The baptism with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy

 

 

 

 

 

The baptism with the Holy Spirit

 

One day John the Baptist, the messenger sent from God to prepare the way of the Lord, who baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan river, said these words to the Jews: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11) and after he had baptized Jesus, he said: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34).

Therefore there is a baptism called ‘the baptism with the Holy Spirit,’ which is administered by the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

The promise of the Father confirmed by the Son

 

After His resurrection, Jesus Christ appeared to His disciples over a period of forty days. And a short time before He ascended into heaven to the right hand of God, He commanded the apostles “that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5). As you can see, the promise of the Father, about which Jesus spoke to His disciples, was nothing but the baptism with the Holy Spirit. For, first He told them to wait for the promise of the Father and then He told them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days. Therefore when they would be baptized with the Spirit, the promise of the Father would be fulfilled. So let me explain to you what God had promised, let me explain what the promise of God was, so that you may understand the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Under the Old Testament God had said that He would pour out the Holy Spirit upon the house of Israel, for He said to Israel through the prophet Isaiah: “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: …. I will pour my spirit upon thy seed… ” (Isaiah 44:1,3). God confirmed that promise through the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:28,29), and also through the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 12:10). Therefore the Lord had promised to bless His people (whom He foreknew) by pouring out His Holy Spirit upon them. However, the Lord said that He would pour out His Spirit not only upon Israel but also upon the Gentiles, for He said through the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy….” (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28). As you can see, God, by saying “upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17), predicted that He would show personal favouritism to no man, for He would give the Holy Spirit to all, that is to say, both to Jews and to Gentiles. So we have seen that God through the prophets of old promised that He would pour out the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. Now let us see when and how Jesus confirmed and predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, because, as we have said, His disciples heard Him speak of the promise of the Father.

Jesus confirmed and predicted the outpouring of the Spirit while He was in Jerusalem, during the feast of the Tabernacles, as it is written: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39 - NKJV). As you can see, the expression “as the Scripture has said” (John 7:38) shows that the promise of the Holy Spirit was in the oracles of the prophets of old, and we saw it just a short time ago. However, why did Jesus speak about rivers of living water in relation to the Holy Spirit, who would be given? Because the prophets compared the outpouring of the Spirit to rain sent upon dry and thirsty ground. For instance, the prophet Isaiah said from God: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring…. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. ….. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water….. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes ….. and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (Isaiah 44:3; 43:19-20; 41:17,18; 35:6,7; 58:11). As you can see, God promised that He would pour out water upon the wilderness and He would open rivers and fountains in the midst of the dry and thirsty land. And which is the water that can quench the thirst of a soul? It is the living water that our Lord Jesus Christ gives to those who come to Him, and this living water is the Holy Spirit, which becomes in them a fountain of water springing up into eternal life. However, as it is necessary for the rain to fall upon the desert in order to see rivers and fountains in the midst of the desert, so it was necessary for the Holy Spirit to be poured out in order to see rivers of living water flowing out of the belly of the believers in Jesus Christ. Therefore the “rivers of living water,” of which the Scripture had spoken, refer to the Holy Spirit, who is received by those who believe in Jesus. Yes, because in order to receive the Holy Spirit it is necessary to believe in Jesus Christ. Paul confirms this when he says to the Ephesians: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13), and to the Galatians: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14). Therefore the words of Paul confirm fully the following words of Christ: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Another important thing that must be said in relation to the above mentioned words of Jesus is this: when Jesus spoke those words, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been taken up into heaven. So it was necessary for Jesus to be glorified so that the Holy Spirit might be given; that is to say, it was necessary for Jesus to die, to rise again and to leave this world to go back to His Father who had sent Him, so that the Holy Spirit might be poured out (therefore the promise of the Father could not be fulfilled while Jesus was still on the earth).

Jesus confirmed and predicted the outpouring of the Spirit also on the night He was betrayed, for on that night Jesus spoke about the coming of the Holy Spirit. For instance, He said: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17), and: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which [who] proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27), and again: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:7-8). These last words confirm what I said before, that is, it was necessary for Jesus to be glorified so that the Holy Spirit might be given. And in fact the promise of the Spirit was fulfilled a few days after He was taken up into heaven, precisely on the day of Pentecost.

Someone may ask me: ‘If the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, and the disciples received Him on the day of Pentecost, which followed His ascension to heaven, why is it written that when Jesus appeared to His disciples He said to them: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost”? The answer is this: because when Jesus (the day on which He rose again) said to His disciples: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22), the disciples received a certain measure of the Holy Spirit, but they did not receive the fullness of the Spirit (that is to say, they were not filled with the Holy Spirit), because one receives the fullness of the Spirit when he is baptized with the Holy Spirit. Then you will say: ‘Why do you say that the disciples were not baptized with the Holy Spirit on that occasion?’ Well, because forty days after His resurrection, Jesus said to them: “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). I ask you: ‘How could we say that they were baptized with the Spirit on the day Jesus appeared to them and spoke to them those words, if forty days later Jesus Himself told them that in a few days they would be baptized with the Spirit? Don’t you think that if the disciples of Jesus had been baptized with the Spirit on the day Jesus rose again, forty days later Jesus would not have told them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days? Don’t you think that if on that day the disciples of Jesus had been baptized with the Spirit, Jesus would have contradicted Himself by saying to them just before His ascension that a few days later they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit?

 

 

The fulfilment of the promise on the day of Pentecost

 

So Jesus told His disciples that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days (I say it again, He said this forty days after His resurrection). And His words were fulfilled a few days later, just as He had said: for on the day of Pentecost, which according to the law is seven weeks after the Passover, at nine o’ clock in the morning, while the disciples were praying, they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Here is the biblical record of the fulfilment of the prediction concerning the baptism with the Holy Spirit: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). So at nine o’ clock in the morning on the day of Pentecost, the disciples received the Holy Spirit, and ‘rivers of holy words,’ spoken in other tongues, began to flow out of their belly. Being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).

It must be said also that on that day those who received the Holy Spirit were Jews by birth, there were not any Gentiles among them. However, after some time the Gentiles also received the Spirit. The first Gentiles who received the Spirit were Cornelius, a roman centurion, and his household. One day, the apostle Peter was sent by God to the house of Cornelius to preach the Gospel to him and all his household, and while Peter was speaking to them the Spirit fell on them and they began to speak with other tongues, as the apostles and the other disciples did on the day of Pentecost. Here is what Luke says: “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46). That event confirmed that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not only for the Jews and their children but also for all those whom the Lord would call, as Peter had said to the Jews on the day of Pentecost: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). And after Cornelius and his household many other Gentiles received the Spirit in the days of the apostles. Till now millions of Gentiles across the world have received the Spirit.

The fact that the Holy Spirit was received first by the circumcised believers and then by the uncircumcised believers, confirms also that just as the Gospel of the grace of God had to be preached first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-47; Romans 15:8-12), so the promised Holy Spirit had to be received by the Jews first and then by the Gentiles. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for His great faithfulness. Amen.

 

 

The sign of tongues

 

As we have seen, Luke says that when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit “they began to speak with other tongues” (Acts 2:4). So let us dwell upon this spiritual manifestation which occurred when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

Speaking with other tongues was a phenomenon that had never occurred before that day. It is true that under the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit came upon someone a particular thing happened. For instance, every time the Holy Spirit came upon Samson, He gave him a superhuman strength (Judges 14:6,19; 15:14); when the Spirit came upon Saul he prophesied among the prophets (1 Samuel 10:10); and when the Spirit came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, he prophesied against the people (2 Chronicles 24:20). However, no one began to speak with other tongues when the Spirit came upon him, for it was on the day of Pentecost that men started to speak in other tongues when the Spirit came upon them. In other words, for speaking in other tongues began to mark the coming of the Spirit upon men from the day of Pentecost on. That is confirmed by the following facts written by Luke in his second book to Theophilus.

Here is what happened to Cornelius and his household immediately after they believed in Jesus: “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46). The apostle Peter was at the house of Cornelius, a roman centurion, and was speaking to a group of Gentiles, and while he was preaching the Gospel to them, the Spirit came upon those Gentiles, and they began to speak with other tongues. The believing Jews who had come with Peter to the house of Cornelius, were astonished at seeing that the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also, because they had thought till that moment that the promised Spirit was only for the Jews. But how did those circumcised believers realize that God had given the Holy Spirit to those Gentiles also? They realized it because while Peter was speaking they suddenly heard them speaking with other tongues.

Here is what happened in Ephesus to some disciples of the Lord: “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve” (Acts 19:1-7). Those persons whom Paul met at Ephesus were disciples of the Lord, therefore they were believers, and Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit after they believed. Now perhaps somebody will say: ‘When someone believes in the Lord, he receives the Holy Spirit, doesn’t he? Why then did Paul ask that question to those believers?’ Because ‘to receive the Holy Spirit,’ according to what the Scripture teaches, means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that is to say, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Had those believers received the Holy Spirit when they believed, Paul would not have asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit. Don’t you think? So when a person believes, he receives the remission of his sins and eternal life, but he does not receive the Holy Spirit, that is to say, he does not receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit, for the baptism with the Holy Spirit is an experience subsequent to the new birth. The new birth and the baptism with the Holy Spirit are two different experiences, for when one is born again he is purified from his sins, while when he is baptized with the Holy Spirit he is endued with power from on high and he begins to speak with other tongues. Please note that those believers who were in Ephesus did not say to Paul: ‘No, we have not yet received Him’ but: ‘We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.’ Then Paul realized that they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, and after he knew that they had received John’s baptism, those believers were baptized in water in the name of Jesus, and after Paul laid his hands upon them, they received the Holy Spirit and they began to speak with other tongues and to prophesy. As you can see, after the Holy Spirit came upon those believers, they not only spoke in other tongues, but they also prophesied; that shows us that when a believer receives the Holy Spirit he begins to speak in other tongues, and he may prophesy, if the Spirit enables him to prophesy, of course.

Some people say that these Bible verses (that is, Acts 2:4; 10:44-46; 19:6) are not enough to state that when we receive the Holy Spirit we begin to speak in other tongues; on the contrary, we say that they are sufficient for us to declare that if a believer has received the Holy Spirit he speaks in other tongues, but also that if a believer does not speak in tongues by the Spirit, he has not yet received the Holy Spirit (that is, the fullness of the Spirit or the baptism with the Holy Spirit).

With regard to speaking in tongues I want to say one more thing, the words spoken in other tongues (that is, in the Spirit) are directed toward God, for Paul says to the Corinthians: “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God ….” (1 Corinthians 14:2 - NKJV). I will come back to this subject shortly.

 

 

The Holy Spirit is given when and how God wills

 

The Holy Spirit is the gift of God, therefore we can’t earn or merit it. The Bible verses which attest that the Holy Spirit is the gift of God are these: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38); “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 10:45).

Therefore, since the Holy Spirit is the gift of God, it is lawful to ask God for Him, as Jesus said to His disciples: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). Perhaps you will ask: ‘Does God give immediately the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?’ If by ‘immediately’ you mean ‘on the same day they ask God for the Holy Spirit,’ my answer is this: ‘Sometimes yes, some other times no.’ However, we know that God has made everything beautiful in his time, therefore whether He gives the Spirit immediately, or some days or months or years later, we know that the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer at the time set by God and not by men.

‘How do believers receive the Holy Spirit from God?’ Some receive Him through the laying on of hands and others without the laying on of hands. Just as in the days of the apostles; for the believers who were in Samaria, the disciples whom Paul met at Ephesus, and Timothy and Saul of Tarsus received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, as it is written: [the believers who were in Samaria] “Then laid they [Peter and John] their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:17); [About twelve disciples in Ephesus] “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (Acts 19:6); [Timothy] “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6 - NKJV); [Saul of Tarsus] “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:17). While the disciples on the day of Pentecost and Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit without the laying on of hands, as it is written: [The disciples who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost] “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4); [Cornelius and his household] “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46).

 

 

The baptism with the Holy Spirit and the new birth are not the same experience

 

Some believers think that on the very moment they were born again they received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In other words, they think that the new birth is the baptism with the Holy Spirit. They associate the baptism with the Spirit with the new birth, saying that the baptism with the Spirit occurs at regeneration. To them the baptism with the Spirit spoken of by John the Baptist and the new birth of which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus are one and the same event occurring at justification. However, that is wrong, for the baptism with the Holy Spirit is received after the new birth, that is to say, after one has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; the example of the disciples on the day of Pentecost and that of the disciples (about twelve) whom Paul met at Ephesus show this very clearly.

In relation to the first example, we read in the Gospel according to John that when Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He said to them: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22). Now listen, this happened about 50 days before the day of Pentecost, on which - as you know - the apostles were filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. It is evident, therefore, that when Jesus told them to receive the Holy Spirit they did not have the same experience that they had about 50 days later. Don’t you think that if on that day (that is, the first day of the week, on which Jesus appeared to them) the apostles had experienced the baptism with the Holy Spirit or the infilling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, just before ascending into heaven, would not have spoken to the same apostles saying that within a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5)? Therefore, as you can see, before the day of Pentecost the apostles had a measure of the Spirit, but they were not yet filled with Him. So this is what must be said about those Christians who have not yet received the baptism with the Holy Spirit: they have the Spirit but have not yet received the fullness of Him. Of course they have the Holy Spirit in their heart, how could they call God “Father” without the Holy Spirit? How could they feel in their heart they are children of God without the witness of the Holy Spirit? Is it not written: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ ….” (Romans 8:14-17 – NKJV)? But they are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit. I mean that they are not yet full of the Holy Spirit, for the filling up with the Holy Spirit is experienced only through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Therefore every born again Christian who is not yet baptized with the Holy Spirit has a measure of the Holy Spirit but is not full of Him. And He must seek this fullness asking God for the Holy Spirit.

In relation to the second example, we read that when Paul met those disciples he asked them: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (Acts 19:2). Now it is evident that if Paul believed that the baptism with the Holy Spirit occurs at regeneration, or that a man is filled with the Holy Spirit when he believes, he would not have put that question to those believers. Therefore Paul believed that a man receives the baptism with the Holy Spirit after he has believed in the Gospel. I know that some people say that Paul asked them a different question, for both the NKJV and the NIV read: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2), but this is a mistranslation, for according to the original Greek this question must be translated as was translated by the translators of the King James Version. Nevertheless, I would like to point out to you that this mistranslation does not nullify the doctrine of the baptism with Holy Spirit, because we know that those disciples answered that they had not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit, and that after Paul laid his hands upon them the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they began to speak in other tongues; which means that Paul believed anyway that when a believer receives the Holy Spirit he begins to speak in other tongues. Therefore, even if we grant for the sake of argument that Paul inquired if they had received the Spirit when they believed, the reception of the Holy Spirit must be immediately followed by speaking in tongues. So I would like to put this question to all those believers who reject speaking in tongues as the outward sign (that is, the evidence) of the baptism with the Holy Spirit: ‘If – as you say – Paul believed that the Holy Spirit is received at regeneration, if Paul believed – as you think – that a man receives the baptism with the Holy Spirit when he believes, why did you not speak in tongues when you received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, as the disciples in Ephesus did after Paul laid his hands upon them? I tell you the answer, because when you believed in the Lord you did not receive the fullness of the Spirit, that is to say, you were not baptized with the Holy Spirit. You received another baptism when you believed, which is the baptism administered by the Holy Spirit, as it is written: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13 - NKJV). This baptism – as I said before - is administered by the Holy Spirit and through it we all became members of the Church when we believed. But the baptism with the Holy Spirit is administered by Jesus Christ and through it He clothes those who believe with power from on high.

There is even a third example I can mention to confirm this, it is the example of the believers of Samaria. Listen to what Luke says: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:5-17). Now it is out of doubt that those people in Samaria had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, they had believed in the death and the resurrection of Christ, therefore they were born again, for the new birth is experienced when one believes. Yet the Scripture says that the apostles who were at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to those believers to pray for them; why? Because those believers, those born again Christians, had not yet been baptized with the Holy Spirit (the expression used by Luke is “for as yet he was fallen upon none of them”). Of course, they had a measure of the Spirit, by whom they could say that they were children of God, but they had not yet experienced the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that is to say, they had not yet had the same experience that the apostles had on the day of Pentecost. Now I know you will ask me: ‘Why then didn’t Luke write that when they received the Holy Spirit they spoke in other tongues?’ Because the Holy Spirit did not move Luke to write it. Those believers spoke in other tongues, as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance, but it is not clearly written that they did speak in tongues, as it is written in the case of the disciples at Jerusalem as well as in the case of the disciples at Ephesus. I have said ‘it is not clearly written,’ for in this particular case Luke wrote some words concerning Simon which imply that those believers spoke in other tongues. Here are the words of Luke: “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:18-19). As you can see, Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given. What did he see? What kind of spiritual manifestation did he see, which convinced him immediately that the Holy Spirit was given to those believers through the laying on of the apostles’ hands? Of course he saw those believers speaking in other tongues.

 

 

The utility of the baptism with the Holy Spirit

 

I have shown you from the Scripture that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is for all believers, for both Jews and Gentiles; that it is received freely from God by faith; that it can be received through the laying on of hands or without the laying on of hands; that when a believer receives it the Spirit enables him to speak in other tongues, and I have explained that it is an experience subsequent to the new birth. Now I am going to explain to you why the baptism with the Holy Spirit is useful to the believer.

It is useful because it imparts power to those who receive it, for Jesus said to His disciples: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and also: “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Therefore whoever has been baptized with the Holy Spirit has received power from on high, that is, he has been endued with power. Nobody can say that he has received the baptism with the Holy Spirit but he has not received power from on high. Power to do what? Power to bring the Gospel to the lost (that is, power to witness for Jesus), for Jesus said to His disciples that when the Spirit would come upon them they would be witnesses to Him (Acts 1:8); power to be strengthened in the inner man, as it is written: “That he [God] would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16); power to fight more efficaciously against the devil and all his schemes, for when a believer is baptized with the Spirit he begins to pray in the Spirit (that is to say, he begins to pray in other tongues) and the prayer in the Spirit is one of the spiritual weapons God has given to the believer to fight against the devil, as it is written: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

Let us dwell upon the prayer in the Spirit. Paul says to the Romans that “the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27 - NKJV). How does the Spirit make intercession for the saints? Here is the answer. As I said before, whoever is baptized with the Holy Spirit speaks in other tongues to God, as the Holy Spirit gives him utterance. What does he say to God? Paul says: “In the spirit he speaks mysteries” (1 Corinthians 14:2 - NKJV). What are these mysteries? Sometimes they are intercessions made by the Spirit for the saints. So anyone who prays in the Spirit, that is to say, who prays in other tongues, does speak mysteries in the Spirit because the Spirit makes intercession for the saints, asking God to do certain things on their behalf which are unknown to him who is praying in other tongues, for the Bible verse “we do not know what we should pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26) means that we, because of our limited knowledge (which is one of “our weaknesses”), do not know what we should ask God to do on behalf of the saints. For instance, we don’t know the specific need in which a believer (whether we know him or not) may suddenly find himself, but the Spirit knows it, for He knows all things. What does the Holy Spirit do then? He helps us (that is, he helps our lack of knowledge) making some specific intercessions for that believer through our mouth, for this is what happens when somebody prays in other tongues: the Spirit is praying for the saints. The “groanings which cannot be uttered” are those groanings that the Spirit makes a believer utter when he prays in other tongues. As we have seen, Paul says that the Spirit “makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27). What does he mean? He means that the Spirit asks God to do certain things on behalf of the saints which are according to the will of God for them, that is to say, He asks God for things which they need and are according to the will of God for their life. Certainly you have read these words of John: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Well, I want you to know that whenever we pray in other tongues (that is, in the Spirit) we ask God for things which are according to His will because the Spirit makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Therefore the baptism with the Holy Spirit is useful because it enables believers to pray in other tongues.

So, in the light of what the Scripture teaches about the baptism with the Spirit, no wonder that today some Christians say that the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a false doctrine and thus it must not be taught to the Church!! For we know that the devil hurls himself against every true doctrine, because every true doctrine edifies the Church of the living God, and the devil does not want the Church to be edified. And therefore he has deceived these Christians into believing that this doctrine is false. That’s why we are not surprised to see that those who receive the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in other tongues, begin to be persecuted and reviled even by some believers, who don’t know the Scriptures nor the power of God. Is it not true that the devil tries to discourage the children of God from doing whatever opposes efficaciously the principalities, the powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places? And the prayer in the Spirit is a powerful weapon the Church has received from God to fight the good fight. Therefore, brothers in the Lord, don’t be surprised to see that Satan has deprived some believers of this weapon by deceiving them into believing that tongues are not of God, or that they are not useful, or that they have ceased. I want you to know this: had the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit been a false doctrine it would have proved to be a lie and thus it would not have edified the Church of God and would not have helped to save many souls, and besides this, God would not have confirmed this doctrine in such a powerful and marvellous way.

The baptism with the Holy Spirit imparts power to the saints and produces love in them, and it opens the door to the gifts of the Spirit; that’s why our enemies make every effort to prevent believers from teaching it and desiring it. But thanks be to God because the baptism with the Holy Spirit, even though it meets with much opposition, is taught diligently across the world; and not only taught, but also received by many Christians and the effect it produces in them is the same effect that produced in the early disciples. To the One who in His faithfulness baptizes with the Holy Spirit, be the glory now and forevermore. Amen.

 

 

Prophecy, divers (different) kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues

 

Here is a brief exposition of what the Scripture teaches about these gifts of the Spirit. The gift of prophecy is a gift through which the Spirit exhorts, edifies, and comforts the Church, and sometimes He can speak through it even to unbelievers. There is no prediction of future events in prophecy. Believers must covet to prophesy. Prophecies must not be despised (1 Thessalonians 5:20). However, prophecies must be carefully examined in the light of the Scripture, and if a prophecy is doctrinally wrong, for it is inconsistent with the Holy Scripture, it must be rejected immediately. The gift of divers kinds of tongues is a gift through which a believer is enabled by the Spirit to speak in more than one tongue. It is a gift which is not given to everybody, that’s why Paul says that not all believers speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30). He who speaks in tongues always speaks to God, and what he says can be a prayer, a song or a thanksgiving (and not a message to the Church). However, if what he says in other tongues is not interpreted the church will not be edified, so he must pray that he may interpret as well. Only when tongues are interpreted the listeners can say ‘Amen,’ for they have understood the meaning of the words and they can be edified. That’s why the gift of interpretation of tongues is important. When the Church comes together in one place, tongues must not be forbidden; however, it is necessary to observe the commandments of the Lord (given by the apostle Paul) concerning tongues in order not to create confusion. Therefore, if anyone speaks in a tongue, two or at the most three, should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, they should keep silence in the church and speak to themselves and to God. Speaking in tongues all together should be avoided; otherwise, if an unbeliever comes in, he will say that we are out of our mind.

Now, after this brief exposition, we are going to examine the gift of prophecy and the gift of divers kinds of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues in the light of what Paul says in the fourteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians.

Paul says: ”Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Why does Paul urge the saints to eagerly desire especially the gift of prophecy? Why this gift and not the gift of divers kinds of tongues, for instance? The answer is given by Paul immediately after, for he says: “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” (1 Corinthians 14:2-5 – Please note this: the word unknown, which occurs six times in this chapter in the King James Version, is in italics, signifying that the original Greek manuscripts did not contain this or any such word). This is therefore the reason why prophecy is to be preferred to speaking in tongues (that is, to the gift of divers kinds of tongues): because, while he who speaks in other tongues speaks to God, for nobody understands him and he utters mysteries by the Spirit, and in order that the Church may understand what he has said and thus may be edified, it is necessary for someone (who has the gift of interpretation) to interpret what he has spoken in other tongues; he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men, and since the words spoken through the gift of prophecy are spoken in the language that everybody in the Church can understand, they do not need to be interpreted and they edify the church. Now I am going to quote some prophecies uttered by the prophet Isaiah, so that you may understand what Paul means when he states that “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort”.

Words of edification: “Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and rie in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him. For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working” (Isaiah 28:23-29).

Words of exhortation: “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. … Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. …. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 46:8; 8:13; 1:16-17).

Words of comfort: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;…. Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation. ….. But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 51:12; 7-8; 43:1-2).

Concerning the gift of prophecy, two other important things must be said. The first thing is that a prophecy is not the revelation of a future event (as some think) because the revelation of a future event is given through the gift of word of wisdom. If you read carefully the above mentioned words of Isaiah, you will note that there is no revelation of specific future events in them. That there is a difference between prophecy and revelation is confirmed by the fact that Paul mentions them separately, for he says: “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” (1 Corinthians 14:6). The second thing to be said is this. The gift of prophecy alone does not make anyone a prophet, because in order to be recognized as a prophet a believer must have also some revelation gifts (which are these: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and discerning of spirits). The examples of the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others show this clearly, for besides the gift of prophecy, those prophets had revelation gifts. However, let’s come back to tongues.

As we saw before, Paul says that he would like everyone of us to speak in tongues, but he would rather have us prophesy, because he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues (for the reason he said before). However, if he who speaks in tongues does interpret as well, then this superiority vanishes, that is to say, he who prophesies is not greater than he who speaks in tongues, for Paul says: “Except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” - the NIV reads: “Unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified” – 1 Corinthians 14:5. Why does Paul say ‘except he interpret”? Because if he who speaks in other tongues does interpret what is spoken, the church will understand what the Spirit has said in other tongues through him to God. Let me give you an explicative example: let us suppose that while the Church is gathered a brother prays to God in other tongues asking Him to deliver a certain brother named John (who is in Ivory Coast and whom the Church does not know) from the hands of some wicked men who are about to kill him because of his faith, and that after he has prayed he interprets that prayer. What will happen in the assembly? For sure, the believers who are gathered together will be able to say ‘Amen’ to that prayer, because they have understood it. And obviously all the believers who are gathered will be greatly edified since they will know that the Spirit has interceded (through the mouth of a believer who is among them) for a child of God unknown to all of them who lives in another nation. If the words spoken in tongues are the words of a song, then the members of the Church by hearing the interpretation will be edified for they will understand that spiritual song. As far as this subject is concerned, I know that many pastors affirm – on the basis of the above mentioned words of Paul (1 Corinthians 14:5) - that tongues plus interpretation is equal to prophecy, because the Church receives edification, thus according to them the interpretation is a message directed toward the Church, or a ‘message in tongues.’ But they are mistaken for lack of knowledge and because they don’t divide the word of truth rightly. They are wrong because we are edified not only by hearing a message of exhortation, of comfort, and of edification addressed to men, but also by hearing a prayer or a song which is uttered in an another tongue and then interpreted. There is no doubt about it. Please answer this question of mine: ‘If we feel edified when we hear some brothers praying or singing in Italian, because we feel that their prayer or their song is prompted by the Spirit of God, why shouldn’t we feel edified when we hear a prayer or a song uttered by the Holy Spirit in an another tongue through them and then interpreted? Furthermore, if those words of Paul had that meaning, Paul would have contradicted himself because at the beginning of the fourteenth chapter he said that he who speaks in a tongue speaks to God and not to men (1 Corinthians 14:1). Therefore, speaking in tongues is always directed toward God, whether it is interpreted or not. It follows then that according to the Scripture there are no messages in tongues, for he who speaks in tongues does not speak to men but to God, and since the speaking in tongues is addressed to God and not to men, also the interpretation of it is addressed to God and not to men.

Now Paul, after saying “unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified” (NIV), says these words: “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:6-15). As you can see, according to these words of Paul, speaking in tongues in the assembly, if it is not accompanied by the interpretation, will be useless to the others. In other words, speaking in other tongues without interpretation is like a trumpet which gives an uncertain sound, it is like someone who speaks in a foreign language and we don’t understand what he says. Of course, he who speaks in other tongues is edified (however, he is edified not because he understands what he says in the Spirit, but because he speaks in the Spirit), but the Church is not edified since it does not understand what he says. That’s why Paul says: “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret” (1 Corinthians 14:13), so that besides himself he may edify the Church. Because if I pray in an another tongue, my spirit prays but my understanding is unfruitful. So what shall I do? Paul asks. I will pray in an another tongue (that is, with the spirit), but I will also interpret (that is, I will pray with the understanding); I will sing in an another tongue (that is, with the spirit), but I will also interpret my spiritual song (that is, I will sing with the understanding), so that the Church may be edified.

And immediately after, Paul says: “Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:16-19). In other words, Paul says: ‘On the contrary, if you don’t do what I tell you to do, that is, if you pray or sing in an another tongue without interpreting the prayer or the song, how can he who occupies the place of the uninformed say ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving? He can’t. Of course, you give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you, but in the church (please note that Paul says ‘in the church’ and not ‘when I am alone,’ for it is evident he is speaking of the case in which the believer is together with other believers and not alone, because when he is alone the one who hears his words is God) I would rather speak five intelligible words than ten thousand words in another tongue. And then Paul says: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20). In other words, in malice be infants, but in understanding don’t be infants but adults.

At this point, Paul quotes these words spoken by Isaiah: “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:21), and says: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth” (1 Corinthians 14:22-25). So, according to what God said through Isaiah, tongues are a sign for unbelievers and not for believers; while prophecy is a sign for believers. Now I want to say this. According to some believers, these words of Isaiah confirm that speaking in tongues is a message to men. But that is not true; otherwise Paul, when he says that he who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God, would contradict himself. Know this, that those words of Isaiah are quoted by Paul in order to confirm that tongues are a sign for the Jews who don’t believe. In other words, God said through Isaiah that He would speak to Israel through the sign of tongues, that is, He would call their attention through that sign. The expression “with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people” means that God, through this supernatural manifestation, would show His people (whom He foreknew) that He was among the Gentiles. So the Jews would be able to recognize that God was among those who spoke in other tongues even though they belonged to other nations. Therefore God did not mean that those who would speak in other tongues by the Spirit would speak words to (directed toward) the Jews (for instance, words like ‘repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’), but that He would use that sign to call their attention to the Gospel. I agree with brother R. L. Brandt when, in expounding 1 Corinthians 14:21, he says: ‘God would speak to Israel, not necessarily in a direct message to them, but by permitting an easily recognizable supernatural manifestation, through which, if they would, they could discern divine reality’ (R. L. Brandt, Tongues the greatest gift?, Bridge Publishing, Inc., South Plainfield, New Jersey, USA, 1981, p. 57-58). In the book of the Acts of the apostles we find the biblical record of the fulfilment of the prediction concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which shows that God spoke through the sign of tongues (that is, through this supernatural manifestation) to the Jews. Here is what is written: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:1-21). As you can see, the Jews, who came together after they heard the sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, were amazed when they heard the followers of Jesus speaking in their own native language and wondered what that might mean. However, bear in mind that the disciples of Jesus were not addressing the Jews who came together, for they were addressing God as they spoke of the wonderful works of God. Nevertheless, God spoke to them through that miraculous phenomenon or sign. For the signs given by God speak; that’s what we must always bear in mind. Listen to what God said to Moses, when He gave Moses the power to do certain signs and wonders before the people of Israel so that they might believe that God had really appeared to him: “And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land” (Exodus 4:9). Please notice the following expression “if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign,” for it confirms that the signs of God ‘have a voice.’ So tongues also are a sign of God for unbelievers. However, prophecy is a sign for those who believe; that’s why Paul says that if the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and an unbeliever comes in, he will say that we are out of our mind, whereas if an unbeliever comes in and everyone is prophesying he will be judged by all and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare and he will fall down and worship God exclaiming ‘God is really among you!’.

What then shall we do? Here is the answer of Paul: “When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:26-33). As for tongues, therefore, if anyone speaks in a tongue, two or at the most three should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. However, if there is no interpreter, those who speak in tongues should speak in tongues in a very low voice and not in a loud voice. The prophets, who have the gift of prophecy, should speak; but only two or three prophets at the most, and the others should examine carefully their prophecies. However, if a revelation is given to one of the prophets who is sitting down, then the first speaker should stop.

The conclusion of the speech of Paul is this: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:37-40). As you can see, the words of Paul are the commandments of God. Therefore, believers must desire earnestly to prophesy, speaking in tongues must not be forbidden, but all things must be done decently and in order.

 

 

Have tongues ceased?

 

Paul, in speaking to the saints of Corinth about charity, said these words: “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (1 Corinthians 13:8). Now, those who reject the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in tongues (and not only the baptism with the Holy Spirit), quote these words to hold that ‘speaking in tongues’ is not for today for ‘tongues have ceased’ as Paul predicted.

Is that the meaning of the words of Paul? The answer is definitely NO, for Paul said that tongues will cease when perfection comes, as it is written: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12), and as far as I know, perfection has not yet come for it will come at the resurrection of our body.

I would like to confirm what I have just said by saying a few other things. The first thing is this: when Paul says that tongues shall cease, he says also that knowledge will vanish away. Therefore I ask you: ‘Has knowledge vanished away?’ The answer is ‘no,’ for as Paul says “we know in part.” These words were written by a man rich in knowledge and wisdom who included himself in that “we”. Therefore, just as knowledge has not yet vanished away, so tongues have not yet ceased. Isn’t that logical? To us it is logical, very logical. The second thing is this: tongues have not ceased because they are a sign for unbelievers. Here is what Paul says to the saints of Corinth about tongues: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (1 Corinthians 14:22). Are there still unbelievers in this world, who need to hear the Gospel of the grace of God, and to see the preaching of the Gospel confirmed by divine signs as in the days of the apostles? The answer is yes. Therefore if Paul says that tongues are for a sign to them that believe not, we cannot say that tongues have ceased. Remember that God uses also tongues to speak to unbelievers, as He said: “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11), and that is exactly what He has done many times.

 

 

Why in the Acts of the apostles is it not always written that when believers were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak in other tongues?

 

Those who reject the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in tongues, hold that the baptism with the Holy Spirit must not be necessarily followed immediately by speaking in tongues, for even in the days of the apostles the baptism with the Holy Spirit was not always accompanied by speaking in tongues. And they cite two biblical examples to support this: the believers of Samaria and the apostle Paul.

As for the believers of Samaria, I have already showed that even though it is not written expressly that when they received the Holy Spirit through the laying of hands of the apostles, they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, it is evident that they spoke in tongues for it is written: “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me” (Acts 8:18-24). How did Simon understand that the Holy Spirit had been received by those believers? What did he see that convinced him that the Holy Spirit had been received through the laying of hands of Peter and John? Obviously, he saw those believers speaking in tongues. That’s what made him realize that the Holy Spirit had descended upon those believers. In other words, he saw some unusual spiritual manifestation and that manifestation was ‘speaking in tongues’. Therefore, when he saw this, he wished to have the same authority the apostles had. But he committed a sin, he tried to buy that authority by offering a sum of money to the apostles. Pay attention to this, Simon did not try to buy the Holy Spirit but the power to lay hands on people so that they might receive the Holy Spirit through the laying of his hands. Anyway, Peter rebuked Simon severely for his sinful behaviour, for Simon thought that he could buy the gift of God with money!!

As for Paul, it is evident that when Ananias laid his hands upon him, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and he began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance, for the apostle Paul stated that he spoke in tongues. He said to the Corinthians: “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all” (1 Corinthians 14:18).

What is therefore the conclusion we have come to? This, that the fact that in the Acts of the apostles it is not always written that when some believers were baptized with the Holy Spirit they began to speak in tongues, doesn’t mean that speaking in tongues did not occur. We can say a similar thing about water baptism, for in the Acts of the apostles in certain cases it is not written that those who believed were baptized in water. For example, it is not written that Sergius Paulus, the believers of Antioch of Pisidia, as well as the believers of Iconium, of Lystra, and also the believers of Thessalonica and Athens, were baptized in water after they believed. We can say that it is written that the about three thousand on the day of Pentecost, Cornelius and his house, the Eunuch, Paul, the believers of Corinth, the about twelve disciples of Ephesus, were all baptized in water, but honestly we can’t say the same thing about the other believers I mentioned before. What shall we say then? That those believers were not baptized in water, so that the apostles sometimes did not baptize those who believed? Shall we say then that water baptism is not mandatory? Certainly not. It would be foolishness to say such a thing, wouldn’t it?

Therefore also in the case of water baptism, the fact that not always it is written that those who believed were baptized in water, doesn’t mean that those believers about whom it is not written that they were baptized, were not baptized. What shall we say then? We shall say that they also were baptized in water, but God did not want Luke to write it.

Again, a similar thing can be said about the way water baptism was ministered by the apostles, for it is not written that they baptized believers by immersion. In the Acts of the apostles, only in one case it is written that water baptism was ministered by immersion, which is the case of the eunuch. In all the other cases in which it is said that someone was baptized it is not stated that the believer was immersed in water. What shall we say then? That at that time, sometimes the apostles baptized by sprinkling? Certainly not!

 

 

Counterfeit manifestations

 

Among the Church of God there are counterfeit baptisms with the Holy Spirit and thus counterfeit tongues, as well as counterfeit interpretations and prophecies. How can we know these counterfeits?

As for the counterfeit baptism with the Holy Spirit (and the relative speaking in tongues), it is known by the fact that the one who claims to have been baptized with the Spirit did not receive any power from on high. For the baptism with the Holy Spirit imparts power to the believer, which obviously a counterfeit baptism with the Holy Spirit cannot impart. But then there is another way to know the counterfeit baptism with the Holy Spirit, which is this: since speaking in tongues in this case is the outcome of craftiness or imagination, this speaking in tongues is not a true speaking in an unknown language but is only a heap of syllables and words put together confusedly in order to give to the listeners the impression that it is a true foreign language. And consequently the groanings which cannot be uttered, of which Paul speaks to the saints of Rome, with which the Spirit makes intercession for us, are missing in the counterfeit baptism.

As for counterfeit interpretations, they are known by the fact that they are not directed Godward, but Churchward. For the Scripture says that he who speaks in tongues does not speak to men but to God (1 Corinthians 14:2) and thus the interpretation also must be directed Godward. Another way to know false interpretations is to ask the person who has spoken these ‘messages directed Churchward’ how he interprets tongues. I now that sometimes the answer is this: ‘I see what is the problem existing in the Church and I give the message according to the problem to resolve that specific problem!’ or this one: ‘Even though I have not understood the things spoken in other tongues, the most important thing is that I don’t say anything that is doctrinally incorrect!’ From these answers we deduce that the person who ‘interprets’ does not possess the gift of interpretation of tongues. Therefore, the so called ‘message in tongues’ is not the interpretation of tongues. Now, I would like to say another thing. It is true that tongues are always directed Godward, and thus interpretation must always be directed Godward, but it is also true that sometimes among the so called ‘messages in tongues’ following the speaking in tongues there are true prophecies. What I mean is this: that sometimes what we commonly accept as interpretation of tongues is actually prophecy, and tongues, rather than being truly interpreted, simply inspire faith for the prophetic utterance. This is how we explain the fact that sometimes true prophecies have been uttered after tongues. Of course the interpreter thinks he is interpreting, but actually he is prophesying.

Counterfeit prophecies are known by the fact that they comfort people who do not need any comfort but rather a severe rebuke, and they rebuke those who live in a manner worthy of the Gospel. For example, if a brother says that since we must seek holiness it is a good thing to abstain from going to the beach to put ourselves half naked, and from watching the garbage that is broadcasted on television, and this brother is persecuted by the carnal believers and he is ‘rebuked’ by some of them through prophecy, that is to say, he is accused through prophecy of throwing the church into confusion and of telling lies, that prophecy is a false prophecy. For the Holy Spirit bears witness that the saints must abstain from these things and thus He cannot rebuke those who warn believers against them. Counterfeit prophecies are known also by this: they are inconsistent with the sound doctrine. Keep always in mind that the Holy Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6), and cannot be contrary to the Word of God which is truth (John 17:17). I will give you an example: any prophecy which urges a believer (called by the Lord when he was already divorced) to remarry is false because it encourages the believer to do something that is contrary to the sound doctrine, which says that he cannot remarry as long as his wife is alive.

Therefore in these cases prophecy is not spoken by the Holy Spirit but by some other spirits. Instead, if the spirit that speaks through the believer when he prophesies is the same spirit (that is, the Holy Spirit) that spoke through Jesus Christ, as well as through the apostles and the prophets (and that moved some of those prophets and of those apostles to write the books of the Bible), He will confirm what they said and wrote. Therefore, one of the ways to distinguish true prophecies from false prophecies is to examine prophecies through the Scripture.

Therefore, brothers, take heed to yourselves: do not love or practice falsehood and see to it that you expose the lies which are being passed off as truth in the midst of God’s people.

 

 

Some exhortations

 

Brother in the Lord, if you have already received the baptism with the Holy Spirit I urge you to continue to believe that you have received the fulfilment of the Saviour’s promise and that this baptism accompanied by speaking in tongues is scriptural, and keep speaking in tongues.

Do not be deceived by those believers who have set aside this part of the counsel of God by their vain words saying that this baptism is no longer accompanied by speaking in tongues and that it is received at the new birth and not after the new birth. Know this, that you have not accepted a strange doctrine, you have not invented anything, you were not the victim of a satanic deceit, you were not deceived by evil spirits, but you have accepted by faith, in singleness of heart, a biblical doctrine, and you have experienced the enduement of power from on high about which the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples before He was received up into heaven.

Know this also, that those who deny that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is an experience subsequent to the new birth have been deceived by empty words. These people, not knowing the Word of God nor the power of God, say foolish things. They even say that the believer who speaks in tongues is a demon-possessed person or a person influenced by demonic powers; they will be held responsible for their unbelief and foolishness.

The Christianity that these people (who are in certain cases even wise after the world and skilful orators) claim to profess is devoid of power: they deny the power of God, for they deny the baptism through which we are endued with power from on high.

These people are very numerous and they are continually causing damages in the midst of God’s people. But thanks be unto Jesus Christ for He still baptizes believers with the Holy Spirit. He still shows that there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against Him. Nobody can stop Him and nobody will stop Him.

Instead, if you have not yet received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, I exhort you to ask God to give you the gift of the Holy Spirit for God has promised to give it to those who ask for it, as it is written: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). If then you desire to receive the gift of different kinds of tongues, or the gift of interpretation of tongues, or the gift of prophecy, you must covet them with a pure heart. Live in a manner worthy of the Gospel: pursue righteousness, be sincere, faithful to God, and keep coveting all these gifts. Of course, the Holy Spirit gives the gifts to each one according to the will of God, thus I cannot assure you that you will receive exactly all the gifts you wish, but for sure you will receive what is according to the will of God for you.

Now I address you, who don’t accept these manifestations as manifestations proceeding from God with a biblical foundation. I urge you to stop speaking against the baptism with the Holy Spirit, tongues, interpretation of tongues and prophecies. It’s time for you to stop teaching these false doctrines, which keep you as well as others far from the power of God. Do you want God to show you personally that the things I have told you are scriptural? Pray, even accompanying prayer with fasting, asking God in the name of Christ Jesus to confirm to you if the baptism with the Holy Spirit is accompanied by speaking in tongues, and you will see that the Lord will confirm it to you, and He will also confirm to you that the Holy Spirit still gives the gift of divers kinds of tongues, as well as the gift of interpretation of tongues, and the gift of prophecy, and thus you will be set free from the snare you are in.

 

Giacinto Butindaro

 

 

 

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