What can I expect? Tongues and the Empowering of the Holy Spirit
If you have not read my previous blogs on this area please go to
I also anticipate getting to a number of other relevant issues including Tongues through history, 'but the Bible says 'Only Some speak in Tongues' - a review on 1 Cor 12 - 14, What Next? and more. Please be a little patient as each blog takes some time and often review. So without more ado. Let's jump in!
WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
Firstly, you can expect to be empowered for witness as the substantial evidence
“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:4 - 8
Whilst we will get to Tongues and other gifts, it is important to note that if one claims to be ‘Pentecostal’, ‘Charismatic’ or ‘Spirit Filled’ (whatever the language someone chooses), yet they have (or a community has) little desire or drive to be witnesses ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8c) then they may well have ‘had’ an experience but they are most certainly not walking in the fullness of the Spirit. It is the power of the Spirit that launches us into the world as empowered witnesses, outworking lives that reflect the compassion and capacity of Jesus. It is this capacity that leads us to lay hands on the sick, to engage with the reality of the kingdom of darkness and step into contexts that have still not heard the good news of Jesus. One practical impact of this is the statistical reality is that in one century Pentecostal / Charismatic Christian faith has exploded to become second only to the Roman Catholics in numerical size. Don’t mistake this as just as sociological phenomena. The same excuse is used for the growth of the early Church by doubters, it is a supernatural phenomena. As previously noted, even in mainstream traditional Churches like the Roman Catholic Church it is reported that 90 percent of missionaries are Charismatic. Why? Because practically and theologically the need for empowerment is never more important than when you know you can’t achieve the task in front of you, . This explosive growth that continues cannot be ignored as the empowerment has led to what we should have expected. Spirit-empowered Christians are more willing, motivated and able to step out to extend the Kingdom. What do different groups think can be expected? All groups below agree with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit as a subsequent or distinct experience, believing such is an important element in the walk of a believer. There are a number of responses historically to the ‘evidence’ of the empowerment however there is surprising consistency. Those who embrace the subsequence or distinction of the empowerment emphasise either the ‘empowerment itself’ without a specific physical sign or tend to embrace some form of ‘voice sign’, largely ‘Tongues’ or ‘Tongues and…’ (fill in the blank space). Those who struggle with subsequence at times try to point out that no one in a contemporary regard expects to see ‘Tongues of Fire’ above heads. However such a critique is fairly irrelevant. No where in scripture do we see any expectation by the Apostles of seeing such repeated. There is no ongoing causal relationship or correlation expected. The same cannot be said of what they expected when new believers in an ongoing regard were saved and empowered. There are specific elements of the Acts 2 account that are tied to the declaration of the new community in a ‘Sinai’ and ‘Feast of Pentecost’ moment. No Pentecostal or Charismatic Theologian denies the specific importance of Acts 2 as a ‘new Sinai’ moment but rather recognise that the ‘Feast of Pentecost' has both historical and ongoing significance. I will address the claims that that the early accounts of the ‘Empowerment of the Spirit’ are merely indicative of a covenantal transition in a separate blog. As we move forward, also keep in mind, the idea that the Acts experiences are merely indicative of an historical moment has virtually no historical support outside of a narrow group of conservative Protestants. The reality is that the Apostle Peter makes it clear that the experience, salvation itself and the receiving of the Spirit in the way described in Acts 2 was…
“for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’” (Acts 2:39)
GROUP 1 COMMON CHARISMATIC AND SACREMENTAL CHURCHES
There is no standard or expected evidence aside from power to witness (often some other 'gift' may be anticipated)
Lends towards power experience (Substantial Evidence)
Lends towards absolute subjectivity. There is no evidence for 'subjectivity' in Scripture
A one off experience or ritualised form can become the 'on going' permanent qualification in their life. I believe this is seen in many sacramental Churches where the form lacks power. I have, to be fair, also heard of dynamic empowering happening in traditional settings where charismatic empowerment is genuinely anticipated. GROUP 2. SOME CHARISMATICS / PENTECOSTALS INCLUDING FOUR SQUARE Tongues are anticipated but they do not emphasize the concept of ‘initial evidence’. Strength There is a focus on receiving the power of the Holy Spirit Weakness The precedental link between Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Tongues in scripture is not just 'happen stance' as this view holds but there is clear causal language in scripture.
PENTECOSTALS SUCH AS THE C3 CHURCH MOVEMENT
Tongues is the 'common evidence' or 'normally accompanies'
Strength The language feels less 'dogmatic', however they essentially practice the same as AOG / ACC. Weakness
This position begs the question, “Why would God give MOST Tongues but not all?
GROUP 4. 'Tongues is the Initial Evidence' Strength It is consistent with a pragmatic and precedential understanding of the Biblical text. Weakness This position can lead to a heavy focus on just getting 'tongues'. Tongues itself and the Baptism in Holy Spirit can be seen as synonymous. MY POSITION My primary focus as always been more concerned with outcome then semantic. A number of people I walk with hold slightly different descriptions on paper, however curiously some are even more practically insistent in a moment then I in terms of Tongues. I belong, as does Divergent Church, to the Australian Christian Churches (Assemblies of God in Australia) The ACC/AOG Statement around the Baptism in the Holy Spirit / Empowerment is…
“We believe that in order to live the holy and fruitful lives that God intends for us, we need to be baptised in water and be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to use spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues which is the initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit.”
I have no general problem with the above description of what can be expected when one is empowered by the Spirit. It is true that the emphasis can be so strongly on ‘getting Tongues’ out of someone that there is suspicion among people of ‘faking it’ or it may cause people to remain in a place of ‘insecurity’ because they have not spoken in Tongues. It has been my desire to create a positive faith-based position around this doctrine rather than a simple line in the sand definition. This has meant that the Divergent Church statement of faith frames it a little differently, posturing expectation a little differently.
“We believe in the empowering of the Holy Spirit for mission and ministry as a distinct operation of the Holy Spirit to redemption. One empowered with the Holy Spirit can fully expect to speak in their own spiritual prayer language and be released in other spiritual gifts. The empowering of the Holy Spirit (often called the Baptism in the HS) is an objective experience and is specifically encouraged for all believers. (Luke, 3:16, 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4; 8:15-19; 11:14-17; 19:1-7, 1 Cor 12).” (www.divergentchurch.com /our-beliefs-and-affiliation)
The desire in this slightly different description has been to position the pursuit of the empowering of the Holy Spirit in a faith-oriented posture. I am not sure it has always worked and possibly I would be better using the traditional definition but I think that the Divergent one is consistent with the first whilst using more pastoral and practical language. It has been my experience and is my conviction that many who may have been ‘Baptised in the Spirit’ (empowered by the Spirit) DON'T but CAN speak in other tongues.
Why would I continue to emphasise tongues?
It is probably clear by now that I think that a person who has experienced the specific empowering of the Spirit can expect to speak in a personal Spiritual language.
I believe the relationship between these two things is causal, an intentional sign, filled with purpose.
I most certainly do not believe that it is the ultimate gift for the Church, and it certainly should not be the last gift someone operates in but I do believe that its purpose is unique and thus holds a special and specific role amongst the gifts. Now, I know some people immediately jump to what I consider a misguided objection because of 1 Cor 12 but firstly please hear me out. I will get to 1 Corinthians.
Every internal work of God has an outward sign. We are told to show the fruits of salvation, of righteousness, of repentance, of Holiness etc. Now, I know some people may object to narrative having specific theological implication but I am fine with Paul's own words who says "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching..." (2 Tim 3:16).
EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
a. At Pentecost - Acts 2:1- 4 - They spoke in Tongues.
"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:1 - 4
b. At Caesarea - Acts 10:44-48 - They spoke in Tongues.
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” Acts 10:44 – 46
Note that there is a causal relationship here. They knew they had been given the gift of the Spirit (empowering in context) “FOR (causal language) they head them speaking in Tongues…”
In Acts 11:1-18. Peter is defending himself because he preached the gospel to the gentiles, and in verse 15 he says "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as upon us at the beginning." The importance of this phrase is that Peter establishes the central events of Acts 2, ‘Tongues and praising God’ (Acts 10:46) as a precedence that confirms the empowering of the Spirit and the acceptance in this immediate context of the Gentiles. .
c. At Ephesus - Acts 19:1-7 - They spoke in Tongues.
“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied.
4Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into[b] the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.7There were about twelve men in all.” Acts 19:1 - 7
These other two cases do not have speaking in tongues in the detail:
d. Paul - Acts 9:10-19, v17 – 18
However Paul says in
1 Cor 14:18 “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all”
e. At Samaria - Acts 8:4-25
In Acts 8:9-13 Simon became a Christian and saw miracles & signs.
In Acts 8:14-20 Peter came down to those who had been saved so they could be filled with the Spirit. Now it is important to note here, one cannot EVER be saved outside of the presence of the Spirit. We are set apart in the Spirit and sealed in the Spirit.
Those who try to make an argument that these people had not received the Spirit because the only purpose in this moment was to illustrate the acceptance of those in Samaria as an extended part of the covenant community conveniently overlook their own assertions around the role of the Spirit in salvation. In this moment, Simon saw a manifestation when people received the Holy Spirit that caused him to offer Peter money.
When Phillip moved in the power of the Spirit people were ‘astonished by the great signs and miracles” (Acts 8:13) but still he never offered money until he saw something different.
What did he see? The only logical and consistent conclusion is tongues. Before you jump to the assumption regarding the Samaritans and Tongues that I am being led to this simply because of my background. Historically, this observation was also held by some of the great teachers of the Church.
There may be nuance but the Biblical reflection is actually very similar to the above.
St. Augustine, the great Catholic bishop from 396-430 A.D. wrote in his famous work The City of God, "Who expects that ...We shall do what the apostles did when they laid hands on the Samaritians and called down the Holy Spirit on them by the laying on of hands. It is expected that new converts speak with new tongues."
Augustine, at one point doubted the miraculous and gifts yet in 427 AD, just a couple years before he died, in his book ‘Retractions’ he wrote of all the miracles and power he had seen that had changed his mind.
John Chrysostom (347 - 407 AD) was a notable Christianbishop and preacher from the 4th and 5th centuries in Syria and Constantinople and also makes a direct connect between receiving the Spirit, Tongues and increasing use of Spiritual Gifts.
"...Well: what did happen then? Whoever was baptized he straightway spake with tongues and not with tongues only, but many also prophesied, and some also performed many other wonderful works... they [the Corinthians] at once on their baptism received the Spirit...And one straightway spake in the Persian, another in the Roman, another in the Indian, another in some other such tongue: and this made manifest to them that were without that it is the Spirit in the very person speaking.... For as the Apostles themselves had received this sign first, so also the faithful went on receiving it, I mean, the gift of tongues; yet not this only but also many others: inasmuch as many used even to raise the dead and to cast out devils and to perform many other such wonders: and they had gifts too, some less, and some more. But more abundant than all was the gift of tongues among them..." ("Saint Chrysostom: Homily on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians," Phillip Schaff, 1889. Volume 12, Homily 29 NPNF 168-169).
The relationship between the phenomenon and the experience cannot be ignored. It is true that many expected that the ‘sign of Tongues’ was a human language, this was true of the early Pentecostal movement as well yet the weight of scripture and history supports ‘Tongues of men and of angels’ (1 Cor 13:1) I believe scripture shows clear precedence that there is a causal relationship between the ‘Baptism’ or ‘empowering’ and speaking in Tongues (and other Gifts in addition).
The purpose of Tongues is crucial in understanding why Tongues would be a normative expectation. What makes Tongues unique and accessible?
SO WHAT ARE PEOPLE DOING WHEN THEY SPEAK IN TONGUES?
a) Tongues is a continuing declaration of the new covenant A times I am asked why would ‘Tongues’ itself be central not just ‘any’ or ‘all’ gifts? One of the things that excites me most every time I speak in a Tongue is that I am declaring that I am part of a nation that is beyond human constraints, beyond human kings. A spiritual people has access to a spiritual language. Jewish writers throughout history have noted that the Festival of Weeks (Pentecost) is called the time of ‘the giving of the Torah’, rather than the time of ‘the receiving of the Torah’. They point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given at a specific time. The Torah was the primary teacher for Israel – the Holy Spirit is our teacher (John 14:26). THIS LAST POINT IS QUITE IMPORTANT – Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit is FIRST given as the empowerment for mission BUT the Holy Spirit being given (in this regard) is not simply an historical event but an ongoing experience. The same is the case in terms of the declaration heard when we speak in other Tongues. It shows there is a new king in town (1 Cor 14:21 – 22). I will unpackage this a little more in a later blog addressing 1 Cor 14 and the public gathering.
b) Tongues builds up the believer
“He who speaks in a tongue edifies (builds up) himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church" (1 Corinthians 14:4).
"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit," (Jude 1:20)
Tongues acts a tap over the bucket, helping build up the believer. Prophecy does not do this, neither does wisdom. Tongues, in this regard is unique. One who absolutely denies the possibility that all can speak in Tongues must address on some level why the Spirit would give some a gift to build up the individual and leave others without such. If anything, treating Tongues as only accessible for some cements potential personal Spiritual elitism in the community. I actually think, that unlike the attitude many Pentecostals have given or some Evangelicals have felt, Tongues is the ultimate ‘egalitarian’ style gift. A desire for such and a desire that others receive such is a marker of humility knowing that none of us can do what God has called us to do without his power in our life, his word on our lips. c) Tongues allows our Spirit to pray
"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).
"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 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 14:14,15).
Tongues, as personally practiced, is a posture of prayer.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16)
"speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," (Ephesians 5:19).
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints"
"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. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26,27)
I can pray in the Spirit constantly as I walk through each day. I can pray in it building up my spirit. When I don’t have the words, my spiritual language is unconstrained. There have been numerous times when I have felt moved to pray but I was unsure how or for what. It is then that speaking in Tongues comes to the forefront and is indispensable in my spiritual walk.
In Isaiah 28:11 – 12 we see the Old Testament prophecy concerning the Baptism (or Empowering) of the Spirit.
"For it is with stammering lips and another tongue he will speak to this people, to whom he said, "This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest," and "This is the refreshing"; yet they would not hear" (Isaiah 28:11-12).
NEW TESTAMENT FULFILLMENT OF THIS PROPHECY:
"In the law it is written: "With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; and yet, for all that, they will not hear me" (1 Corinthians 14:21).
We see of course, the primary text quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost.
"And is shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on my menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28-29).
WHAT ABOUT ‘ONLY SOME SPEAK IN TONGUES” (1 Cor 14:30)
For some level of brevity in this post I am going to address that in a separate blog, but let’s just say that I don’t think 1 Corinthians 12 – 14 actually works consistently without an understanding of a duality in the Gifts in general, including Tongues. See here - if the link is not active, it is coming soon! :) WHAT IF I DON’T SPEAK IN TONGUES BUT BELIEVE I HAVE BEEN BAPTISED / EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT?
Great question. Whenever we don’t seem to receive something that seems to be clearly promised in scripture there are a couple ‘postures we can take’. This applies to numerous promises and expectations drawn from scripture. a) My experience dictates what I read. Often we allow our experience to dictate what we believe rather than a consistent reading of scripture to position our belief. This is exactly what John Calvin appeared to do in the institutes with ‘Chrismation’. He rejected a clear teaching in scripture not due to good scriptural evidence but personal disappointment. b) Condemnation We feel ‘guilty’ or ‘condemned’ because we are not expressing something others have found ‘easy’. The problem is that this is not the position of a son or daughter saved by Grace. I have not walked in many things I view as standard expectations given in scripture, yet I don’t walk in condemnation. This is not because I have ceased praying for or asking for these things but because I trust that God will continue to do a work in me and trust him even when it does not all makes sense. This by the way is the key teaching of the book of Job. It is not some skewed version of sovereignty where God ‘gives and takes away’ everything that is given or taken away, but one in which I trust him even when I don’t understand (Job 38) c) Faith-filled and Grace focused expectation. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have Tongues or any other element promised in scripture. Feel excited!!! God still has more for you! He is a dad who desires to give you good gifts! The third response is that we see the precedence, purpose and power of such a gift as described in scripture as for every believer and lean in with faith-filled expectation that God will give it. Be focused, be intentional but also be patient. Ask people passionate and gifted in this area to pray for a release in your life.
I have always tried to frame the Empowerment and Tongues in terms of faith-filled expectation as much as possible, not condemnation. Remember, the Apostle Paul has no problem saying, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues” (1 Cor 14:5). If you believe that Tongues will build you up (1 Cor 14:2) which will help position you in greater confidence for the mission, then ask for it!
Ask those who do speak in Tongues to pray for this to be released in your life! Right now, message someone. At Church, ask someone to pray for this to happen. Don’t hold back. Remember God is a generous father, not a stingy one. He has the resources of all of heaven. Trust me in this but more importantly trust Jesus (Luke 11:11)
“‘Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’” Luke 11:11 - 13
SIDENOTE ABOUT DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES If you jump over to the 1 Cor 12 – 14 blog about the Duality in Gifts you’ll read that I believe this text shows that not only Tongues BUT ALL gifts have a public and limited ‘administration’ and a FULLY ACCESSIBLE and AVAILABLE personal expression that are similar but not the same. If there is no link yet. The blog is still coming :) LASTLY, where ever you are, whatever gift you may operate in, we have all just started this journey. We must continue to walk in the fullness of the Spirit, not only record a momentary encounter.
"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be (being) filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Eph 5:18
It is one thing to have an experience that starts you journey, that ‘fills’ you in a moment. It is another thing to walk in that fullness. Embrace the pursuit of the Spirit in every day. Earnestly seek the Spiritual Gifts (1 Cor 14:1) walk in a community that continues to ‘spur you on’ (Heb 10)
CONCLUSION Just to cover a some of the ground we have been over.
CONSISTENTLY WHEN WE SEE THE EMPOWERING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WE SEE A COUPLE KEY ELEMENTS
- It is conscious – it never happens without you knowing specifically
- It is an empowering for mission
- It is accompanied by Tongues and...
- It is just the beginning of a journey, in no way the end.
SO WHAT IS THE POINT OF TONGUES?
- builds up the believer – 1 Cor 14:4
- gives you a new language of the Spirit to pray in – 1 Cor 14:14
- reminds you of God's global mission
THIS IS FOR YOU
Acts 2:38-39 "Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "For the promise (of the father) is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
Eph 5:18-19 says “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts.”