Yes, it’s weird.
That’s why it’s always been one of the most debated topics among Christians and non-Christians alike. Is it Biblical? Is it genuine? Is it necessary? Is it a condition to being Spirit-filled? When, where and how should it be practiced? What is it?
Before looking for answers to those questions, let me first tell you my story…
I was born again at the age of thirteen. Because I was raised in a Christian home and attended Church and Sunday school on a regular basis, I must have heard the Gospel a million times. But, the penny only dropped one night at a Sunday school camp.
That evening, in bed, while every one else was asleep, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and gave Him my heart. The next morning I woke up a new person. It was a definite awareness in my soul. All of a sudden every word of the all too familiar Church songs had meaning and brought indescribable joy to my heart. The Bible opened up and I couldn’t stop reading. I would spend hours browsing through the Bible. It was as if God Himself highlighted some verses for me and helped me to understand them. And I believe He did. When you are born again you receive the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit that gives you new life and seals you as God’s property in Christ. (Tit. 3:5, Rom. 8:9, Eph. 1:13).
My faith carried me through those troublesome High school and stormy College years. After completing my studies, I became actively involved in outreaches to Mozambique and some local missions from our Church. I was asked to be a youth leader. I attended courses in evangelism. Most of my free time went into Church activities. But yet, I missed God. After three years, of living and breathing Church, I wanted out.
In my soul there was a yearning that I could not explain. What I actually needed was the power, spoken of in Acts 1:8: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Where was that?
Let’s skip a few years now to me being a busy, working mom. Even though my husband and I were both born again Christians, we were not on fire for God. We compromised on God’s Word and tolerated worldly views when it suited us. Gracefully, my husband had the same yearning in his heart for a closer relationship with God and we started looking for a Spirit-filled, no compromise, church. Gradually, through the church and through some committed people that crossed our path, we were pulled back to living our lives in line with God’s Word and, as a result, decided to be obedient to the instruction given by Jesus to be baptized (Mat. 28:19, Acts 2:38).
Two weeks after our baptism, it was Pentecost and our pastor invited all who longed for the indwelling of the Spirit to attend that evening’s service. By then, we were very skeptical. We both wanted the Holy Spirit to work through us and we specifically longed for the gift of speaking in tongues. Just after being baptized, the pastor prayed and laid hands on us (Acts 8:17, Acts 19:6), but nothing happened.
Still, we decided to attend the meeting. We believed that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him and that He will draw near to those who draw near to Him (Heb. 11:6, James. 4:8).
A very long line of people went to the front that evening. We were somewhere in the middle of that line. I just closed my eyes and prayed something in the line of: “Lord, I love you and I want your Spirit to work through me, please let me speak in tongues.” As the pastor started moving down the line, people started speaking in tongues. It was like a wave coming closer to me! When he reached me, he touched my throat and instructed me to move my mouth. I did just that and out came the words!
So, did that experience change me? Well, to start with, my fear was gone and replaced by boldness and trust. We are absolutely committed to living righteously now and have taken some drastic steps in creating a Christ-centered-home. We now strive to live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16,25) and we experience the gifts of the Spirit in our daily lives (1 Cor. 12:7-11).
But most importantly, my faith has been strengthened. And that is the answer to two of the questions I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post. What is it and is it necessary?
I don’t believe that speaking in tongues is a condition for being filled with the Holy Spirit, I believe it is a gracious gift from God as assurance that you are indeed filled with the Holy Spirit.
You don’t need to speak in tongues to know this, but, it is a loud and clear manifestation of the Holy Spirit through you. What better proof do you need? Throughout the book of Acts we see people speaking in tongues after repenting and receiving the Spirit (Acts 2:4, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:5-6). So, we see that it is a sign, or proof, of the indwelling of the Spirit in a person.
But that’s not all it is. “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 Cor. 14:2) It is a way of talking to God and worshipping Him where human words fail to describe what is in your heart. It also helps us to pray when we don’t know what to pray because the Spirit always prays according to the will of God. Thus, a prayer prayed in the Spirit is a powerful prayer (Rom. 8:26-27, 1 John 5:14-15). Therefore, I believe, it is necessary to speak in tongues.
Jesus foretold speaking in tongues and it was also prophesied by Isaiah (Is. 28:11, 1 Cor. 14:21, Mark 16:17). As I’ve mentioned already, throughout the book of Acts we read about it and Paul has a lengthy discussion on speaking in tongues in his letter to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 14. Also read 1 Cor. 12:10. So, yes, it is Biblical.
Is it genuine? An interesting medical study was conducted by Dr. Andrew Newberg at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007. He published a study looking at the brain activity of eight people who speak in tongues. He used CT scans to look at what happens in the brain’s control center when speaking in tongues. He compared his results to a similar study, by him, on Buddhist monks meditating and Franciscan nuns praying. As soon as the eight Christian participants started praying in tongues, activity went quiet in the frontal lobe (considered to be the brain’s control center). In the case of the Buddhist monks and the Franciscan nuns, there was an increase in activity. abc News reported on this study. You can read the article here.
This study proves that speaking in tongues is a supernatural phenomena. But, only those speaking in tongues can tell you how genuine it is. You control when to start and when to stop. How loud and how fast to speak. But what comes out of your mouth you have absolutely no control over.
Probably the biggest debate among Christians are the question on where, when and how. Paul answered this question in 1 Cor. 14. He clearly states that the speaking of tongues should not be forbidden in Church meetings, but that all should happen in good order (1 Cor. 14:39-40)
We see that it is necessary for you to interpret what you said when speaking in tongues during church meetings: “Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” (1 Cor. 14:13) Also: “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.” (1 Cor. 14:5 own emphasis). If you or somebody else in the meeting can not interpret what you said, you should keep quiet (1 Cor. 14:28).
He is thus not against the speaking of tongues during Church meetings, but he does consider the gift of speaking in tongues to be the least of the gifts and that one should rather pray for the gift of prophecy! It’s all about edifying the body of Christ and reaching non believers (1 Cor. 14:5, 23-24).
Sadly, 1 Cor. 14 are misinterpreted by some, insisting that Paul forbids speaking in tongues. They obviously skipped over 1 Cor. 14:39 (own emphasis): “Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues,” or verse 18: “I thank my God I speak in tongues more than you all.”
It is clearly also not a gift that has passed, as some say. The millions of Christians all over the world that speak in tongues are evidence of that.
Holy Spirit is our strength, our comforter and our teacher. He empowers us with signs, wonders and gifts. It is all to the glory of God and for proclaiming the Gospel to the world.
He is a gift from a gracious, loving Savior who promised to be with us always and to never forsake us.
Thank you, Jesus.
(PS: To read the indicated Bible verses, you can either hover over them with your mouse, or click on them if you’re reading on your smartphone or tablet, click again for the verse to disappear)
Scripture quatations taken from the New King James Version (NKJV)
© 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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