DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – Part 6 – Speaking in tongues.
NT Christians considered speaking in tongues, or glossalalia (from Gk glēssais lalē), as a God-given sign accompanying the baptism in the Holy Spirit, “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:3-4
This pattern for the Spirit-filled life is still valid and available for us today. There is much controversy surrounding speaking in tongues and so I will try to expound on this doctrine clearly and effectively as I have come to understand it. Speaking in tongues is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit, a Spirit-inspired utterance whereby believers speak in a language (glēssa) they have never learned. It may be an existing spoken language (as on the day of Pentecost) or in languages unknown on earth (1 Cor 13:1). It is not “ecstatic speech”, as rendered in some translations, for the Bible itself never uses the term “ecstatic utterance” when referring to speaking in tongues
I knew a pastor preaching the Word of God in English and two ladies, one who only spoke Korean and the other interpreted for her; these both heard the message in Korean. Speaking in tongues is an inspired utterance whereby the believer’s spirit and the Holy Spirit join in verbal praise/ or prophecy. God linked speaking in tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit from the very beginning, so that the 120 believers at Pentecost, and believers thereafter, would have an experiential confirmation that they have indeed received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Thus, this experience could be objectively validated as to place and time of reception.
Throughout the history of the church, whenever tongues as a confirming sign has been denied or lost from view, the experience of Pentecost has been distorted or ignored completely. Speaking in tongues is also described as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the believer. This gift has two main purposes: 1) speaking in tongues may be a Spirit-given message during worship for the congregation, but must be accompanied by interpretation so that everyone understands the message and is edifies.
In this way all may enter into Spirit-directed worship, praise or prophecy. (1 Cor 14:5-6, 13-17). I have rarely seen this done in an orderly and God-honoring way, but nonetheless it can be done in a congregation that desires to honor God and not self. 2) Speaking in tongues also may be used by the individual believer to speak to God during one’s personal devotions and thus to build up or strengthen one’s spiritual life (1 Cor 14:4). It means speaking at the level of the spirit (1 Cor 14:2,14) for the purpose of praying (1 Cor 14:2,14,15,28), giving thanks (1 Cor 14:16-17) or singing (1 Cor 14:15).
This precious gift is to be believed and sought after. God gives to all who ask in faith. The mere occurrence of speaking in “other tongues” or any other spiritual manifestation, is not uncontestable evidence of the work and presence of the Spirit. Speaking in tongues can be counterfeited by human initiative or demonic activity as in some other religions. Satan always mimics God and his whole purpose is to “deceive the nations”. The Bible cautions us not to believe every spirit, but examine whether our spiritual experiences really do come from God (1 John 4:1). In order to be valid, speaking in tongues must be “as the Spirit gave them utterance”. Speaking in tongues then will be the spontaneous result of the Holy Spirit. It is not a learned phenomenon, nor can it be taught by instructing believers to speak incoherent syllables.
The Holy Spirit warns that in the last days there will be within the church hypocrisy (1 Tim 4:1-2), signs and wonders from satanic powers (Matt 7:22-23, 2 Thes 2:9), and deceitful workers disguising themselves as God’s servants. We must heed these warnings about counterfeit spiritual manifestations and signs. If someone speaks in tongues or prophesies but is not committed to the Lord Jesus and the authority of Scripture, does not obey God’s holy Word, has not turned from death to life, from sin to holiness; then whatever manifestation they have had is not from the Spirit. A born again person’s life will produce the fruit of the Spirit (see part 5 of doctrines of the Holy Spirit) and there will be a marked change from a life of sin to a life of righteousness.
I have met some nasty, mean people who speak in tongues and have no other evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. These are still fleshly, selfish and self-righteous and without self-control. I have also met holy and wonderful Christians who have never spoke in tongues but their life reflects the fruit of the Spirit in large measure. You shall know them by their fruit. You can fake speaking in tongues, fake serving, fake generosity, fake genuine agape love; but you cannot fake holiness. Holiness not in the outward man of the wearing of certain apparel, but the inward man.
The Holy Spirit produces in His people a holiness and righteousness, lives that forsake sin, die to self and live unto Christ, obeying the authority of Scripture. This departure from sin, Spirit-led life cannot be faked. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can truly overcome sin and be victorious over our flesh and the enemy of our souls. This is the true mark of the Spirit. #runyourrace
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