“Pentecost series (3)”
Acts 2:1-21, 37 “Pentecost series (3)”
As we have studied for the last two weeks on the same text from Acts chapter 2, we know that after Jesus was ascended into heaven on the mount of Olive, and as Jesus instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples gathered together in one place and in one mind constantly praying for Holy Spirit to come upon them.
On the fiftieth day of Feast of Weeks, as they were praying as usual, all of sudden, Holy Spirit, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind and in the appearance of tongues like fire divided, came from heaven and descended upon each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. Verse 4, as they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in OTHER tongues.
We have to note a couple of things here. 1) Speak in tongue is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is not my word. This is what is written here in Acts 2. Let me ask you a question. Does Holy Spirit still work today’s world or cease to work? I strongly believe that Holy Spirit still works today. The reason I say this because there are people, even pastors and theologians who say that gift of tongue was a phenomenon happened in the early Christian era but not anymore in our time. Let me tell you what! As long as Holy Spirit works on this earth until Jesus comes back, gift of tongue will not cease to exist. 2) We have to note here also is that the gift of tongue we find in Acts 2 is speaking in other tongues. In other words, they spoke in other languages, those languages people spoke in different parts of the world, –the languages that had been existed already then. Verse 8, people from Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia…etc. they all understood what Jesus’ disciples were saying, –the wonders of God. It was Holy Spirit who spoke other languages through Jesus’ disciples to communicate the gospel to those people who spoke different languages than their own, Galileans. I heard and experienced similar things. In a revival service, when a Korean pastor preached in Korean, this American man understood him in English. An American pastor spoke in tongue for a Pilipino doctor, not knowing he was speaking in a Pilipino dialect, and this Pilipino doctor heard him in his own native tongue: “Give your heart to Jesus!” Do you want to hear more? One of my mentors, a Korean pastor in his 70’s who lives in San Jose, he goes to Columbia every year teaching Bible to Columbian pastors. He cannot speak Spanish at all. His English is rather poor. Does he teach in Korean? No! Whenever he goes to Columbia, when he teaches Bible, he finds himself speaking in Spanish. When the teaching session is over, the Spanish tongue goes away also. In other words, he teaches in tongue. We are limited in many ways, not only by time and space, but by our language, culture and customs. But God is not limited. God speaks through us to communicate God’s message to those people who do not speak our own language. That still happens!
In summary, speaking in tongue is speaking in other languages, “other tongues” we see in Acts 2. If it were French, Welch, Indonesian, or Japanese, we say they are other languages or different languages that have been existed on this earth but we cannot speak them since they are not our languages. God empowers people to speak other tongues that are not in their command, to communicate God’s message, “the wonders of God” with those people who use different or other languages, –that is speaking in tongues.
On the other hand, we have to also know that there is different kind of gift of tongue, namely ‘praying in tongue’. If we look at Mark chapter 16: 17, “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name, they will drive out demons, they will speak in NEW tongues…” We have to note here saying “new tongues”, not “other tongues”. New tongues are unknown tongues. These “new tongues” are tongues that are unknown to us humans on this earth. No one can understand but God. Romans chapter 8: 26, “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. (When we pray) We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Did you hear what is it being said here? When we pray, since we do not know what we ought to pray for, the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express…” –“With groans that words cannot express…”–, that is why new tongues sound strange in our ears; no one understands new tongues other than God, unlike other tongues (languages). They are new tongues given for praying purpose to God directly, not for public teaching, preaching or communicating to people. In other words, praying tongues belong to our prayer closets, private spaces since heavenly languages are directed to God only, not to people. Do you see the difference? Speaking in tongue is God speaking or helping God’s people to speak the tongue of the people God wants to bring God’s message to. Whereas praying in tongue is understood by God and is directed to God only.
Without understanding the differentiation between speaking in tongue and praying tongue, it can cause so much confusion, misunderstanding, therefore, some people even want to discard the gift of tongue altogether. But the gift of tongue is very important in our Christian spiritual life. Without speaking in tongue, we are very much limited by our own incompetence not speaking the language of those people we need to share the gospel with. Let say, if I go to Papua New Guinea for a short-term mission, and since I do not speak the language, I cannot share the gospel with them. Situations like that, God empowers God’s people to speak the language. But if we do not believe in the gift of tongue, can God work through us? Let us not hinder God to use us because of our spiritual ignorance!
Likewise, praying in tongue is very very important in our spiritual life. As I mentioned numerous times, we are limited by time and space, and we do not know what we should or ought to pray for ourselves, so Holy Spirit prays for us; that is what praying in tongue is all about. For example, I was on my way visiting one of my parishioners two weeks ago. Since I do not know ways around here, I depend on GPS a lot. On this particular day, I followed GPS instructions through gravel roads, not knowing what will happen in a short while later. When I drive, I usually pray. So, I was praying, as usual, that day, and all of sudden, I found myself praying in tongue loudly, almost at the top of my lung, and as I was praying like that I was wondering why do I pray like that. Sure enough, about a minute later or so, my car got lost control in the middle of the gravel road and it was swerving to the ditch and to the other side of the road to the ditch and then to a cornfield and then to the other side of the road to ditch…. Steering wheel seemed to have a mind of its own, it was running so fast, and I had no control over it. A couple of turns like that one side to the other side and as if someone was driving for me, my car was on the road once again and it was going! Nothing happened!! As the car got lost its control and was running wildly from one ditch to the other, not to mention that there were poles and deep ditches here and there along the road, I was sure that I would end up in a major accident, but Holy Spirit prayed for me at that moment to prevent any serious accident that might have happened.
Praying in tongue is very needed when praying for other people. When I pray for our people since I do not know their situation in detail or the problems they have, which might eat them up day and night, I ask Holy Spirit to pray for them using my tongue. If I try to pray on my own, then, I cannot pray the things that I ought to pray for since I do not know their problems. For example, I know that this person doesn’t have a job, so I would pray for job for that person. But Holy Spirit helps me pray for his alcoholism which prevented him from holding onto his job for a long time. Do you see? I started out praying for certain people for their physical healings, but Holy Spirit helps me pray in tongue for their salvation. The other day at the hospital, I visited this patient who came in for her heart problem, So I started out praying for her condition, and as I was praying I touched her heart, and right then, she grabbed my hand pressing down to the spot I was touching and she was crying. Spirit also made me cry with her almost sobbing, touching her face as if comforting her. I felt deep within Spirit praying for her in words that cannot express, with groans, though I did not pray in tongue out loudly. After prayer, she shared with me that she had lost her two children along with her mother and her sister same day in an accident. She always had heartache and that spot, she said she always had heartache at I touched as if God touched. Then I understood the reason why I cried for her and had deep emotions comforting her, touching her face sobbing. God wanted to comfort her, letting her know that God knows her heartache and God has been there for her all along but she did not know that. She thought God had abandoned her and left her all alone. She told me that She would not forget the day God had touched her through me!
Holy Spirit helps me pray for people in our church with “groans that words cannot express”, not knowing what the problem they have. At times when I pray like that for a while, sometimes Holy Spirit let me know the nature of the problem they have. Last year when I first came here, when I started praying for our people, God helped me pray for this particular person at the top of my lung and let me know that it had to do with a drug addiction problem. Later that person came to me letting me know the problems that person had for so long, not only with drug addiction but with other problems, as well.
That is what the praying in tongue does; Holy Spirit praying for us interceding for us with words that cannot express, with groans. Praying in tongue helps us to pray directly to God, according to God’s will and plan for us.
We are not to pray in tongues in public. Praying in tongue belongs to our prayer closet, not to the public, except for the time when God has a message to people or to church. In such circumstances, only 2 or 3 people should give a message in tongues. Only one person should speak at a time, and each message should come with an interpretation. It is important to deliver God’s message in an orderly fashion when allowing messages from God in tongues, as to not create confusion among the church. The Apostle Paul is very specific in his guidelines for using unknown tongues in public.
May God help us to know more about Holy Spirit and help us to know that the gift of tongue is a sign of the presence of Holy Spirit in our midst.
Thanks be to God!