I’ve saved tongues and interpretation of tongues for last. There’s a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance with tongues, because Satan has attacked this gift probably more than any other. If we allow the devil to keep us in the dark, our most valuable prayer gift will be stopped.
We’ll also have to break this into parts, so we can get a fuller picture.
What is tongues? It’s the human spirit praying directly to God the Father by bypassing the mind and intellect. It is a language given to our spirit by the Holy Spirit. He gives the language, but we do the speaking.
I say He gives the language, but we do the speaking as illustrated by this scripture: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Notice “they” did the speaking, but it was the Spirit that gave the utterance.
Salvation Verses The Infilling
We know that the disciples were born again shortly after Jesus was raised from the dead: “He [Jesus] breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). At this time, the disciples were born again. Everyone that is born again has the Holy Spirit. We can’t be born again without Him.
Clearly these scriptures bring this out: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
“For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
‘I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people’” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
Of course, we can continue, but I think you get the point. If we, as Christians, are the temple of the Holy Spirit, then we have the Spirit.
Yet, there is another experience we can have with the Holy Spirit, and we see this in the first couple of chapters of Acts. Notice Jesus promised a subsequent experience with the Holy Spirit to the disciples initial experience of being born again:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
This promise was fulfilled later: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 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 2:1–4)
The disciples were already born again and had the initial experience of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in the New Birth is given so that we can drink of living waters of everlasting life: “The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
The subsequent infilling of the Spirit is for others to drink of. It’s for more effective witnessing (Acts 1:8). “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37–39).
Rivers are for many to enjoy, but a spring is more personal. The infilling is for power to witness, the initial experience is for personal salvation and spiritual growth.
I’m not saying in anyway that witnessing is only for those with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. No, not at all! All of us are to witness about Jesus (Mark 16:15). The Word preached is always the way to salvation. What I am saying is the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for helping us to be better witnesses, the door into the gifts of the Spirit, and a more fulfilling prayer life.
Tongues In The Book of Acts
I want to take a look into the Book of Acts and see what the early church experienced, so that we can expect similar results.
We’ve already looked at Acts chapter two, but I’ll reiterate.
“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).
We see a direct connection with being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues.
In Acts chapter eight, we see Philip the evangelist bring multitudes to Jesus: “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12). They believed in Jesus and were water baptized.
But then we also see that Peter and John were sent to Samaria so that those saved would “receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:15).
“For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:16–17)
“And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money” (Acts 8:18). Question: What did Simon see that convinced him that the people had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit? The scripture doesn’t say, but we know that Simon saw something.
I suggest that Simon saw them speak with tongues. Why? Because that’s the initial experience we see in Acts chapter two, and we haven’t seen a different example.
Paul was saved on his way to Damascus. Jesus appeared to him and he quickly repented. But the vision left Paul blind, so Jesus sent a disciple to Paul that Paul may receive healing for his eyes and to receive the Holy Spirit. We know Paul was born again on the way to Damascus because (1) he called Jesus Lord (Acts 9:8; Roman 10:9–10), and (2) Jesus called Paul His chosen vessel (Acts 9:15). Jesus didn’t say Paul was going to be a chosen vessel, and Jesus didn’t tell Ananias to witness to Paul for salvation. Jesus told Ananias to go to Paul so Paul“may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). Ananias did what He was told to do.
Again, how do we know that Paul received the infilling of the Holy Spirit? From the text in chapter nine we really don’t, but Paul witnesses to being filled with the Spirit in his letters. An example: “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). When did this experience happen? It must of been when Ananias laid hands on Paul.
“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).
We see in this instance that being filled with the Holy Ghost resulted with the people speaking in tongues.
The real question would be, “When were they born again?” Well, we know that we can be born again and never speak in an unknown tongue. Most Christians don’t, as far as I know. So, being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues is different than being born again. Therefore, the best answer I can give is that they believed and were born again and filled with the Holy Spirit almost instantaneously.
Remember, we’re looking for evidence of an experience different from being born again that would indicate one is filled with the Holy Spirit.
“He [Paul] said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’
So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’
And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’
So they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’
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 19:2–6).
We see again being born again and being baptized in the Spirit are different experiences. When the disciples were “baptized in the name off the Lord Jesus” is when they accepted Jesus as their lord and savior. Then the “Holy Spirit come upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”
A Subsequent Experience
We can clearly see there is an experience subsequent to having the Holy Spirit in the new birth, and it is called being baptized, or filled with, the Holy Spirit. We can see that the initial evidence for this experience is speaking in a language that is not ones own.
Tongues is Spiritual, Not Intellectual
It is not the Holy Spirit speaking. It is us speaking with the Holy Spirit giving our spirit the words. It’s not a mental, emotional, or intellectual experience. God has given us a method for worship and prayer that bypasses our natural limitations and brings about His perfect will.
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14). Our “understanding” is our intellect. Our intellect doesn’t understand our spiritual language.
Perfect Praying & Perfect Worship
Sometimes we know we need to pray for someone or about something, but we don’t really know what to say.
“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” (Romans 8:26).
“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” (1 Corinthians 14:2). The mysteries are the prayers we pray about things we don’t know we’re praying about. People need prayer for things only God knows. God helps us pray the perfect prayers for people.
“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 14:15). Sometimes we pray in the spirit, and sometimes we pray with our understanding. Sometimes we worship in the spirit, and sometimes we worship with our understanding. God’s into both!
Stay strong and prepared!