New Covenant Living: Facts about the Holy Spirit, Part 6
Why Tongues? #1

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Last time we discussed these additional facts about the Holy Spirit.

20) The Holy Spirit abides with us forever [Isaiah 59:20-21; John 14:16-17]

21) The Holy Spirit and His gifts are still available to anyone who requests them [John 7:37-39; Acts 2:38-39]

  1. The Holy Spirit Baptism Prophesied [Mark 16:15, Acts 1:4-5; Acts 1:8]
  2. The Outpouring at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-39]

  3. Outpouring at Samaria: [Acts 8:14-19]
  4. Paul receives the Holy Spirit [Acts 9:17-19; 1 Corinthians 14:18]

  5. Outpouring on Gentiles at Ceasarea [Acts 10:45-47]
  6. Outpouring at Ephesus [Acts 19:1-5]

So in Acts we have five accounts of people being filled with the Holy Spirit: at Pentecost, at Samaria, the Apostle Paul, at Caesarea and at Ephesus. In three accounts, speaking in tongues is specifically mentioned as initial evidence that they were baptized with the Holy Spirit

Paul we know spoke in tongues because he said so, and following the Biblical pattern, probably when he first received the filling of the Holy Spirit.

In the case of the Samaritan believers, Simon the magician perceived by his senses something different that happened when hands were laid on them and they received the Holy Spirit, something different from what ever he had seen before that was immediate and they all did ... and tongues is the best explanation for what Simon perceived.

This is why many believers and commentators believe that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Last time we had a lot of questions along the lines of these. What are tongues for? Why is speaking in tongues so significant? Isn’t it just another gift? Can tongues be counterfeited by the devil?

Do you think God would give us something we didn't need? Are tongues the ONLY way the Spirit evidences Himself in lives? Aren’t all gifts equal? Is the groanings of the Spirit the same as tongues? What about our "personal prayer language"?

The statement was made that "Tongues has to be the one that in my mind we COULD do without if one had to be eliminated." Is this true? Can we do without tongues?

And these questions got me to thinking, "Why tongues?" I come from a Pentecostal background, and have always been taught the reality of the spiritual gifts, but never really asked the Lord why that speaking in tongues is important, what is the reason for this gift in our lives?

So this week I have been meditating on "Why tongues?" and have received some answers I’d like to share with you. The Lord brought a little ditty to my mind that I was told as a child: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

This is a LIE. We can very much be hurt by careless and cruel comments. The Bible bears this out … and we will show how this relates to speaking in tongues. First we need to build a foundation for understanding, and the first verse I want to look at tonight is found in Proverbs 18:21

Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Amplified: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall it the fruit of it [for death or life].

The Bible says that your tongue has power – either to bring life or death, to create or destroy. And you will receive what you speak … either death or life … for yourself and those around you.

Your words have either creative or destructive force. For example, a child who is told that he is "lousy, good for nothing, won’t ever amount to anything" will tend to become what is spoken over him.

Psalms 33:6,9 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth…For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm…2 Peter 3:5 …. long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.

Why do our tongues have such power? We are made in God’s image, and recall that God SPOKE the worlds into existence. And the Bible tells us that life and death are in the power of OUR tongues as well. It matters VERY much what we say, how we say it and when we say it.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

God called "things that be not as though they were" by His command. In a like manner, our tongues also can be a creative or a destructive force, calling invisible things into being. How many companies are born when someone speaks them into existence? How many wars come into being because someone declared it?

Jesus also stated in Matthew 12:37 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

We will have to give an account for the way we use the power of our tongues one day, Jesus tells us. Are we using our tongues for life or death? It will be OUR WORDS, that is, the use of our tongues, that will declare us righteous or will condemn us.

Proverbs 26:28; 17:20 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin. … A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble

One use of the tongue for death is lying and flattering which bring hurt and ruin. The writer of Proverbs correctly identifies the source of the tongues deadly power as being hatred and a perverse heart. Lying, deceit and flatter are spoken death.

Studies show that the average person lies 217 times per day. Yes that’s TWO HUNDRED SEVENTEEN times per DAY. How we need to learn to control our tongues!

Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

Have you ever met anyone who "couldn’t shut their mouths"? One hindrance to spiritual growth is simply talking too much. Sooner or later, verbal diarrhea will lead you into sin. It is wise to hold your tongue, ESPECIALLY if you don’t have anything life-giving to say.

Proverbs 12:18; 15:4 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing… The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.

Words can heal or they can bring disease of mind and body. They can pierce the heart with fear and dread, or can be a tree of life – a source of health and happiness.

There is a teen suicide in our country every 17 minutes. In the course of this study, that means that 6-7 young people have given up on life and entered eternity. That means nearly 85 young people each day have bought the lie that death is better than life. Why?

Why? Look at the death that is being spoken into their lives daily … look at the music, the movies, the brokenness in homes … all the despair and defeat that is spoken continually in the US. There is life or death in the power of the tongue.

The great changes that have occurred in history have been preceded by words. The "pen is indeed mightier than the sword". For example, propaganda in pre-Hitler Germany created an atmosphere where Hitler could rise to power. Before he could have succeeded, there had to be a breakdown in the church and society brought about by anti-Semitism, pride, racism, lying and deceit.

In these last days, we are being exposed to a flood of New Age propaganda that is preparing the way for Anti-Christ. Instead of wasting our times arguing dates for the Second Coming or trying to figure out who Anti-Christ is going to be, we would be wise to hear and expose the lies the devil is telling the world. Life and death is in the power of the tongue!

James 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

So what does this have to do with speaking in tongues? James points out to us that the tongue is a major factor in our spiritual life. In fact, if we don’t keep a "tight reign" on our tongues, we can be self-deceived and our belief is worthless.

James 3:5-6 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself SET ON FIRE BY HELL.

Even worse than that, James emphasizes that the power of the tongue is so great that it’s like setting a forest fire with a small spark. James says that this fire is a WORLD of evil and corrupts the whole person. It destroys the course of a persons life because it is set on fire by HELL.

Pretty strong words. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Solomon said it, Jesus said it, now James confirms it. But even worse that this, James goes on to say:

James 3:7-9 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but NO MAN can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

NO MAN can tame the tongue! NO MAN CAN TAME THE TONGUE. If the power of life or death is in the tongue as the Bible says, and it is set on fire by HELL and no man can TAME it … we are in BIG trouble folks.

But when we yield our tongues to the Holy Spirit, when we have surrendered to Him to the point that He can speak through us … then we are set free of hell and can begin to speak life into our lives and the lives of others.

When we speak in tongues, we are set on fire by HEAVEN – we are yielding control of our most unruly member to God. And the Holy Spirit in turn gives us control over what we speak; He TAMES our tongues to the obedience of Christ.

We are what we say – good or bad. Without the control of the Holy Spirit, our tongues are set on fire by hell and will destroy us. Grumbling, doubt, fear and negativity opens the door for satanic oppression.

Confession in the Christian life doesn’t stop when we receive Christ as Savior and make a confession of our sin to Him. On the positive side, we need to speak out who we are in Christ and what we possess in Him.

2 Corinthians 4:13-14 It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

We need to SPEAK our belief in Christ. Praise to Him acknowledges God’s work in our life and builds faith. And our faith is built up even more so, when we speak in tongues, allowing God through the Spirit to speak good things through us.

Isaiah 28:11-12 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, "This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"-- but they would not listen.

The manifestation of speaking in tongues was prophesied by that great prophet Isaiah, in his vision of the end times. He contrasts the refreshing and resting of this way that God would speak to us with the liars and scoffers who had made their covenant with death and falsehood.

Isaiah had an experience with God in the temple, and received the cleansing of his lips with a coal of fire from God’s altar [Isaiah 6:1-11]. It was only after Isaiah’s lips were cleansed that God gave him his mission to GO AND TELL.

Likewise, since the power of life and death are in the tongue, we need our lips to be cleansed by God’s Holy Fire and controlled by the Holy Spirit. We need for our tongues to be set on fire by HEAVEN and to yield them to God for HIS use.

22) The Holy Spirit builds us up when we pray in tongues.

Jude 1: 20-21 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

1 Corinthians 14:2,4 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit [or by the Spirit]… He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

I Corinthains 14:2 says that when you speak in tongues, you speak mysteries to God in the Spirit. So technically the Spirit speaks through you to God. And verse 4 tells us that when we do that we edify or build up ourselves spiritually which is what Jude 20 says also

Tongues are mysteries to us, but not to God. He understands them. Mysteries contain things that baffle us, warnings that we cannot discover by our own minds or intellect: distresses, sorrows, weaknesses that we need edification or enlightenment about.

The Holy Spirit speaks these things through our own tongues to God. When we ask for interpretation, the answer from God is spoken in your language. I Corinthians 14:13 says "For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says."

Tongues can be thought of as "God's secret code" which the devil can't understand. From our innermost being, our "belly" or seat of emotions, we tear down the strongholds of the enemy. When we pray in a KNOWN tongue, the devil can hear our prayers and begin opposing them. When we pray in the spirit or in tongues, he cannot understand our prayers and is put into confusion and flight.

Now the interpretation of tongues is NOT a word for word translation, but the gist or essence of what we have said in the unknown tongue, and in public worship it should follow immediately. Tongues in themselves are not enough - that would be a "one way conversation. We need for God to talk back to us and bring understanding - thus the interpretation.

I Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

In v.14 we are told that when we pray in tongues, the spirit prays but the mind is unfruitful - we don't understand what we are saying. That is why in v. 13 we are told to pray to God for an interpretation.

I Corinthians 14:16-17 If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand [or among the inquirers] say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

We are told praying in tongues is in the tongues of men and of angels; and usually speaking in tongues is what is meant by praying in the Spirit I Corinthians 14:2, 14

I Corinthians 12:10 tells us that there are "diversities of tongues" or different kinds of tongues. There are types of tongues. One is private, sometimes called a "devotional tongue" or praying in the spirit, where you personally speak mysteries to God in the Spirit, which may or may not be interpreted, but in any case builds you up.

Most commentators believe this devotional tongue is available for all believers. Paul said that he wanted them ALL to speak in tongues ... but previously he indicated that not ALL had the other spiritual gifts, including Tongues/Interpretation. These tongues can come forth in speaking, praying or singing.

Romans 8: 26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Another type of tongue that is usually private is intercessional groanings of the Spirit. This is a deep level of intercession where you "stand in the gap" for someone between him and the devil's desired destruction.

Another type is the public gift of speaking in tongues, or perhaps it might be easier understood as giving a message in tongues, which MUST be interpreted.

And not all have that gift ... it is given to the Church by the Holy Spirit as it is needed (providing if someone is willing to let the gift flow) and can be different individuals at different times.

And a fourth type of tongues is the "sign to the unbeliever" where the Spirit speaks a message through you in a language unknown to YOU, but known to your hearers, as at the Day of Pentecost.

Next Lesson Why Tongues, Part 2

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Father God, help us to be loving in all our ways, and to be tenderhearted towards our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died. Speaking the truth in love, let us draw together in the unity of the spirit as members of the Body of Christ, encouraging one another as Your coming draws near.
In Jesus' Name, Amen.


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Original lesson 7/12/99
Revised: August 02, 2001