The Spirit and Tongues
Today, we are continuing our message series “Living in the Spirit.” In this series, we looking at the importance of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. Last week, we studied The Baptism in the Spirit. It was a very important message, so if you missed it, I’d encourage you to watch it online. Let’s review some of what we learned, in order to prepare us for today’s topic.
After Jesus rose from the dead, He breathed the Spirit into His disciples and they were born again. However, there was still something lacking.
Acts 1:4-5 (NIV) … he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Before they began the mission that Jesus was giving them, His disciples needed something else. Jesus commanded them to wait and pray for the promise of the Father. This promise was for them to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. They needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus, just as we do today. The promise was received on the day of Pentecost as recorded in
Acts 2:4 (NIV) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Spirit baptism is an initial filling with the Spirit. It always has the evidence of speaking in other tongues or languages through the power of the Spirit. Later that day, Peter preached to the gathered crowd that they needed to do three things.
Acts 2:38-39 (NIV) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
The three things that the crowd was commanded to do were to repent of their sins, be baptized in water and receive the gift of the Spirit, Spirit baptism. Peter adds that the promise of Spirit baptism was not just for the disciples. Spirit baptism was for the gathered crowd, it was for their children and it was for every believer.
Today, our message is entitled “The Spirit and Tongues.” We’re going to be talking about the biblical evidence for Spirit baptism, speaking in tongues. First of all, what is speaking in tongues? Speaking in tongues is simply speaking in a language that you don’t know as you are enabled by the Spirit. According to 1 Corinthians 13:1, this unknown language could be either a language of men or angels. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples publicly spoke in tongues in a multitude of earthly languages. These languages were understood by different language speakers in the crowd.
Acts 2:6 (NIV) When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.
This use of public tongues was as a sign to unbelievers. We’ll talk more about this kind of tongues in a future message. Peter preached after this and said that these tongues were a sign of the Holy Spirit being poured out in the last days.
Acts 2:16-17 (NIV) No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
The last days is the time from when Jesus ascended into heaven until when He returns again to this earth. So, you and I are living in the last days which has been going on for over 2000 years. In the last days, the Spirit is continually being poured out on every believer who will receive Him, as the believers did on that first day of Pentecost. So, now let’s look at this the topic of speaking in tongues in more detail according to Scripture. As there is a lot of Scripture on the topic, we will just be summarizing some of the most important points.
Tongues is the evidence of Spirit baptism
Last Sunday, we refuted the common view that every believer is Spirit baptized when they are saved. The Bible teaches that Spirit baptism is a separate experience subsequent to salvation. How do you know that you have been Spirit baptized? The Bible teaches that the evidence is the person Spirit baptized speaks in tongues. Today, we have time to look at one passage that shows this in Acts 10 where Peter is preaching to unsaved Gentiles. So, Peter has just presented the Gospel and the crowd believes in Jesus. Let’s see what happened next.
Tongues were the sign of Spirit baptism for Peter
Acts 10:44-48 (NIV) While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
In this case, the people were so hungry for God and His Spirit, that they began to be baptized in the Spirit, as Peter was still speaking. Notice how the Bible says that Peter knew the Gentiles had been Spirit baptized. It says they knew because they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Peter concludes that the new believers had “received the Holy Spirit just as we have” referring back to the day of Pentecost.
So, the new Spirit baptized believers were also baptized in water. Usually, in the New Testament, new believers are baptized in water first and then receive Spirit baptism, but here the order is reversed. So, tongues were the sign of Spirit baptism for Peter. Our story continues to show us that …
Tongues were the proof of Spirit baptism for the Jerusalem church
Peter had to give a report of what had happened with these Gentile believers to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Here is what he said.
Acts 11:15-18 (NIV) “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Notice that again reiterates that the Holy Spirit came on the new believers, just as He had come on the disciples on the day of Pentecost, that is with speaking in tongues. Peter also clearly identifies the experience as the Spirit baptism that Jesus had taught them to wait for. Peter calls Spirit baptism a gift that is given to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, of course, those who show the proof of Spirit baptism are also clearly saved. The leadership of the Jerusalem church accepted that tongues were the proof of Spirit baptism and welcomed the new believers.
There are a number of other accounts of Spirit baptism in Acts. The evidence always being the visible, audible evidence of speaking in tongues. The rest of the New Testament writers, then assume that all believers are both water baptized and Spirit baptized, which means they speak in tongues as well. If you read the rest of the New Testament with that in mind, it will clear up a lot of things for you.
Why is this important? Well, this morning, every believer now can answer the question of whether you have been Spirit baptized or not. You have been Spirit baptized if you have spoken in tongues. If you have not spoken in tongues, you have not been Spirit baptized. If you have not been Spirit baptized, I would encourage you to obey Jesus’ command and be baptized in the Spirit. I gave details of how to seek Spirit baptism in last Sunday’s message, which we don’t have time to repeat today.
Why did God choose tongues?
For many people who have not studied the Bible carefully, they wonder why would God choose such a strange thing as tongues to be the evidence of Spirit baptism. Actually, when you study, tongues make a whole lot of sense.
John 7:38-39 (NIV) Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
First of all, we can clearly identify what Jesus is talking about here. He speaks of the Spirit being given after Jesus was glorified. In Acts 2:33, Peter identifies Spirit baptism as what the glorified Jesus has poured out on the disciples. This Spirit baptism is spoken of by Jesus in John as being like rivers of living water flowing from within them. Spirit baptism is like a river flowing upward to God in worship, flowing outward to unbelievers in evangelism and flowing inward to the believer in edification. You see …
The tongue expresses what is in the heart
Luke 6:45 (NIV) A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
When the Spirit baptizes you and completely fills your life, your mouth will reflect the presence of the Spirit in your heart by speaking forth the words of the Spirit, which are tongues.
Tongues are God’s power expressed in humility
1 Corinthians 14:2 (NIV) For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.
Tongues are prayer, but it is prayer which your mind does not comprehend, because you don’t know what you’re saying. You are not in any control of what you are saying. Now, you are in total control of whether you speak aloud in tongues or not. However, the content of your prayer in tongues is being generated, not by you, but by the Holy Spirit. To be baptized by the Spirit, you must yield you tongue to the Spirit, to allow Him to speak through you, things that you know nothing of.
It takes great humility to yield your tongue to the Spirit in this way. This is why some people have trouble receiving Spirit baptism. They cannot let go of control of their tongues. They cannot humble themselves to allow the Spirit to take control. Tongues are God’s power expressed in those with a humble heart.
I believe that the greatest impediment to receiving Spirit baptism is pride. It may be the pride that thinks that I don’t need anything new, I’m doing just fine the way I am. I’ve never believed in this before, why should I change now. Well, once you’ve heard the truth, you need to change because Jesus commands it. He offers you a gift that you desperately need to fulfill your purpose in life.
Another type of pride that inhibits Spirit baptism is the fear of losing control. What will the Spirit make me do if I give Him control of my tongues and life? Jesus answered that question in Luke 11:13, where He clearly teaches that the gift of the Spirit is a good gift that you need not fear. Continue to pray and seek God until you receive His gift of Spirit baptism.
The benefits of praying in tongues
1 Corinthians 14:18 (NIV) I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
Paul wrote these words to the church at Corinth who had some aspects of tongues out of control in a public setting. Paul, the most powerful and gifted apostle who has ever lived, unequivocally says that tongues is so important to him that he speaks in tongues more that everyone else and he thanks God for it. This is the apostle who instructed us to follow him as he followed Christ. If Paul saw such great value in tongues, then we should as well.
Tongues spiritually strengthens you
1 Corinthians 14:4a (NIV) Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves …
This verse alone is enough for us to speak in tongues as much as possible. Remember, when you are speaking in tongues, the Spirit is praying through you for you. We’ll talk more about that in a minute. So, when you pray in tongues, you are spiritually strengthening, building yourself up, which is what edifies means. It’s like spiritual weight lifting. The more you speak in tongues, the stronger you get. The next benefit of tongues is …
You can pray continually in tongues
1 Corinthians 14:14 (NIV) For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we should pray continually. I always thought that was impossible, until I began to understand more about tongues. You see, when you pray in tongues, according to 1 Corinthians 14:14, your spirit is praying, but your mind is unfruitful, your mind is not involved. What that means is that you can multitask. You can be praying with your spirit in tongues while your mind is occupied with something else. So, you can pray in tongues, driving, exercising, reading, watching television and doing just about everything except things that use your tongue like speaking in English or eating. The possibilities are endless.
Prayer in tongues is always answered
Romans 8:26-27 (NIV) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
I know we mentioned these verses last Sunday, but they are so important. Once you realize that Paul is writing here of speaking in tongues, the implications are so incredible. When the Spirit intercedes or prays through you in tongues, He is praying for you in perfect keeping with the will of God. Your mind may have no idea what to pray for in a given situation. But when you pray in tongues, the Spirit prays a perfect prayer that will always be answered because it is God’s will. How many answers to prayer and blessings have we forfeited because we did not realize the value of praying in tongues?
Tongues defeats temptation
Ephesians 6:18a (NIV) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
In Ephesians 6, Paul lists the elements of our spiritual armor. Most people think he ends with the offensive weapon of the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. However, I believe that the last weapon that Paul lists and the most important is praying in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. You see, when you pray in the Spirit on all occasions, He will pray through you with all kinds of prayers and requests that are perfectly suited for the occasion.
Here’s one way to use the weapon of tongues. When you sense yourself being tempted, simply begin to pray in tongues. As you pray, the temptation will quickly lose its power just disappear. Try it, it does work, it’s incredible.
You know, I was Spirit baptized back in college and I have spoken in tongues in my daily quiet time with God for many years. I know it has benefited me. However, it was just this year, decades later, that God began to open my eyes to the power of speaking in tongues. I have realized that I have barely scratched the surface of this incredibly powerful gift.
You can speak in tongues simply moving your lips and your tongue, you don’t have to make a sound. Or you can speak it out. As you speak in tongues, you can be praying with your mind. Often, the Spirit will guide your mind’s prayers as you pray in tongues. When you speak in tongues, the Spirit will often give revelation, wisdom and knowledge to your mind and not just on spiritual topics. I encourage you, if you’ve been Spirit baptized, to begin to speak in tongues a lot more and see what God will do in your life.
I’ve just finished a very good book on tongues, of which there are few, called “The Walk of the Spirit, The Walk of Power.” It’s available free of charge by the author and I will post the links in the Resources section of the Life Groups and Sunday Growth Class on the Realm website. If you haven’t accepted your email invitation to Realm, just click the link. We’ll keep sending you reminders until you do. We don’t want you to miss out.
The Spirit and tongues conclusion
So, today, we’ve spoken about the relationship of speaking in tongues to Spirit baptism. Tongues is the biblical evidence of Spirit baptism. Once you’ve been Spirit baptized and spoken in tongues, you can speak in tongues whenever you desire. The more you speak in tongues, the more fluent you will become and the easier it will be.
Next Sunday, we’re going to talk more about how to grow after you’re Spirit baptized. A lot of people get Spirit baptized and then never really take advantage of the dimension of Spirit-filled living that they’ve come into. God choose tongues as a wonderful part of Spirit baptism to teach us to surrender our tongues to His Spirit. As we do more and more, there are many benefits to praying in tongues, that’s why Paul did it more than anyone else. Don’t miss out on what God has for you. Those who hunger and thirst for more of God and His Spirit will be filled.