Speaking in tongues is one of the greatest blessings God has ever given to Christians yet on maybe no topic of the Bible is there more confusion and misunderstanding. Some Christians believe speaking in tongues went out with the apostles and does not exist for the church anymore; some say it is for a select few; some say when the Bible came that tongues ceased; some say it was only necessary for evangelism in the first century church and has no use in the church today. We must always go back to the Word of God and let it speak on the truth concerning speaking and tongues and its importance in the Body of Christ.
Luke 24:28,49 (NIV):
48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
When a person is born again they are clothed with power from on high which is the gift of holy spirit.
Acts 1:4-8 (NIV):
4On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 2:38 (NKJV) 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
II Corinthians 1:21 (NIV) 21Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV) 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
I Corinthians 3:16 (ESV): Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
At the time a person confesses Jesus Christ as their Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead(Romans 10:9,10) that person receives the gift of holy spirit as it is permanently sealed inside every Christian, guaranteeing them everlasting life with their Lord. There is no delay in the receiving of this wonderful gift as it is inherent in the salvation that Jesus Christ paid the full price for. The gift of holy spirit is the seal of God’s ownership of us and the mark that we are His beloved children. The receiving of this gift happens immediately at the time of conversion. It does not come later when someone is mature, but at the instant someone is born again. All Christians receive the gift of holy spirit at the time of their new birth.
Some of the confusion has been in not understanding that there are two different Greek words in the Bible for “receive” in regards to the holy spirit. Dechomai means to receive internally like an initial reception or welcoming of something. It is a subjective reception of something. Lambano means to receive into manifestation meaning there is a visible manifestation of the gift in the senses world that people can see. It is an objective reception of something. Everyone dechomai’s the holy spirit when they are born again for they receive it initially as a gift which God gives and seals within them. However God does want it to sit in you dormant, but He wants you to lambano it and receive it into manifestation by utilizing and operating it for the glory of God. It was standard procedure for the Christian to lambano the gift of holy spirit when they were born again in the First Century Church. Today in the church it is not. Peter and John were so concerned when the new believers in Samaria did not lambano the gift of holy spirit by speaking in tongues at the time of the new birth that they went immediately to Samaria to find out what was going on (Acts 8). You can see this so beautifully with the usage of these two Greek words. They prayed for them that might lambano the gift of holy spirit and manifest it which they did and Simon the sorcerer saw this and offered them money for this manifestation.
The basic information about the manifestation of the gift of holy spirit is in I Corinthians 12-14 as Paul had to lay out the proper instruction concerning these spiritual matters.
I Corinthians 12:1-7
1Now concerning spiritual gifts (pneumatikos-spiritual matters, spiritual things-the word “gifts” is in italics in KJV which indicated that it is not in the Greek text but added by the translators which has caused massive confusion in the church as we will see later in this chapter), brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
2Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
3Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
4Now there are diversities(diairesis-distinctions, distributions or divisions) of gifts (charismata-gifts of God’s grace-Romans 12 sets forth as well as later in this chapter the many giftings in the body of Christ), but the same Spirit.
5And there are differences (diairesis) of administrations (diakonia-ways of serving and ministering), but the same Lord.
6And there are diversities (diairesis) of operations (energemata-energizings), but it is the same God which worketh (energeo-energizes) all in all.
7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
The text is clear that God has given different giftings and abilities to Christian believers; there are different ways to serve and minister in the body of Christ, there are different ways God energizes or operates in a circumstance or person or situation BUT THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT IS GIVEN TO EVERY SINGLE BELIEVER TO PROFIT OR BE OF USE IN THEIR DAILY LIFE FOR BOTH THE BENEFIT OF THE BELIEVER AND THE BODY OF CHRIST. Paul goes on to list nine specific manifestations of the gift of holy spirit that EVERY believer can operate and lambano. God expects Christian believers to walk by the spirit and utilize these manifestations of holy spirit in their daily life. Christians have mistakenly called these gifts which implies some have them and some don’t and this simply is not true. The gift of holy spirit is like a battery to a car and the manifestations are like the operations of that battery like honking the horn, turning on the lights, turning on the radio etc. There is one gift and that is holy spirit and these nine are manifestations of the gift of holy spirit. The nine manifestations are speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discerning of spirits, faith, miracles and gifts of healings. Every Christian believer must become proficient in the operation of all nine of these manifestations so God can energize their operations in you when needed to bring His power and glory into the lives of people and further the message and power of the gospel. So many have allowed the holy spirit to sit within them like a dormant exercise machine that we never use. Each believer has all the power of the gift of holy spirit to manifest in the world to bring great deliverance and restoration to God’s people. Each believer has the power and capacity to serve in whatever capacity he is called and directed by the Lord.
Verses 8-11 of I Corinthians 12 have not been translated very accurately in many translations causing major confusion again surrounding the manifestations of the gift of holy spirit. It does not mean from the text that God only gives one person a manifestation as this would contradict verse 7. It is more accurately referring to the distinctive profit of each manifestation not the person it is given to as once one receives the gift of holy spirit, a person can operate all nine manifestations all the time and each manifestation has a distinctive profit.
I want to cover one specific manifestation of the holy spirit in this teaching for I believe it is vitally important to the church and that is speaking in tongues.
Speaking in tongues is one of the nine “manifestations” (1 Cor. 12:7) of the gift of holy spirit. The word “manifestation” comes from two Latin words, manus, meaning “hand,” and festare, meaning “to touch.” It refers to something concrete and tangible. The gift of holy spirit each person receives when he gets born again is not tangible, because it is spirit, something not in the realm of the five senses. That’s why Scripture does not promise that one will feel anything when he gets born again. And that is why God has provided indisputable proof that something did happen, something so indescribably miraculous that there can be “no ifs, ands, or buts about it!”
Many Christians mistakenly refer to speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc., as “gifts” of the spirit, but Scripture never does (except in modern translations that add words to the Greek text but do not italicize them like the KJV does so the reader knows this). The (one) gift is holy spirit, the divine nature of God, who is called “the Holy Spirit,” the Giver. The gift He gives is holy spirit, His divine nature.
If someone gives you a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman tool, you get one gift, but within that gift are many ways to use it—many “manifestations.” Likewise, anyone who is born again of God’s spirit has the ability to utilize all nine manifestations of the spirit. Most need only a little instruction. Every Christian can speak in tongues whenever he decides to do it.
I Corinthians 14:1-5; 36-40 (NKJV)
1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts (pneumatikos-spiritual things, spiritual matters), but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For 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. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
36 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. [e]
39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
What is Speaking in Tongues and why does God say in 1 Corinthians 14:5 that He would like each Christian to do it? In fact later in the chapter God says it is a commandment of the Lord for all Christians to speak in tongues in its proper order in their private worship and prayer life and when done in the church it must be interpreted so all receive edification, comfort and exhortation.
No doubt that is a question that has been asked by millions of Christians throughout the centuries, and I believe that knowing the answer is vital for maximizing the quality of one’s life as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? The primary reason, as a study of Scripture will clearly show, is: speaking in tongues is absolute proof a Christian has that he is born again and guaranteed a place in Heaven, i.e., everlasting life (2 Cor. 1:21, 22; Eph. 1:13, 14; 1 John 3:24). Speaking in tongues is a valid external, tangible evidence in the senses realm that the internal, intangible gift of holy spirit was shed abroad in one’s heart at the moment of his new birth.
Please do not hear me saying that you must speak in tongues in order to be born again. No, anyone who adheres to Romans 10:9 is saved, permanently. Why? Because at that moment he is “born again of incorruptible seed” (1 Pet. 1:23). It is just a wonderful proof of your salvation and your new creation as a son or daughter of God.
The second most important thing about speaking in tongues is that it vividly illustrates to the believer the most basic principle of the Christian walk, which is trusting the Word of our heavenly Father.
Beyond that, speaking in tongues is a beautiful way to circumvent the limited vocabulary of our native tongue and tell our Father that we love Him. It is a way to perfectly worship (Phil. 3:3) and praise (1 Cor. 14:16) the Creator, to give thanks well (1 Cor. 14:17), to speak the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11), to magnify Him (Acts 10:46), to edify yourself (1 Cor. 14:4) and to build yourself up in faith (Jude 20). Speaking in tongues builds you up spiritually and is like food to your spirit. Speaking in tongues nourishes your spirit and is instrumental in spiritual growth. Speaking in tongues can also be used in your private prayer life and is referred to in Scripture as praying in the spirit (I Corinthians 14:14,15 and Romans 8:26-28). It is perfect prayer that is inspired by God and it gets right to the heart of a matter that we often cannot see or know but God does. God sees and God provides. Praying in the spirit by praying in tongues is a vital part of the whole armor of God in Ephesians (Ephesians 6:18).Paul prayed both in tongues and with his understanding. Both are vitally important in the prayer life of a Christian. Speaking in tongues also calms you down on the inside and provides rest to the soul (Isaiah 28:11,12)
Speaking in tongues is a language that you, the speaker, doesn’t understand. But it’s a language that the Lord gives you, and it’s a language of men – it can be a language that’s spoken on earth – or a language of angels – a language that the angels use to communicate with each other and to communicate with God.
1 Corinthians 13:1
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Speaking in tongues is a language given to you by the Lord, and it’s a language of men or angels. And speaking in tongues is a brand new thing that God did for the Church. You can read the Old Testament from Genesis 1 to Malachi 4 and you will not find anyone speaking in tongues. You can read the Four Gospels and you will not find anyone speaking in tongues. The first time anyone spoke in tongues was on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two, at the birth of the Church, and tongues is something that God did for the Church.
To speak in tongues is to fluently speak a language of either men or angels, a language that does not come from your mind, but by way of God’s spirit within you. It is primarily designed for one’s internal use, but it is also to be utilized in a gathering of Christians by following it with its companion manifestation, interpretation of tongues, so that the Church is edified by one’s praise to God (1 Cor. 14:5b). “Tongues” is a language that God gives you, just as He first did on Pentecost when the Church was born.
Acts 2:1-4(ESV): 1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
This record in Acts 2:1-4 brings up the pattern God intended for every Christian, which is that each one speak in tongues right after he is born again. Why? So that one immediately knows once and for all that (a) he has everlasting life, (b) the Word of God is true, (c) Jesus Christ is alive, (d) he is filled with the power of God and can utilize all the other manifestations. That is why God clearly says in 1 Corinthians 14:5 that He would like each Christian to speak in tongues. I think that for our Father, hearing a newborn Christian speak in tongues parallels how a mother feels when she hears her newborn baby make its first cry—it’s alive! The difference is that when God hears a child of His speak in tongues, He knows that life will be forever.
How tragic that countless Christians never take advantage of this marvelous ability. They don’t because they can’t—if they are taught that speaking in tongues ended with the first-century apostles, or that it is devilish, or that it is a gift for only some people, or if they are taught nothing at all about it.
So, how do you do it?
Simple — you just open your mouth and utilize the mechanics of speech, but do not speak English or any other language you know. What you will be speaking is whatever language God chooses to give you. If it is a language of men, someone somewhere on the earth (among the approximately 6000 or so dialects) could understand it. If it’s a language of angels, no one on earth would understand it.
Now hear this! When it comes to speaking in tongues, there is only one way to fail—and that is not to speak. Please hear me. If you open your mouth and speak (not a language you know), it cannot fail—you will speak in tongues. You move your lips, your throat, your tongue and formulate different words, and God gives you the utterance and you will speak in tongues. God does not fail.
Some have come back to me and said, “I tried it and it didn’t work.”
I always ask: “Did you open your mouth and project sounds? Did you speak?”
And they say, “Well, no.”
And I say, “Then you did not try.”
Just as with Peter’s foot touching the water, so God cannot give you the words until you speak. Do you see how this perfectly illustrates what the Christian life is all about? God makes many promises to us, but the only way they come to pass is when we act on them. Our heavenly Father makes wonderful promises to us because He adores us, and oh, how He longs to fulfill them to us for our benefit.
So why not relax, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and focus your mind on the God and the Lord who love you immeasurably. Thank them for having filled you with the holy spirit, take another breath, and let it rip—speak forth words of praise, thanksgiving, and worship. And that is exactly what you will be speaking. And be BOLD—the words you are hearing are the proof that Jesus is alive and well—and that so will you be—forever! It cost him his life for you to be able to praise and worship God in this wonderful way, so get into it!
One more thing—not only will you hear the words you are speaking, like when you speak in your native tongue, but because you are not using your mind to speak in tongues, you can also listen to what you are saying—and that is why it may sound really strange at first. But so would any language you’ve never heard before.
If you decide to speak in tongues now, and it is your first time, keep doing it for a while so that you become convinced that it is real. The junk part of your mind may tell you: “That’s ridiculous, you’re just making it up.” Here are some appropriate replies (that are printable): “No way—I couldn’t make that up.” “Take a hike.” “Get lost.” “Put a sock in it.” “SHUT UP!” Just keep speaking in tongues, and eventually that part of your mind will get tired of telling that lie to you.
PRAISE GOD!!! You are speaking in tongues and you can utilize this wonderful manifestation of the spirit all the days of your life. You can magnify God, speak the wonderful works of God, speak divine secrets, pray perfectly, build yourself up spiritually, praise and worship God perfectly, and give thanks well all when you are speaking in tongues. It also gives you comfort as it is indisputable proof that you are a son or daughter of God bound for heaven and all hell can’t stop you from going.