospel going out to all the nations, we know there will be difficulties because of clashes of cultures. It would be a monumental task, and the apostle Paul was chosen for it. We see this in the church of Corinth and the various cultures gathering to worship Jesus. When reading Paul‘s epistle, this is the overall goal of every one of them. Paul has to address the diversity of tongues in First Corinthians fourteen. In this chapter, Paul stresses that prophesying, making the message clear, is more critical than one speaking in their native language. Speaking in more than one tongue is a gift, but only if it is used to clarify the message of salvation. God gave the gift of tongues to spread the gospel to the whole world. Paul explains this by telling us that speaking in languages is not for the believer; instead, it is to reach the lost. 

“Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”

1 Corinthians 14:22


Understanding the Biblical story guides one along as a plot in a movie, which is the same as Biblical theology. I am sorry to say it, but this idea of speaking in some divine gibberish is not part of the Bible story; it is not biblical theology! Without biblical theology, we can take a wrong turn that the story never meant us to take.

The gift of tongues is only one example of using Biblical theology to guide one as they study. It is a conscious effort to keep the things that have been established previously in mind as you move through the narrative. There are events one should note and be looking for solutions to problems or the fulfillment of promises.

Let me know what you think. Is this something you are familiar with? A new way of thinking? I would love feedback.