The Book of Acts Study – Part 4
The Language of the Spirit
Pentecost (Shavuot) and the tradition of Languages
- In the previous study we noted that Pentecost (Shavuot) was both a commemoration of the giving of the Law and the Festival of First Fruits, both are highly significant.
- The Talmud states that the Law was first spoken by God and heard by Moses, then later given in a written form. When God spoke the Words of the Law to Moses He spoke in 72 languages – a number understood to symbolically mean in all the languages of the world. It is interesting then, by contrast that on the day of Pentecost God released the Power of the New Covenant, the Law of Grace, by supernaturally enabling the 120 followers of Jesus to proclaim the Goodness of God and Words of Life in multiple languages from all over the known world.
- The hearers of these languages were Born Again and became the “first fruits” of a new nation dedicated to God and His purposes. A Kingdom of Priests, a Holy Nation.
- This “sign” is commented on by Paul in 1 Cor 14:21 “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” this quote is from Isa 28:11. Paul is telling us that God’s offer of Salvation, initiated with the supernaturally inspired use of languages was still not successful in “persuading” the Jews to accept Jesus as Messiah.
- In heaven an innumerable group from every nation, tribe, people and tongue will join together to praise God with one language. (See Revelation 7:9-12. This is the time when Spiritual Languages will cease as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.) The Spirit’s inspiration and use of Spiritual Languages is to glorify God now, but also to prepare ourselves as His church to glorify Him forever in heaven.
Was what happened on the Day of Pentecost a unique occurrence?
- The next time tongues is mentioned in Acts is when Peter went to preach at Cornelius’s house in Acts 10:44–46. Peter could not conceive that it was “God’s will that he share the Gospel message with anyone but Jews – in spite of Jesus’ command to “go into all the world”. God used an open vision in advance of this event to convince him that he should not dismiss such an idea. How shocked must Peter have been, however when men from the House of Cornelius, a Roman centurion on active duty with the Cohors II Italica Civium Romanorum arrived with a request to come to Caesarea, the capital of the Roman Province of Judea. Peter traveled to the house and contrary to the usual practice of a Jew, entered the house and began to address those present. Peter begins speaking about Jesus ….. “While Peter was still saying this the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.” Vs 44-47 The first Gentile believers then, experienced the very same things the 120 experienced including being given the gist of Spiritual Language.
- A previous instance takes place in Samaria in Chapter 8 following a revival led by Phillip. The interesting thing to note here is that there was a great outbreak of healing and deliverance and many as a result were saved, but it seems that none were filled with the Spirit. Peter and John hear about the revival and travel to Samaria in order to pray for the new believers to be filled with Power. When they pray for the Believers they are filled and so demonstrative are the results that a local magician asks them for the “power” to perform the same ministry. Tongues is not mentioned, but since the language is the same as at Cornelius’s house (fallen Acts 8:16; fell Acts 10:44), it’s likely the Samaritans spoke in tongues, too.
- The only other place tongues is referred to in Acts is 19:6. Paul finds in Ephesus some disciples of John the Baptist who had never heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul explains to them that John pointed people forward to Jesus, and so verse 5 says, “On hearing this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”
- Therefore we can see that the Day of Pentecost was not a unique event, in 2 out of three succeeding instances where numbers of people are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit is says they received Spiritual Languages. In the third it is clearly implied.
What Spiritual Language is and what it’s not
- The gift of a personal Spiritual Prayer Language was common to all believers after being filled with the Spirit. There is no indication that it was limited to only a few. The narrative in Acts clearly indicates that this was the experience of all present.
- The miraculous gift of Spiritual Language, which is activated by the Holy Spirit, is like the ability to speak every other language, being completely under the conscious control of the speaker. It is vital that we understand that. It is exactly like speaking any other language except that the speaker has not “learned” it with his/her conscious mind. It could be compared to suddenly receiving the ability to speak in Mandarin Chinese without having learned the language. In speaking your mind would not understand the content but your Chinese hearers would marvel at your ability. We sometimes see abilities like this exercised in normal life. Who can understand when a child sits down at the piano and suddenly exercises an ability unlike others who take years to learn such things. It is reported that Mozart was such an individual. Could he have explained how he knew the notes and scales, no he most probably would have said, “it just came to me”. In the respect of Spiritual Language it is the person’s newly created spirit being given a voice to pray in complete synchronization with the Holy Spirit. While this ability to speak is identical to the other exercises of speech, it differs in that the conscious mind is not involved in the process and is without understanding. This in no way denigrates this new way of praying, for it is inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit with the agreement of the speaker. A person who has received this gift of Spiritual Language may speak it at any time as with all other languages. We pray in our native languages with and without inspiration and we understand that every exercise of Prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit working within us. Praying in the Spirit is identical, the speaker may use this Language at any time, but is always conscious in their speaking that they are exercising a Holy and precious ability that is directly connected to the Holy Spirit. The exercise of personal Spiritual Language is DIFFERENT from the GIFT of Spiritual Languages exercised in a Church Service. The former may be freely spoken (as with all language) the latter requires inspiration from the Holy Spirit as with all other Gifts of the Spirit. In failing to understands both the personal operation of Spiritual language and the exercise of the Gift in a Service, many have misunderstood Paul’s directions in 1 Corinthians 12 & 14 and formed incorrect conclusions.
- There is a clear and conscious choice to either pray in English (or a native language) or to pray using Spiritual Language. The exercise of both is identical in every way, except that with the latter the mind does not understand the meaning of what is said. Paul comments … For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in hisspirit he speaks mysteries. 1 Co 14:2 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; v4 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.15 What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. v 14
- Paul states that Spiritual Language:
- Is not the indiscriminate use of words, but speech directed to God.
- That Spiritual Language is the declaration of (Spiritual) mysteries
- That Spiritual Language builds up the believer
5. The gift of a PERSONAL Spiritual Language is DIFFERENT and DISTINCT from the GIFT outlined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Here, it is VERY clear (if rightly read in its proper CONTEXT and not separated out in order to imply some other meaning) that Paul is addressing the PUBLIC use of the GIFT of Languages, where it is likened in effect to public Prophesy and is linked with the gift of INTERPRETATION. Paul addresses the indiscriminate use of Spiritual Language in a public forum as a replacement for English (or the native tongue). He makes complete sense when he indicates that it is better for the speaker not to use his/her Spiritual Language PUBLICLY, that is as an expression of individual public speaking or praying – i.e leading the congregation in prayer unless it is followed by interpretation. All of Paul’s comments relating to Spiritual Language must be seen in context. Therefore when Paul asks, “Do all speak in tongues” he is NOT implying that some do, others don’t. He is addressing the application of a GIFT in a Church service. As with healing, there are those who are unusually anointed to pray for the sick, yet ALL are commanded to pray for the sick. All should be able to preach the Gospel in some form, yet there are those who are anointed for this purpose. We would never imply that only a few have the right to speak, yet in a Church Service we prioritize those who have been called and anointed for this purpose in order to benefit all. Some have used these verses out of context to wrongly support their theories about the use of Spiritual Language, this is to pervert Paul’s clear intention in making these statements.
- Paul valued the gift highly stating, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; 1 Cor 14:18, a proper translation of this statement would read, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than the whole number of you put together.” Some have tried to imply that the Church at Corinth was wild, fleshly and out of control – which is incorrect, it was a wonderful, vibrant Church – and that people were using their Spiritual Language to create mayhem. Even if that were accurate (which it’s not) Paul would be heard to say “I’m wilder than the whole bunch of you put together”! We do not concur with such a view. We are talking here of Holy things, things of the Spirit, people Born Again by the Spirit of God, walking out Holy lives before a Holy God, people on fire for God and passionate for the things of the Kingdom. To imply anything less here is to defame these wonderful believers and even Paul himself. In all of this Paul was laying down solid teaching for believers who were finding their way in Kingdom life. It is clear that Paul highly regarded the ability to Pray in the Spirit and finishes with a stern comment, 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.1 Cor 14:39
- There is no reason to believe that this gift of Spiritual Language is no longer available to the Church. History bears out the opposite. Paul’s comment about “tongues ceasing” in 1 Cor 13 has nothing to do with the present age. The gift will no longer be necessary once “that which is prefect has come” – to all sensible believers that time can only come when Jesus has restored all things and a new age has come. It is clear that this is the case because “knowledge” is talked about in the same sentence as passing away – clearly that has not taken place. Our knowledge of God will remain and increase until we see Him face to face and faith will be replaced with sight.
- The 16th Chapter of Mark verses 9-20 contain a promise from the lips of Jesus “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 One of the reasons why these verses have been so vehemently attacked through the last Century has been because of what they contain relating to Spiritual Languages, Deliverance and Healing. These verses must be discredited in order for those with opposing viewpoints to bolster their case. The usual explanation is that these verses are missing from the oldest and best manuscripts, a comment that does not fully explain the issue. Were we to make a decision based upon this reasoning verses 7-8 of chapter 5 of John’s first Letter would similarly need to be removed, as they too are missing from early manuscripts. (these verses read: 7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one). Dr. David Otis Fuller, a noted Theologian who supports the genuineness of the passage notes: “This is a David and Goliath battle with practically all of the evangelical seminaries and colleges, Bible institutes, and Bible schools slavishly following essentially the Westcott and Hort Greek Text and the Westcott and Hort theory, both of which are fallacious in every particular, the former based on two of the worst manuscripts, the latter proved to be without foundation of any kind.” (Pg. 12) “When, for example, it is contended that the famous words in St. John’s First Epistle (I John 5:7-8) are not to be regarded as genuine, the fact that they are away from almost every known codex is accepted as a proof that they were also away from the autograph of the Evangelist. On far less weighty evidence, in fact, we are at all times prepared to yield the hearty assent of our understanding in this department of sacred science.” (Pg. 39) “So, then, the last twelve verses of St. Mark’s Gospel were anciently often observed to be missing from the copies. Eusebius expressly says so. I observe that he nowhere says that their genuineness was anciently suspected. As for himself, his elaborate discussion of their contents convinces me that individually he regarded them with favor.” (Pg. 112) “It is true that God has not permitted any of the original manuscripts to be preserved. The reason for it has been left to speculation. Perhaps God did not wish for them to become objects of veneration. Whatever the reason, God in His providence permitted all the original manuscripts to perish.” (Pg. 187) Counterfeit or Genuine David Otis Fuller
- One of the most significant moves of revival in Church History took place in Los Angeles California between 1906 and 1915, where believers from many denominations were filled with the Spirit and received Spiritual Languages. At that time just 112 years ago, there were next to no Pentecostal/Charismatic believers. Today this group makes up the second largest percentage of believers in the world, second only to the Catholic Church. Currently Catholic believers number about 1.2 billion people. Pentecostals/Charismatics number just short of 700 million, we should add though that these numbers should be adjusted to allow for the significant numbers with the Catholic Church who see themselves as “Catholic Charismatics”. In 1990 there were approximately 100 million of this group worldwide, with the current number being double that. If we adjust the figures we would see that Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians are close to being the majority with believers scattered throughout most denominations. All of this in just over 100 years! In contrast there would be currently about 285 million Evangelicals of all persuasions, about the same number as those in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Anglicans number about 85 million. There are projected to be over one billion Charismatics and Pentecostals in 2050. In raw numbers, then, Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity is the fastest growing phenomenon in world religious history. This is here stated to support the power of a revival that, like that experienced by the early Church is seeing exponential growth around the world. This is no small, insignificant portion of Christianity, as some present it, it is a Holy Spirit empowered movement that is sweeping the earth and glorifying Jesus.
- It must be said here that there is absolutely NO correlation between ancient practices of drug induced ecstatic experiences which sometimes involved babbling speech. Such suggestions are defamatory against the Holy Spirit who is the gifts author and inspiration.
The power & usefulness of Spiritual Language
- This Prayer Language brings a powerful new dimension of prayer into our lives. Though of course we should pray in our native languages as well, praying in the Spirit allows us to relate to God through our spirits rather than our minds (see 8:15; 1 Cor. 14:2; Eph. 6:18; Jude 20).
- When we pray using our Spiritual Language we can be convinced that the Holy Spirit is praying through us, directing prayer to the Father. Certainly this, in part, is what Paul refers to in Romans 8:26 “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” This kind of prayer provides a way for the Holy Spirit to inspire you to pray about things that you wouldn’t think to pray about or aren’t even aware of.
- Use of Spiritual Language is a part of our weaponry against the enemy, “And then he told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved.… These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.… They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.’” –Mark 16:15-18
- When we use our Spiritual Language to Pray in the Spirit we are building our inner man to become strong in the things of God. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself 1 Cor 14:4 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude v 20.
Medical Benefits of using Spiritual Language (Notes by Mark Virkler)
- Carl Peterson, M.D. conducted a study at ORU in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Being a brain specialist, he was doing research on the relationship between the brain and praying or speaking in tongues. He found that as we pray in the Spirit or worship in the Spirit (our heavenly language), the brain releases 2 chemical secretions that are directed into our immune systems giving a 35 to 40 percent boost to the immune system. This promotes healing within our bodies. Amazingly, this secretion is triggered from a part of the brain that has no other apparent activity in humans and is only activated by our Spirit-led prayer and worship! The data in this study suggest that glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is associated with a reduction in stress in response to normal stressors and significantly associated with positive mood and calmness. Obviously the reduction of stress is extremely helpful to one’s immune system and entire health. Stress damages the body. Peace heals it.
- One study involved nearly 1,000 clergy members of a British evangelical group. The researchers found that the 80 percent who practiced glossolalia (use of Spiritual Language) had greater emotional stability and less neuroticism. (Study by: L. Francis and M. Robbins. 2003. Personality and glossolalia: A study among male evangelical clergy. Pastoral Psychology 51:5.)
- Speaking in Tongues Medical Study Proves Holy Spirit Praying: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes — the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. When speaking in tongues, there was a decrease of activity in the frontal lobes and an increased activity in the thalamus (ie, the “third brain”, where it is believed by some that we have spiritual experiences). Language areas are in the frontal lobes. The language that emerged during the state of glossolalia was highly structured, filled with clearly articulated phrases. This is a very unusual finding, for it suggests that the language was being generated in a different way, or possibly from someplace other than the normal processing centers of speech. For believers, this experience could be taken as proof that another “entity” had actually spoken through them. (These ideas were condensed from pages 200 and 201 of Born to Believe by Andrew Newberg, MD). The regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active. “The amazing thing was how the images supported people’s interpretation of what was happening,” said Dr. Andrew B. Newberg, leader of the study team, which included Donna Morgan, Nancy Wintering and Mark Waldman. “The way they describe it, and what they believe, is that God is talking through them,” he said.