Speaking in Tongues: Who, What, Where and Why?

 

Jesus, appearing to His disciples after He was crucified and raised from the dead, said, "Wait in the city of Jerusalem, until you are endued (clothed) with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). He said this was in fulfillment of His Father's promise (see Joel 2:28-29). One hundred twenty of Jesus' followers and disciples waited fifty days in obedience to His command to be endued with power. On the fiftieth day (Pentecost), they received this promised power (Acts 2:2). The outward sign or manifestation of this power was speaking in an unknown language or tongue. (This is known as speaking in tongues). Peter spoke to a spontaneously assembled crowd and said it was a fulfillment of the promise mentioned in the book of Joel (Acts 2:17-21).

This phenomenon was repeated in a non-Jewish believers household (Acts 10:44-46), and again to new converts in Samaria (Acts 8:17). Some time later, the Apostle Paul ran into some believers in Ephesus and asked them, "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" They replied that they had not. So he placed his hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. They received Him and immediately spoke in tongues.

There are millions of Christian believers today that speak in tongues in the same manner that the believers did back in Peter and Paul's day. This particular gift did not end with the first century church. Some Christians quote 1 Corinthians 13:8 as proof that tongues is not for today - "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they shall cease; whether there are tongues, they shall cease; whether there is knowledge, it shall vanish away." But if this is true than knowledge would not be here either, which is absurd. Obviously this cessation of tongues is for a time future to our own.

God wants all Christians to receive this gift in our day because, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), and, "God does not change" (Malachi 3:6). This experience is available today just as it was two thousand years ago because God's desire for us to be filled with His Spirit has not changed. This article will answer the questions:

1. What is the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" with the evidence of speaking in tongues?

2. Why it is important for every believer today?

3. How to receive Him?

 

What is the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit"?

When someone receives Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives, they receive God's very Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an "it" but a "He". He is God, as is the Son and the Father. The word "Trinity" is sometimes used to describe the God of the Bible, although this word is not used in Scripture.

Before Jesus returned to heaven after the resurrection, He breathed the Holy Spirit into eleven of His disciples who were assembled: "He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22). The word "breathed" is the same word used in Genesis 2:7 when God breathed life into Adam's body. This is the miracle of the new birth, that God Himself, in the form of Spirit, dwells in us: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). God did not just give us a spirit, He gave us His spirit: "Who has also given to us His holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 4:8b). This is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also make alive your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you" (Romans 8:11). This is not the same "in-filling" of the spirit, however, that the disciples received at Pentecost.

There are three baptisms afforded the Christian (Hebrew 6:2). The first is the baptism into Christ's Body. I Corinthians 12:13 says, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, whether we are slaves or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit". The word for baptism or baptize in the original Greek language is the word 'baptizo', which means to immerse into something. The same word is used in reference to all three baptisms. In this baptism, Christians are immersed into the fellowship of believers with Christ as the Head.

The second baptism is water baptism. This is something that should be done as soon as possible after being born again. It is an ordinance given the church. Matthew 28:19 says, "Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". There is no Scripture that suggests waiting, and several descriptions that suggest it was done very soon or immediately after being born again (see Acts 8:26-39, Acts 10:44-48). When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan river it said He came "up out of'" the water (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10). This indicates He was submerged in order to come up out of it. Water baptism is a symbolic act of a new identification with Jesus Christ in His death (taken under the water), burial (immersion in water), and resurrection (rising up out of the water). In Galatians 2:20, Paul identifies himself with Jesus' death and resurrection: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

The third baptism is in the Holy Spirit. The outward sign of this baptism is a capacity to speak in an unknown language or tongue, hence the phrase speaking in tongues. The examples in the book of Acts mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article testify of this. Acts 2:4 describes this baptism given to one hundred twenty believers on the day of Pentecost: "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them expression". These people were already born again believers (see Romans 10:9,10). Speaking in tongues is the act of using ones vocal cords and tongue to utter words inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself. The person speaking is in complete control as to when or if to speak. God never violates our free will. It is an odd experience at first but after some time it becomes comfortable. As with the other baptisms, it is available to all believers alike. (It is not available to non-Christians because a non-believer does not have the Spirit of the living God in them to do the expressing; see Galatians 3:26). God does not play favorites. He does not afford one believer something over another (see Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11). Both the new birth and the baptism are gifts (Acts 2:38, 10:45). Speaking in tongues is one of several signs Jesus said that should be manifest in the believer: "And these signs shall follow those who believe: in My Name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues..." (Mark 16:17). All three baptisms were manifest in Paul's conversion (Acts 9:1-19), and at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48).

The new birth is sufficient for salvation of the spirit. This third baptism, of which the rest of this article is dedicated, is not a necessary prerequisite for salvation. The only action necessary to be saved is to "call upon the Name of the Lord" (Romans 10:13), that is, to acknowledge Him as God Who took upon Himself the sins of the world and follow Him as Lord and Master of your life.

This third baptism is something akin to a soldier and the importance of his rifle. In the military a soldier is issued a rifle which he or she uses on the battlefield to attack the enemy and for defense. Should he lose his rifle he still is a soldier: he still receives pay from the United States government as such; he still retains his training, his support from the rest of the troops, his knowledge of military tactics, etc. Yet he is limited to what he can accomplish. So it is with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Without it, a believer is still a Christian, but he or she is more limited in what can be accomplished in the spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit taps into the power of God.

So in answer to the question, what is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it is an additional endowment of power. The outward confirmatory sign is speaking in an unknown language. This third baptism is promised to all Christians if they choose to receive Him: "But the manifestation of the Spirit (i.e., speaking in tongues) is given to every one (Christian) for the profit of all" (1Corinthians 12:7).

 

What does the Baptism of the Holy Spirit do in a Believer?

1. He gives authority to witness. Acts 1:8 says, "But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth". Before this experience the disciples were afraid to go out doors, let alone witness to anyone. The original Greek word here for "power" is the word dunamis, from which we get our word dynamite from. It is the explosive, dynamic, kinetic power of God in action.

2. He causes us to worship God, for He glorifies God in us. John 4:24 says, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth". This is available in part to the non- spirit-filled Christian but there is a new dynamic dimension that the Spirit adds to worship.

3. He manifests power in prayer life. Romans 8:26,27 says, "Likewise the Spirit also helps our weakness: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be expressed. And He Who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God". This Scripture teaches that even Christians don't know how to pray with complete understanding. God gives us His Spirit to teach us. One of the ways God chooses to do this is through tongues (groans that words cannot express).

4. He helps us understand the Scriptures. I Corinthians 2:11,12 says, "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God".

5. He gives us spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 1:7 says, "So that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". There are nine parts to the manifestation gift of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

6. He will produce in the believer God-like qualities called "fruit". "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22,23).

 

Why a Believer needs the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

1. Jesus needed Him. Jesus' ministry did not really begin until the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Luke 3:22). After this simultaneous baptism in water and in the Spirit, He ministered in power. Acts 10:38 says, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power (dunamis): Who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him". Before this baptism, Jesus was already "born again" in the sense that His Spirit which came from God was unsullied by the world from birth (see Luke 1:35; 1 Timothy 3:16).

2. The disciples needed Him. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came on them. This was after He had breathed on them and told them to "receive the Holy Spirit". After this baptism they were immersed, wall to wall, in the Holy Spirit! Acts 2:4 "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them expression".

3. The early church needed Him.

a. Believers at Samaria. Acts 8:14-17 say, "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who, when they had come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet he had not fallen upon them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit".

b. Cornelius' household (see Acts 10). "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word". After Peter, who was a Jew, saw that this baptism has also been given to this Gentile household, he rightly concluded that God shows no partiality among people. He wants everyone to be born again and filled with His Spirit.

c. At Ephesus. Acts 19:2-6 "He (Paul) said to them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' And they said to him, 'We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.' And he said to them, 'Into what then were you baptized?' And they said, 'Into John's baptism'. Then Paul said, 'John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him Who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus'. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied."

4. You need Him. "'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" But this He (Jesus) spoke concerning the Spirit, Whom those believing in Him would receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:38,39); "But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14); "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16).

 

Why Speak in Tongues?

1. To edify (build up) yourself. Jude 20 says, "But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit"; I Corinthians 14:4a "He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself".

2. To speak to God divine secrets. I Corinthians 14:2 says, "For he who speaks in an unknown tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no man understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries". These secrets are revealed as tongues are interpreted - see v. 13).

3. To speak the wonderful works of God. "Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11).

4. To magnify God. "For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God" (Acts 10:46).

5. To pray perfectly. "Likewise the Spirit also helps our weakness: for we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be expressed. Now He Who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26, 27). The Spirit knows what the will of God the Father is when we may not know. Thus He speaks perfectly the will of God for us and through us.

6. To give thanks well. I Corinthians 14:17 says, "For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified". (This last phrase refers to tongues being spoken in a church service without an accompanying interpretation in a known language).

7. To have the Holy Spirit bear witness with our spirit. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16). This is a knowing in the heart that God is in us and communicates through our spirits. The flow of revelation is: God the Father, to the Holy Spirit, to our spirit, to our minds.

8. To know that you are joint-heirs with Christ. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). To be a joint-heir means to be equal sharers in Jesus' power and authority.

9. To strengthen yourself with might in the inner man. "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16); "For this reason we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16). The inner man spoken of here refers to the given spirit of God in the believer.

10. As a sign to unbelievers. "Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to those who do not believe" (I Corinthians 14:22a); Mark 16:17 - "And these signs shall follow those who believe; In My Name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues".

11. To bring a message from God to the people. The tongue must then be interpreted because it would be in a service intended for public hearing: "He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification" (1 Corinthians 14:4,5).

12. God wants us to speak in tongues. I Corinthians 14:5a says, "I desire that you all spoke with tongues".

13. Believers do it. Mark 16:17 says, "And these signs shall follow those who believe; In My Name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues".

 

What Tongues Is and What It Is Not

1. It is rest to the soul. Isaiah 28: 11-12 "For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, to whom He said, 'This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest', and, 'This is the refreshing'".

2. It is a human or angelic language. It is not understood by the person speaking but it may be understood by someone else listening who happens to understand that particular language. This happened at Pentecost - "And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt and in the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabs - we hear them speaking in our own languages the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:8-11); "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1).

3. The mind of the speaker does not directly understand what is being said. I Corinthians 14: 14-15 says, "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the result then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also". The mind becomes enlightened as to the content of the message when it is interpreted. The interpretation is not a transliteration but the interpretation or gist of the communication.

4. One cannot speak sinful things while speaking in tongues. I Corinthians 12:3 states, "Therefore I make know to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit."

5. One can sing in tongues. "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (I Corinthians 14:14-15).

6. The speaker is in complete control, not over what is said, but over if and when to speak. God does not make us do anything! We have free will. I Corinthians 14:32 says, "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets." Although those giving a tongue and interpretation are not necessarily prophets, they are speaking by inspiration of God and thus, as this last Scripture points out, are in complete control over if they choose to say the word or not.

7. Speaking in tongues is a form of prayer. "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays..." (1 Corinthians 14:14a).

8. We should speak in tongues much. I Corinthians 14:18 says, "I thank my God, I (Paul) speak with tongues more than you all"; "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

9. Speaking in tongues without interpreting is not to be done publicly but in ones private "prayer closet", or in church in the context of congregational worship to God. See I Corinthians chapter 14 for further explanation.

 

How to Receive

1. Spontaneously.

Acts 2:1-4 "And when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, appearing as fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them expression." Another example is in Acts 10:44-46 - "While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. And the Jews who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God."

2. Laying on of hands.

Acts 8:17 "Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit"; Acts 19:1-6 "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper regions came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' And they said to him, 'We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit'. And he said to them, 'Into what then were you baptized?' And they said, 'Into John's baptism'. Then Paul said, 'John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him Who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus'. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied."

3. Asking by faith.

Luke 11:13 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" God is not going to give us a counterfeit spirit: Luke 11:9-12 says, "And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one who asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you who is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?"

To receive anything from God by faith it is necessary first to believe in the heart (not just the mind) that it is available and that God wants you to have it (i.e., it is His will). Second, you must ask for it in prayer by the name and authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Whatever you ask the Father in My Name He will give it you" (John 16:23), and, "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desire of Him" (1 John 5:14,15). Third, you must put feet to your faith by doing something. God says in James 2:26 that faith without corresponding action is idle or inactive. In regards to receiving the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of speaking in tongues, after having prayed to God to receive Him, you must now speak. The act of speaking is: 1) volitional, therefore you decide when and if to speak; 2) you must move your mouth, tongue, and lips as one does normally in the act of speaking (see also Job 29:23). It is also necessary to make a sound through the vocal cords. The experience is unique: ones vocal apparatus is being used without corresponding thoughts in the mind. The more one does it the more comfortable it becomes.

If you desire the infilling of the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of speaking in tongues, pray this prayer of faith from your heart. "Father, in the name of Jesus, I see in your word that you want this experience for me. So I ask you now that Your will be done: I ask you for the infilling of Your Holy Spirit in me with the manfestation of speaking in tongues. Amen". Now start speaking!

 

"I Didn't Receive"

It may happen that after having read this article and asking God to baptize you with the Holy Spirit that you did not receive. There are several possible reasons this happened. The most common mistake people make is waiting for God to give them the words to speak before they open their mouths to speak. The Scripture says "They spoke as the Spirit gave them expression" (Acts 2:4). We must do the speaking, God will give the words. God does not move our lips for us. To speak one must open the mouth and make a sound. As the mouth moves the words will come.

Another mistake people make is thinking that receiving from God is a mental process. It is not. It is a supernatural process energized within the heart. We receive the promise of the spirit through faith the Scripture says (Galatians 3:14). Faith, by definition (Hebrews 11:1), is a tangible thing that is not discerned by the five physical senses. Reread the Scriptures that pertain to receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and ask God to reveal their meaning to you (1Corinthians 2:10, Luke 24:45). At some point you will realize that this gift is yours for the asking by faith.

Another possible problem in receiving is sin. A habitual sin in our lives can grieve the spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The Psalmist said: "If I regard sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalms 66:18). To regard sin is to nurse it, to hold on to it and cherish it. It is not a sin that is done once in a while but habitually. It is the kind of sin that you don't want to get rid of because you like it. It may be unforgiveness, it may be lust, it may be hate. Ask the Lord about it. He wants you to be baptized with His Spirit - "It is the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Once you have identified the sin, ask God to forgive you and then repent of it.

Another possible reason is occult activity. This was the reason the recently converted Samaritans did not manifest the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues after Philip preached to them (Acts 8). A man named Simon was a sorcerer before his conversion. A sorcerer is someone that deals in the occult practice of communicating and being empowered by demons. Apparently it took the authority of two apostles to break that occult hold on the people who, before their conversion, had held Simon in great esteem as their spiritual leader. If you have had any dealing with occult activity, satanism, witchcraft, Ouija boards, or are closely related to someone who is or was, ask God to forgive you of being involved in those things and repent of doing them in the future. Then go through the faith process of receiving again.

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