4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. … 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”
Acts 2:4, 7-11
The scripture speaks of people speaking in tongues. The trouble we get in to, as believers, is putting too much emphasis on this one gift of the Spirit while neglecting the weightier matters of our faith. More, we often focus in on one manifestation of the gift of tongues to the exclusion of the other.
These verses give an account of the first recorded instance of the Holy Spirit giving the gift of tongues. The first. Since it is the first, it should occur to me that this is also the most important; the one which sets the precedent against which I should measure all other examples of the gift of tongues. There are several things that stand out to me about this occurrence and how the Holy Spirit does things.
First, the gift of tongues was controlled. The apostles spoke as the Spirit was giving them utterance. This was not the chaos so often associated with this gift, rather it was controlled and directed by the Holy Spirit. Of note is that the Spirit giving utterance means, to me, that not every believer will manifest the gift of tongues. The Spirit gives utterance, not the believer. If the Spirit does not give utterance, then the believer has nothing to say.
Second, there were people who understood the languages on hand. It is noteworthy that everyone who was amazed and astonished was also heard the apostles speaking in the language to which [they] were born. There were over a dozen languages and dialects represented at that location and the Holy Spirit was providing simultaneous translation of what was being said. Which leads nicely into the third thing.
Third, the apostles were speaking of the mighty deeds of God. If speaking in tongues does not glorify God, then it is either not a gift of the Spirit of a gift wrongly used. The gift of tongues, as with every gift of the Spirit, is primarily intended to glorify God, then to edify the body and reach the unbelieving. There is no place for a gift of the Spirit to be used to glorify the individual believer.
What is true for the gift of tongues is also true for every other gift of the Spirit. Every gift of the Spirit is to be controlled and directed by Him. Every gift of the Spirit is to fill some need in the body — tongues, in the second chapter of Acts, was a gift needed to reach the multitudes with the good news of Jesus Christ. Every gift of the Spirit is intended to glorify God. Controlled, purposeful, and glorifying to God. If any gift of the Spirit does not meet these criteria, then it is not a gift or is a gift being wrongly used.