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why tongues?


The infilling of the New Testament believers with the Holy Ghost should be our pattern today. I propose that we look at the Acts of the Apostles, see how they did it, and follow their example. In the first chapter of Acts, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, we see this great scene:


Acts 1:4-5 And while staying with them he ordered 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 you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 


And then on the day of Pentecost:


Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested 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. 

Speaking with tongues is not the Holy Ghost. And the Holy Ghost is not the speaking with tongues. But they go hand in hand.

Believers Filled in Samaria

The events in the Book of Acts cover several years. Eight years after the day of Pentecost we see Philip carrying the gospel to people of Samaria:

Acts 8:5-8; 12 - 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.   
12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 


These scriptures helped me to see that there an experience subsequent to salvation called receiving the Holy Ghost. 


Mark 16:15-16 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 


These Samaritans believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). Were they saved? Yes. According to Jesus they were.


There is a work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth, but that is not called receiving the Holy Ghost—that is called being born-again, receiving Eternal Life. There is an experience following salvation called receiving or being filled with the Holy Ghost.


When the apostles at Jerusalem heard of the wonderful things God had done through Philip's ministry in Samaria, they sent Peter and John to lay hands on the new converts that they might receive the Holy Ghost.


Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 

Now some who object to speaking with tongues argue that the Bible doesn't mention the Samaritans spoke with tongues when they received the Holy Ghost. But—it doesn't say they didn't! Students of church history know that the early church fathers agree they did speak with tongues in Samaria. And it also seems apparent from this passage that they did speak with tongues for:


Act 8:18-19 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

"When Simon saw . . ." the Word says. You can't see Holy Ghost. He is a Spirit and cannot be seen with the physical eye. There had to be some physical sign whereby Simon would know they had received Holy Ghost—something which would register on Simon's senses. All evidence indicates the sign manifested was speaking in tongues.

Believers Filled in Cornelius' Household
About ten years after the day of Pentecost the Word tells us about Peter's going to Cornelius' house to carry the gospel.


Acts 10:44-46 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.


Reading the entire account of this we see how an angel appeared to Cornelius and told him to send to Joppa, and to inquire in the house of a certain individual for Simon Peter, 'he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ Acts 11:14


Neither Cornelius nor his household was saved. They were Jewish proselytes. A person can't be saved without hearing the gospel. They didn't know about Jesus. So, Peter preached to them. They believed while they were standing there and were born again as Peter preached. Then they received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues before he finished his message.


Notice that it was the speaking with tongues which convinced Peter's company that these Gentiles had received Holy Spirit. The Jewish believers were astonished that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles.

Believers Filled in Ephesus
Then 20 years after the day of Pentecost, Paul journeyed to Ephesus. There he met some believers and introduced to them the Person of the Holy Ghost.


Acts 19:1-3, 6 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”

6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 

As we see from the verses above, these believers at Ephesus had never heard about the Holy Ghost. But when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spoke with tongues. Every one of them—without waiting, without praising, without tarrying—was filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke with other tongues as the Spirit of God gave them utterance.

Paul's Infilling of the Spirit

Paul, who laid hands on these folks, was previously known as Saul of Tarsus. The account of his experience of receiving the Holy Spirit is found in


Acts 9:10-12, 17 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11and the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

17So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 


Saul, later to be known as Paul, received the Holy Ghost immediately. He didn't have to tarry or wait. He received instantly. "But it doesn't say he spoke with tongues," someone might object. It is true it doesn't say it specifically right here. But Paul himself said that he spoke with tongues. He said, "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." (I Corinthians 14:18). We know he didn't start talking with tongues before he received the Holy Ghost. It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out when he started. He started when he received the Holy Ghost for tongues go along with it.


Speaking with tongues is an initial supernatural sign or evidence of the Holy Spirit's indwelling. It is the beginning of it all. I have found in my own life that the more I pray and worship God in tongues, the more manifestation of other gifts of the Spirit I have. 


And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17

The apostle Paul wrote much about the subject of speaking in other tongues. He apparently practiced what he preached for he said, "I thank God, I speak in tongues more than all of you" (I Cor. 14:18). I too, thank God that I speak in tongues with regularity, and would wish for every believer this same blessing and source of power in their everyday life.


Here are 10 reasons why every Christian should desire to speak in tongues. Here we see the blessings which can be ours through using the power of Holy Spirit daily.

1—Tongues the Initial Sign

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

The Word of God teaches that when we are filled with the Holy Ghost, we speak with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives utterance. It is the initial evidence or sign of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. 

In the Acts 10 we read where the Jewish brethren who came with Peter to Cornelius' house were astonished when they saw that the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out on the Gentiles. They thought it was just for the Jews. How did these Jews know that Cornelius' household had received the gift of the Holy Ghost? "For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God" (Acts 10:46). Speaking in tongues was the supernatural sign which convinced them the Gentiles had the same gift as they.

2—Tongues for Spiritual Edification

1 Corinthians 14:4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 

In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul encouraged them to continue the practice of speaking with other tongues in their worship of God and in their prayer lives as a means of spiritual edification. Greek language scholars tell us that we have a word in our modern vernacular which is closer to the meaning of the original than the word "edified." That word is "charge"—as used in connection with charging a battery. Therefore, we could paraphrase this verse, "He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies, charges, builds himself up like a battery.

I Corinthians 14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 

Weymouth's translation of this verse says, "He speaks divine secrets." God has given to the church a divine, supernatural means of communication with Himself.

I Corinthians 14:14 'For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 





Notice that this says, "my spirit prays."  God is a Spirit. When we pray in tongues, our spirit is in direct contact with God, who is a Spirit. We are talking to Him by a divine, supernatural means.


You may ask "What is the value of speaking in tongues?" If God's Word says speaking in tongues is of value, then it is of value. If God says it edifies—then it edifies. If God says it is a supernatural means of communication with Himself—then it is a supernatural means of communication with Himself. Jesus did not say that just a few should speak in tongues. He said, "And these signs will follow them that believe . . . " "Them" is plural—it means all. And one of the signs was, “. . . they shall speak with new tongues …” (Mark 16:17.)

3—Tongues Remind us of The Spirit's Indwelling Presence

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 

Howard Carter, who was general supervisor of the Assemblies of God in Great Britain for many years, and founder of the oldest Pentecostal Bible school in the world, pointed out that we must not forget that speaking with other tongues is not only the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit's infilling, but is a continual experience for the rest of one's life. For what purpose? To assist us in the worship of God. Speaking in tongues is a flowing stream which should never dry up and will enrich the life spiritually.


Continuing to pray and worship God in tongues helps us to be ever conscious of His indwelling presence. If I can be conscious of the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost every day, it is bound to affect the way I live.

4—Praying in Tongues is Praying God's Perfect Will

Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

Speaking in tongues keeps selfishness out of our prayers. A prayer out of one's own mind and thinking has the possibility of being unscriptural. It may be selfish. Too often our prayers are like the old farmers who prayed, "God bless me, my wife, my son John, his wife —us four and no more."


In the scripture quoted above Paul didn't say we don't know how to pray—because we do. We pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, which is the correct way to pray. But just because I know how to pray doesn't mean I know what to pray. Paul said, Romans 8:26 'Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.’


The Greek literally reads here, "The Holy Ghost makes intercession for us in groanings that cannot be uttered in articulate speech." Articulate speech means our regular kind of speech. He went on to point out how the Greek stresses that this not only includes groanings escaping our lips in prayer, but also praying in other tongues. This agrees with what Paul said in

I Corinthians 14:14, "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, and my mind is unfruitful." Or, as the Amplified translates, "My spirit (by the Holy Spirit within me) prays."


When you pray in tongues—it is your spirit praying, by the Holy Spirit within you. The Holy Spirit within you gives the utterance—and you speak it out of your spirit. You do the talking and He gives the utterance. By this method the Holy Spirit helps you pray according to the will of God. This isn't something the Holy Ghost does apart from us. The words come from inside us and escape our lips. The Holy Ghost isn't going to do our praying for us. He is sent to dwell in us as a Helper and an Intercessor. He isn't responsible for our prayer lives—He is sent to help us pray.


Praying with other tongues is praying as the Spirit gives utterance. It is Spirit-directed praying. It eliminates the possibility of selfishness in our prayers.


If God's people insist on having things a certain way, even if it isn't best for them, or is not God's perfect will, He will often permit it. God did not want Israel to have a king, but they kept insisting that they wanted one. So, He permitted them to have one. But it was not His perfect will.

5—Praying in Tongues Stimulates Faith

Jude 1:20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 

Praying in tongues stimulates faith and helps us learn to trust God more fully. If the Holy Spirit supernaturally directs the words I speak, faith must be exercised to speak with tongues. For I don't know what the next word will be—I am trusting God for it. And trusting God for one line will help me to trust Him for another.

6—A Means of Keeping Free from the World

I Corinthians 14:28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

This is a means of keeping us free from the contamination of the sin around us on the job or out in public. Notice from the scripture above that we can speak with tongues to ourselves. Paul said that in the church service,

1 Corinthians 14:27-28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.


We can speak to ourselves and to God in a church service or out in public and not disturb anyone. 


7—Enables Us to Pray for the Unknown

Praying in tongues provides a way to pray for things for which no one thinks to pray or is even aware. We already know that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray for what we know not how to pray as we ought. But in addition, the Holy Spirit—who knows everything—can pray through us for things about which our natural minds know nothing.


An English missionary to Africa was home on furlough speaking at a missionary conference when a woman asked him if he kept a diary. He replied that he did and she began to relate to him, "Two years ago I was awakened in the night with a burden to pray. I got out of bed and was talking in tongues before I got down on my knees. For an hour I prayed in tongues—and it seemed as if I were wrestling. When I finished praying, I had a vision. I saw you in a little grass hut, surrounded by natives. You were sick. Then you died. I saw the natives pull the sheet over your head and walk sadly outside the hut. Suddenly you came out of the hut and stood in their midst, and all the natives rejoiced."


The missionary then asked her if she kept a diary and requested she bring it that afternoon. Comparing diaries and making allowances for time differences in England and Africa, they discovered the time of the woman's prayer burden exactly coincided with the time when the missionary was sick with a deadly fever. His partner was away, and he was alone with the natives. Things happened just as she saw them—the missionary died, the natives saw him die and pulled a sheet over his head—then he got up suddenly well! Because of the Spirit of God!


Praying in the spirit provides a way for things to be prayed for that we wouldn't know anything about in the natural. The Holy Ghost, however, knows everything.

8—Gives Spiritual Refreshing

Isaiah 28:11-12 For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people, to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. 

What is the rest, the refreshing, the above scripture refers to? Speaking in other tongues! Isn't it wonderful that we can take this rest every day? "This is the rest . . . this is the refreshing."  We need this spiritual refreshing in these days of turmoil, perplexity, and anxiety.


Reason 9—Tongues for Giving Thanks

I Corinthians 14:15-17 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.

When Paul said, verse 16 " how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? He was referring to those who are unlearned in spiritual things.


If you invited me to dinner and said, "Please give thanks;" and if I prayed in tongues, you wouldn't know what I said. You wouldn't be edified. Therefore, Paul said it would be better to pray with my understanding there.


But notice that Paul says praying in tongues provides the most perfect way to pray and to give thanks, for he said, “giving thanks well.” (Verse 17.)


In the presence of people who are unlearned, however, Paul said to pray with your understanding also so that they can be edified; they will understand what you say.

10—Brings the Tongue Under Subjection

James 3:8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.


Yielding the tongue to the Holy Spirit to speak with other tongues is a giant step toward fully yielding all our members to God. For if we can yield this most unruly member, we can yield any member.

The Public Side of Tongues

In conclusion I want to point out that, while we have dealt primarily with tongues in the individual believer's private life, it is also true there is a public side to tongues.


First, when people receive the Holy Ghost publicly, they speak with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.


Secondly, the church is edified by speaking with other tongues in public assembly with interpretation.

I Corinthians 14:3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. But he said in

1 Corinthians 14:5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.


Paul is saying that tongues with interpretation is equivalent to prophecy. If the utterance in tongues is interpreted so that the church can understand what is said, then the one prophesying is not greater.


Let me say here that prophesying is not preaching. If prophesying were preaching, then you wouldn't have to make any preparation to preach. But you must study and prepare to preach. Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show yourself approved unto God.” You don't have to study to speak with tongues, or to interpret. You don't have to study to prophesy. These come by inspiration of the Spirit. Of course, when one is preaching under the inspiration of the Spirit, and suddenly he says things he never thought of, that is inspiration and is an element of prophecy.


Tongues with interpretation edifies the church. When used in line with the Word of God, speaking with tongues with interpretation convinces the unbeliever of the reality of the presence of God, and often causes him to turn to God and be saved.


Jesus said, "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils" (Mark 16:17). That can be private or public. "They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Verse 18). That can be private or public. Another sign is, "They shall speak with new tongues" (Verse 17). This too, is both private and public.

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