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Seeking the Gift of Tongues
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Part One (Speaking in Tongues)
Like so many people, the first time I heard that some believers speak in other tongues, I was weirded out. Tongues? What's that? Some kind of fanaticism? I sure didn't want that label. And of course nobody wants to be deceived. However I had met a group of people with deep, genuine faith and also with an uncommon love of others such as I had not yet seen before. Even though they practiced privately this mysterious "praying in tongues," I was both attracted and impressed.
Thank goodness I had sense enough to go the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit of Truth to show me what this gift is about. I spent a whole year searching and discovering the following:
PAUL SAID, I THANK MY GOD I SPEAK IN TONGUES MORE THAN YOU ALL, (I Cor. 14: 18). Hmmm. Now why would Paul want to speak in tongues and be thankful that he did? Must be some value in it.
YES, IT IS A MYSTERY. He that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men to God, for no man understand him, but in the spirit he speaks mysteries Acts 14:2. Well, I liked that! A private prayer to God alone inspired by the Spirit of Truth. Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit makes intercession Rom. 8:26. Who knows how to pray as we ought all the time? Not me. How often I stumble in prayer.
THIS IS A SECOND FORM OF PRAYER. "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also," I Cor. 14:15. I really love to pray and sing praises to God, but I run out of words from my natural mind. I know Jesus often prayed all night. I have never done that. After I thank Him and praise Him and bring my petitions before Him, my prayers barely last five minutes. Then my words become vain repetition. But with this other language, I could pray as long as I wished. I could fulfill the mandate to "pray without ceasing." What a thought.
THE BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT DESCRIBED IN ACTS 1 IS NOT THE SAME AS THE GIFT OF tongues described in I Cor. 12 where Paul says, "Do all speak with tongues?" This verse underscores the fact that Paul's private prayer language is not the same as a public message in tongues which must be interpreted for the benefit of the group. Otherwise it would not be speaking to God alone. Wow. A message straight from the Spirit of Truth for the benefit of believers? I certainly liked that idea. Who wouldn't? Then Paul lays down restrictions for public speaking in tongues, but he is careful to add, "Do NOT forbid speaking in tongues." It's plain that he means to pray in this other language in private to God alone for no man understands him (I Cor. 14:39). This speech also is clearly under the control of the believer. Besides that, the Holy Spirit is a Gentleman and He does not interrupt.
IT IS EDIFYING: One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. I Cor. 14: 4. How can it be edifying if I don't understand what I'm saying? Because in this language which bypasses my natural mind, I can trust the Holy Spirit to pray perfectly to God alone. I don't know about you, but I cannot build up another person's faith if I'm not edified. So I began to see this is an important tool for ministry.
THE LANGUAGE CAN BE BOTH KNOWN TO MEN OR UNKNOWN. Paul describes speaking with the tongues of men or of angels, in I Cor. 13: 1. And in Acts 2: 5-6 the people from many nations heard all 120 believers, including Jesus' mother Mary, speaking known languages and understood them magnifying and praising God. That leads me to believe tongues is often a language of praise and worship.
THE PUBLIC GIFT OF TONGUES CONVINCES UNBELIEVERS, I COR. 14:22. An example of this is the Japanese war bride who went to the altar to pray with her husband. He always prayed to Jesus and she always prayed to Buddha. Then one day she overheard a man praying quietly in his prayer language beside her. Startled, she asked him, "How did you know that?" He didn't know what he had said, so she explained: "You just called me by my full Japanese name, which nobody in America knows, not even my husband. Then you said, 'You have tried Buddha with no answers and no peace. Why don't you try Jesus?" Needless to say, this woman asked Jesus into her heart and was baptized, convinced that the Spirit of God had spoken to her. I want that kind of ability to bless others.
JESUS FORETOLD THIS GIFT. (actually He commanded the apostles to be filled with the Holy Ghost) And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." verses 4 and 5 of Acts I .
WHEN BELIEVERS RECEIVED THIS baptism throughout the book of Acts, they knew it because they always spoke in other tongues: "And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2: 1-4; 10:47: 19:2). They did not know any other way to be filled with the Spirit.
THIS IS CLEARLY SEPARATE FROM THE SALVATION EXPERIENCE: Acts 19:1-6: "He said unto them, Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." So the apostles laid hands on these baptized-in-water believers. How did the apostles know the believers received the Holy Spirit? "Then they heard them speak in tongues." This gift had nothing to do with the writing of the New Testament. It was a gift of indwelling for the personal edification, guidance, comfort, leading, and teaching of the individual--described by Jesus in John 14 and 15. Examples of the Spirit leading, prophesying, guiding are throughout the New Testament and especially in Acts. How much more do we need supernatural direction today!
THE INDWELLING GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT AUTOMATIC. Jesus said one must ask the Father to receive the Holy Spirit: "So how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask .... whether He will much more give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him (Matt. 7: 11). Yes, I know many will argue that we receive the Holy Spirit at the new birth, and I agree. Our spirit is reborn, joined to the Spirit of Christ. However, scripture indicates there is a measure of this wonderful gift given to believers. Jesus had the Spirit without limit. "For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without measure" John 3:34. Notice this giving of the Spirit involves speaking the words of God. Who wouldn't want a greater measure of God's Spirit? I began to see a need to ask the Father. But was this gift really for me?
THIS GIFT IS NOT JUST FOR THE APOSTLES. The gifts of the Holy Spirit did not pass away. I soon found both historic documentation and also experiential knowledge that the gifts listed in I Cor. 12 have always been in operation. That which is Perfect (Jesus) has not yet returned the second time. Inspired wisdom, prophecy, and tongues will no longer be necessary when Jesus returns, because until He comes again we "see through a glass darkly." When He is here on earth the second time, we will see Him clearly. The companion verse is I John 3:2, "what we will be has not yet appeared, but when we see Him we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is."
I know some churches teach that the "Perfect" refers to the New Testament, however we as people still see "through a glass darkly" regarding many mysteries of God. We need the gifts of the Spirit to lead us just the same today as did the apostles. We need words of supernatural words of wisdom, prophecy, and words knowledge just as much today. We need the baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to love with supernatural love. And when Jesus returns to earth to set up His Kingdom, it's obvious that we won't need these language gifts because our Lord will be here with us.
SO IS THIS GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST FOR ME TODAY? Peter had just received this gift with the evidence of speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost when he stood up to preach. He made the following statement:
"The promise of the Holy Ghost is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2: 39. I see plainly that Peter did not have any other way to know that the Holy Spirit came upon people except by the same way he himself experienced this gift. Acts 10:47-48 confirms this. "Who can forbid baptismal water seeing they have received the Holy Ghost in like manner as we have." They spoke in tongues.
Well that's me. I am called to serve the Lord, and I don't want to miss anything the Lord has for me.
Having searched the scriptures to see if these things be so, as the believers did in Acts 17: 11, I found there is good scriptural precedent to ask the Lord for this gift of the Holy Spirit.
But how do I know my gift is the real thing if I don't understand what I'm saying? My seeking experience was somewhat hilarious. I will describe it in Part Two.
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