THE EARLY CHURCH (6)/ THE GIFT OF TONGUES
During the Sunday service, Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The Early Church (6)/ The gift of tongues. Her main text was taken from the Book of Acts and the Book of 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14.
We continue to study the early church, to discover the perfect pattern God has in mind about the Body of Christ. We see that the first Christians had a spiritual power and boldness to preach the Gospel and to pray. They loved the Word of God and their fellowship with one another. They were generous with their resources, helping the needy. They loved the name of Jesus and used it with authority. Signs and wonders accompanied their ministry. They were persecuted for their faith, but they were always victorious in all circumstances. Their faith and boldness were beautiful. When the Holy Spirit was poured on the believers on the day of Pentecost, there were visible and audible signs that accompanied it. He came as a Wind and as a Fire. The brethren started speaking in new languages, praising God. This was God’s gift to them that attracted the attention of many people from different countries. Peter preached to the people with authority and power. Three thousand of men got converted that day. We shall study the gift of tongues.
The word ‘tongues’ means languages. The gift of tongues (or Glossolalia, in Greek) is defined as a gift of the Holy Spirit given to believers in Christ and manifested as speaking in a language not previously known to the speaker. The gift also manifests as praying, or singing, usually in an unintelligible ecstatic speech. As with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift of tongues is given for the good of the Body of Christ and to encourage the believers. It is received by faith, thru prayer in the name of Jesus!
The Christian life is based on the study of the Word of God and prayer. These are the basics. Gifts are given by God to help the believer become stronger. No gift should replace the study of the Bible and prayer. The truth is that most of the saints of old did not speak in tongues, or at least they did not say that they did. There is much argument among Christians about the value of the gift of tongues. Some denominations, like the Pentecostals and the Charismatics, believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is always manifested thru the gift of tongues. Other evangelicals do not insist on having this gift. There is also argument between the Christians about the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of tongues. They believe that ‘tongues’ were only necessary for the early church and have ceased since then. Others say that the gift of tongues is still manifesting today. Many Christian forbid praying in tongues saying it is a gift from the devil. We shall not join the arguments. We shall simply keep to the Word of God and declare only what we are sure about. May the Holy Spirit lead us on.
This gift did not manifest in the Old Testament or during the time of Jesus. The only place this gift is mentioned in the Gospels is at the end of the Book of Mark and it is a prophecy. Just before His ascension, the resurrected Christ told His disciples: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:15-18). Living faith will manifest as successful deliverance and healing ministry, speaking in new tongues, and supernatural protection from deadly attacks. The gift of tongues is described in the Book of Acts 2, 10 and 19 and in the Book of 1 Corinthians, chapters 12, 13 and 14.
As believers, we declare that Jesus Christ is the Savior, Lord, Healer, and Baptizer with the Holy Spirit. When you become saved, the Holy Spirit comes into you, like a sample of greater things. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit baptizes you into the Body of Christ. That Baptism is not always ‘felt’ as an experience, but it is real, nevertheless. After that experience of salvation, you need to pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Many call the first filling ‘the baptism with the Holy Spirit’. It is a clear experience, a spiritual reality. It is not an imagination to be taken ‘by faith’. As water is poured into a bottle, making a gurgling noise, so the Holy Spirit fills you. You feel it! You can describe it! Often, but not always, it manifests as speaking in tongues. The believer cannot but praise God in the new heavenly language of angels (1 Cor 13:1). The effect of this first filling with the Spirit is power and joy. The believer becomes bold to declare his salvation. He is not afraid of men’s opinions of their persecution. He loves the Bible, prayer and going to church. He desires to publicly declare his stand for Jesus thru water baptism.
The gift of ‘Tongues’ has two manifestations: ‘speaking in tongues’, and ‘praying in tongues.’
*TONGUES as prophetic speech! The Gift of the Holy Spirit called ‘tongues’ is not given to everybody. It is a prophetic speech, an utterance in another language, spoken in the assembly, as people listen. In the church, that gift needs a secondary gift called ‘the interpretation of tongues,’. It is for the benefit of all the members of the Body. God speaks to His people. Therefore, it is a prophetic gift.
*TONGUES as prayer! This is a personal gift of prayer in an unknown tongue. Each born again Christian can receive this prayer language, by faith and thru prayer. How does it manifest? The believer prays to God in a new language. His understanding is not active. He prays mysteries. He does not understand what he is praying for, but he believes that he is praying, that God listens, and God understands. He also believed that the devil does not understand his prayer. At the end of the prayer, he feels good, with a peace and a satisfaction that God will answer him. When praying in tongues, the Holy Spirit prays thru him according to the will of God. As he prays in tongues, God may give him some glimpse of His will, a vision for the future, or a word to obey. This personal gift of praying in the Spirit is mostly for the personal encouragement of the believer, so that later, he will encourage the church.
THE GIFT OF TONGUES IN THE BOOK OF ACTS
During the pouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, there were some visible and audible manifestations that were unique for that day. For example, the Holy Spirit filled the house and the disciples, like a ‘rushing mighty wind’. There were visible flames of fire like tongues on the head of each of the disciples. They started speaking in new tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The strangers in Jerusalem heard them speaking in their own languages ‘the wonderful works of God’. They were all amazed and perplexed at what they saw and heard. Some mockers said: ‘They are full of new wine’. The people saw that the disciples were ‘filled’ with something. But like Peter said, these were not drunk with wine. They were ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit. The sound, sights and tongues attracted all people. These were signs and miracles God used to Baptize the disciples into a new Body called the Church. Peter describes these visible and audible signs as miracles from heaven, sent from the resurrected and exalted Christ, to fill the disciples on earth. He said: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Ac 2:32. 33).
Concerning the speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost, we can say this: all the disciples spoke in different human languages of different nations. These tongues were supernatural. The disciples did not learn these new languages. They did not need an interpreter because they spoke in the known human languages. They felt a pressure to manifest this gift. They could not stop speaking these languages as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. The languages were ‘a sign for the unbelievers’ (1 Cor 14:22). It attracted them to hear the sermon of Peter, who preached with unusual power and anointing. Three thousand men believed and were added to the church that day.
The second time the gift of speaking in tongues was manifested is when Peter preached the Gospel to Cornelius and his household. The Holy Spirit fell on these Gentile believers even before Peter finished his sermon. They started speaking in new tongues. This was a supernatural sign, not to the unbelievers, but to the believers, to Peter and to some Jewish brethren from Joppa who followed him. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46).
The third incident of speaking in tongues was in Ephesus. Paul met some disciples who repented and were baptized in water. But they have not heard about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Paul explains to them that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and is now exalted in heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit to baptize all the believers. “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” (Acts 19:4-6). This is the first case when the Baptism with the Holy Spirit came thru the laying of Pauls’ hands.
THE GIFT OF TONGUES IN THE BOOK OF 1 CORINTHIANS 12, 13, and 14
These are the revelations concerning speaking in tongues by believers in the church:
*The Holy Spirit is one! The Body is One! The Holy Spirit is sovereign in giving gifts to each believer. There are many members, many gifts, and many ministries. But the Holy Spirit keeps the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).
*The Holy Spirit gives different gifts for the benefit of the Body and for the profit of all. Gifts are not to be used selfishly for man’s glory!
*The gift of tongues at Pentecost was manifested by all the believers but in the Church, the gift of prophetic tongues is not given to all.
*The gift of tongues appears to be the least of the gifts, considering its value to the Body, and comparing it to the other gifts. The gift of tongues appears at the end of the list of gifts. The gift of the Apostle is always first, and the gift of the Prophet is second. The gift of tongues does not appear in the other lists of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:11-16 and 1 Peter 4:10, 11).
*We are commanded to pursue Love as the most excellent way and to eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. The word ‘prophesy’ means to speak, preach, or sing totally led by the Holy Spirit. It means to bring a fresh revelation of the Word of God that will strengthen the Church. It means to shine the light of the Word of God in the darkness of unbelief. It is a preaching that is totally Christ honoring. Having gifts and lacking love is useless as a testimony. The gifts of prophesy and tongues shall cease when ‘the perfection’ comes. When we shall see Christ face to face, at His second coming, we do not need intermediary gifts like prophesy or tongues.
*The gift of prophesy (preaching under the anointing of the Holy Spirit) has more value than speaking in tongues, at least in the church. The tongues need the secondary gift of interpretation, so that the people understand what was spoken in tongues. The gift of interpretation is not translation of tongues. The believer ‘interprets’ what the other speaks in tongues. Both these gifts are from the Holy Spirit, and they work together. Without an interpreter, the believer who desire to speak in tongues in the church, should keep silent. Prophetic utterance is faster than tongues because it is spoken in the language of all and does not need interpreter.
*As believers we should desire gifts that will strengthen the Church, for the benefit of all. Spiritual power for ministry is the greatest gain!
*The gift of praying in tongues is to strengthen the believer himself. As a believer I pray, or sing, with both my understanding and in my spirit, when my understanding is suspended. The two forms of singing or praying have their own functions. We should balance them to help the church and each one individually. The gift of praying in tongues releases spiritual strength and joy to the believer!!!
*There are false tongues too. The devil can give counterfeit gifts of tongues. What is the test? If the Holy Spirit has given you the tongue, you will encourage and strengthen yourself when you pray in tongues. If you pray in tongues and you are still weak spiritually, it is possible that you are manifesting a fake gift of tongues.
*There are great dangers connected with speaking in tongues. Many are faking the gift, becoming religious hypocrites. Others have become proud and manipulative, seeing them as proof of God’s blessing and trying to control the assembly. But many Christians see them as genuine gifts and something to be thankful for.
*Passionately desire to prophesy (preach the Word of God under the anointing of the Holy Spirit)! Do not forbid to speak with tongues!
*All things in the church should be done in order, submitting to the Holy Spirit, the authority of the Word, and to the human delegated authority! The gifts of the Spirit do not put you in a trance. Be yourself! Be humble! All gifts should be under the control of the believer’s spirit!
THE SIGNS THAT YOU ARE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
The first time you get filled with the Holy Spirit, it is a special experience. It is not an imagination. You ‘feel’ the Holy Spirit being poured into your very soul and body. That first filling it is usually called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. After that, you are to obey the command to be refiled always with the same Spirit. “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph 5:18-21).
The filling with the Holy Spirit is similar like being drunk with wine. The effect of the alcohol is that it affects your brain and other organs. Alcohol does not digest. It passes directly into the blood stream. Its effect is fast. Alcohol is a depressant that manifests as a stimulant. It depresses the higher centers in the brain, the part of you that makes you a human being, that gives you self-control and discipline. The effect of the alcohol is that you now behave ‘like an animal’. You feel good, you lose your anxiety and start talking too much. Your speech is slurred, sounding as tongues. You now feel bold and courageous. Embolden, you make wrong decisions that you will regret later. All these symptoms of feeling good are temporary. They soon disappear and you feel worse than before. You become addicted to alcohol because you want to keep feeling high. Alcoholism is ‘dissipation’. In Greek, the word ‘dissipation’ means reckless behavior, rioting, or wastefulness. The man addicted to alcohol is like the prodigal son, unable to save his life, his money or anything good. Alcoholism leads to poverty, loss of reputation and death.
We are commanded to ‘be filled with the Spirit’. In Greek, the word ‘filled’ is at present tense. It shows a continuous present action. You are being filled now! The word means to fill a container, to finish what you have started. These are the effects of being filled with the Holy Spirit:
*Speech! The speech changes. You are now bold to speak to others from the Word of God!
*Sing! You are joyful in all circumstances. This joy manifest as freedom and passion to sing praise and worship songs. You hate secular songs.
*Submit! You become humble and you submit to other brethren in the fear of God!
*Thanksgiving! You become a humble and a deeply grateful person, to the God who saved your soul! Your relationship with your spouse, your children and other people is much better, giving glory to God!
As you can see, the gift of speaking in tongues is not mentioned here as a sign or a proof of being filled with the Spirit. Boldness in preaching, anointing in singing, humility to submit to others, a grateful heart, and a clear testimony of a godly behavior pattern, at home and with others, these are the sure signs of a believer filled and led by the Holy Spirit!
BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
First, this a necessary reminder: only a true child of God can be filled with the holy Spirit! How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit?
1-Desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Not every believer desire to be filled with the Spirit. This is because once the Holy Spirit takes control over your life, you will not be able to do what you want anymore. You need to die to self and live for the glory of God alone! The baby Christians still struggle with these things. They are still selfish. You need to search your heart if you are ready for a total surrender to God!
2-Present your body as a living sacrifice and a spiritual temple, to be filled with the Holy Spirit! God wants you to be at a particular place, doing His will. Your body should be where God wants you to be. Rebellion about your location and sexual sin hinder the filling with the Holy Spirit!
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1). God has been good to you. He has shown you mercy. Your body belongs to Him. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:15-20). “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands and territories” (Ac 17:26; AMP).
3-Pray in faith! Ask God to fill you with His Spirit. Patiently, continue to pray until God fills you! Then give thanks and serve God. “So, I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:9-13). Often, but not always, the filling with the Holy Spirit manifests as praying in tongues and great joy!
THE BENEFITS OF PRAYING IN TONGUES
*Praying in tongues gives a greater spiritual power to speak to God alone. It increases the spiritual intimacy with God. It brings supernatural joy in the believer! It makes you feel comfortable to speak ‘mysteries’, to worship God in Spirit and in Truth! “He who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries” (1 Corinthians 14:2).
*Praying in tongues feeds and build your inner man, your spirit! At the end of the prayer, you feel spiritually stronger. Fear and confusion are removed. “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (1 Corinthians 14:4). You feel happy and strong, trusting God for the victory!
*Praying in tongues balances the praying in your human language. Both your mind and your spirit need exercise. Praying only in English can make you proud. Praying in togues humbles you! “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:14, 15).
*Praying in tongues is a way for the Spirit to supply ‘utterance’ to you, that can be used later as a word of Wisdom. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4)
*Praying in tongues inspires you to worship God better, to magnify Him, by declaring His wonderful works of God! “We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). “For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:46)
*Praying in tongues connects you with the prayer of the Holy Spirit inside your spirit. Even when you do not know what to pray about, or how to pray, the Holy Spirit will help you pray the right prayer. In this way, you never pray amiss. You always pray acceptable prayers. God will always answer you because you pray according to God’s will and purpose. The effect of these spiritual prayers is that suddenly, you see that ‘all things work together for good’ for you and God takes all the glory! “Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. 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 uttered. 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. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:26-28)
*Praying in tongues relaxes your spirit and gives you rest in your mind, your emotions, and your body. It brings healing. “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” (Isaiah 28:11, 12). In Hebrew, the word ‘rest’ means to settle down in a permanent peaceful comfortable home. It is the same word with: He leads me beside the still (or quiet) waters (Psalm 23:2).
I got saved thru a crisis conversion on the 12th of April 1986. I got filled with the Holy Spirit at the same time. Immediately my life changed. I got a new spirit. I became hungry and thirsty for the Word of God. I started reading the Bible like I have never read a book in my life. This passion for the Word of God and prayer has never left me since then. I lost my fear of death. I had a strong desire to attend a local church and meet other brethren, so that we discuss the things of God. All these are clear signs that I got born again, baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit. About ten years later, as I studied the Bible and saw that there is a gift of speaking, singing, or praying in other tongues, with faith 100%, I asked God for it. He gave it to me. Since then, I love praying in tongues. When I pray in the Spirit, I do not feel fake or funny. I feel good, happy, and comfortable with my prayer language. When I feel the ‘push’ to pray, but I do not have a particular thing in my mind, I pray in tongues. At the end, I feel that God understood me, but the devil did not understand me. I feel like I bypassed the strategy of the devil and that I gained the victory, even when I cannot describe the war that I was involved in. When I pray in English, I feel some limitation. Often, I do not feel satisfied with my English prayer. But when I pray in tongues, I feel like an eagle, flying strong and high, with no fear and no limitations. It is the same with worshipping God in song. I sing in English. It is good. But when I sing without words, like an instrumental music in my spirit, I feel different. I enter the presence of God faster. Praying and singing in the Spirit has given me boldness as a preacher, as a worshipper. In Conclusion, we need to balance praying in English and praying in tongues. Each has its own power and purpose. To God be all the glory! Worship the Lord!