In the mid-twentieth century, a worldwide phenomenon called “The Charismatic Renewal” began almost simultaneously in three locations: Seattle, Washington, New York City, and at Notre Dame University in Indiana in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s—and continues to this day. Those events were preceded by a similar event a generation or so earlier that began during meetings in an old barn on Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906, called “The Modern Day Pentecostal Outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” They both involved a “fresh” encounter with God termed the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, mentioned 4 times in the Gospels in the New Testament and experienced by many followers of Jesus in the early Church in the Book of Acts following the Gospels.
After a major, tectonic shift in my personal beliefs about God that took a number of years to change, God primed my inner being and prepared me for that Charismatic Renewal to happen in my own life; God had plowed up the fallow ground of my inner being and the soil was ripe for planting the “seed” of my own baptism in the Holy Spirit. After first hearing about the Charismatic Renewal, however, I dragged my heels for almost 5 years, because of some anti-charismatic teachings I had learned early in my new life as a follower of Jesus. After having worked through that negative teaching, one day, however, I decided to sort of put God to the test concerning my own potential baptism in the Holy Spirit.
A Miraculous Encounter
Here’s what I foolishly did. An Episcopal laywoman, Mrs Jean Stone, had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and was traveling around the nation teaching and assisting other people to have that experience. She also published a short-lived magazine titled “Acts 29” (Get it? The biblical book of Acts has only 28 chapters) which I had been reading for a number of months. It contained testimonials of ordinary people like me who were being baptized in the Holy Spirit all around the world. I knew at that time that Mrs Stone was holding meetings up and down the west coast of the United States and was solidly booked up in that area for the next few months. She was heavily scheduled on the west coast; I was living in the Chicago area. It was highly unlikely—next to impossible—that she would visit the Chicago area any time soon.
One cold, windy February day while praying, I “told” God: “Here’s the deal, God; if Mrs Stone were to somehow magically be in the Chicago area next week, I will let you baptize me in the Holy Spirit!” How foolish of me to have put God to that sort of test. He takes great delight in orchestrating all sorts of miraculous encounters we feel are impossible. This is an important point: I seldom, if ever, purchased and read the Sunday edition of “The Chicago Tribune.” But one Sunday I felt compelled to purchase a copy on the way home after church. When I sat down to glance through it Sunday afternoon (the Tribune is a very thick paper), I noticed a tiny, inch-square ad down in the lower right hand corner of the left page I was glancing at about halfway through the main section of the paper.
Have any idea what that little ad said? It read something like this: “Mrs Jean Stone, noted Episcopal laywoman, will be in the Chicago area tonight only while she is passing through this area enroute to the east coast. She will be speaking at 7: 30 p.m. at the ________ church. Please call______________ for more information.”
Have any idea where the church was located where she would be speaking that very evening? It was a little “Pentecostal” church about two blocks away from where we were then living! What can I say? I had put God to a seemingly impossible test and He took me up on my challenge to Him. I almost decided not to go and hear Mrs Stone that evening, but at the very last minute I decided to face the bitter cold and the blustery wind, left my home, and began walking down the street to that little church.
There were perhaps three dozen people there; Mrs Stone was sort of a dull, bland, dry speaker, not displaying much enthusiasm. As she spoke I was experiencing a range of feelings: I was amazed at what God had done to get both of us there that evening, but disappointed that Mrs Stone wasn’t more flamboyant and more of a polished speaker; I was frightened God would cause me to do something embarrassing when He baptized me in the Holy Spirit, yet I desperately wanted Him to do so; I was embarrassed to be there in that little nondescript church, yet had a sense of anticipation that something very profound was about to happen to me.
When Mrs Stone concluded her brief message, she said something like this: “If you’re interested in being baptized in the Holy Spirit tonight, I’ll be walking among you where you’re seated, placing my hands on you and praying for you to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit; and then you will begin speaking in a language you have not learned as initial evidence that you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. So . . . if you’re interested in being baptized in the Holy Spirit, please raise your hand and keep it up until I get to you. The minute I remove my hands from your head and stop praying for you, open your mouth and begin speaking your new language as evidence of your baptism in the Holy Spirit.”
I was thinking, “That’s it? That’s what it’s all about? No flashes of lightning and rolling thunder? No voices out of the clouds? No earth tremors? This can’t be what this ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit thing’ I’ve been thinking and praying about for a few years is all about.” Down the aisle came Mrs Stone heading right for me. She laid her hands on my head, prayed a brief prayer for me in English, and told me to open my mouth and begin speaking my new language. Panic! I wasn’t “hearing” any new language in my mind and thoughts. What could I do? So . . . I just uttered one word, “Gluggghhh.” She excitedly exclaimed, “That’s it! That’s your first word in your new language, just as a young infant utters its first word; keep speaking your new language!”
You can’t possibly feel the disappointment I felt at that moment. I had expected bells and whistles, flashing blue and red lights, voices from the sky, angelic choirs singing around me—stuff like that—and here I had uttered one, non-sensical sound, and that woman had the audacity to say that was the first word of my new, supernatural language. Mrs Stone made a few closing remarks and then the Pastor of the little church dismissed us for the evening.
I began to walk home completely dejected and disappointed—in Mrs Stone, in God, in everything, but as I approached my door—I was perhaps 100 yards away—all of a sudden I opened my mouth and what sounded like a sentence or two in a strange language came out of my mouth. Then a couple of more sentences, then a few more, then what sounded like a paragraph, then two paragraphs, then more. All in the space of perhaps just a minute or so. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
But, before I write more about my personal experiences with this new, yet-not-new, biblical experience called the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I want to write a few paragraphs explaining in a little more detail—some teaching, actually—and giving a little more background about such phenomena in our modern era beginning at the dawn of the 20th century. After all, I’m a teacher and it’s hard for me not to seize this teaching opportunity.
I’m actually going to focus in on the matter of speaking in tongues and what are called the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” as they relate to the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Let’s just say I want to teach you a little pneumatology, which is a theological word meaning what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit; see, I can use some of those big words now and then. So here’s a little background information about this matter, helping to explain at the same time some of what happened to me that cold February night during the last few days of my 27th year of my mortal existence on planet earth.
Short History Lesson
The supernatural intervention by God into the lives of people by baptizing them in the Holy Spirit and manifesting the “gift of tongues” through them is certainly a part of New Testament teaching, and has been experienced and practiced by various churches and groups of Jesus-followers here and there throughout all 2,000 years of Church history. The phenomena of that baptism and speaking in tongues died down somewhat toward the latter part of the 19th century, perhaps due to the rational and logical, humanistic thought patterns of the so-called “Age of Enlightenment,” or “Age of Reason,” characterized by rational, intellectual scepticism and cynicism about all things religious and supernatural.
The experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues burst forth anew on the world scene in the early years of the 20th century at a small Bible School in Kansas (1900) and in Los Angeles (1906) during what has come to be known as the Asuza Street Revival, which gave birth to the modern Pentecostal Movement (named from the events which occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapters 1 and 2 in the New Testament), birthing such modern Pentecostal denominations as the Assemblies of God, Church of God, and the like.
The gift of speaking in tongues and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit (the “gifts of the Holy Spirit”) have since been practiced by millions of Pentecostal believers worldwide since 1906, but the usage of those gifts did not become evident in most mainstream Christian churches until the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when an Episcopal Pastor in Seattle, Dennis Bennett, was baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues and exhibit other supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, launching the modern “Charismatic Movement.” (comes from the Greek word charisma in the New Testament, meaning gift)
Similar events began to occur almost simultaneously in New York City and Notre Dame University in Indiana—as I mentioned previously. Since then, the phenomenon has spread worldwide through almost all major Christian denominations and churches with the exception of the eastern Orthodox churches, Holiness Churches, and most churches in the Reformed and Calvinistic theological tradition. Why this movement has not spread to those specific churches is an interesting question, but I will not attempt to answer that in this teaching. Oh, there have been little “pockets” of outbreaks of the baptism in the Holy Spirit here and there in those churches, but not many such outbreaks—and generally they have not lasted for any length of time because most people in those churches and denominations who claim to have been baptized in the Holy Spirit are often made to feel very unwelcome in such groups—if not downright asked to leave.
5 Prominent People
For the most part, 5 people figured prominently in the “spread” of the Charismatic Movement (including the gifts of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues) beyond the confines of Pentecostalism in the mid-20th century.
First, there was the Episcopal Priest, David Bennett, mentioned above. Next, there was a man from South Africa named David DuPlessis who was nicknamed “Mr Pentecost.” He traveled the world bringing the news of the restoration of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit to both Protestantism and Catholicism, even having private sessions with various Popes. God also used Oral Roberts, a Pentecostal holiness evangelist, to build bridges between Pentecostals and mainline denominational believers.
Pope John XXIII was used by God to open up the Roman Catholic Church to the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit when he issued a papal Encyclical in 1962 urging the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to “open up to the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit.” Finally, Dr Derek Prince, a highly educated British intellectual like the famed evangelical Christian of an earlier generation, C.S. Lewis, gave intellectual underpinnings and credibility to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit; no longer was the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit found to be limited to poor, uneducated Pentecostals.
Incidentally, I had the privilege of hearing in person four of those five persons noted in the paragraph above; in fact, Dr Derek Prince was my Pastor for a few months in the Chicago area, but that’s a long story in and of itself. And a number of years after these events occurred in my life in Chicago, I had the privilege of attending the famed Oral Roberts University for some graduate work and being taught by Oral Roberts himself in a number of my classes and seminars.
As noted above, the only churches which have remained largely closed to the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit since the mid-20th century are the eastern Orthodox churches, Holiness churches, and churches holding and espousing Reformed views and the theological traditions of John Calvin, the great Protestant Reformer.
Please get your Bible and read Acts 2: 2 – 11; Acts 10: 44 – 48; and Acts 19: 1 – 12 in your own Bible. Yep, go ahead and do that right now before you read any further in this teaching. Have you done that? Be honest. If you haven’t, this teaching has been programmed to self-destruct and burn up right before you on your computer, laptop, or smart phone. It’s in your best interests to read those references right now . . . These are the biblical occurrences of the gift of speaking of tongues among early followers of Jesus in the infant New Testament Church.
Let me now simply enumerate the listings of the various supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit—including tongues—found in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 in the New Testament portion of the Bible, which—generally speaking—begin to be operated in the lives of people baptized in the Holy Spirit. In brief, it can be said that these supernatural gifts are bestowed by God the Father, administered by God the Son, and operated by God the Holy Spirit. They are all operated by the Holy Spirit in and through people either to spread the Victorious Good News about Jesus to pre-Jesus-believers or to build up, advise, encourage, strengthen, and comfort those people who are already followers of Jesus.
Actually, there are four broad categories of such gifts found in various places in the Bible; let me list them simply in those four categories before I begin to enumerate them in the listing below:
- Supernatural gifts generally called “motivational gifts”; these are found generally in Romans, chapter 12, but also in various other references throughout the New Testament.
- So called “People Gifts” found generally in Ephesians 4: 11, but also found other places throughout the New Testament. These are gifts of people God gives to his Church—gifts such as apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors, teachers, deacons, elders, and other similar people-gifts.
- So-called “spiritual gifts” generally listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.
- Gifts of “artistic workmanship and craftsmanship” generally summarized in Exodus 35: 30 – 35. I get the sense while reading this passage that the gifts enumerated therein are more than simply heightened natural abilities, gifts, or talents. I’m not attempting to force my opinion on you; you decide for yourself. All such supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are operated in, through, and as ordinary human beings by the Extra-ordinary Holy Spirit! They are decidedly not merely heightened natural abilities. Humans do not “possess” any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. they belong to the Holy Spirit, and He sovereignly operates them, manifests them, and delivers them through ordinary human beings such as you and me. They are his to operate, ours to delivers. He uses people to deliver his gifts to other people–because He loves people and cares for us. He sovereignly delivers “the best gift for the occasion” needed in the lives of the recipients. He “cares enough to send the very best,” as the Hallmark Greeting Card Company used to advertise.
In general, there are 5 primary ways in which the Holy Spirit “speaks” to the person He chooses to deliver one or more of his gifts on specific occasions:
- He speaks through his Written Word, the Bible.
- Through words and creative ideas He transmits and imbeds into our thoughts.
- Through mental images or pictures, dreams, visions, our creative imagination, etc.
- Through persistent, strong impressions or urgings or nudgings in our thoughts and feelings.
- By means of tongues and interpretation. Of course, the Holy Spirit, being God, is not limited in “speaking” to humans in only those 5 ways.
The following is not an exhaustive list of such supernatural gifts; I’m personally convinced there are many more, some found elsewhere in the Bible, some never mentioned in the Bible; the Holy Spirit cannot be limited or restricted to someone’s listing of his gifts; we can’t “box in” the Holy Spirit and limit Him to someone’s list. Here’s a listing of some of those gifts found in the New Testament:
- The supernatural gift of prophecy. This is a divine disclosure by the Holy Spirit, a vocal revelation uttered by God through someone in order to build up, encourage, develop, and strengthen those to whom the prophetic utterance is voiced in a known language; it is a sudden supernatural insight into a given situation, generally for advice, warning, or comfort. It is decidedly not merely “inspired” preaching; it is not something that improves by practice; there is no such thing as a “polished” prophet. In its simplest form, it’s something very much like Mary, the mother of Jesus, uttered in Luke 1: 46 and 47 when she exclaimed, “My soul magnifies God and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” NewTestament prophecy does NOT predict, prognosticate, or foretell. It “tells forth.” Moreover, according to 1 Corinthians 14: 3 it is generally to comfort, console, and build up others–as well as to encourage them in general.
- The supernatural gift of ministry. This gift is a special gift given by the Holy Spirit for a person to most effectively serve the Body of Jesus, the church, in material and tangible ways; the rendering of any type of creative spiritual service. It includes, but is not limited to, those persons who are “called to the ministry.”
- The supernatural gift of teaching. Teaching refers to those who are supernaturally gifted to instruct the revealed truth of God’s Word and related biblical subjects, or to those in the public “Office of Teacher” in and to the Body of Jesus (Ephesians 4: 11). The New Testament concept for “teacher” is mind-engraver.” If you’re interested in a much fuller explanation of this supernatural gift, please read another teaching on this web site entitled The Christian Teacher.
- The supernatural gift of exhortation. This is a supernatural gift given in order to render advice, warning, or comfort, generally to God’s people, but sometimes to those who are not yet followers of Jesus. It means to earnestly urge someone to do what is proper or required in given situations. It is similar to the gift of prophecy, with some subtle differences.
- The supernatural gift of giving. This refers either to those gifted to contribute to the emotional or physical support of others, or to those gifted to give financially abundantly to support the work of proclaiming the Gospel. It is a specific supernatural gift of giving, going beyond the basic biblical teachings that every follower of Jesus should give a portion of their income to God. More about this gift can be found in my book, LIFEgiving, which can be ordered from Amazon.com.
- The supernatural gift of leadership/supervision. This refers to people who are supernaturally gifted to be facilitators, or to those with the public function of administration and supervision in the Church. It is being able to lead other people by serving them, by being a servant-leader as Jesus was while He was here in person.
- The supernatural gift of mercy. This defines persons with a special gift of strong, perceptive emotions, or those called to perform special functions of Christian relief or acts of charity. The late Mother Theresa best exemplifies the function of this gift in our era.
- The supernatural gift of hospitality. This is a supernatural gift in order to provide friendly, kind, and solicitous attention to guests. It is an outgoing, warm, friendly attention to the physical and material needs of others.
- The supernatural gift of the word of wisdom. This is a spoken, spiritual utterance in one’s known language at a given moment, supernaturally disclosing the mind, thoughts, purposes, and ways of God as applied to a specific situation. It is almost always directive, giving people clear guidance about what to do in given situations and comprehensive insight into God’s plans and purposes. It is not merely having a vivid imagination or good insight into certain matters; it is not intuition or a so-called “sixth sense.” It is knowing and speaking something that only God could know about a given situation—which He reveals as He speaks through someone. It is when God supernaturally tells someone what to do in a given situation—something that person would not have known to do otherwise.
- The supernatural gift of the word of knowledge. This is a supernatural revelation (in one’s known language) of information pertaining to a person or an event, given for a specific purpose, usually having to do with an immediate need. It is not mere human knowledge based on learning and study. It is not heightened intellectualism. It’s when God takes a little fragment of his infinite knowledge and speaks that out through someone to address another person. It is not a critical faculty of insight into other peoples’ lives or situations. It is not a sort of heightened intuitional insight of knowledge. No, it is a clear “chunk” of God’s knowledge that one could not know in any other way.
- The supernatural gift of faith. This gift is a unique form of faith, going beyond “generalized faith” God dispenses to every human (see Romans 12: 3). It supernaturally trusts and does not doubt with reference to specific matters involved. It is a supernatural gift enabling one to fully trust in advance what will only make sense in reverse. If you’re interested in a much fuller explanation of this gift in operation, please read another one of our teachings posted on this web site titled Faith.
- The supernatural gifts of healings. Note this is plural. It is a composite gift. Just as there are numerous human sicknesses, illnesses, disabilities, and diseases, there are as many gifts of healings. I don’t know the truth of it, but it has been said that all sicknesses and illnesses can be grouped into 39 broad, separate categories; it’s interesting that Jesus was beaten 39 times the morning of his death, and Isaiah 53 states that by his beatings we were healed. God’s supernatural gifts of healing are not intended in any way to denigrate or demean the ways God often heals through modern medicine, too. God heals “miraculously” through both prayer and medicine.
- The supernatural gifts of the working of miracles. This is a manifestation of God’s power beyond the ordinary course of natural law. It is a divine enablement to do something that could not be done naturally. It is when the power of God somehow supernaturally alters, suspends, or in some other way controls or even overrides natural laws. It is when God demonstrates his supernatural power over the natural realm. Often, miracles are signs God uses to capture the attention of people. The biblical definition of miracles is “supernatural, God-caused events beyond the bounds of reason and logic, defying comprehension, expectation, explanation, and experience–for God’s main purposes of lovingly drawing all humanity to Himself through Jesus.”
- The supernatural gift of tongues. This is the ability to speak supernaturally in a language not known by the speaker. It is often a language used in heaven. It can also be unlearned human languages as in Acts 2. It is a transrational utterance of speech using human vocal apparatus, but originating in the human spirit rather than in the human mind. (see additional explanations below) Some believe tongues to be the various angelic languages spoken in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- The supernatural gift of discerning of spirits. This is a supernatural ability to see into the invisible spirit world, especially to detect the true source of circumstances or motives of people in a given situation. In brief, it enables one to see into the invisible world of Satan and his demons, a realm that cannot be perceived with our natural eyes. It is to see the unseeable. Sometimes, God will operate this gift so that leaders can see into the human spirits of other people in selecting “workers” for building God’s Body, the church. NOTE: Some well-meaning but untaught persons use the term “the gift of discernment.” There is no such gift as the “gift of discernment.” It is the “gift of discerning of spirits.”
- The supernatural gift of interpretation of tongues. This gift “translates” and “interprets” when the gift of speaking in tongues has been exercised and uttered. It renders the transrational (not irrational) message of the Holy Spirit, making such a message meaningful to others when exercised either in public or in private.
Gift of Tongues
As to the gift of speaking in tongues, see the explanation above as well as this additional explanation. Generally, tongues can best be described as unlearned, angelic languages (languages of heaven)—pure clean languages which have been untainted, uncorrupted, and unfouled as all human languages have been. Someone once wrote that tongues are languages that are “pleasant to the ears of God.”
There are 3 categories of the supernatural manifestation of the gift of tongues, based on usage:
- Spoken, unlearned human languages generally proclaimed among pre-Jesus-followers to get their attention focused on God. (Acts 2)
- The gift spoken in a meeting of Jesus-followers, but only when someone is present who can demonstrate the gift of interpretation of tongues. (sometimes being one and the same person) (1 Corinthians 14).
- Private devotional use of tongues in prayer, praise, and song. (1 Corinthians 14)
At this point, please stop reading this teaching! To continue on, it’s very important that you first understand the concept of how God created humans as tri-unified beings, composed of bodies, souls, and spirits, in order for the remainder of this portion of this teaching to make any sense. Please stop and read another teaching on our web site titled “Whole In One” before you read any further in this teaching.
Let Him Out!
The biblical, spiritual phenomenon called the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit—when experienced—unleashes, “uncorks,” or releases the Holy Spirit from within the human spirit where He is already resident if we have been born again, born anew, born from above, born the second time, saved, converted, etc.) All four Gospels and the Book of Acts teach that Jesus baptizes people in the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1, and Acts 11: 16) There are no valid textual, exegetical, or historical reasons to believe that the phenomenon of the baptism of the Holy Spirit ceased with the waning of the so-called “Apostolic Age” by the end of the first century—as I had been mistakenly taught in my early years as a follower of Jesus.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not when a follower of Jesus first receives the Holy Spirit. No, the Holy Spirit first comes into a believer’s life in an atomic second when that person is born again. At that moment, the Holy Spirit and the believer’s spirit are inseparably fused together and they become one spirit (1 Corinthians 6: 17). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a so-called “second work” of God’s grace wherein the Holy Spirit (Who already lives within the twice-born follower of Jesus) is deliberately unloosed by an act of our will in order to “flood” into all areas of our lives to add new dimensions of holiness (wholeness) to our lives, and usher us into a decidedly new—more supernatural—relationship with Jesus.
There’s another aspect of the baptism in the Holy Spirit I will simply mention in passing, but will not teach about here. John the Baptizer said of Jesus that He would baptize people in the Holy Spirit and fire. Being “baptized in fire” is another matter altogether, not within the scope of this teaching. Suffice it to say that being baptized in fire opens the door for the Holy Spirit to begin anew a lifelong cleansing and purifying process in the life of the follower of Jesus. For additional teaching about God’s use of fire for cleansing and purging, see another teaching on this web site titled “Fire!“
A note of admonishment . . . Some people who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and who subsequently exhibit some of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have, for whatever reasons, taken some sort of perverse pride that God has “chosen” them above other, “lesser,” non-baptized-in-the-Holy Spirit followers of Jesus to be gifted in such wonderful matters. They feel some sort of “spiritual elitism” that they are somehow “holier” than their non-baptized-in-the-Spirit followers of Jesus.
Please don’t ever let such foolish pride cause you to have such spiritual elitism, and holier-than-thou attitudes! The reality is that one ought to be extremely, deeply humbled that the Most High God, the Creator of the Universe, has condescended to allow humans to participate in such wonderful and blessed matters. There is absolutely no room for pride that one has been baptized in the Holy Spirit and is able to manifest some of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are for ALL God’s children and are given to build up, strengthen, comfort, and encourage all of Jesus’ son and daughters in his worldwide Church.
Filled With The Holy Spirit
What are the differences, if any, in being baptized in the Holy Spirit and being “filled” with the Holy Spirit, the latter as taught, for example, in Ephesians 5: 18? The differences are simple. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is a one-time event whereby the Holy Spirit is first “unleashed” from where He dwells within our spirits—having first come to live there when we were born again.
By contrast, being filled with the Holy Spirit is a daily, almost moment by moment, process whereby we continually let the Holy Spirit “flow out” from within us. It is what Jesus was referring to in John 7: 38 and 39 when He said that “rivers of living water” would flow out from our inner beings to the dry, parched, and thirsty world around us; Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit when He said that. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is simply to make a conscious choice on a daily basis to yield control of our lives to the Holy Spirit.
For example, each morning of my life, I consciously say aloud to the Holy Spirit that I am turning complete and total control of my life over to Him for the next 24-hour period—for Him to do in me, through me, and as me whatever He chooses to do. I consciously “place” Him in charge of my life for that day. The imagery of being “filled” with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5: 18 contrasts and compares someone being intoxicated (controlled) by wine, or being filled (controlled) by the Holy Spirit. The expanded definition of being filled with the Holy Spirit means to regularly and consistently, day-by-day, make conscious choices to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Ideally, God would love to have each of his Spirit-born sons and daughters be both baptized in the Holy Spirit and filled with the Holy Spirit daily. However, we do not live in an ideal world. Some who choose to be filled with the Holy Spirit choose not to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Conversely, some who choose to be baptized in the Holy Spirit choose not to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
And, unfortunately, there are some who choose to do neither. It has been aptly said that the Holy Spirit is a “perfect gentleman” and does not force Himself upon anyone. Being persons of somewhat limited free will, it is our choice to be baptized in the Holy Spirit…or not. It is our choice to be filled with the Holy Spirit . . . or not. Such wonderful gifts from God are available to all his sons and daughters, but it is the free-will choice of each follower of Jesus whether or not to reach out and “receive” such wondrous gifts.
Ground Rules for Speaking In Tongues
Having said that, let’s now move on to examine 1 Corinthians 14 in a little detail, wherein Paul lays out some ground rules for the gift of speaking in tongues. I will attempt to expound and clarify the teachings of this chapter because it is somewhat convoluted and difficult to read. I will try to summarize most of the chapter in plain, simple English, but I will not address every matter Paul teaches about in the chapter.
First, this chapter opens by telling us to desire love first and foremost, but also to desire the supernatural, spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s okay to equally desire to be loving and to exhibit the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Then the chapter proceeds to deal primarily (but not exclusively) with two supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy and tongues, and the proper use of the latter in public and in private.
The chapter proceeds to teach that followers of Jesus should desire to prophesy. As noted above, the gift of prophecy is a divine disclosure by the Holy Spirit, an edifying revelation, or a sudden supernatural insight into a given situation, generally for advice, warning, or comfort. It is to proclaim the Word of God suited for a specific occasion or situation to build up, comfort, strengthen, and encourage people present during the prophecy, as contrasted to speaking in tongues publicly. As stated earlier, it does not predict, prognosticate, nor foretell the future.
Sidebar: As a very timely and wonder-full illustration of the gift of prophecy, last evening I was in attendance at a local jam session by some followers of Jesus where local musicians get together every two weeks on a Saturday night and just “jam” to their heart’s content. Present at the jam session was a man who does not know me personally; the only connection we have is that both of us know a mutual friend. This man stood up to pray during the jam session, and then began to exit the meeting. In the midst of his prayer, what he was saying seemed to abruptly change. He looked straight at me, pointed his finger at me and begin to say directly to me something like this; I’m not quoting him word-for-word, but this is the gist of what he said to me (rather, what God said to me through him):
“Bill, God knows your heart and your longings and deepest desires. He knows that you are a lifelong seeker after truth. I remind you that the truth you seek will always be found in Jesus. Keep seeking, keep asking, keep knocking. I remind you, too, that your entire past has been removed—all those bad experiences you have had were merely to test you and strengthen you. Your past is entirely gone and you are a brand-new man facing a new era in your life. Walk through the open door I have set before you. Through that open door is a new and fresh anointing for ministry and service to others. I am giving you a new world to reach, to teach, to disciple, to proclaim the Gospel about Jesus. Yes, walk through the open door I have set before you into a brand new day, a brand-new era in your life—and I will be with you and in you all your journey!”
That prophecy last evening was not only wonder-fully encouraging and strengthening to me, but also a marvelous illustration about how that particular gift of the Holy Spirit “works.” Again, generally speaking, the gift of prophecy is to build up, strengthen, comfort, and encourage the Church as a whole, whereas tongues is generally used to build up, comfort, and strengthen the individual follower of Jesus (or the Church as a whole, if an interpreter is present). Note that Paul writes in this chapter he wishes everyone would speak in tongues, but especially that they would prophesy.
Where Does It Originate?
Tongues is most often used for private worship, prayer, and singing. The gift of speaking in tongues is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit for nonconceptual communication with God, originating in the human spirit, rather than in the mind. The difference in speaking my native language and my speaking in tongues is in the origin or source of the language, although both tongues and our native human languages use the same vocal apparatus. Our native language originates in our minds and is transmitted through our vocal apparatus. Speaking in tongues originates in our spirits and is transmitted through our vocal apparatus. Same vocal apparatus, different point of origin of the language being spoken.
Remember, I’m sort of taking you on a brief safari through 1 Corinthians 14…
It should be noted that one can also legitimately “speak” in tongues silently in the sense that it is subliminal speech not spoken aloud. It is to “think in tongues” and pray in tongues subliminally—silently. Note that in verse 12, Paul admonishes the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth that since they desire to exhibit the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they should desire to excel in their use. At no point does Paul ever denigrate the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit or their proper use. He simply says followers of Jesus should attempt to excel in their use.
As in Acts chapter 2, Paul re-affirms that sometimes the public use of speaking in tongues is to supernaturally speak in other, known human languages so that pre-followers of Jesus hearing the tongues spoken in their native language might come to believe the Good News about Jesus. The chapter goes on to teach that those who prophesy and (by implication), those who speak in tongues are in complete control while exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are not operated by the Holy Spirit (beyond human control) in some wild, ecstatic, “holy roller” manner. Again, the Holy Spirit is a perfect gentleman and does not force His gifts upon humans who exercise such gifts. Paul’s admonition is to let all things [regarding the use of spiritual gifts] be done decently and in order.
In a couple of other biblical references (1 Timothy 4: 14 and 2 Timothy 1: 6) Paul encouraged his young disciple, Timothy, to stir up or exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit within him and not to neglect them or use them carelessly or improperly. Much more could be said about those two references, but I’ll let you study them on your own.
1 Corinthians 14 continues by teaching that public tongues is generally “equal” to prophecy—as long as there is someone in the congregation who has the gift of interpretation of tongues. The gift of tongues should never be spoken in a public meeting of followers of Jesus unless someone is present who has the gift of interpretation of tongues; in such cases, as a general rule of thumb there should not be more than two or three messages in tongues in any given meeting. Hearers in the congregation have the option of deciding for themselves if what has been spoken (and interpreted) in tongues is true or not. It is God’s system of “checks and balances” in the public use of the gift of speaking in tongues.
Make It Personal
In this chapter, Paul writes about the place of tongues in his personal life. It is a language that originates in the human spirit as contrasted with his native language that originates in the mind. Both are equally important. Prayer, praise, and singing, both in tongues and in his native language, were normal components of Paul’s private devotional times and helped strengthen him, build him up, comfort, and encourage him.
Paul says he can make a conscious choice to pray and sing with his known, human language, and he can make the same conscious choice to pray and sing in unknown tongues—whichever usage seems appropriate at the time, shifting back and forth between the two languages as seems appropriate. Paul never depreciates or minimizes the importance of the manifestation and use of the gift of tongues. Rather, he thanked God for its availability for use in his own private devotional life and its limited public use, the latter always accompanied by the gift of interpretation of tongues.
In summary, Paul concludes the chapter by stating again that, yes, it’s proper to speak in tongues—it should not be forbidden. It is proper to speak in tongues both in public and private. Use the gift wisely, decently, and in proper order. The supernatural gift of speaking in tongues is—and should be—a natural part of the life of a congregation and of the individual follower of Jesus.
Okay, that’s it for today’s brief lesson in “Pneumatology 101”; there’ll be a test on the subject during Friday’s class . . . Let’s get back to my personal experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit and subsequent events thereafter. The least I can say is that my life began to change dramatically after I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Life became very “supernaturally natural” instead of merely natural. I will give you only one example of the types of events I began to experience almost daily after my baptism in the Holy Spirit that cold February evening—experiences which continue almost daily, even today, many years later.
I was counseling and praying with a young married couple; the wife was pregnant, but there were serious complications with the pregnancy. They had already experienced a number of miscarriages and now the baby she presently carried was in trouble. While praying with them one evening, the Holy Spirit projected these words into my own thought patterns: “trophoblastic cells of the placenta.” That was a demonstration of the supernatural gift called “the word of knowledge.” I had never heard those words before; I didn’t know what they meant. But I advised the young couple to immediately contact their ob/gyn physician and tell him what I had told them. When they told him what I had said, he looked at them with his mouth open and exclaimed, “I never would have thought of that possibility!” To make a long story short, he did some tests and, lo and behold, the difficulty with the pregnancy involved the trophoblastic cells of the placenta. The problem was readily corrected, and a healthy baby boy was born to them a few months later!
Just knowing what little I know of human nature concerning this intriguing, yet controversial, biblical subject, I have a feeling you might be asking, “Bill, do you speak in tongues? Do you pray in tongues? The answer is, “Yes. I pray, praise, and sing privately in tongues almost daily and, upon a few occasions, I have spoken in tongues in public (with an interpreter present).”
That’s it. That’s the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit . . . in a nutshell. If you haven’t yet been baptized in the Holy Spirit and begun to exhibit the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I encourage you to get baptized today . . . now. And then allow Him to begin to manifest his supernatural gifts through you as they are needed in the lives of other people in your day-to-day world.
And, if you haven’t yet been filled with the Holy Spirit, ask Him to begin filling you today . . . . now. Both experiences will launch you out into a whole new world—a supernatural world—of loving, supernatural service and ministry to God and other people.
I have also written a book giving more general information about the Holy Spirit. Titled Friends Forever, it can be purchased at amazon.com
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Revised and Updated January 2023