There is an integral relationship between speaking in tongues and individual Christian growth in spiritual comprehension of the wisdom of God. The apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth is based largely on his didactic instruction about the use of glossalaliá in the church. As such, it does not, on the surface, appear to give us much insight into how speaking in other (i.e. – unknown) tongues should be privately used. From the previous studies in this series, we have learned the following, which is an overview:
1. Speaking in tongues, or glossalaliá is NOT the evidence of receiving the ‘baptism’ or ‘indwelling’ of the Holy Spirit, as is so commonly taught and practiced by Pentecostal & charismatic churches. Rather, glossalaliá is the individual Christian man, woman, or even a child, yielding the control of his or her human spirit and his or her human tongue to the will of the spirit of Jesus (i.e. – the counsel, mediation, etc of Jesus). However, the actual ABILITY to speak in other tongues comes from God (the Father) simultaneous to the exercise of the human will to use his or her tongue, giving vent to the desire of the born-again spirit. The ‘evidence’ a person holds in his or her possession, to prove that God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, are living on the inside is a changed life, not speaking in tongues (2 Corinthians 5:17). The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthian church, not for speaking in tongues, (which he encouraged all Christians to do), but for using glossalaliá in an immature, self-seeking way, instead of using it to be the expression of agape love.
2. The true meaning of the Greek word ‘charis’ in the word ‘charismatic’ means, “favorable influence that brings joyful hope and leaves one serenely confident.” It does not mean unmerited favor, even though God gives it. Charis speaks of the influence of the Spirit of God upon that of the believers, invoking a response. Charis is God’s gift, but it is given to those who search for Him with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.
3. Speaking in tongues is not a “gift” of the spirit; rather, it is the ACTIVE response to yielding control of one’s speech to the promise of the Father.
4. Speaking in “other tongues” is derived from two Greek words, ‘hetérais glossalaliá,’ meaning to utter foreign speech or strange (unknown) language.
5. Glossalaliá is one of the “signs” (seemeíon) that accompanies those who believe in Jesus. Glossalaliá is available to all believers, unlike laying hands on sick so they recover, casting out demons, drinking deadly poison, and picking up deadly serpents without harm, signs limited primarily to Jesus’ apostles for the task at hand, which was their mission to be sent as apostle, bearing witness to the ministry and resurrection of Christ.
6. The unseen spirit of Jesus is one and the SAME AS the Holy Spirit, Comforter, Advocate or Helper (Parákleetos), living water, the promise of the Father, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
7. If used in the context of the spirit of Jesus, the words, ‘the Holy Spirit’ are a poor translation of the Greek words, ‘tó hágios pneúma,’ and a better translation is, ‘the perfect spirit.’ The words tó hágios pneúma emphasize identity, unlike “tó hágios pneúma.”
8. When the perfect spirit of Jesus is rendered as, “tó hágios pneúmatá,” it connotes and emphasizes the operation of the spirit of Jesus.
9. Jesus cannot exist in his present capacity as the Parákleetos without the Father (God) supplying him with divine ability (aka – the dúnamis power). Parákleetos means, ‘the one called alongside,’ to illustrate Jesus’ role as mediator and advocate; when we call on the name of Jesus, he comes alongside of us, and is able to do so by means of his Father’s power, because the Father is greater than Jesus.
10. When preparing one’s self or someone else to experience glossalaliá it is vital to make certain they have a clear, logical, scriptural explanation of what is going to happen; if you already speak in tongues, a simple vocal demonstration of your own glossalaliá can and will help demystify the experience for the seeker, setting him or her at ease, and helping them be able to yield control of his or her tongue, and take hold of the ability given by the spirit of God, the Father.
11. When Bible versions speak of “receive the Holy Spirit,” it mischaracterizes what the Greek text implies, which is more literally and accurately rendered, “take hold of a perfect spirit.” The Greek word, ‘lambano,’ typically translated as, “receive,” occurs in the middle voice, meaning, “take hold to one’s self,” and therefore implies an ACTIVE, ‘seizing to take hold of,’ the ability given to the human spirit by God; it does not connote a passive receiving. This construction is used to show the ACTIVE role of believers seeking to yield control to the advocacy of Jesus’ spirit and begin speak in other tongues at will, as the Father, God, gives them ability to keep on speaking in tongues.
12. Speaking in strange (other) tongues is mentioned in the OT Law as being a supernatural “sign” given by God the Father, by which unbelieving men would know that the Lord Jesus Christ was abiding in the midst of them, and doing his Father’s “works” thru the church. Glossalaliá are the ‘greater works,’ which Jesus promised in John 14:16; the Lord’s final instructions to the apostles were to receive, or more correctly, to take hold of the Helper or Parákleetos, aka the Holy Spirit, (aka - the perfect spirit of Jesus).
13. Jesus promised those that believe in his name would speak with fresh, new, never before seen or heard tongues of a different quality. Paul’s wish or desire that all Christians spoke in tongues, and though his desire did not make it a reality in every individual believer’s life, his words give precedent for assuming that all NT believers CAN speak in tongues. It then becomes a matter of seeking and a decision of the human will to earnestly desire the operation of the human spirit in this manner.
14. There are various kinds of glossalaliá including tongues that are NOT interpreted (i.e. – private prayer in unknown tongues, 1 Corinthians 14:2), and interpreted tongues. Interpreted tongues = prophecy, although prophecy does not necessarily mean interpreted tongues. Prophecy means literally, “to reveal by divine inspiration.”
15. Tongues are a “sign” to unbelievers of God’s power in the midst of the church; as such, these kinds of glossalaliá and intended to be interpreted, revealing the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart, causing him to declare that God’s presence is among the church. This is what happened with the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost.
16. Acts 2:4 say they all “spoke in other (hetérais) tongues,” PROVING that unknown tongues were first spoken, and subsequently INTERPRETED into the known dialect of the devout Jews from many surrounding nations, who were listening in amazement to the glossalaliá being uttered by the 120 disciples in the upper room. This fulfilled the prophecy given in Joel 2:28-29 & Isaiah 28:11-12, because Peter described these first glossalaliá in Acts 2:17-18 as being a manifestation of the outpouring of God’s spirit in the last days, saying, “… and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, even upon my bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.”
Most people that have read the series this far have been waiting for this moment. What is the purpose of speaking in tongues, other than a ‘sign” from God that Jesus is working, confirming the word of God thru us? First, and most important, it is to be used to give our human spirit full vent, without the encumbrances of the human intellect and the interference of unbelief.
To experience glossalaliá, whether for the first time, or whether already having this experience for months or years, you must BEGIN to speak in tongues, allowing your spirit to give the utterance (a voice) to what it perceives from the counsel and mediation of spirit of Jesus, fueled by the power (ability) given by the spirit of God the Father.
· Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit(God) was giving them utterance. NASU
Acts 2:4 introduces the disciples to, “other tongues,” as the fulfillment of what was formerly promised as, “new tongues,” in Mark 16:17. The Greek word for, “other” tongues in Acts 2:4 is, “hetérais” (NT: 2087). Thayer’s defines hetérais as meaning, “one not of the same nature, form, class, kind; different.” This same word hetérais is also used in 1 Corinthians 14:21.
· 1 Corinthians 14:21 In the Law it is written, "By men of strange (hetérais) tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me," says the Lord. NAS
Paul is clearly speaking of unknown tongues that are to be interpreted in 1 Corinthians 14:21, which proves beyond any doubt in the Acts 2:4 account, that the glossalaliá first spoken by the disciples on the Day of Pentecost were unknown tongues, which were subsequently interpreted into the dialects of Jews from various ethnicities (see Acts 2:4-12).
First let me preface by saying, God is not the One speaking in tongues; that job belongs to us. Look back at Acts 2:4 and notice they, “began to speak.” This verb, “began,” is perhaps the most important element in Acts 2:4. Many old-time Pentecostals have been falsely taught and believe the only time they should pray in other tongues is when they are, “moved by the Holy Ghost.” This is simply wrong doctrine and prevents them from using their glossalaliá on a daily basis. Speaking in tongues is prayer to God, just like speaking in English is prayer to God, even though tongues is unknown to its initiate.
· 1 Corinthians 14:2 For one who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men but to God, for no one understands or catches his meaning, because in the spirit he utters secret truths and hidden things not obvious to the understanding. AMP
About 26 years ago I taught a Bible study in the inner-city central district of Seattle, and there were several elderly African-American ladies there. Every single one of them spoke in other tongues, but some had not uttered a peep of their newfound glossalaliá in decades! One of the most dear and precious of these elderly saints had not spoken in other tongues for nearly 35 years!. Growing up in the South, she attended a well-known Negro denomination where a minister had scolded her when she first spoke in other tongues, telling her it was a sin to speak in tongues, unless, as he put it, “You felt the Holy Ghost a movin’ all over ya’ll to speak in the tongue.”
I showed her a few scriptures that freed her from the bondage of this false teaching, and I only wish you could have been there in that tiny, run down inner-city home that night, when for the first time in nearly four decades, she spoke in tongues, and the Presence of God Almighty was upon her, and she felt the joy of the Lord come back into her life. She has never been the same since, and is still alive today, praising God for this liberty. And yes, she still speaks in tongues EVERY day!
The apostle Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I thank God that I speak in strange tongues more than any of you or all of you put together!” (Amplified Bible) Now if the apostle Paul spoke in other tongues more than the whole Corinthian church, don’t you think it is time to use the glossalaliá that God has given you the ability to use every single day, as long and as many times as you are possibly able?
· Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and BEGAN to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. NASU
Some of you reading this study fit into one of three categories:
1. You have never spoken in other tongues, but would like to. Maybe your lack of knowledge, fear of the unknown, self-conscious inhibitions, church doctrine, or other things hinder you from doing what you feel your spirit desires and WANTS to articulate. Or maybe you just feel unworthy because it has never “happened” to you like it has to others you know who speak with other tongues.
2. You have spoken in other tongues once, or perhaps a few brief times, but have been hesitant to continue doing so for lack of confidence that your glossalaliá is actually from God, or that you are the “one doing it” (Sound familiar?).
3. You speak in tongues fluently, and want to learn more of its benefits.
Regardless of which of these three categories you fit into, this next section is going to be extremely helpful, challenging, and exciting. Acts 2:4 says the disciples, “BEGAN to speak with other tongues.” It does NOT say that God made them speak and it does NOT say the Holy Spirit began speaking through them. Instead, “they” began to speak with other tongues, as the SPIRIT gave them utterance.” I will now dissect and scrutinize some of the words found in the Greek text of Acts 2:4, and retranslate part of the verse to make it more understandable.
The Greek word translated as, “began” in Acts 2:4 is, “eérxanto,” (NT: 756), a primary verb in the middle voice meaning, “to be the first to do anything; to begin.” On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus were the first Christians to ever speak forth in the fresh, new language of other tongues! What an amazing and exhilarating experience! Do you remember your first time speaking in tongues? For many, that first time is such a powerful experience, it SEEMS like God does it all; but He doesn’t; without our lips, tongue and voice box, no sounds will be uttered whatsoever.
My own personal experience with speaking in tongues was similar to the disciples. I had been a Christian for a few weeks, when I attended a small home Bible study. After the Bible study was finished, a closing prayer was given, and then the people were encouraged to pray for one another. I noticed that the Christians standing on each side of me had their eyes closed, hands raised in some form of worship, and I could barely distinguish what they were softly praying; it was not loud and boisterous, and it sounded like some foreign language.
I watched inquisitively, wondering if they were Romanian, or Hungarian, or Russian, and I assumed they were just praying in their native tongue. At that particular time in my life, no knowledge of the Bible and certainly had never before heard of speaking in tongues. Not wanting to look out of place, I decided I too would raise my arms like they were doing; so I closed my eyes (well, you know, with one eye barely open), and acted like I was doing what they were doing.
The next thing I know, something is beginning to pour forth from my lips, and I feel the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I thought to myself, “Hey, this is cool, I’m sounding just like them; they will never know that I was saying was any different from what they were saying.” Oh the folly of youth! This went on for quite some time, but I was totally unaware of time, when I felt a tap on my shoulder, and this guy said to me, “Okay brother, everyone has gone home, and we’d like to close up and put our kids to bed. So you can stop praying in tongues now, and your ride is waiting outside for you. Thanks for coming, and God bless you brother.”
“Tongues?” I thought, “What was he talking about?” Before he could shut the front door, I jammed my foot in between the crack in the threshold and asked the guy all kinds of questions, but most important to me at the time was what I asked at the end of our discussion, “Does this wonderful feeling go away, or does it stay with you?” He said, “Well, that’s up to you. Keep praying and God will keep filling you with His presence.”
Wow! This was better than getting high or drunk, and no hangover either, and it didn’t cost me a penny! Not knowing anything but what this man had told me, I spent every possible moment praying in other tongues for the next two years, and I soon found myself reading the Bible for hours, and telling many people about Jesus Christ, praying with dozens of those whom I shared with to accept Jesus, and showed them how to pray in tongues. And they did!
It wasn’t until I got into the religious and confining atmosphere of the Pentecostal church that my experience with glossalaliá began to taper off. I was told by the so-called “mature” Christians to just, “pray occasionally, as the spirit leads.” In other words, be lukewarm like us, so we don’t feel so uncomfortable around you. J
The most difficult part of speaking in tongues for the newcomer is confidence and trust. Let’s face it, it is a huge leap of faith to speak from the passion of our human spirit and actually BEGIN uttering sounds that make absolutely no logical sense to our rational, human mind. The most common lie the devil uses to discourage first time initiates from practicing and developing their tongues language, is convincing them they are just making these sounds up.
The devil loves to use the pronoun, “I” because then we think his thoughts are ours’ and we fall for his deception. He tells them, “I don’t think this is God, because it feels like I am the one doing it.” Such a simple lie, yet extremely effective. First of all, if it’s your first experience with glossalaliá, what criteria would you use to determine which ‘unknown’ tongues sounds were ‘God’ and which unknown tongues sounds were ‘you?’
Even more obvious, yet frequently overlooked, is the fact you ARE the one speaking in tongues and making the sounds! God is spirit, not flesh and blood, so while He gives you the ability to speak in tongues, the sounds are always made by you. Lastly, it takes lots of practice to develop your glossalaliá language, so practice and praying with older veterans of the spirit helps you mature and grow.
· Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as THE SPIRIT was giving them utterance. NASU
What if you knew that every time you spoke in other tongues, that it was God the Father giving your human spirit the ability to speak out? Would that change your prayer life? You might be thinking, “How then is that any different from having the Holy Spirit pray through you?”
There is a great deal of confusion regarding exactly who speaks when we exercise glossalaliá; the typical rhetoric and doctrine taught in most Pentecostal and charismatic churches is that the, “Holy Spirit is speaking through you,” while you yield to it. This position says the Holy Spirit ‘takes control’ and speaks whatsoever He desires.
First, the ‘Holy Spirit’ has been explained and defined earlier in this series as being applicable to the glorified spirit of Jesus, or if the grammatical construction in the Greek omits the definite article (“the”), then the Greek is rendered as, ‘hagíou pneumatos,’ and merely implies the activity, or the operation of the glorified spirit of Jesus. Based on this definition, it does not make any sense whatsoever that the spirit of Jesus would pray to God thru you, which is the only logical conclusion you come to if you claim that glossalaliá is having the “Holy Spirit” pray or intercede thru your lips. Jesus does not need to pray to the Father anymore; he lives as one in spirit with God, even though he is glorified man.
Likewise, it cannot be the spirit of God, the Father, that is praying thru you, because if that were true, then God would be using your lips and human spirit to pray to Himself.
With regard to speaking in UNKNOWN tongues, nowhere in the NT does it say the “Holy Spirit speaks thru you,” although there are references describing how the spirit of Jesus, (aka -the Holy Spirit), or the spirit of God the Father, will give you the words and wisdom to speak when needed in times of persecution. We must differentiate between scripture passages and contexts that describe how God’s spirit or the spirit of Jesus gives us KNOWN words and those passages describing hetérais glossalaliá, which is UNKNOWN tongues. (e.g. – Matthew 11:20).
With regard to speaking in other (unknown) tongues, the Spirit of GOD (the Father) gives the “utterance,” which literally means He gives you the ‘ability’ to speak in other tongues. However, giving a person the ability to speak does not imply that God is the One doing the actual ‘uttering.’
The action of actually speaking in other tongues occurs when a Christian decides he or she is going to use his or her voice box, mouth, tongue and lips. The physical action required is consigned to the individual that is praying. I refer to speaking other tongues as prayer BECAUSE this is how it is used in 1 Corinthians 14:2, 13-17).
· 1 Corinthians 14:2,4, 13-17 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself… 13 Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? 17 For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. NKJV
From the context above, several things can be determined about glossalaliá that are relevant, and very important:
· Speaking in other tongues is done to God, not to men; therefore it is prayer.
· No one understands speaking in other tongues, including the initiate.
· Speaking in other tongues is done “in the spirit” and the Greek text for, “however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries,” is rendered as, “however, the influence which fills, governs, and is the efficient source the spirit’s passion is laid forth in a sacred secret.” In other words, speaking in tongues is done by means of the influence and desire of the human spirit.
· One who speaks in other tongues ought to pray also for the interpretation when he or she is with other believers, all of whom are seeking mutual edification.
· When a person speaks in tongues, the spirit “prays” even though the mind is unfruitful (i.e. – without understanding).
· One who prays in tongues in tongues ought also to pray with the mind (e.g. - in English).
· One who speaks in tongues edifies only himself, not another.
· Speaking in tongues blesses God and give thanks to Him; this is another proof that glossalaliá is not the same as having the Holy Spirit speak “through” you.
In Acts 2:4, the ‘Spirit’ of God was giving the disciples the ability to speak with other tongues, (aka hetérais glossalaliá); as mentioned previously, these two Greek words are only used in direct relationship to “strange” or “foreign” tongues in the context of 1 Corinthians 14:21. Mark’s gospel account refers directly to, “the Spirit,” as being the Spirit of the Father God (Mark 1:10-12). The construction in Mark 1:10 is identical to Acts 2:4, ‘to Pneuma.’
· Mark 1:10 And immediately coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit (to Pneuma) like a dove descending upon him. NAS
This construction is emphasizing the identity of the Giver (i.e. – ‘THE’ Spirit of GOD). This conclusion is solidified with tremendous clarity in one well-known gospel passage in John 1:29-34. While you read this text, keep in mind it is John the Baptist, cousin to the Lord speaking, and the gospel is written by John the Beloved, best earthly friend to our Lord Jesus; last, keep in mind the distinctions between the, “Holy Spirit,” and what is referred to identical to the Acts 2:4 account as, “the Spirit.”
In Acts 2:4, the Amplified Bible says the Spirit “kept giving” them clear and loud expression. This is very important to understand because it is perhaps the only verse, which clearly pinpoints the source of the utterances the disciples were speaking forth. I will give some technical jargon now, and please, give it your full attention, even if you ignore all the other Greek stuff that seems hard to understand, okay?
· The words, “kept giving,” are in the Imperfect Tense and this tense is only used in the indicative mood and refers to continuous or linear action in past time. In other words, it is describing a past event, which occurred in continuous action. The NASU says in its footnotes the Acts 2:4b text should read, “… as the Spirit was giving them ability to speak out.”
The SPIRIT kept giving them the ability to speak out – the question is, what Spirit? Was it God’s spirit? Was it Jesus’ spirit? Was it the prompting of the human spirit? We must not confuse this reference to “the Spirit,” with other NT passages that happen to use the same term, but not in specific relationship to speaking in tongues.
It is noteworthy what is NOT said in Acts 2:4b; it does not say, “… as the HOLY Spirit gave them utterance.” Why? The term, “the Spirit,” was familiar to the Jews as referring to God, both in the Law & the Prophets (e.g. – Numbers 11:17, 25-26; Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 2:2; 3:12).
Acts 1:5 Jesus instructed the disciples saying, “… you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. " In this specific context, the meaning of the Greek word for ‘baptize’ is, “to cleanse by immersion; powerful influence to forgive and purify.”
The idea and practice of baptism (immersion, dipping in water) was a familiar expression among Jews, and many sects of devout Jews baptized routinely for ceremonial cleansing. The main point of the term, ‘baptize in the Holy Spirit,’ as understood from the intended meaning of the Greek text, taking into consideration what it meant to the Jewish culture at that time, is simply that Jesus is the one executing this spiritual ‘baptism.’
Spiritual immersion has two primary purposes; to enact outward purification and inward relationship with the spirit of God. The outward baptism in the ‘perfect spirit’ of Jesus is for the purpose of taking away sin; specifically, it is what a person experiences when he or she has had the guilt and shame for sin removed.
There is more than ample proof for this is the verbiage of the gospel accounts that mention the One (Jesus) that baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with FIRE. Fire is metaphoric for either eternal judgment for the unrepentant living in sin, or it symbolizes the way God uses the purifying spirit of the risen Christ, the man Jesus, to forgive, cleanse, and purify from sin.
· Matthew 3:10-12 And already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 In reality I baptize you in water to show your remorse, sorrow and repentance, indicating a complete change of mind by showing a hatred for sin. However, he who is coming after me, his existence holds greater honor and is a stronger moral influence than mine; whose sandals I am not competent to walk in; he will infuse you in a relationship of influence, which fills and governs your affections, emotions, and desire with cleansing purity and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clear out and clean his threshing floor and gather and store his wheat in his storage place, but the chaff he will burn up with fire that cannot be extinguished. TAT
The inward aspect of the baptism in the holy or perfect spirit of Jesus is access to the ‘power’ or ability given to the human spirit by the Father; it is for the purpose of inundating (saturating) the human spirit with the Presence of God (the Father).
· Hebrew 12:28-29 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire. NASU
In Acts 1:8 Jesus again tells the disciples, “… you shall RECEIVE power WHEN the Holy Spirit has COME UPON you; and you shall be MY WITNESSES both in Jerusalem. I believe in this statement alone is embodied much of what needs to be known concerning “the” Spirit that kept giving them ability to speak out.
We know the spirit of Jesus, the glorified son of God, aka the Parakletos IS the Holy Spirit that ‘comes upon’ the disciples because in Acts 1:11 the angel that appeared at Jesus’ ascension told the disciples, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."
The question is, in Acts 1:8 who gives the, “power” (dúnamin)? My inclination is that it is the Father, God, that actually gives them the power, or is at least involved in giving enablement to speak in other tongues, because in Acts 2:11 the Jews said, “... we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” This point is affirmed, in part, because in Acts 2:18-19, Peter declares the glossalaliá on the Day of Pentecost to be the fulfillment of what the OT prophet Joel spoke of, “I (God) will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy and I will grant wonders…”
You’ll notice in the heading of this section I capitalized certain words from Acts 1:8; specifically, “… you shall RECEIVE power when the Holy Spirit has COME UPON you…” The reason for this capitalization is I want to punctuate the importance of verbs. every single Bible version of Acts 1:8 mistranslates the verse; this can make or break one’s ability to get it right the first time. Below is a section taken from the UBS Greek text to illustrate the common error of most Bible versions.
Acts 1:8 (Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright (c) 1994 by Biblesoft)
But you shall receive power is come the Holy Spirit upon you
235 2983 1411 1904 3588 40 4151 1909 5209
allá leémpsesthe dúnamin epelthóntos toú Hagíou Pneúmatos epi humás
The first mistake made is translating leémpsesthe, as, “you shall receive.” This implies PASSIVE receiving; leémpsesthe (aka ‘lambano’ ; NT: 2983) is defined as, “to take to oneself, lay hold upon, take possession of, to reach after, to strive to obtain.” Nothing about this verb implies passivity, and yet, the typical Bible text of Acts 1:8 says, “… you shall RECEIVE power…”
This is vital to comprehend because the ‘power’ or ‘ability’ to speak in tongues requires the aggressive pursuit and exercise of the human will. The one seeking glossalaliá must realize it isn’t going to just ‘happen’ out of the blue. An equally important factor is the understand God loves you, and He wants to help you, and WILL give you the ability to speak in tongues. The Father does not want His children to strive in the flesh to find it.
The Greek word dúnamin (NT: 1411) typically translated as “power” is very misused by the charismatic and Pentecostal churches; they envision themselves as God’s ‘anointed’ messengers, endued with the power to render miracles at will by faith, and nothing is further from the truth.
I am not denying the reality that God does, in fact, do miraculous things, such as healing a person of some incurable illness. And it is also true there are many times this word dúnamin, (aka by its more popular name dúnamis), is used to convey the power of the divine in a supernatural act; but to broad-brush the definition of dúnamin as applicable on to visible signs and wonders alone curtails its more relevant use and daily application, especially as it relates to speaking in tongues. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:19-20, the Amplified Bible translates dúnamin as, “force, moral power and excellence of soul.”
· 1 Corinthians 4:19-20 But I will come to you and shortly, if the Lord is willing, and then I will perceive and understand not what the talk of these puffed up and arrogant spirits amount to, but their force, the moral power and excellence of soul, (dúnamin), they really possess. 20 For the kingdom of God consists of and is based on not talk but moral power and excellence of soul (dúnamin). AMP
Thayer's Greek Lexicon says of dúnamin it means, “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts, strength, ability, power.”
In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells the disciples, “… you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has COME UPON you…” The Greek words translated as, ‘come upon,’ are, ‘epi epelthóntos (eperchomai),’ and this construction is very targeted and somewhat complex for the average student to understand.
First, the Greek verb eperchomai, as it is used in this context, means ‘supervening.’ Most people don’t know what supervene means; it is defined by Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library Dictionary as:
1. Follow unexpectedly: to follow or come about unexpectedly, usually interrupting or changing what is going on.
2. Follow immediately: to follow immediately after something.
3. supervene is from the Mid-17th century Latin super-venire , literally, “to come above,” from venire “to come” (see venue).
4. to interrupt, impinge, charge in, butt in, appear, turn up, crop up
5. ensue, follow, supersede, succeed, pursue, follow on, chase after
· Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
When the Holy Spirit, aka the perfect spirit of Jesus, came upon the 120 disciples on the Day of Pentecost, he was ‘supervening’ the imperfect spirits of the 120 disciples in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost. In other words, if we use some of Encarta’s definitions, and play around with them a bit, it gives a better sense of what occurred.
The spirit of Jesus unexpectedly interrupted their prayer meeting, by changing what is going on. Then, immediately following the spirit of Jesus, the Father, God, appeared from above, so to speak, impinged their prayer with an unknown tongue (hetérais glossalaliá) superceding their native Galilean language with prayer in the spirit, giving them what he promised; the ability to speak with fresh, new and improved quality tongues.
Since the Greek verb eperchomai means, ‘to ‘supervene,’ in the specific context of Acts 1:8 it connotes, “to follow or come about unexpectedly, usually interrupting and changing what was going on.” This Greek verb eperchomai in context of Acts 1:8 is followed by the preposition epí (NT: 1909) and whenever this preposition epí follows after verbs of abiding, remaining, standing, going, or coming, (such as eperchomai above), it implies, and is used, “of things, affairs, or persons, which one is set over, over which he exercises power.” Remember this usage, because later, I will use this definition to retranslate Acts 1:8.
Now for those who have a difficult time following grammar and Greek talk, I will now prepare the summary text of Acts 1:8 in an expanded, emphasized text, readable and simple, showing exactly what is being said. To do this, I must embellish the text with some additional descriptive terms, but I have in no way violated the intended meaning.
· Acts 1:8 “But you shall lay hold upon an inherent moral power, and by virtue of its nature, have this moral power residing in you, possessing the ability to exert its strength, as soon as the perfect spirit (of Jesus) is unexpectedly set over you, interrupting and changing what is going on, by exercising his delegated authority in (the Father’s) power.” (TAT)
This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost; as the 120 men and women disciples remained fasting and praying in the upper room of someone’s home in Jerusalem, they were seeking earnestly what Jesus had promised by following his instructions.
· Acts 1:4-5 And while being in their company and eating with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Of which,” he said, “you have heard me speak. For John baptized with water, but not many days from now you shall be baptized with, placed in, introduced into the Holy Spirit.” (John 14:16,26; 15:26) AMP
Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised; the passage above in Acts 1:4-5. The promise of the Father indicates that God is in control of Jesus’ future ‘holy spirit’ baptism; the spirit of Jesus would come to the disciples, in the exact manner in which he had ascended out of their sight. t Jesus is God’s son, and therefore subject to his Father’s authority and orders.
Since Jesus can only do what his Father tells him to do, it was the Father, God, that determined when His son would descend upon them, infusing them with his cleansing spirit, and making a “way” to the Father’s Presence. I believe this event is when the disciples were first born-again, or literally, born from on high. Peter was one of Jesus’ most influential apostles, and he summed up the experience at Pentecost in the prologue to his first epistle to the church. The Appropriate Translation (TAT) below sums up the work of Jesus to set free from sin, and the power God provides to sustain us.
· 1 Peter 1:1-4 Peter, a messenger, set apart and sent out by Jesus Christ to the selected and chosen, foreigners dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Those favorably recognized by God the Father, who have been purified in the operation of the spirit, spiritually enabled (equipped) for attentive compliance to Jesus the Messiah, and bespattered with false and injurious charges, tarnished in reputation, even to the point of bloodshed by violence; may God’s spiritual influence bring tranquility and passionate expectation of His goodness, and may the concord between individuals increase among you. 3 Inherently worthy to be praised is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His intense and continued compassionate pity, He (God) caused us to be birthed upward into a living expectation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ out from among the dead, 4 into an inheritance, which is undecayed and free from the force of whatever defiles, carefully guarded from loss or injury in the heavenlies for you. TAT
In 1 Peter 1:2 the NAS translates hagiasmoó pneúmatos as, “the sanctifying work of the Spirit,” while the TAT above translates it, “purified in the operation of the spirit, spiritually enabled (equipped) for attentive compliance.” This is a major point, because Peter captures the work of Jesus’ spirit and God’s spirit on the Day of Pentecost in one phrase. Hagiasmoó is of course a cognate of hágios, except that hagiasmoó shows the effect of consecration, which is active sanctification of heart (spirit) and life; it is used this way also by Paul in his prelude of the epistle written to the Corinthian church, and leading up to his instructions about glossalaliá, in 1 Corinthians 1:30 (READ 1 Corinthians 1:18 thru 1:30).
Hagiasmoó pneúmatos in this passage of 1 Peter 1:2 refers not only to the activity of the Holy Spirit (i.e. – the ‘perfect spirit’ of the glorified man, Christ Jesus, aka - the Helper or Parákleetos) in setting man apart unto salvation and transferring him into the ranks of the redeemed, but also shows how God the Father enables him to be holy even as HE is holy (2 Thessalonians 2:13). In 1 Peter 1:3b punctuates the fact it is GOD who is ultimately credited with causing us to be ‘birthed upward’ into a living expectation, yet He gives spiritual birth based solely upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Confirming the words of Jesus, two men, dressed in white clothing, appeared to the disciples, affirming what would happen just seven days hence:
· Acts 1:10-11 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while he (Jesus) was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; 11 and they also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched him go into heaven." NAS
Who were these two men? Were they angelic messengers, or were they also witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection? It is quite probable they were the same two angelic messengers that were outside of Jesus’ tomb in John 20:12 after the resurrection. Perhaps a few of the disciples such as John recognized them, and this gave additional credibility to their message.
With no working knowledge of what the Holy Spirit was, these disciples were witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:3), and this witness, plus Jesus’ last words, plus the two men’s words after Jesus ascended, were ample reason to motivate them to return to Jerusalem and seek the promised Holy Spirit. Therefore, being of one mind and heart, they pressed hard in prayer, hungry to get what God had promised. This point must be emphasized, because it was this intensity and spiritual hunger and drive that precipitated what happened at Pentecost.
In the midst of their spiritual pursuit and determination to take hold of God’s promise, the perfect spirit of Jesus is suddenly and unexpectedly set over the 120 praying disciples by God. Remember that word “supervene” in Acts 1:8 for the moment when the Holy Spirit shall “come upon” them? True to his word, all of a sudden Jesus interrupts these praying believers, and together with the Father, he begins changing what was going on.
Already in a mode of seeking, the disciples made the transition effortlessly, laying hold upon the cleansing, sanctifying love, as each one’s guilt for sin was taken up and away! In an instant, a new and inherent moral power was theirs for the taking, and by virtue of its nature, began residing in them. In unity, each man and women now possessed the ability to exert this newfound spiritual strength, as they began to speak out distinctly and loudly in strange “new tongues” as the Spirit of God, whom they now had experientially laid hold of, by virtue of having the sin lifted away and forgiven, continued giving them the ability to speak with hetérais glossalaliá.
Fausset’s Bible Dictionary poses a thought about tongues at Pentecost that is worth consideration:
PENTECOST - The tongues symbolized Christianity proclaimed by preaching; the antithesis to Babel's confusion of tongues and gathering of peoples under one ambitious will. Jerusalem, the mount of the Lord, is the center of God's spiritual kingdom of peace and righteousness; Babel, the center of Satan's kingdom and of human rebellion, ignores God the true bond of union, and so is the city of confusion, in the low dead level of Shinar. As Babel's sin disunited, so by the Spirit of God given on Pentecost believers are one, "keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:1-16). (From Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c) 1998 by Biblesoft)
· John 1:29-34 The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus approaching him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes off and away the sin attached to the inhabitants of the world! 30 This is he on behalf of whom I said, 'after me comes a man who has a higher rank than I, for he is foremost in God’s order.' 31 And I did not discern who he really was, but in order that he might be manifested to Israel, I came to make ceremonially clean by immersing in water." 32 And John bore witness saying, "I have beheld the Spirit (tó pneúma) descending as a dove out of heaven, and He (God) remained upon him (Jesus). 33 And I (John) did not discern him (Jesus), but He (God) who sent me to make clean, by immersing in water said to me, 'He (Jesus) upon whom you observe the Spirit (tó pneúma) descending and remaining upon him (Jesus), this is the one (Jesus), who came to make clean by immersing in a perfect spirit.' 34 And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." TAT
The most important point here is what Jesus does in removing sin; as the Lamb of God, on Pentecost, he takes off and away the sin attached to the inhabitants of the world. Most Bible versions translate it this way, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” I believe something very essential is lost by improper translation of the Greek word airoo used in John 1:29.
This word airoo means literally, “to raise upward, elevate, lift up; to take upon oneself and carry what has been raised; to remove the guilt and punishment of sin by expiation.” This implies a suddenly lifting away of sin, and at the SAME TIME removing the GUILT and penalty for sin. I believe this is why the disciples spoke in tongues in Acts 2:4; it was at the very moment they were made clean by being immersed in a perfect spirit, the spirit of the son of God, Jesus, the Lamb.
Think about it… suddenly the disciples of Jesus were the very first human beings since Adam first sinned, to experientially have their GUILT and the shame for sin actually and really removed. Immediately, each one of the 120 men and women gathered there in the upper room in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, were soaked by the overwhelming influence of the spirit of Jesus, who takes the guilt for sin up and away!
At the same instant, “THE” Spirit of God, infuses each of the 120 human spirits with His awesome Presence, and true to His “promise” as the “Father” (i.e. – fulfilling the ‘promise of the Father’), gives them the, “ability” to continue speaking out, clearly and distinctly in other tongues.
1 John 3:5 uses the same word airoo with regard to Jesus taking sin up and away:
· 1 John 3:5 And you know that he (Jesus) appeared in order to take away (airoo) sins; and in him (Jesus) there is no sin. NAS
To describe the actual mechanics of glossalaliá, I will now list the major points discussed thus far:
1. On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus were the first Christians to ever speak forth in the fresh, new language of other tongues! Acts 2:4 says they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as THE SPIRIT was giving them utterance. The “other (hetérais) tongues,” spoken by the disciples in Acts 2:4, is the fulfillment of what was formerly promised in Mark 16:17 by Jesus, when he said they would speak with, “new tongues.”
· Proof that modern speaking in tongues is identical to the first glossalaliá is determined by comparing the only other NT text that uses the Greek word hetérais in association with tongues, which is 1 Corinthians 14:21, "By men of strange (hetérais) tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people.”
2. In Acts 2:4 they disciples BEGAN to speak; it is not God speaking thru them. Further proof for this is emphasized heavily in 1 Corinthians 14:2, “For one who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men but to God, for no one understands or catches his meaning, because in the spirit he utters secret truths and hidden things not obvious to the understanding.”
3. In Acts 2:4 the disciples began to speak in other languages (tongues), as the Spirit kept giving them the ABILITY clear and loud expression. The “Spirit” giving the “ABILITY” to speak is God the Father, not Jesus. The ability comes from Him as the “promise of the Father.”
· The Father is God, and God is spirit, and He is the “living water” that springs up from the innermost being (See John 7:37-39). Jesus is the spirit of Truth that gives them access to the Father, thru the atonement he made for sin; as the perfect, or holy spirit, Jesus is a living, spiritual mediator between God and men (see 1 Timothy 2:5).
· God has always desired the kind of worship, in spirit and truth, now realized by the 120, as the perfect spirit of the Lamb of God, Jesus the son of God, takes guilt for sin, up and away from them, giving them spirit access to the Father.
Now lest my points get melded into a confusing ball of theology, let me digress and delineate some points:
1. When the text in Acts 2:4 says the Spirit kept giving them the “ability” to speak out; this means the Spirit of God, gave them impetus. As mentioned earlier, they BEGAN and then spoke. The raw text does not adequately capture the exuberance and emotion of the experience
2. The Spirit KEPT GIVING them the ability to speak out; this means as long as they were willing to speak out in tongues, the spirit was willing to give them ability to speak.
3. The Spirit kept giving them the ability to SPEAK OUT in a CLEAR AND LOUD EXPRESSION. I take this point from the Amplified Bible, and it seems consistent with the Greek.
· The Literal Greek renders the word, “speak,” as, “To utter, declare, speak, particularly succinct, concise, pithy and remarkable sayings.”
· In other words, this speech was not a bunch of non-descript babble; it was a genuine language, as evidenced by the interpretation to the hetérais glossalaliá on Pentecost, being in the indigenous dialect of Jews from surrounding nations (e.g. – Medes, Parthians, etc).
Part 5 of this series will address the issue of why some believers speak in other tongues, and why some believers don’t. Foremost to this discussion is to refer back to Part 3 and remind ourselves the Samaritans, who believed and were then water baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, needed to have Peter and John come down, and pray for them to learn how to ‘take hold’ of and affectionately embrace the practice of giving control of their spirit and their tongue to the Spirit of God.
Peter’s words to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost identify what is needed to ‘take hold’ of the gift of clean, pure spirit (aka – the gift of the Holy Spirit).
· Acts 2:38-39 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." NAS
The words highlighted in red above can readily be identified now that I have laid a solid foundation for this topic.
1. First, the words, “for the forgiveness of your sins” imply what is necessary for salvation, not speaking in tongues. The cleansing work of the Holy Spirit, or spirit of Jesus, does NOT depend on whether a believer does or does not speak in other tongues. Rather it depends on whether he or she “repents” and is “baptized.” There are to be factored into this equation all of the other aspects of salvation, such as faith in the redemptive work of Christ, faith in God, and the resurrection, etc.
2. The words, “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” are mistranslated. Once a person has forgiveness of sins, they are promised access to the “gift.” The word, “receive” is the Greek ‘lambano,’ and as I defined it previously, it means, “to take hold of for oneself.”
3. The “gift” of the Holy Spirit is identified as one and the same as, “the promise” and is said to be available for the taking to as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. I must therefore identify what the “promise” in Acts 2:39 is, and if it is the same as the “promise of the Father” Jesus taught his disciples about in Acts 1: 6-8, it will be easy to link it to the glossalaliá experience at Pentecost.
4. The “gift” of the “Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38 requires scrutiny; the Greek renders it much differently as, “teén dooreán toú Hagíou Pneúmatos.” Two Greek definite articles (teén & toú) force us to interpret as follows, “the gift of the operation of the perfect spirit.” It is definitely identifying the spirit of Jesus, but does so unusually different from other texts, because in this text it retains a unique view; highlighted in red, you will clearly see the first emphasis is on identifying, “the gift of the operation of the Holy Spirit,” as opposed to placing emphasis on the personal noun alone.
· One has to be very familiar with the use of articles in Greek grammar to delineate how they are used. Typically, the definite articles in Greek emphasize the identity of a person, or place, or thing. In this case, the articles are used before, “gift,” and also placed before, “holy spirit.” This would be straightforward if the Greek noun for, “spirit,” was unmodified; however, the Greek noun, “pneuma,” is modified as, “pneúmatos,” which means more than just, “the spirit.” Pneumatos means, “the working of or the operation of the spirit,” and therefore is placing emphasis on the noun’s activity.
· A simple example in English to illustrate comparisons is to say, “the excellent seamstress,” being akin to, “the holy spirit,” (toú Hagíou Pneúma). Now compare, “the sewing capability of the excellent seamstress,” to, “the operation of the holy spirit,” (toú Hagíou Pneúmatos).
· in Acts 2:38 it is NOT identifying merely the Holy Spirit as a person, but rather, the emphasis is placed more of the SPECIFIC OPERATION (OR WORKING) of the Holy Spirit, and explaining it as a “the gift” that all believers are enabled to “take hold of for oneself.” All believers have the Holy Spirit (Jesus) in their life, but not all have desired to take hold of the working of the holy spirit of Jesus that leads them to the Father for enablement to speak in other tongues..
I conclude that what Peter is saying in the context of Acts 2:38-39 is that all believers have been given God’s “promise” of access to the “operation” of the spirit of Jesus, but that it must be actively sought, a point clearly seen in the retranslation of, “receive” (Greek = lambano) to mean literally, “to hold of for oneself.”
Because Peter says the gift of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the very same passage in which the 120 disciples actually took hold of the “operation” of the Holy Spirit, and spoke in other tongues when they did so, it must be concluded this is what Peter is saying. Remember, Peter began his speech to the Jews in response to those that were mocking the 120 when they heard them speaking in other tongues, and thought they were full of sweet wine.
To conclude this fourth study in the series, let us now compare the “promise” in Acts 2:39 to ALL Christians. I will begin by using the Greek word for “promise” and seeing if there are any parallel NT passages that use this word in relation to the Holy Spirit, of the “Gift” of the Holy Spirit.
· Luke 24:49 "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of my Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." NAS
· Acts 1:4-5 And gathering them together, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," he said, "you heard of from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. " NAS
· Acts 2:32-33 "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this which you both see and hear. NAS
Acts 2:33 is definitive proof that the “gift of the operation of the holy spirit of Jesus,” in Acts 2:38-39 is the exact same promise Peter mentions earlier in his speech on the Day of Pentecost. Even the Greek construction is nearly identical for, “the Holy Spirit,” reading, “toú Hagíou toú Pneúmatos.” Peter’s mention at the end of verse 33 cinches it, because he describes not only what the Jews saw, but also what they heard, which was speaking in unknown (hetérais) tongues. Therefore, I end this study Part Four, and Part Five will address more issues relevant to speaking in tongues as it relates to the following:
1. To our Baptist brethren, who should not be viewed as lesser in spirituality if they do not speak in other tongues, and how the spirit of Jesus and God’s spirit works in them.
2. More clear delineation between the work of the spirit of Christ as mediator, and his involvement in our prayer life, including prayer with the mind, or understanding, and how Jesus advocates and helps our human spirit communicate with the Spirit of God, and how we can learn to understand our glossalaliá with discernment, and what it really means to interpret tongues.
3. I will show the relationship between the Sabbath rest God promised in the OT, and was never attained or entered into by Israel, and what relationship this promised rest has with prayer in other tongues.
4. What the spirit of Christ is as a glorified man in a spirit form, how we can relate to Jesus and see him, “as he is,” in the hopes of becoming like him, not just in heaven, but right here, and right now.
5. More detail on prayer in tongues, tongues in the church, and interpretation, and the errors of the Pentecostal churches in trying to exercise the spiritual “gifts” instead of simply serving others in love.
If you enjoy these studies, please take time to email me, and let me know the impact they have in your life, and why you feel this subject needs further investigation and teaching. Without your input, I have no idea whether the studies have value, and when you write, and tell me the specific reasons you feel the topic is important, it inspires me to continue, and fends off the discouragement and attacks of the devil. My email is:
Links to the entire "What is Speaking in Tongues” Series: