I can still remember the first time I heard about “tongues”. A high school friend of mine was relating how his mother, and some of her friends had spoken in “tongues.” I can vividly remember thinking “what in the world is that all about”! I was very curious to learn more about this speaking in “tongues” stuff. My friend related how his mother and her friends had spoken in “tongues” after receiving the Holy Spirit. Wow! The idea of “tongues” is weird I thought. I was about 16 years old at that time. It would be another 15 years before I understood what “tongues” were all about.
Acts 2:1-4 (KJV) – “And when the day of Pentecost was 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 all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Day of Pentecost
When the Holy Spirit made His grand entrance on the Day of Pentecost, a visible sign was used – tongues like as of flames of fire. We see a pattern here from centuries earlier at the giving of the law. When God gave Israel the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, He added a visible exhibition. There was thunder, lightning, smoke, fire, quaking and a piercing trumpet blast (Exodus 19:18-19).
The Feast of Pentecost was a celebration of the original giving of the law. It’s no surprise that God would use another dramatic demonstration to usher in the new era. An era where every believer is part of the “royal priesthood”.
Acts chapter two states that there was a sound from heaven “as of” a rushing mighty wind. From the scriptures, it appears that to the 120 in the upper room, something powerful was happening in their spirit. The sound from heaven, while not being a “rushing mighty wind” in a physical sense was a manifestation of the Spirit of God. The scriptures continue, stating that there appeared unto them cloven tongues “like as of” fire. It doesn’t say that actual fire appeared but that to those in the upper room it was “like as of” fire.
Besides the sound as of a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire in the upper room, another “sign” was observed that day. The other “sign” was that they spoke with “other tongues” as the Spirit of God moved on them. In His great commission Jesus said:
Mark 16:17 (KJV) – “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.”
Mark 16:20 (KJV) – “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”
Paul, the Apostle, has a lot to say regarding “tongues.” Paul also declared that speaking in tongues was a sign:
1 Corinthians 14:21-22 (KJV) – “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”
Now the question is this: “Does the sign of speaking with other tongues or languages always accompany the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Ghost)? Is “tongues” for everyone?
Biblical Examples of Tongues
There are three instances in the New Testament that explain what happened when believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
• On the Day of Pentecost
• When Peter preached to Cornelius’ house
• When Paul preached to a group of John the Baptist’s disciples at Ephesus
Let’s take a look at each instance shall we?
On the Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:2-4 (KJV) – “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
When Peter Preached to Cornelius’ Household
Acts 10:44-46 (KJV) – “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.”
When Paul Preached to a Group of John the Baptist’s Disciples at Ephesus
Acts 19:6 (KJV) – “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”
What do all three of these passages have in common? In each instance, they “spoke with tongues” or “spoke with other tongues.” While other supernatural manifestations are mentioned there was only one manifestation that was common, they “spoke with tongues.”
Cornelius and His Household Receive the Holy Ghost
The visit to Cornelius house by Peter and other Jewish brethren was unusual because Cornelius was a Gentile believer in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ. Peter must have been surprised that Cornelius and his household could also share this heavenly baptism. But how did Peter and his companions know that Cornelius and his family had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Well, Peter and the others heard them speak with tongues. This was the evidence that Peter and the others needed. They immediately understood and acknowledged that God had also given His Spirit to these Gentiles. “For they heard them speak with tongues” and that was enough!
The Jewish Church leaders in Jerusalem were concerned that Peter and others were reaching out to Gentiles. They reasoned that this new manifestation of God’s Spirit was only for the Jews. Peter had to defend his decision to visit and preach to the Gentiles:
Acts 11:15-17 (KJV) – “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
No, granted there were no wind or tongues of fire. Although Peter and his brethren were certain the Gentiles had also received the Holy Spirit (Ghost). Peter heard Cornelius and his house speak with tongues as the Spirit of God gave the utterance. This certainly appears to be the accepted New Testament evidence of a person receiving the baptism of the Spirit.
Simon the Sorcerer Wants to Buy the Gift of the Holy Ghost
In Acts, chapter 8 Philip preached to the Samaritans. However, they didn’t receive the Holy Ghost until Peter came:
Acts 8:14-17 (KJV) – “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
Now please notice that in the verses above it does not say that the Samaritans spoke with tongues when they received the Holy Ghost. However, the scriptures strongly imply that they did. How can we be certain of this? Well Simon, the sorcerer, wanted to buy this gift. Had they sat there silently when Peter laid hands upon them to receive the Holy Ghost, why would Simon wish to purchase such an ability? There must have been some visible, audible sign or evidence!
Acts 8:18-20 (KJV) – “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”
Paul the Tongue Talker
Paul, the Apostle, writer of over half of the New Testament, also spoke with other tongues. We see the account of his conversion in Acts chapter 9.
Acts 9:17-18 (KJV) – “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”
While Acts 9:17-18 doesn’t mention if Paul spoke with tongues we know for certain that he did. Paul later explained:
1 Corinthians 14:18 (KJV) – “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all”
Some people are confused by Paul’s message regarding the use of tongues in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. They point to Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 14:19 where he says: “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Many use this scripture to make the point that “tongues is not necessary”. If you were to read further you would come to Paul’s concluding thoughts:
1 Corinthians 14:39-40 (KJV) – “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Why would God choose speaking with tongues as the first evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost? Are there logical reasons that God would choose tongues? I believe there are.
Well first of all God is sovereign. God, of course, can choose, and does not need to consult anyone. Isaiah 40:13 declares that: Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor hath taught him?
From the heart, the mouth speaketh. Matthew 12:34 declares that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. When a believer is immersed and overflowing with the Spirit, the result if speaking a supernatural language that they have not learned or understood.
The tongue is our chief means of expression. We use our voice as our chief means of expression. This voice can be referred to as our “tongue”. The centers of speech originate in our brain. God wants to control our mind. If our mind is under the control of Almighty God, then it follows that our speech will also be. The Holy Spirit (Ghost) has chosen to flow out through the voice.
James, the Apostle, compared the tongue to the small rudder of a mighty ship. A relatively small rudder can control an immense ship. James also compares the tongue to the bit in the horse’s mouth that restrains the whole animal (James 3:3-5). Shouldn’t the Spirit of God rule our ability to speak. When we speak with tongues, it is a sign that we have completely yielded to the Holy Spirit.
The Tongue is an obvious, external and uniform sign. The ability to speak is a universal and common sign throughout the world. Everyone has a tongue in their mouth and speaks some language.Speaking in tongues is something that anyone, anywhere can experience!
Can I Get A Witness?
Well, are you convinced that speaking with tongues is the initial evidence that someone have received God’s Spirit? Unfortunately just throwing out Scriptures (even if presented in a logical way) is not enough to convince some people. Personal experience, when in agreement with the Word of God, serves as a powerful argument.
I still remember the day well. April 21st, 1985 I listened to a minister deliver a message on eternity. Many weeks before I had started the process of repenting of my sins. When the altar call was given, I was the first to walk to the front. I knelt at the altar and poured my heart out to God. I cried out to God, and He heard my prayer. I stood to my feet, raised my hands in the air as several people continued to pray for me. The Bible tells us how the Holy Ghost “fell” on those 1st-century believers. Responding to God’s Spirit my tongue was loosed, and I spoke with tongues as the Spirit of God gave the utterance.
No one was coaching or telling me what to say. I was experiencing a sovereign move of God’s Spirit. I was totally immersed or baptized with God’s Spirit. While no one could see the Spirit of God “fall” on me, they did hear me “speak with other tongues” and “magnify God” just like on the Day of Pentecost. The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, had truly arrived in my life.
To me, the question of whether tongues is for us today is not some academic discussion. It is something I experienced or witnessed for myself. It is part of my testimony. I can honestly say it marked a major turning part in my life. I witnessed the power of God’s Spirit in my life. When I repented of my sins, God saw the condition of my heart and responded by pouring out His Spirit. I didn’t pray for “tongues” – I prayed for a visitation of the Spirit. “Tongues” came as a “sign” that I had received the Holy Spirit. My personal experience was a classic second chapter of Acts experience.
Listen to the words of Peter:
Acts 2:38-39 (KJV) – “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
On the Day of Pentecost, the Jews spoke with tongues. So did the Gentiles at Caesarea (Acts 10:46), the Ephesians (Acts 19:6), and the Apostle Paul. And on April 21st, 1985, yours truly, the author of this article also spoke with tongues. Jesus Christ experienced death, was buried and then resurrected. Likewise, we experience a type of death, burial, and resurrection in receiving salvation through the steps of repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost. This is what the scriptures refer to as being “in Christ” and Christ “in” us.