Do You Speak in Tongues?

From the Book of Acts:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. [Acts 2:1-4]

What would you say if we told you that speaking in tongues was necessary for your eternal salvation? Many of you would be trembling in fear because you have never spoken in tongues. Yet there are members of the Pentecostal church who insist that you are not sealed by the Spirit of God unless you speak in tongues. In other words, speaking in tongues is the outward sign of your redemption and salvation.

Before we continue please note that this post was written during the week of Shavu’ot, or Pentecost. The LORD commanded Moses that the sons of Israel were to celebrate annual feasts which were to be proclaimed as holy convocations (Lv 23:1-2). If you were living in ancient times you could essentially know the calendar by keeping these appointed festivals.

There were three major feasts that the nation of Israel had to celebrate: Pesach (Passover), or Unleavened Bread; Shavu’ot, or Pentecost (also known as the Feast of Weeks, or Feast of Harvest); and Booths (also known as the Feast of Tabernacle, or Ingathering).

Passover commemorated the exodus from Egypt; Shavu’ot commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses at Mt. Sinai; and Booths was remembrance of how the children of Israel were housed by the LORD during their wilderness trek out of the land of Egypt.

It is our mission to teach Christianity through the structure of Judaism for we are all one in Christ Jesus, understanding that Yeshua was not a Christian but a Jew (from the tribe of Judah) even as the Apostle Paul who wrote:

I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. [Ro 11:1]

Having said that please understand we do not concur with the legalists within the Hebrew Roots movement who expect Gentiles to be circumcised and live by the statutes of the Torah. Paul wrote that the law can save no one (Ro 3:20). [See our post Why Christ Died.] Nor do we command Gentiles to keep the feasts which were given specifically to the children of Israel by YHWH as a remembrance of all that He had done for them within the context of the Old Covenant. All of these things were resolved at the Jerusalem Council (as recorded in chapter 15 of the Book of Acts) where the apostles vetoed the demands of the men of circumcision who wanted to impose the legalism and ritualism of Torah upon the Gentile converts.

But it is important to recognize that (while our Gentile brothers and sisters enjoy the favors of Christian liberty) Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the feasts of Israel. He is our Passover Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; and the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost.

So, then, the children of Israel were commanded by the LORD to count 50 days (seven full weeks) from the Passover sabbath (Lv 23:16) at which time they would celebrate Shavu’ot (weeks), or Feast of Weeks in commemoration of the Spring harvest and the giving of the Law unto Moses at Mt. Sinai.

Fifty (cha·mi·shim) is translated pentecost from the Greek. Because the Christian, or Gregorian calendar is not in sync with the Hebrew calendar these holy days are not observed concurrently. For example, Passover was celebrated on March 26 of this year (2013) while Easter was celebrated on March 31. Keep in mind that our Savior was crucified on Passover, and resurrected on the third day, or the Feast of First Fruits.

Let’s pause for a moment to consider that Messiah was raised from the dead on First Fruits, and His bodily resurrection was so commemorated by the first century assembly of Jewish believers. Later, the “church” changed the date and name of the celebration to either make it less Jewish, or more pagan in its appeal to non-believers.

Similarly, Shavu’ot was celebrated on May 15 of this year while Pentecost (counting 50 days from Easter) fell on May 19. While the Feast of Weeks commemorates the giving of the Law to Moses, Pentecost recognizes the writing of the Law upon our hearts as it is written:

“For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra’el after those days,” says ADONAI. “I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people (and) I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more.” [Jer 31:33]

Before He ascended, our Lord told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem and await the promise of My Father (speaking of the baptism of the Holy Spirit), or power from on high (Lk 24:49). He told the eleven (for Judas the betrayer had committed suicide) that they would be empowered to perform miracles as a sign, or affirmation of their holy witness and testimony. Mark wrote that these signs included casting out demons, raising the dead, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands (Mk 16:17-18); and surviving snake bites as did the Apostle Paul (Acts 28:6).

This power was given to the appointed men of Christ. The apostles have long since died so who are these false prophets on Christian television who are healing people through their TV’s?

Well, we do know that the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts to all believers, but not the same gifts. In his first letter to the assembly at Corinth (chapter 12), the apostle Paul noted the various gifts of the Spirit including wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, and tongues. In the Bible tongues means language and not gibberish which is so often heard by the false teachers of the word of faith gospel.

When the Ruach Hako’desh (Holy Spirit) baptized the apostles on the Day of Pentecost they began speaking in languages (tongues) that were understood by the Jews of many nations who were in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days. Luke wrote in the Book of Acts:

They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear [them] in our own language to which we were born?” [Acts 2:7-8]

Tongues are not an unknown language. The apostles were speaking in the ancient languages of the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Persians, Libyans and Arabs. That is how the Gospel was spread throughout the known world as the New Testament was not yet written.

Paul thought that tongues was the least of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he encouraged believers to earnestly seek the greater gifts which he details in chapters 13-14 of the Corinthian epistle (1Co 12:30-31).

Not everyone speaks in tongues, noted Paul, for the Holy Spirit determines your gift. We are all members of the body of Christ, but with different functions. Some are called to be apostles. Others are called to be prophets. There are teachers, healers, miracle-workers, administrators and, lastly, speaking in tongues. Tongues do not edify men unless there is someone with the gift of interpretation who can reveal the prophecy that is spoken (1Co 14:2).

Paul said that he spoke more tongues than any (which served him well on his missionary journeys), but he would rather speak five words that were understood than ten thousand words in a tongue. He cautioned that if a stranger walked into the assembly and heard all these different tongues he would think everyone was mad (1Co 14:18-19, 1Co 14:23).

Obviously, then, speaking in tongues is not a sign of your salvation, nor is it even a more desired gift. We know of a man who attended a Pentecostal church on Pentecost, and he started speaking gibberish. He wasn’t surprised when another man leaped up and began interpreting what the man had said. When the first man revealed that he was just speaking gibberish he was invited to leave the church and never come back.

Certainly, in this case, love is the greater gift.

From the Editor: 

Hello, my brothers and sisters in Christ. My name is David, and I am the editor of Messiah Gate. I hope this website has been a source of joy and comfort to you. There are so many wonderful resources here that I hope you keep coming back to be edified, inspired and encouraged.

I wanted to give a personal testimony on this subject of speaking in tongues. When I was baptized, years ago, in the waters of Mission Bay (San Diego), I did not experience anything miraculous. That is, to say, a white dove did not descend upon me, nor did I speak in tongues, or hear a voice from heaven.

It wasn’t until many years later, about a month before my earthly father passed away, that I felt the physical sensation of an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You know how it feels when you drink a glass of water on a hot and dry day—how it sort of quenches your thirst? Well, that’s kind of how I felt—a quenching of my soul, if you will.

My father’s passing was unexpected. He suffered a stroke at Thanksgiving and died at Christmas. The month before his illness I started speaking in tongues. The Spirit would just seem to take over my prayers and begin speaking in a different language. Paul said if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful (1Co 14:14). 

I can’t explain it, and don’t understand it, other than to say that this whole experience of tongue speaking gave me the strength and comfort to endure my father’s passing. 

The tongues ceased after my Dad was buried.

Paul wrote that all of these things (prophecy and tongues) will cease, and he urges us to seek the greater gifts of faith, hope and love. If we speak in tongues and have not love it profits us nothing:

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. [1Co 13:13]

Speaking in tongues is not a good measure of the spiritual growth of your assembly. The question is not: Do you speak in tongues? The question is: Do you love the brethren?

May the LORD bless you and keep you.

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