Next to my salvation, this has been THE key event of my walk with Jesus. In the years since then, it has became a richer and deeper part of my life than I could ever have imagined. It is as natural to me as breathing. Since this experience changed my life so dramatically, I have a deep desire to share it with others. In this second part in our series of messages on tongues, I wanted to devote the entire article to dealing with questions about the availability of this wonderful experience to all believers.
I. ARE TONGUES AVAILABLE TO ALL CHRISTIANS?
In 1 Corinthians 12:30, Paul asks the hypothetical question "Do all speak in tongues?" This has led some to the conclusion that tongues as a whole are only for a select few Christians.
However, as we discussed in our last message, there are three different manifestations of tongues. The context of Paul's above mentioned statement is a discussion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, tongues being one of them. He is giving instruction for the proper use of the gifts in a church service. When Paul speaks of tongues in this setting, he is referring to the ministry gift of tongues, which, as previously stated, is only one of the three, and is only given by the Holy Spirit in certain situations. This type of tongues is a sign to unbelievers. However, we read other instances in Scripture where people spoke in tongues, and no unbelievers were present (see Acts 10:46; 19:6, as well as note 1 below), giving further proof that this is not the exclusive purpose for tongues.
As for the other two manifestations of tongues, however, there are a number of Scriptures that clearly teach that they are for all Christians:
2. At the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, ALL spoke with tongues. (Acts 2:4)
3. Throughout the Book of Acts, there is a consistent pattern of tongues being the initial evidence when someone is baptized in the Holy Spirit. See Acts 2:1-4;Acts 10:44-46;Acts 19:2-7. (more on this next question.)
4. Paul desired all Christians to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5)
5. The exhortations to "Pray in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18 )and "in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20,) terms synonymous with praying in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:14-16,) are directed to all Christians.
For futher comparison, here is a chart summarizing and contrasting the different aspects of tongues:
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a supernatural empowerment from God into the Christian's life. It can happen at the moment a person is first saved, but as the following verses point out, it is normatively an event subsequent to salvation. (For more on this, see our message on The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Since the baptism is a supernatural experience, it would stand to reason that it would by accompanied by a supernatural sign or evidence. Looking at the Biblical pattern, we see that this sign is speaking in tongues.
There are five recorded instances in the Book of Acts of people receiving the baptism. Each time, it either says the people spoke in tongues, or at least strongly implies that they did. Let's look at each case on an individual basis:
THE BELIEVERS AT SAMARIA- Acts 8:14-24-Here the apostles receive the wonderful news of the Gospel spreading into Samaria. Upon hearing this, they immediately sent Peter and John to pray for them, so that they could receive the Holy Spirit. While they are ministering to these believers, a sorcerer named Simon sees this miraculous event, and offers Peter and John money for the ability to impart the Holy Spirit to others. Of course, Peter sharply rebukes him, telling him he has no part or lot in this matter (verse 20.) Although this account does not specifically mention tongues, it is important to notice two things:
2. In verse 20, when Peter tells Simon that he has no part or lot in this matter, it is interesting to note that the word "matter" in the Greek can also be translated "utterance!" Simon had no part or lot in the UTTERANCE that he saw.
PAUL AND ANANIAS-Acts 9:17-18-After his dramatic encounter with God on the road to Damascus, Paul receives a visit from a man named Ananias, who was sent by God so that Paul, who had been blinded during the Damascus encounter, might "receive his sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost ." Although this particular passage does not state that Paul spoke in tongues, we know he did because he later wrote to the Corinthian church "I thank my God I speak in tongues more than you all ." ( 1 Corinthians 14:18) .
PETER AND THE FAMILY OF CORNELIUS-Acts 10:44-46-Cornelius and his family were the first Gentiles (non Jews) to ever become Christians. In the dramatic account of their conversion, we see Cornelius seeking God, who sends an angel to tell him to seek out the Apostle Peter, who, at the same time, was told by the Holy Spirit that Cornelius' men were looking for him. Peter obediently goes to visit Cornelius, and shares the Gospel with him and his family. While Peter was preaching to them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues . The Jewish believers were astonished at this, because this Gentile family had received the Holy Spirit just like they had. Notice that when they witnessed this wonderful event, THE evidence that they recognized was that "they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God." ( verse 46) .
PAUL AND THE EPHESIAN BELIEVERS- Acts 19:2-7- While passing through the city of Ephesus, Paul encounters a group of disciples and quickly asks them "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" They responded that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul then gives them some further instruction, baptizes them in water, and lays hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. When they do, they speak in tongues, as well as prophesy.
III. I KNOW MANY WONDERFUL CHRISTIANS WHO DON'T SPEAK IN TONGUES.IF TONGUES ARE AVAILABLE TO ALL CHRISTIANS,WHAT ABOUT THEM?
I also know many great Christian people who have never uttered a word in tongues. I have also known a few Christians who did speak in tongues who were downright mean! The issue here is the FRUIT of the Holy Spirit vs. the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit.
When a person is Born Again, the Holy Spirit comes to INDWELL him. All Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. As the Christian yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit produces His fruits- love, joy, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23) in the believer's life. However, when he is baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit comes to EMPOWER him. This produces the Spirit's supernatural power and gifts in the believer.(Acts 1:8).
This being said, it is possible to operate in the fruit of the Spirit, but not the gifts of the Spirit. At the same time, it is possible to operate in the gifts of the Spirit, but not the fruit of the Spirit. This was a problem in the Corinthian church, who in spite of lots of spiritual manifestations such as tongues, were still chastised by the Apostle Paul for being carnal (1 Corinthians 3:3.) Paul also said that without love, tongues are less than worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1.)
It is not my intention to in any way imply that Christians who don't speak in tongues are any less saved, or are any less in love with Jesus than Christians who do. Possibly, because of there background, denomination, or some other factor, they simply haven't been taught about tongues. Like the Ephesian believers Paul encountered in Acts 19:2-7, they simply are not aware that such an experience is available to them.
God wants us to operate in both the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit. We must keep a balanced, focused view on this. I don't claim that speaking in tongues has made me a better Christian than anyone else, but I do know this-It has made me a better Christian than I was before!
IV. IF IT IS GOD'S WILL FOR ALL CHRISTIANS TO SPEAK IN TONGUES, THEN WHY DO SOME HAVE TROUBLE RECEIVING THEIR PRAYER LANGUAGES?
When properly instructed, most Christians receive their prayer language quickly and easily. However, there are very sincere believers who, for whatever reason, struggle in this area. For some, it becomes a source of frustration and discouragement. Why does this happen? While I can't address every possible scenario, here are a few of the most common:
Codemnation-Some Christians feel that they are not "worthy" to speak in tongues. However, if we were perfect, we wouldn't need it anyway! The only prerequisite to being baptized in the Holy Spirit is that you be born again. You do not receive it through your performance. You receive it through faith in God's grace (see Galatians 3:2). If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, then you are ready to receive! You are no longer unworthy in His sight. You are forgiven and accepted by Him. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Claim this wonderful promise as yours, and determine to never again allow condemnation to rob you of God's blessing.
Fear-Although we discussed this in the previous message, it bares stating again: Jesus promises in In Luke 11:9-13 that if we ask Him for bread, He will not give us a stone. Verse 13 assures us beyond any question that if we ask God for the Holy Spirit, that is exactly what we will get. For more on this, see question VIII of Tongues FAQ 1.
Not understanding what to expect-A common misconception is that when we speak in tongues, the Holy Spirit "grabs" our mouths and forces words out of us. This is not true at all. In Acts 2:4, notice that the people "...began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." It was the Spirit who gave the utterance, but they were the ones who had to the speaking. In addition, Paul's instruction on when it is and is not appropriate to speak in tongues (see 1 Corinthians 14:6-13; 16-17; 23-25, 27-28) further shows us that the response is an act of our will.
V. DO I HAVE TO SPEAK IN TONGUES?
No,you don't HAVE to, you GET to! As we discussed in the previous message, Scripture exhorts us to covet, or as the literal Greek puts it, to "pursue with passion" the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31.) Being filled with the Spirit, and operating in this realm is an awesome privilege!
You can be genuinely saved, love Jesus with all your heart, and go to Heaven when you die, and never speak in tongues. At the same time, however, you will miss out on many of the wonderful blessings and benefits that God has for you that are directly linked to speaking in tongues.
God is a Spirit, and He wants to relate to us on the spirit level (John 4:24.) The natural person can't receive the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14.) We must go into the Spirit realm to draw them out. Without tongues, we will never fully enter into that spirit realm in our prayer lives. We can, and should pray to God in our natural language (1 Corinthians 14:15.) He understands English perfectly well! However, we are still very finite, limited creatures, with only three and a half pounds of brain with which to communicate with the vastness of the creator of the universe! When we pray in tongues, our spirit prays (1 Corinthians 14:14,) and we communicate with God Spirit to spirit, speaking mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:2) to Him. (The word "mysteries" in the Greek means "divine secrets, knowledge unrevealed to the uninitiated.") We will further explore this, as well as the many other benefits of praying in tongues, in the next message. One of the reasons Jesus died was so that we could experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 16:7.) Don't miss it!
© 1999, 2003 JHB
(1) See the book Concerning Spiritual Gifts by Donald Gee, chapter 9, "Tongues and Interpretation".
(2) For those needing further help in this area, I recommend John Osteen's book "Overcoming Hindrances to Receiving the Baptism In the Holy Spirit", as well as Harald Bredesen's video presentation "How To Receive the Baptism In the Holy Spirit and Share It With Others."
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