Demystifying speaking in tongues
By James Fields
We can’t read the Book of Acts and avoid the subject of
speaking in tongues. The word tongues means languages. Basically, the Holy
Spirit’s powerful presence enabled Jesus’ followers to speak to God in
languages they had never learned.
Acts 2:4 shows 120 followers of Jesus filled with the Holy
Spirit and speaking in tongues.
Acts 10 records Peter’s ministry to a group of
non-Christians in Cornelius’ home. These people received Jesus as their
personal Savior and then spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit came upon them
(see Acts 10:45,46).
Then we read about the apostle Paul’s visit to a city in
Turkey named Ephesus. There he met 12 followers of John the Baptist who
accepted Jesus as their Lord. Subsequently, “When Paul placed his hands on
them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied”
(Acts 19:6, NIV).
Speaking in tongues was a part of the early Christians’
experience. What’s it all about?
Speaking in tongues is an act of the human spirit apart from
the human mind.
The apostle Paul declared, “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit
prays, but my mind is unfruitful. … I will pray with my spirit, but I will also
pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my
mind” (1 Corinthians 14:14,15). So, the speaking in tongues recorded in Acts 2,
10 and 19 describes people who spoke to God from their spirits. Speaking in
tongues is simply speaking from the human spirit in languages unknown to the
mind of the speaker. It’s that simple.
Speaking in tongues lets us address God from our spirits
when our minds don’t know what to say.
Paul pointed out, “Anyone who speaks in a tongue does not
speak to men but to God” (1 Corinthians 14:2). You see, speaking in tongues is
primarily (though not exclusively) for addressing God from the human spirit.
When the human spirit yearns to describe our appreciation of
God and our love for Him, it hits a roadblock. We feel love for God and want to
utter our affection for Him, but our restricted vocabulary prevents us from
saying what we feel. As a result, the Holy Spirit makes His unlimited
vocabulary available to our spirits, and we speak forth adoration for God that
surpasses our mental block.
Tongues is a cooperative language.
God’s Spirit yearns to work in and through His children, but
He refuses to force His will on us. God works with people who willingly cooperate
with the Lord’s desires. For example, we were born again by the power of the
Holy Spirit only after we submitted to Jesus’ lordship. We cooperated with the
Holy Spirit before He transformed us into God’s children.
So it is with speaking languages He inspires. The Holy
Spirit never forces us to speak in languages our minds don’t know. On the other
hand, He makes His unlimited vocabulary available for born-again believers
willing to speak from the human spirit.
Notice the emphasis of Acts 2:4: “Everyone present was
filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy
Spirit gave them this ability” (NLT). The Holy Spirit gave them this ability as
the people surrendered their vocal mechanisms to Him.
Pouring forth our love for God in languages provided by the
Holy Spirit is a miracle that is not mysterious. We belong to the God of
miracles who unhesitatingly injects miracles into the lives of all His
Jesus promised that the Heavenly Father willingly gives the
Holy Spirit to those who ask for Him (see Luke 11:13). After asking the Father
for the Holy Spirit baptism, respond by choosing to speak. The God of miracles
will act in your behalf and enable you to praise Him in a language supplied by
JAMES FIELDS and his wife, Delores, are co-founders of
Comfort and Encouragement Ministries based in Corpus Christi, Texas.
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