When someone with an ordinarily good and honest heart nevertheless seems to have some reluctance embracing one aspect of the faith – such as THE BAPTISM WITH THE HOLY GHOST and SPEAKING WITH OTHER TONGUES – quite often it’s not that the person has a believing issue, but a knowledge issue.
Perhaps the person has genuine questions which have never been adequately cleared-up; but when they are – when sufficient knowledge comes – faith is automatically there.
Faith is the concomitant of knowledge - in the environment of a good and honest heart.
Here's a verse which shows how it takes hearing about a matter (adequately) before a person can believe in it:
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach except they be sent?...
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
30 The entrance of thy words giveth light…”
Once a person has become satisfied by adequate answers, then he or she won’t be likely to hesitate to adopt the truth - and then to make it their own experience by faith.
The Subject of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and Speaking With Tongues
So I’m sharing these thoughts for anyone who may still have some questions about it - on the subject of speaking with other tongues.
I do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding...and increasing in the knowledge of God...that you may stand perfect and completely filled with all that God wills for you! (Colossians 1:9,10; 4:12).
Definition: by Speaking with Tongues we mean the supernatural grace enabling the believer to speak with tongues (languages) unknown to himself, as the Spirit gives utterance.
Desiring Spiritual Gifts
Firstly, let’s look at the attitude that the Bible encourages us to have towards spiritual gifts.
It is commendable to desire spiritual gifts.
Let’s look at the words of Paul, which he used to describe the church at
I CORINTHIANS 1:7
7 ...ye come behind in no gift…
He commended the Corinthian church for coming behind in no gift.
We don't have to come behind in any gift, either.
I pray and desire, that as you abound in every aspect of the Christian life...that you abound in this grace also.
Amongst the Corinthians, every single person was considered a candidate for contributing a spiritual gift to their meetings:
I CORINTHIANS 12:7
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to EVERY MAN to profit withal.
Every man in the Corinthian church was capable of contributing a spiritual gift to the meetings!
And this is how Paul described their attitude towards spiritual gifts:
I CORINTHIANS 14:12
12 …forasmuch as ye are ZEALOUS for spiritual gifts…
They were zealous for them.
Paul never sought to quench their zeal for spiritual gifts. He wrote:
I CORINTHIANS 14:1
1 Follow after charity, and DESIRE spiritual gifts...
Not only did Paul condone their zeal, and their desire for spiritual gifts, he commended it:
I CORINTHIANS 14:12
12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous for spiritual gifts, SEEK THAT YE MAY EXCEL…
Seek that ye may excel!
Then, wanting to channel but not suppress their enthusiasm, he recommends:
I CORINTHIANS 14:39
39 Wherefore, brethren, COVET to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
He guides them to covet the spiritual gift of prophecy. That means (according to the Oxford Dictionary) to long to possess this spiritual gift.
As if that wasn't clear enough already, he adds:
I CORINTHIANS 12:31
31 But covet EARNESTLY the best gifts...
Not just covet, but covet earnestly.
Can the same be said of us:
- do we come behind in no gift;
- in our meetings can every man be used in the gifts;
- are we zealous for spiritual gifts;
- do we desire them;
- are we seeking that we may excel for the benefit of the church;
- do we covet (long to possess) spiritual gifts; and
- do we covet them earnestly?
All May Speak With Tongues
Secondly now, let’s observe that Paul desired for them all to speak with tongues.
Some have thought that Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, was in effect discouraging the use of speaking with other tongues.
But let’s take a look and see what were Paul’s actual thoughts about tongues.
While Paul offered guidelines concerning the most beneficial way to use all of the gifts during their public gatherings, he still desired for them all to speak with tongues:
I CORINTHIANS 14:5
5 I would that ye all spake with tongues…
I CORINTHIANS 14:39
39 …and forbid not to speak with tongues.
Paul didn’t mind if the whole church spoke with tongues, in fact, he wanted this – and he certainly didn’t want anyone forbidding it.
In the pages of I Corinthians Paul proceeds to give his advice on how best to publicly express these gifts – but the bottom-line undergirding all of Paul’s advice on the use of tongues was nevertheless this: that speaking with tongues is the real thing, and I still want you to be doing it.
He was not at all intending to do away with tongues. It was just that he wanted them to excel even more, and to find ways to use the gifts in ways that could benefit their gatherings optimally.
So while Paul did have advice to give (which we'll look at next), he nevertheless kept reinforcing the high value that he placed on speaking with tongues, with statements like:
I CORINTHIANS 14:18
18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
Imagine being able to say that!
He spoke with tongues more than them all.
It's clear that the advice he was giving was not meant in any way to be taken as though he wanted them to be speaking with tongues any less.
The spirit of Paul's letter to the Corinthians must be taken to be consistent with his letter to the Thessalonians, in which he wrote:
I THESSALONIANS 5:19,20
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
Quench not the Spirit.
We don't need less tongues or less prophesyings in our midst – if anything, we could do with a bit more of them – and at the same time learn how to express these gifts better so as to improve their effectiveness in our meetings. That’s what Paul was getting at.
So how about us - how much speaking with tongues do we do?
How often do we hear a message in tongues, during our gatherings?
What, then, was Paul's advice (to the Corinthians)?
Notice he never denied the validity of their tongues.
But he urged them to excel in their understanding and use of the gifts, so the church could benefit more.
1. Firstly, he wanted to remind them of matters of doctrine ( I Cor.12:1):
- he reminded them that the Holy Ghost has nothing to do with the idols of their past (verse 2);
- that anyone speaking by the Spirit of God will acknowledge Jesus as Lord (verse 3);
- that although there are diversities of gifts, it's the same Spirit that gives them (verses 4-6);
- that their differing public roles weren't meant to allow room for sectarianism or division among them (verses 12-14);
- and he reminded them that we need each other (verses 15-30).
2. Secondly, he wanted to remind them of matters of motive:
- that love is the highest attainment among everything that we can do as believers, and love should undergird our use of spiritual gifts (chapter 13).
Thirdly, he wanted to remind them of matters of practicality (chapter 14):
- that the purpose of exercising the gifts in public ought to be for the benefit of the gathering, not just to make the speaker look good!
- Therefore there was really no point to someone standing up, holding the floor, demanding the whole church's attention, speaking up to ten thousand words in an unknown tongue – because no-one understands him (verse 19).
- That's pretty simple, isn't it: better to speak to yourself and to God, or to instead seek the gift of prophecy which can be understood – than to hold the floor and not be understood - unless there is an interpreter present, or unless you pray to interpret yourself.
- But that still leaves a whole lot of room for the gift of tongues to be used in other circumstances, for instance:
1. It can be used in one's private prayer-life and relationship with God.
2. On top of that, when Paul said, “Let him speak to himself, and to God”, to a certain extent this can still be done at church.
You see, Paul wasn't coming down in a heavy, legalistic way against praying or speaking with tongues in a non-obtrusive way, even in public. He was talking about a situation where members were standing up and holding the floor, speaking unintelligibly in tongues, holding everyone's attention, with no regard to any benefit to the hearers.
- wouldn't it have also been wrong for all 120 people to speak with different tongues in the upper room? (Acts 2);
- wouldn't it have been wrong for all of Cornelius' household to be heard speaking with tongues at the same time, and to even interrupt Peter's sermon in so doing? (Acts 10:44-46);
- and wouldn't it also have been wrong for twelve disciples at
to speak with tongues together? (Acts 19:6). Ephesus
In each of these instances, numbers of people were each heard speaking at the same time, with different tongues, and they weren't necessarily interpreted – yet it was considered decent and in order.
Therefore it is fine for a gathering of believers to pray together with tongues as well as with the understanding; and it is also fine for an individual to occasionally speak, pray or sing to himself and to God with tongues in church, if in a non-obtrusive manner, not drawing the meeting's attention to himself.
To do so is not inconsistent with Paul's advice to the Corinthians, nor is it inconsistent with occurrences surrounding outpourings of the Holy Spirit recorded in the Book of Acts.
But for someone to hold the floor and speak with tongues, as a focal-point of a meeting – that’s not very practical or beneficial to the hearers – unless he interpret.
So you see, Paul wasn’t coming down hard on tongues – he was only wanting to see tongues used even more effectively.
Then some may ask: “But didn't Paul say that not everyone will speak with tongues?”
Let’s have a look at that:
I CORINTHIANS 12:29,30
29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
In this context, Paul was discussing the various public ministries that function when the “whole church be come together into one place” (I Corinthians 14:23).
His discussion is not primarily about what the individual believer can and can't experience between himself and God in his own personal walk with God.
Let me use another example. Although not all believers will regularly exercise a public ministry of healing, we know that any believer may nevertheless from time to time lay hands on the sick and see them recover (Mk 16:18, John 14:12).
Notice that Ananias, who laid hands on Paul (Saul) to receive his sight and to be filled with the Holy Ghost, was simply called “a certain disciple” (Acts 9:10) – he was not someone who was known to hold any office of public ministry.
So although not every believer has the gift of healing as a public ministry, all believers may lay hands on the sick and see them recover.
See the subject is public ministry, public function, public office – not what a believer can or cannot do in their everyday life.
Let’s look at the gift of prophecy, and we’ll see the same thing.
Although not every believer will be recognized as having a consistent, public role of prophesying during meetings, all believers may nonetheless prophesy from time to time:
I CORINTHIANS 14:31
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one…
The same thing is true of the teaching gift.
Only some members will ever become recognized for the regular contribution of publicly teaching the Word – however any believer is capable of testifying or teaching to some degree, in his own setting (see I John 2:20,27).
Now in the same way – when it comes to speaking with tongues – not every believer will exercise a regular public ministry of speaking with divers kinds of tongues in the church – however this is not to say that some believers will never be able to speak with tongues even just to himself and to God (Acts 2:4, I Corinthians 14:5).
In our daily lives – thank God – in our daily lives we can all speak with tongues, we can all lay hands on the sick and see them recover, we can all prophesy, we can all share the Word of God, from time to time all of us can see visions, all of us can cast out demons – but in public ministry in the church, that’s where each of us will have a different function.
You see, in our personal relationship with the Lord, there are many graces of God that all believers may share in common; and we can all minister personally to the Lord in similar ways; but it's mainly when it comes to public ministry in the church that we each have different functions.
So don’t let your faith be overthrown by a misapplication of that verse anymore; and remember Paul’s words, “I would that ye all spake with tongues”.
Concerning Spiritual Gifts
Thirdly, notice that Paul didn’t want the believers to be ignorant (to lack knowledge) about spiritual gifts.
There are benefits in being knowledgeable about the things of the Spirit:
I CORINTHIANS 12:1
1 NOW concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
It is possible to be ignorant concerning spiritual gifts and their operation.
But Paul didn’t want that for them; and neither does God want that for us.
Therefore we ought to want to make it our business to be knowledgeable about spiritual gifts and their use, including the gift of speaking with tongues.
So let’s now list the various gifts of the Spirit, and at the same time observe the unique place that speaking with tongues has among them:
I CORINTHIANS 12:8-10
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the WORD OF WISDOM; to another the WORD OF KNOWLEDGE by the same Spirit;
9 To another FAITH by the same Spirit; to another the GIFTS OF HEALING by the same Spirit;
10 To another the WORKING OF MIRACLES; to another PROPHECY; to another DISCERNING OF SPIRITS; to another DIVERS KINDS OF TONGUES; to another the INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES:
All of these nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit were in regular manifestation during the Corinthian church gatherings.
And each one of them is still available to be in manifestation in our day.
Each of the gifts can and should find their place in the overall activity of our church-life.
Notice that only two of the gifts in this list are unique to the New Testament: divers kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues.
Each of the other manifestations had already occurred under the Old Covenant, of which many incidences could be cited; for example:
- The word of wisdom was exercised by Joseph and Daniel when they interpreted the king’s dreams and supernaturally foretold God’s plans for the future
- The word of knowledge was exercised by Elisha when he was consistently able to inform the king of
concerning the location of the Syrian troops Israel
- The gift of faith was used by many Old Testament figures such as Joshua who commanded the sun to stand still – an event never since repeated in history
- The gifts of healing were exercised by Elisha, when Naaman the Syrian leper was healed
- The working of miracles was often exercised, such as when an iron axe-head was made to float to the river’s surface
- Of course, there was prophecy, which was the most prolific manifestation of the Spirit under the Old Covenant
- And discerning of spirits occurred in the Old Testament when Micaiah the prophet saw a spirit come forth and stand before the Lord
But divers kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues didn't occur until ten days after the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father, when the day of Pentecost was fully come. That was the first time new tongues were spoken.
Jesus didn't speak with tongues either, although He exercised each of the other gifts of the Spirit during his three-year ministry – because Jesus ministered at a time when the Old Covenant was still in transition to the New. The Spirit was not yet given in the same sense that He is today, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Thus speaking with tongues is uniquely a New Testament sign – and therefore speaking with tongues may have special significance to us among the other signs, which we shall soon see.
What Jesus Said About Tongues
Fourthly though, let's establish what Jesus had to say about tongues:
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; THEY SHALL SPEAK WITH NEW TONGUES;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Jesus foretold that after the Spirit is given, among other signs, believers will speak with new tongues (the Holy Spirit was already around, but He was soon to be given, after Jesus’ glorification, in a way which He wasn’t given before – and tongues would be one of the signs of this).
Baptized With the Holy Ghost
Fifthly then, before going on to consider the unique significance that speaking with tongues may have to us among the other signs, let’s first consider what Jesus called being baptized with the Holy Ghost.
After His resurrection, Jesus told the apostles whom He had chosen, that being baptized with the Holy Ghost is the new relationship to the Holy Spirit that will be available after His departure:
4 …but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY GHOST not many days hence.
Although the apostles had already experienced great things while being with Jesus, even though they themselves had been used to heal the sick and cast out demons – still there was an important experience yet to be received, called being baptized with the Holy Ghost.
This greater experience would happen only after the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and glorification of Jesus as Lord in heaven.
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for THE HOLY GHOST WAS NOT YET GIVEN; BECAUSE THAT JESUS WAS NOT YET GLORIFIED.)
Prior to Jesus' glorification, the Holy Spirit was with the apostles in a sense, but there was a greater relationship to the Holy Spirit, that was promised:
17 …for he dwelleth WITH you, and shall be IN you.
The Holy Spirit was with the apostles during Jesus’ ministry. But here Jesus spoke of a time coming when the Holy Spirit would be in them.
Then after the resurrection, when he appeared to his apostles (before his ascension and glorification), something noteworthy took place:
22 …he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
He breathed on them to receive the Holy Ghost.
Even so, He told them about a still greater experience with the Holy Spirit that was yet to come after His glorification:
49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of
The apostles were to tarry (wait) in
Being baptized with the Holy Spirit is called the promise of the Father, which was foretold by the prophets. The forefathers looked forward to the day when it would be possible for all mankind to receive this outpouring of the Spirit (Gal.3:14, Joel 2:28-32, I Peter 1:10–12).
Notice that Jesus said they would at the same time be “endued with power” or “receive power”.
The Greek word here translated endued is enduo which can convey the sense of sinking into a garment.
It is reminiscent of Elijah's garment, which empowered Elisha to part the waters of the
It’s one thing to believe in Jesus and to receive Him – but it’s altogether another experience to receive power, to be endued with power, after the Holy Ghost comes upon you.
Then you can become a powerful witness for Jesus because the “signs” which Jesus said would “follow those who believe” will accompany your testimony – signs such as miracles, healings, casting out demons, and speaking with new tongues.
The world needs signs – powerful enough signs – to help them believe!
8 But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
When the Holy Ghost fell on the day of Pentecost, Peter explained this as the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy:
15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
18 And on my servants and on my handmaids I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath...
Then notice this interesting verse by Peter:
33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
Jesus was now able to pour out the Holy Ghost on all flesh, because He had been glorified in heaven.
Having finished the work on Calvary; having purchased eternal redemption for us through His blood; having been buried, and raised up again from the dead on the third day; having been seen of many; and being now ascended and seated at the right hand of God in heaven – Jesus received eternal glory from the Father – He received this promise from the Father. Then He poured it out on the day of Pentecost.
Being baptized with the Holy Spirit is a foretaste of the glory!
It is a taste of the power of the world to come.
It is to partake of the coronation of King Jesus in heaven.
It is heaven on earth!
And Jesus is just as willing to pour out upon you this gift of the Holy Spirit too!
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Since you have believed in Jesus and received Him, now consider this question: have I received this further experience of receiving and being endued with power from on high? am I filled with the Holy Spirit? has the Holy Ghost come upon me? am I baptized with the Holy Ghost? and are “these signs” following me?
If the Holy Ghost has come upon you in this way, there will be signs following you.
Tongues a Sign
Sixthly, let’s notice that in the New Testament accounts, speaking with tongues may be the one sign that was unique and consistent every time a believer was baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Among the signs foretold by Jesus, there were incidences of each of them already occurring before Jesus was glorified (before anyone was baptized with the Holy Ghost) - except for speaking with new tongues (Mk 16:17,18); for example:
- “In my name they shall cast out devils” - the 70 had already been used in this way prior to Pentecost (Luke 10:17): an incident-report is also recorded in Mk 9:38;
- “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them” – this power had already been given to the apostles before being baptized with the Holy Ghost (Luke 10:19);
- “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” – healing was already performed by the apostles prior to their being baptized with the Holy Ghost (Mk 6:5, Matt.10:8);
- Now that leaves one last sign: “They shall speak with new tongues” – and notice that this is the only sign in the list that occurred for the very first time only after Jesus was glorified – when they were all baptized with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost.
So if we are to look for a sign that someone has received the Holy Ghost in this new sense – in this way in which He was not yet given prior to Jesus being glorified – well tongues is the only unique sign that accompanies the experience.
All of the other signs already occurred prior to the Holy Ghost being given, in this sense.
Therefore it is possible to experience the Holy Ghost in many ways, perhaps without actually having been baptized with the Holy Ghost. For example, you could be used to heal the sick, or to cast out demons, or to see visions and to prophesy etc.
But if you speak with new tongues like Jesus said – as the Spirit gives the utterance – then you can be sure that you have been baptized with the Holy Ghost!
Some have asked whether power is a unique sign of being filled with the Spirit:
8 You shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you
However we know that power had already been given to them prior to Pentecost (Matt.10:1, Mk 3:15, 6:7, Luke 9:1,2, 10:19).
What about joy? Is that the sign?
52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost”
But they had already experienced joy before Pentecost (see Luke 10:17).
The same could be said for visions and prophesyings and healings: each of these often occurred before Pentecost.
Even though the apostles had already experienced being used by the Holy Spirit in these wonderful ways, they were told of something else coming.
And when it came, when the Holy Ghost fell, the sign of speaking with tongues occurred for the first time – it occurred when the believers were baptized with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost.
Each of the other signs had already occurred at some previous time, either in the ministry of Jesus, or in the experience of the apostles prior to Pentecost, or by some of the Old Testament prophets.
Therefore speaking with tongues seems to stand-out among the other signs as a unique sign of being baptized with the Holy Ghost.
It also appears to be the one sign that may have occurred every time people were baptized with the Holy Ghost, in each New Testament account. Let’s look at that for a moment.
Each of the various signs, gifts, and manifestations of the Spirit accompanied the early church; yet it seems, in the accounts of the New Testament, that speaking with tongues was the one sign which may have occurred consistently every time, in the event of someone being baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Remember that being baptized with the Holy Ghost was altogether a different experience of the Holy Ghost than anything the apostles had already experienced prior to Jesus' ascension into heaven.
If it wasn't different, then it wouldn't have been crucial that they wait in
“Don’t go into all the world and preach the Gospel until I’ve baptized you with the Holy Spirit,” Jesus warned the disciples.
Along with being baptized with the Holy Ghost, each of the signs now began accompanying the apostles in new, in more significant and in more powerful and prolific ways than anything they'd experienced before.
But there was one thing they’d never experienced at all before, and that was speaking with other tongues.
Therefore if we felt the need to look for some sure evidence to know whether or not a believer has been baptized with the Holy Ghost (in the sense which has been available only since the glorification of Jesus in heaven, called the promise of the Father); then although it may give us some indication, if that believer is now either casting out demons, or if he is being unharmed by snakes, scorpions, poison and all the power of the enemy, or if he is giving words of wisdom or knowledge, exercising faith, working miracles, prophesying, or if he is discerning spirits.
However, if anyone feels it's still inconclusive (since each of the above signs were after all also possible in the lives of the disciples prior to Pentecost), it is then that the occurrence of speaking with tongues may hold significance.
Speaking with tongues was the one sign that occurred for the first time with the arrival of this new relationship to the Holy Ghost, called being baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Therefore if the occurrence of any of the other signs in the life of a believer are not convincing already, then to me hearing the believer speaking with tongues would leave no doubt that the person has been baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Let's see which sign, if any, appears to occur consistently every time somebody was baptized with the Holy Ghost, in the New Testament accounts:
1 AND when the day of Pentecost was fully come, [they waited ten days from Jesus’ ascension] they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Several signs accompanied the outpouring of the Spirit that day, which attracted the attention of the multitude, resulting in 3000 conversions.
(Since this first occurred on the day of Pentecost, believers with this experience have, in modern history, been labelled “Pentecostals”).
Let's consider the signs that occurred that day:
- “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a RUSHING MIGHTY WIND, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2).
There is no record, however, that this same phenomenon occurred every time a group of believers elsewhere in the New Testament was baptized with the Holy Ghost.
- “And there appeared unto them CLOVEN TONGUES LIKE AS OF FIRE, and it sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:3).
Neither did this happen in every account of someone being baptized with the Holy Ghost in the Bible.
- “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).
As we shall see, speaking with tongues was the one, consistent, across-the-board sign that appeared to have occurred every time someone was baptized with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament records.
Let’s now read the account of the next occasion in which Peter said that people were baptized by the Holy Ghost, and observe how he knew for sure this had happened:
44 While Peter yet spake these words, [he was still preaching!] the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, [that is, the Jewish believers accompanying Peter] because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God…
How did they know this group of people had also received the gift of the Holy Ghost?
“For they heard them speak with tongues”.
Because they heard them speak with tongues. Tongues was a sign.
As a side observation, notice it says the Holy Ghost fell on them (Acts 10:44).
Peter said he fell on them “as on us at the beginning”, reminding him of Jesus’ words, how that He said, “John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 11:15,16).
It's just like the Holy Ghost to fall on you.
It’s one thing to have received Jesus into your heart, but has the Holy Ghost fallen upon you?
Has He fallen upon you in like manner as the believers here in the Book of Acts?
Let’s now see what happened when Paul laid his hands on some young believers at
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
On this occasion they prophesied as well; yet in the experience of others who were baptized with the Holy Ghost in the New Testament records, there's no account that prophecy always occurred straightaway.
The one sign occurring consistently elsewhere in the New Testament and here in
Let's move now to the account of Paul himself being baptized by the Spirit, which is the only account in the Book of Acts which does not include a specific statement that speaking with tongues accompanied the event:
17 And Ananias…putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
Paul's healing, water baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit happened within three days of his conversion along the
Even though it’s not mentioned here in Acts, we do know that Paul spoke with tongues – because he himself testified, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all” (I Cor.14:18).
So we can say that everyone whom the New Testament says had been baptized with the Holy Ghost was also known to speak with tongues.
Speaking with tongues was the one sign among all the others that appears to have been common to all who were baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Therefore if I hear someone speak with tongues, I have no doubt they have been baptized with the Holy Ghost.
But it’s not limited to that – let’s believe for all the signs to accompany us, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Distinct and Subsequent to Salvation
Seventhly, notice that being baptized with the Holy Ghost with all its expressions, is an experience that appears to be distinct from being born again, and subsequent to being born again:
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
1 …Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to
2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost? [They hadn’t even heard whether there be any Holy Ghost, so Paul proceeded to preach a more complete Gospel message to them than what they had heard under John the Baptist’s ministry]…
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
Notice these people were called “disciples”. Then notice they heard the Gospel through Paul, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. So we know they were believers. Nevertheless, being baptized by the Holy Ghost was something that didn't happen until after all that - when Paul laid his hands upon them.
Some people today, like Paul and Cornelius’ household, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost first, and are baptized with water afterwards. That's how it happened with me personally. I was saved in December 1979, filled with the Holy Spirit in March the following year, then baptized with water in April. Others, like the disciples at
Having said all the above, I want to bring it back to this: experiencing the Holy Ghost is more important than how we explain it. Some denominations define being baptized with the Holy Ghost and salvation as being one and the same experience; while, amongst those who distinguish being baptized with the Holy Ghost from salvation, some groups make little of speaking with tongues, while others insist that tongues is 'the initial physical evidence' of being baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Either way, the fact of God's promise remains – that speaking with tongues and to be filled with all the fullness of God - is available for you! (“I would that ye all spake with tongues” - I Cor. 14:5). So irrespective of how you define or label things, you might as well just come and get it all! Come and experience everything that is available to be experienced of the Holy Spirit. A person doesn't have to speak with tongues to be saved and go to heaven. But receive all that is promised, in Jesus' Name! Then, it can be said of you, like the Corinthians, that “ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Very often I have seen believers begin speaking with tongues the very first time the Holy Spirit ever came upon them. On other occasions I’ve seen congregations where their experience deepened over a period of a few weeks until nearly everyone ended-up experiencing repentance, faith, confession, falling under the power, crying, laughing for joy, becoming drunk with the Spirit, seeing visions, prophesying, speaking with tongues, receiving deliverance from demons, healings, sanctification, receiving power, and witnessing.
Now some in that congregation said that no matter how powerfully a person had been experiencing the Holy Spirit coming upon him during those weeks, his experiences couldn’t properly be labelled as The Baptism with the Holy Spirit until he’d spoken with tongues.
This question never had time to become an issue though, because it was only a matter of time before each person in that congregation “got it all” anyway, including speaking with tongues. It's good to see people “getting it all”. Because we were seeing people “getting it all”, it didn't make much difference how someone defined their experiences along the way.
So while I have no doubt that a person has been baptized with the Holy Ghost if I hear him speaking with tongues: if they haven't yet spoken with tongues – then I'd just rather get them hungry for it and encourage their faith to believe that there's no reason why God won't give them the gift of tongues too.
Because once they've received all things, nothing can take away from that – even if the way we define the experience undergoes variation. Even if I'm not sure enough to be able to systematically and logically define some things doctrinally, one thing I know – God will give the gift of tongues to all who ask.
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters...” (Isa.55:1).
You are called – so it's your's!
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Must Tongues Be A Known Language?
Eighthly, let’s consider the question, does speaking with tongues necessarily need to be a known tongue (language) upon earth?
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with NEW TONGUES;
Notice Jesus said they shall speak with new tongues. I wonder what new means?
Paul also said this:
I CORINTHIANS 13:1
1 THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…
Does this scripture imply that speaking with tongues could include either tongues of men, or of angels?
If speaking with tongues always occurred in a known language of someone in the audience, then Paul wouldn’t have needed to advise the members of the Corinthian church to refrain from speaking with tongues in public if there was no interpreter present. So, obviously it could legitimately happen that someone could speak with tongues, with no-one in the audience understanding the tongue that was spoken.
In such a scenario, Paul never said their tongues weren’t genuine. He merely said, there’s no point holding the floor speaking with a tongue, if no interpreter is present, because “no man understandeth him” (I Cor. 14:2).
So we see that amongst the Corinthians, speaking with tongues did not necessarily occur always in the tongue of a hearer in the audience. If no interpreter was present, Paul simply advised that the speaker either pray to interpret (I Corinthians 14:13), or else speak to himself, and to God (I Corinthians 14:28). Even so, the tongue itself is still genuine.
Then someone will ask, But what about the day of Pentecost – didn't the multitude hear them speak in their own tongues?
Yes, on that occasion, the multitude heard them speak in their own tongues - but there is no indication that this phenomenon occurred every time believers in the New Testament were baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Paul’s instructions in I Corinthians 14 would have been completely unnecessary unless the tongues being spoken were unknown to the audience. (In fact, the King James Version actually uses the word unknown tongue five times in chapter 14. What is an unknown tongue? It is a tongue that’s not known!)
It still sometimes happens today, when people are being baptized with the Holy Ghost and speak with tongues, that others hear them speak in their own tongue. But this happens as the Spirit wills, not necessarily every time tongues are spoken.
One occasion I witnessed was when a young woman was filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke with tongues, and a visitor from
Immediately the young woman jumped up, ran outside and dry-reached. The Lord heard her prayer: and cleansed her of some demonic oppression. Yet the young woman had never learned Chinese!
On another occasion, approximately fifteen
Another time, a shy fourteen year old youth was filled with the Spirit and had been speaking with tongues for three days. When she went to school on Monday, she was still speaking with tongues. When her teacher heard her, she asked, “Why didn't you tell me you can speak Chinese?” Yet the girl had no knowledge of how to speak Chinese.
She prayed to God to give her back her own language, so she could explain to her teacher and the class what was going on. Then she preached the Gospel to them. The whole class fell to the floor under the power of God.
This continued for days, so I decided to visit the school to witness firsthand what God was doing. I saw her lay hands on her friends, and when she did, every one of them fell to the floor. They arose with tears, saying, “What have we got to do to be saved?” She prophesied over the students and cast out demons. Students from other classes were crowding into her classroom asking for prayer.
Lessons were disrupted for weeks. She was forbidden to preach the Gospel anymore at school, but her fellow-students thronged her the more. The Principal demanded that her parents sign an affidavit forbidding their daughter from preaching anymore at the school, or else she would be expelled. A TV news crew turned-up with their cameras to interview the young girl. But she didn't want to cause undue commotion.
So she thought of a brilliant way to prevent the work of God from being jeopardized by the overwhelming attention she was receiving:
“I'll lay hands on my friends, so they can receive the same anointing,” she decided, “ ...that way, they can lay their hands on students instead, and the same things will keep happening, and I won't attract too much attention.”
So she laid hands on a friend, who fell to the floor. When her friend stood to her feet, she had the same power of God in her life. The anointing was now transferable by her hands also.
In this way, the anointing spread to another High School and also a University. I visited the University one day, to find students in their lecture-room prostrate on the floor under the power of the Spirit. Even High School teachers and a University lecturer received the Holy Ghost. As a result, many could scarcely speak their native tongue for days.
On another occasion, young people in the
On one other occasion, some young people visited a predominantly Muslim city, and people were filled with the Holy Ghost. One of them, when he spoke with a tongue, was heard by locals to be speaking their local Maranawaw dialect – even though the person was known to be unable to speak Maranaw. This was a sign to the unbelieving people in that area.
So it sometimes still happens today that people hear the speaker in their own tongue, as the Spirit wills.
But on other occasions I've seen tongues spoken publicly where no-one understood what was spoken, but instead, the gift of the interpretation of tongues worked with the gift of divers kinds of tongues, so that the church could receive edifying.
It's wonderful to hear heavenly messages!
Once in a meeting when I was invited to the platform to preach, I felt in my spirit that the Holy Ghost wanted to do something different. An interpreter was present, so she told me to just go ahead and speak with tongues and she would interpret.
With the microphone in hand, I proceeded to speak with a tongue to the congregation. A few sentences along, she tapped me on the shoulder as if to say, “That's enough: let me interpret that much, then you can continue”. She then spoke an interpretation to the congregation, then looked at me when she was finished, as if to say, “You can go on now”. We continued together like this for perhaps some 40 minutes: I'd speak, then she'd interpret.
Smith Wigglesworth often spoke with a tongue then gave the interpretation, in the midst of his preaching.
Another time in a youth meeting, the two fourteen year old girls who started the revival in the school stood and ministered with tongues and interpretation. One of them would speak with tongues, and the other would interpret: a paragraph at a time. The girls were given four different tongues. Their messages majored on the themes of repentance, preaching the Gospel, and of the soon return of the Lord.
The effect that we witnessed speaking with tongues had on the community was amazing.
Like Paul said, tongues are a sign to them that believe not (I Corinthians. 14:22). Well, how can they be a sign to them that believe not, if them that believe not never get to hear them? The phenomenon of speaking with tongues needn't be hidden away from unbelievers.
The girls brought groups of whole classes from School to the church. As soon as their friends entered the building, they were overcome with the presence of God and were reduced to tears.
The church started holding extra meetings during the week. Neighbouring churches even closed down their own Sunday services to join the revival. One entire congregation travelled from a neighbouring city on a flat-bed truck. The members would sleep overnight in the church, then return home to their city the next day.
It's amazing what a power comes when a person is baptized with the Holy Ghost. These two girls had been shy – but became so bold as to testify in front of four hundred people, and to lay hands on people.
One visiting Pastor was reluctant to accept all that he heard and saw. But one day he testified that the Holy Spirit asked him, “What about you, are you willing to let my Spirit move in your church as well?”
So the following Sunday he told his church what God had said to him, and a revival began. So many people started coming that all the children were sent outside to make room for the adults. That night, the presence of God came into the meeting like a mist. After the meeting when the parents went outside to collect their children, they found them flat on their backs on the ground under the power of God, laughing and seeing visions of angels, heaven and Jesus.
Unbelievers walking past saw the building as if it was on fire. The next day, a local man visited the Pastor with the purpose of giving him his condolences that he'd lost his building – but when he arrived, the building was fine!
I invited a group of Baptist Pastors from another island to come visit the revival. When they returned to their own churches, they put into practice what they'd learned, and asked the Holy Spirit to visit. Members of one congregation began to laugh and to be filled with the Spirit. The building began to quake. The members ran outside thinking it was an earthquake, only to have the neighbours inform them that the church was the only building quaking. On that day, they also had visitors from another island. These returned and imparted the blessing to their own churches too, among whom similar signs occurred.
I once heard a bible teacher comment concerning the day of Pentecost, that the miracle may have been as much in the hearing, as in the speaking. For it says the multitude heard them speak in their own tongues, not that the 120 actually spoke their particular tongues (it just says they spoke with other tongues).
To illustrate what he meant, the preacher told of a personal experience when he and his wife were ministering to a sick person. He felt the Holy Ghost give him an instruction through an inner voice of the Spirit, concerning how to minister to the sick person. At that moment, his wife spoke in an unknown tongue - but he heard her in speak in English, their known tongue, as if she hadn't spoken in an unknown tongue at all. He clearly heard her speak in English exactly the same instruction that he'd just heard in his own spirit. Yet all she heard come out of her mouth was an unknown tongue.
So he obeyed the instruction concerning how to minister to the sick person, then the sick was totally raised up by the power of God! In that instance, he explained, the miracle was as much in how he heard, as in the speaking of the tongue.
Then some will ask why it is that sometimes it sounds like a person is saying the same thing over and over again, when he speaks with a tongue. If he was truly speaking with a tongue, they may say, he wouldn't be repeating himself.
To answer that, let me say upfront that the devil doesn't like us praying with tongues. He would like to try anything to stop us. One of his main weapons is doubt. If he can't stop us from ever speaking with tongues in the first place, then he would like to make us doubt the authenticity of our tongues, in an attempt to get us to stop. So if you ever start seriously doubting your tongue, I would say, “Thanks for the tip-off, devil – now I know it's real!” You see, if they weren't real, and you were just babbling on, the devil would have no reason to want you to stop. But if he is sowing seeds of doubt in your mind, obviously he feels threatened by what you are speaking!
So why could it be that a person may sometimes seem like he is saying the same thing over and over again? Well consider the way of a man with his maid. It's 4:30pm Friday, peak-hour traffic in the inner-city, he briefly pulls in to a passenger pick-up zone to pick up his female friend who is waiting by the kurb-side. She runs to the car, opens the door, and jumps in. Without even having time to look at her yet, he has already checked his rearview mirror, then indicates to pull-out into the stream of traffic which, being Friday afternoon, is heavier than usual. He speedily merges with the traffic and heads off for the freeway. Now, at first, what do they talk about? Anything and everything. The day at the office. How busy their week has been. What the dog did on Wednesday. Who said what about something. They are full of words. Full of variety. Lots to say. They talk over the top of each other, they both have so much to say.
8:30pm: they are looking at each other, they've enjoyed a beautiful meal in a restaurant. She's had her favourite desert. The lights are dim. The distant band plays “First Hour In Love”. Their glasses are almost empty. He's thinking, “Do I have to finish this last mouthfull now, or can I make it last a little longer?” The hussle and bussle of the office seems a long time ago now. He glances up at her face again. Now what are they talking about? The conversation isn't as rapid-fire compared with when she first jumped in the car. They're not talking over the top of each other so much. Looking in her eyes, he pauses to consider what she's said. She notices his expression...
10:30pm They've moved-on to another location. Now what are they talking about? They are reduced to one-liners. I love you. It might be said over and again. The more intimate they get, the less words they employ.
If a person is speaking just one line over and over with a tongue, couldn't that be explained similarly as a passionate expression of his heart to God? I've noticed that my tongues become more varied in expression when I'm warring in prayer for situations outside of myself. But when I'm in worship, just a few words are enough. So rather than being an indication of insufficiency, saying the same thing over and over could instead be the indication of intimacy, or of passion.
The Holy Spirit gives different kinds of tongues as He wills – whether He gives utterance to speak a known or unknown tongue, or whether He supernaturally enables the hearers to hear it in their own tongue – all of these are still scriptural, genuine examples of the gift of tongues. So we needn't restrict the meaning of genuine tongues to just one expression.
Ninthly, let’s consider the usefulness of a person speaking with tongues “to himself and to God” (I Cor.14:29).
To start with, notice that speaking with tongues has a purpose that goes beyond its benefit to hearers in a public setting. “Let him speak to himself and to God,” Paul advised. He wouldn't have advised this if it doesn't do any good. So what happens when a person speaks with tongues to himself and to God?
In the first place, he is speaking to God – and all speaking to God is beneficial - it becomes a prayer language.
I CORINTHIANS 14:1
1 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
Secondly, the believer is speaking by his spirit, rather than by his understanding. Our understanding is limited, but the Holy Spirit dwells in our spirit, which is the hidden man of the heart, the real part of man. Therefore, when we pray with our spirit, that is, with a tongue (as opposed to, with our understanding), we pray according to the mind and wisdom of God.
I CORINTHIANS 14:4
4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself…
To edify yourself means to benefit or strengthen yourself. So there is a personal benefit to the person who speaks with tongues. That’s reason enough to want to do it!
Believers who spend time building themselves up, by praying in the Holy Ghost, (Jude 20) seem to be more frequently led by the Spirit and more frequently used in the other gifts of the Spirit. It's natural that someone who spends time exercising his spirit by speaking with tongues, will wax strong in spirit.
Notice that the believer can decide at will when to pray with tongues and when to pray with his understanding:
I CORINTHIANS 14:14,15
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15 What is it then? I WILL pray with the spirit, and I WILL pray with the understanding also...
Paul said I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding. Once the believer has been baptized with the Holy Ghost and initially spoken with tongues, from that moment on he can choose to pray in an unknown tongue at any time he likes.
Paul also said we can bless and give thanks to God, with our spirit (I Corinthians 14:16).
Paul also said that when when someone speaks with tongues, “in the spirit he speaketh mysteries” (I Corinthians 14:2). I like it that we can be pouring forth divine mysteries. When you've spent time speaking mysteries with tongues, they pour out of your mouth in English a lot more frequently too.
The benefits are as varied as the tongues themselves. Paul called it “divers kinds of tongues” (I Corinthians 12:10).
I know a minister who seemed always ready to be used by God with a word of knowledge or a gift of healing. The supernatural seemed natural to him. He said the key to staying filled with the Spirit is to pray an hour a day with tongues. He explained that it's easy to do: you can speak with tongues in the shower, while you're doing the washing, while you travel - and at the end of the day it can easily add up to a total of nearly an hour a day, without too much effort.
I remember being in
In another incident, while I was visiting a certain city to minister, my host family had gone out for the night, so I decided to spend an evening praying alone with tongues. During the prayer time, I kept thinking about the wife of a good friend of mine in a different city. As I prayed with my spirit, I sensed his wife was in some kind of danger. After some time, I felt the burden of prayer lift. Weeks later when I met up with my friend, I asked if anything was wrong with his wife at that time. He informed me that at the very time I was praying, his wife was taken to hospital with a miscarriage. God knew it, but my understanding didn't.
I heard another great testimony of the benefit of speaking with tongues, from Pastor Frank Houston. This incident occurred at a time when he had already been preaching for many years since he was a young man, and had served as a Pastor and Superintendent of his denomination in
His wife wanted to go away for a two-week holiday, and it was decided that he would stay behind and paint the house - so she went with friends. While spending eight hours alone with the mundane task of painting, Frank wanted to make the time spiritually worthwhile, so he decided to spend the time speaking with tongues. He wondered what the neighbour thought of him! During that time, while speaking with tongues nearly eight hours per day for two weeks, Frank had a dream. In the dream, he was told to go to
At his age, many would think of retiring. But to instead relocate to
The uses and benefits of speaking with tongues, to the church, and to oneself and to God, are varied and cannot be underestimated.
Jesus said that the presence of the Holy Spirit with us after the day of Pentecost would actually be better for us than Jesus' physical presence on earth:
7 ...It is expedient [suitable, advisable] for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [the Holy Ghost] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
If I could have something better than the physical presence of Jesus to be with me and never leave me, I'd want it, wouldn't you? Well we can. It's promised to us.
Imagine, the third person of the Godhead, who was active in Creation - the precious, powerful, gentle Holy Spirit – has been poured out into the world by the ascended Jesus, and is available to me.
What an awesome privilege, not just to believe in Jesus, but now to be baptized with the Holy Ghost, by our resurrected Lord Jesus Himself!
How to Receive the Holy Ghost
Lastly now, how to receive the Holy Ghost:
By asking (Luke 11:13);
By the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17, 9:17, 19:6);
And sometimes, He just falls where there is faith (Acts 10:44).
Why not take a moment now and ask Jesus to baptize you with the Holy Ghost. I've known it to happen to people alone in their bedroom, walking home from school along a footpath, in a park, with a friend, or in a church, with the laying-on of hands or without.
“Ask and ye shall receive...for everyone that asketh receiveth” (Matt.7:7,8).
Here's a beautiful encouragement concerning asking:
26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
We ourselves can ask the Father anything, in Jesus' Name. To ask in Jesus' Name means that when we ask, it will be just as if Jesus Himself were asking. We have no need that Jesus ask the Father on our behalf, because the Father loves us just as well. Hallelujah!
Therefore you can be confident that the Father will be delighted to give the Holy Spirit to you when you ask. You could pray a prayer like this:
“Father, I ask in Jesus' Name, that you send the Holy Spirit to me. May the Lord Jesus baptize me now with the Holy Ghost. Thank you that you have heard me, and I now believe I have received what I have asked”.
Now spend some time worshipping and thanking Him, and allow that new language to bubble up out of your belly, and speak it to God. Out of your belly will flow rivers of living water!
Thank you for taking the time to read through this exhortation.
It is my prayer for you, that God will bring you more and more into all the good things He has in store for those who love Him, for those who are the called according to His purpose.