The Nullifying Power of Tradition

Nullifying Power of tradition

Jesus came first for his own people. For thousands of years his coming had been destined, prepared, foretold. No other nation had prophecies concerning the Messiah like Israel did; no other nation had the Scriptures of truth as Israel did.

Why, then, when Jesus arrived on the scene, did the religious leaders not recognize him as their Savior and Deliverer?

When Jesus finally came in the power of signs and wonders as never before seen, his own people rejected him. Why? Mark tells us.

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and
2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed.
3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.
4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
–MARK 7:1–5 NIV

The Pharisees diligently studied the Scriptures (John 5:39). But they also kept their own traditions.

There’s nothing wrong with tradition per se, but observing human rules had become more important to them than obeying in love and faith the simple word of God. They chose their traditions over what God had originally said. Jesus told them, “‘You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (v. 8 NIV).

Just as no one can serve two masters, no one can hold on to two things at once. Unless a tradition is based accurately on God’s word, we cannot observe it and still honor God’s commands.

God honors His word, not human tradition or interpretation of that word. When tradition and the word diverge, we cannot follow both!

God’s word is powerful, but Jesus told the religious leaders something astonishing:

[Y]ou are nullifying and making void and of no effect [the authority of] the Word of God through your tradition, which you [in turn] hand on. And many things of this kind you are doing.”
–MARK 7:13 AMPC

Jesus said that the all-powerful word of God is…

  • Nullified—cancelled, zeroed out
  • Made void—empty
  • Made of no effect—rendered powerless

…because of tradition.

This nullifying power refers not only to the written Scriptures, but the prophetic word revealed to our hearts or to the corporate church by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4 NKJV).

If elevating tradition as primary makes God’s revealed word ineffective, then obviously the word is supposed to have an effect—it was designed to do something, to change things.

Hebrews 4:12 says the word of God is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (KJV), but tradition makes it more like a butter knife. As powerful as God’s word is, it is rendered powerless if not honored over tradition.

If how you interpret any portion of Scripture bring no practical effect to bless you, change you, or make you more like Christ, that interpretation is worthless. Perhaps its power has been nullified by tradition.

Paul advises on this matter:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
–Colossians 2:8 NIV

Paul warned Timothy to beware those who hold to a “form of godliness but deny its power”:

They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality they want nothing to do with God’s power. Stay away from people like these!
–2 Timothy 3:5 TPT

Because the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ time chose their traditions over Jesus, the Word made flesh, their Messiah’s coming availed them nothing.

How could Jesus benefit them if they did not acknowledge him for who he was? Because they rejected him, they received the consequences—desolation (Luke 13:35). It’s no wonder Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).

Today, the Church also substitutes tradition for the word written or revealed. We hold to doctrinal positions and denominational rules and procedures. But do we obey the simple statements of Scripture?

Do we hear and heed the prophetic Spirit that would apply the Scriptures to our present situation? Do our worship gatherings even allow the Spirit to speak through prophecy? (1 Cor. 14:1,4,24-25,29-31,39).

Paul explains how he presented the gospel:

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,
5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
–1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV

Many religious traditions are fine. But when they replace and nullify God’s word, we must decide which we will follow.

The true gospel is attended by the Spirit’s power. Let’s not deny it, but embrace and promote it, for this gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Inclusivity of the Holy Spirit

inclusivity

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of inclusivity, gathering from all nations and every walk of life those to be filled with prophetic power. This is explicit in the volume of Luke-Acts.

The Spirit of inclusivity poured out

On the day of Pentecost following the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the praying disciples. The sound of a violent wind and the 120 declaring the praises of God in tongues draws a crowd of the curious.

The listeners—Jews from many nations—declare, “‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?’” (Acts 2:7b-8 NIV)

The people ask, “What does this mean?” (v. 12).

Inspired by the Spirit, Peter preaches an explanation, quoting the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants [doulos], both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’”
–Acts 2:17-18 NIV

All people. Sons, daughters. Prophesying. Young men. Visions. Old men. Dreams. Servants (slaves, bondslaves). Prophesying. All these are signs of the new age of the Spirit’s inclusivity.

We first see Luke’s theme of Spirit-filled prophetic inclusivity in his gospel.

Zechariah: An old man who sees a vision

Zechariah was an old man (Lk 1:7). During the course of his priestly duties, he is called to burn incense in the temple (1:9).

An angel appears to him, delivering a message that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who was barren, would have a son. They must name him John. John will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in the womb, and he will be a prophet preparing the way of the Lord (1:11-17,76).

The vision leaves Zechariah unable to speak (1:22).

Mary: A young woman bondslave

Gabriel, the angel who appeared to Zechariah, next visits a young woman in Nazareth. Gabriel declares that Mary will give birth to a boy named Jesus, who “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:26-32).

Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (1:34)

Gabriel answers, “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’” (v. 35) He reveals that her relative Elizabeth is presently with child (v. 36).

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answers. “May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38). The Greek word for “servant,” doulē, is the same used in Acts 2:18.

Elizabeth: An old woman who prophesies

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”
–Luke 1:39-42 NIV

At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesy (1:42-45). The unborn John is filled with the Spirit also, leaping in her womb for joy (v. 44).

Mary: A young woman who prophesies

Mary is likewise filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesy of her Son’s prophetic destiny (1:46-55).

Zechariah: An old man who prophesies

When his son is born, Zechariah is asked what the child should be named. When he writes “John,” his tongue is loosed, and he begins to speak, praising God and prophesying (1:62-79).

Simeon: An old bondslave who prophesies

After the days of purification, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord.

An old man named Simeon, righteous and devout, has been told “by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Lk 2:26).

27 Moved by the Spirit, [Simeon] went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,
28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant [doulos] in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
–Luke 2:27-32 NIV

This old bondslave prophesied to Mary and then looked forward to being dismissed, the prophetic promise of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled.

Anna: An old woman prophetess

Also in the Temple, the aged prophetess Anna approaches Jesus’ parents and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).

John: A young prophet

Next we see John the Baptist as a young man, beginning his prophetic ministry: “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 1:80; 3:2-3).

Jesus: A prophet who includes the outcasts

Jesus, “a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19) regularly fellowships with those that the religious leaders of his day consider “sinners” (5:29).

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.
2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
–Luke 15:1-2 NIV

In response, Jesus tells parables about God rejoicing over the lost being found and included in the fold.

Martin William Mittelstadt, summarizing Murray Dempter’s focus, states:

[T]he Lukan Jesus exemplifies social concern as he encounters the burning moral issues of his day—the treatment of aliens, the exploitation of women, the economic exploitation of the oppressed, underemployment and unemployment, and the dignity of children. Similarly, Spirit baptism enables the charismatic community to break down walls of partition between men and women, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, and even demarcations of religious backgrounds within the Christian community itself.
[Martin William Mittelstadt, Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition (Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2010), 117.]

The early Church grows through Spirit-inspired inclusivity

In the book of Acts, Luke reports inclusivity in the prophetic life of the Spirit among God’s people:

  • The Hebraic/Hellenistic problem of feeding widows is solved by appointing those “full of the Spirit and wisdom” to oversee fair distribution of food (Acts 6:1-5).
  • A new mission is established to the Samaritans with the preaching of the Gospel and the baptism in the Spirit (8:4-25).
  • Philip ministers to the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-40).
  • God pours the Spirit out upon the Gentiles at an Italian’s home, thus opening Jewish table fellowship to the Gentiles (10:24-11:18).
  • A Gentile ministry team is formed after deliberation about how best to instruct them (15:1-33).
  • Philip has four daughters who prophesy (21:8-9).

Jesus preached a gospel open to all who will come. The Holy Spirit ratified His message and empowered the disciples to reach out in new ways to all peoples. Mittelstadt says that “Luke presents the alternative way of peace, a message of radical love based on God’s desire for communities built upon human inclusivity” (124).

Jesus said:

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
–John 10:16 NIV

Are you filled with the Spirit of God as on the day of Pentecost? If not, ask Jesus to baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13). Then leave the ninety-nine to find the one who is lost and rejected. Include them in God’s love. This is the gospel we are commanded to share with everyone.

Filled with Joy and the Holy Spirit

Joy in the Holy Spirit

Joy often accompanies the Holy Spirit in the NT. We see this as a fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus’ ministry that serves as a pattern for the charismatic, prophetic church.

Two Times Seventy Were Commissioned

Twice in Scripture, God’s prophetic leader commissioned seventy others to aid with the work of the Kingdom.

Moses asked God for help in leading God’s people. God answered by sending the prophetic anointing of the Spirit upon seventy elders.

25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again. …
29 …Moses replied, “…I wish that ALL the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!
–Numbers 11:25,29 NIV

Moses’ commission was attended by a prophetic anointing from the Spirit of God, foreshadowing Pentecost.

Likewise, Jesus dispatched seventy of His followers to “‘Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you”’” (Luke 10:9 NIV).

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them before Him, by twos, to go to every town or place which He Himself intended to visit.
2 And He addressed them thus: “The harvest is abundant, but the reapers are few: therefore entreat the Owner of the harvest to send out more reapers into His fields. And now go.”
–Luke 10:1-2 WEY

Upon returning from their mission, they reported good news.

17 The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.”
18 He said to them, … 20 “[D]on’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
21 In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…”
–Luke 10:17-18a,20-21a HCSB

One thing that definitely makes Jesus happy is when the devil is defeated and demons are cast out (see Acts 10:38).

But this is no mere circumstantial joy. Verse 21 says, “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”

Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit

“Rejoice” is the Greek work egalliasato. In the Septuagint OT, it is “usually found in the Psalms and the prophetic portions of the Prophets, and it denotes spiritual exultation that issues forth in praise to God for his mighty acts” (Robert P. Menzies, Speaking in Tongues [CPT Press, 2016], 24). This word appears in the Messianic Psalm 16.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
–Psalm 16:9-11 NIV

The Hebrew word for “rejoice,” gîl, means “to spin round, under the influence of emotion” (Strong’s H1523). This is Spirit-inspired ecstasy.

Did Jesus Speak in Tongues?

Luke 10:21 says, “Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit AND said…” (NKJV). Menzies indicates that two types of speech may be indicated here. This same “and” construction is used in Luke 13:12: Jesus “called her forward AND said to her, ‘Woman,…’” (NIV), the conjunction separating two distinct actions (Menzies, 49).

The verb [“rejoiced,” agalliaō], linked as it is to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, may imply glossolalia; while the phrase, “and he said”…, introduces the intelligible words of praise described in the narrative. (Menzies, 49; emphasis mine)

“Rejoicing” (egalliasato) and declaring the acts of God “is particularly striking in Luke-Acts” (Menzies, 25). We see it in the joyful praise of the impregnated Virgin Mary, who prophesies at the overshadowing of the Spirit (Luke 1:47). Jesus in Luke 10:21. And David in Acts 2:26.

In Lk 1.47 and 10.21 the verb is specifically linked to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in Acts 2.25-30 David is described as a prophet. This verb, then, was for Luke a particularly appropriate way of describing prophetic activity. (Menzies, 25; emphasis mine)

In his Pentecost sermon, Peter refers to Psalm 16 where David the prophet says, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices” (Acts 2:26 NIV). This association of “tongue” and “rejoicing” occurs six times in Luke-Acts (Luke 1:64; Acts 2:4,11,26; 10:46; 19:6).

The Jews of Peter’s day would have understood his quoting of Psalm 16 as referring to the Messiah. In Luke 10:21, we see its fulfillment when Jesus, inspired by the Spirit with joy, proclaims inspired thanks and praise to the Father.

If Jesus did not speak in tongues, His experience is very close to it. In the context of Peter’s Pentecost sermon and what had just happened to the tongues-speaking disciples that day, “my tongue rejoices” could very well refer to Jesus speaking in tongues.

“You will fill me with joy in your presence”—the Greek word prosōpon (Strong’s G4383). This word is used in Peter’s next sermon: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NKJV).

Peter’s reference to Psalm 16 also refers to Jesus’ exaltation in heaven, but when compared with Acts 3:19, it points toward earthly charismatic expression when the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit falls.

The filling of the Holy Spirit results in joy and prophetic utterance about the mighty works of God.

Jesus, Our Pattern

Jesus’ experience in Luke 10:21 is repeated at Pentecost and becomes the pattern for the Spirit-baptized Church. Joy accompanies the presence of the Spirit.

  • “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52 NIV).
  • “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17 NIV).
  • “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13 NIV).
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 NIV).
  • “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6 NIV).

Let us follow the example of Jesus, fulfilling His prophetic commission to destroy the works of the devil, being filled with the Holy Spirit and declaring God’s works. Then we will bear the fruit of Christ’s joy.

Standing Firm Until Christ’s Return

Christ's return

“You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8 NIV). We stand firm until Christ’s return by being filled with the Spirit, ministering the gifts of the Spirit, and praying in the Spirit.

Times of Refreshing

After the Apostle Peter healed the lame man at the temple gate, he preached to the astonished witnesses, saying,

19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.
21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”
–Acts 3:19-21 NIV

Before Jesus returns to restore the earth to God’s original plan, Peter prophesies that “times of refreshing” would “come from the Lord” (v. 19). The Wuest NT says will come “epoch-making periods of spiritual revival and refreshment from the presence of the Lord.”

The word “refreshing” is the Greek anapsuxeos, meaning to strengthen, refresh, relieve; recovery of breath, to cool by blowing. It is used only here in the NT. Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind [pneuma: Spirit] blows wherever it pleases” (John 3:8 GW), resulting in spiritual regeneration and revival.

The Last Days

We see this refreshing wind on the first day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Christ, when Peter quotes the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'”
–Acts 2:17-18 NIV

Since Pentecost, we live in the age of the blowing Spirit—the last days. Through repentance, conversion, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we prepare for the return of the Lord, that Great Day (Zeph. 1:14).

During these last days before Christ’s return, God promises “epoch-making periods of spiritual revival and refreshment from the presence of the Lord.” He has waves of revival, fresh breezes from the Spirit, to bring many into the Kingdom before the door on this age shuts (Matt. 25:10-13).

Spiritual Gifts Prepare Us for Christ’s Return

Because of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we are endowed with gifts and graces of the Spirit to endure till the end. Paul greeted the Corinthians this way:

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: …
4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—
6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.
7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
–1 Corinthians 1:2,4-8 NIV

The sanctified who call on the Lord’s name have received grace (charis) and have been “enriched in every way”—especially in “speech and knowledge of every kind” (GW). This refers to prophetic utterance, speaking in tongues, and revelation knowledge (1 Cor. 13:1-2).

This “confirmation”—meaning to make stable and secure—comes from the charismatic baptism in the Spirit and the gifts the Spirit imparts.

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,
22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
–2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV

Wherever he went, Paul testified of Christ in the power of the Spirit by signs and wonders (Rom. 15:18-19; 1 Cor. 2:4-5; Heb. 2:4).

Through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Corinthians (and all those who have received the fullness of God’s Spirit) lacked no spiritual gift. (Paul discusses these gifts in chapters 12-14.)

But note in 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 that moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit is linked with:

  • Eagerly waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed
  • Remaining strong to the end
  • Being kept blameless until the day of Jesus Christ

By ministering to one another through spiritual gifts, we encourage and strengthen one another to endure (1 Cor. 14:3-5,12,15,26,31; 1 Pet. 4:10). This is also true of “praying in the Spirit”—praying in tongues.

Praying in the Spirit

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

Praying in the spirit:

The baptism in the Spirit, moving and ministering through the gifts, and praying in the Spirit preserve and prepare us for Christ’s return and full salvation. In these two verses from Jude, we see the Father, the Son, and Spirit, as well as faith, hope, and love.

When the Perfect Comes

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. …
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
–1 Corinthians 13:8-10,12-13 NKJV

In these last days, the age of the Spirit, we have the adoption as children, the seal of ownership, and the grace gifts to strengthen ourselves and one another in love. Although the gifts are imperfect reflections of the glory to come, they will keep us until the Perfect arrives—the day when we will see Him face to face.

2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
–1 John 3:2-3 NIV

Speaking in Tongues: Intelligible Languages or Unknown Tongues?

When the Bible mentions “speaking in tongues,” is it referring to intelligible human language or unintelligible unknown tongues?

Both.

Yet these two types of speaking in tongues are closely related. Let’s take a look.

Tongues as Intelligible Languages

The first time speaking in tongues is mentioned is in Acts chapter 2:

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
4 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 NIV

The Greek phrase for “other tongues” is heterais glossais. Glossais is also used in Acts 10:46 (Spirit-baptism of the Gentiles) and 19:6 (Spirit-baptism of the Ephesians).

However, the occurrence in Acts 2 is the only place where “other tongues” are identified as known human language.

6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?”
–Acts 2:6-8 NIV

The word “language” is translated as such because it comes from the Greek dialekto. In Acts 2, heterais glossais is understood as native dialects—known human languages.

Peter indicates that this understandable form of tongues, xenolalia, is a type of prophetic utterance foretold by the prophet Joel: “‘Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy‘” (Acts 2:18 NIV).

The foreign hearers understood the Spirit-baptized disciples to be “declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11 NIV) Spirit baptism manifests itself in prophetic declaration and praise.

Although the tongues at Cornelius’ house and in Ephesus are not identified as intelligible human languages, heterais glossais is still used. We see that the circumcised believers who accompanied Peter to the Gentile’s house “heard them speaking in tongues and praising God” (Acts 10:46 NIV). When Paul laid his hands on the Ephesians, “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6 NIV).

Spirit baptism manifests itself in prophetic declaration, praise, and speaking in tongues, whether they are intelligible (xenolalia) or unintelligible (glossolalia).

Tongues as Unintelligible Utterances

In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul discusses “speaking in tongues” (lalousin glossais) at length (12:30; 13:1; 14:2, 4, 6, 13, 18, 23, 27, 39).

In these chapters, however, Paul assumes that the Corinthians’ utterances in tongues are unintelligible: “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” (1 Cor. 14:2 NIV). And “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air” (14:9 NIV).

Therefore, these unintelligible tongues must be interpreted by someone gifted by the Holy Spirit to do so: “For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says” (14:13 NIV). And “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret” (14:27 NIV).1

If Paul insists these tongues must be interpreted, he apparently considers they are not intelligible human languages being spoken, as in Acts 2. Yet, Paul says, “No matter how many different languages there are in the world, not one of them is without meaning” (14:10 GW).

These Corinthian tongues may be unintelligible, yet they are not meaningless. They merely need to be interpreted.

A key to the difference between xenolalia and glossolalia is found here:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
–1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV

Paul, here, could be comparing prophecy in the native language with a glossolalic message in an unknown tongue that must be interpreted. But he could also mean that some speaking tongues is understandable human languages (“tongues of men”), as at Pentecost in Acts 2 (xenolalia), and some are unintelligible unless interpreted (“tongues of angels”), as in these chapters of Corinthians (glossolalia).

As Robert P. Menzies points out in his excellent Speaking in Tongues (CPT Press, 2016), all of these passages:

  • Associate tongues with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
  • Use similar vocabulary (glossais)
  • Describe resulting speech as praise and prophecy

There are contemporary instances where private tongues or public messages in tongues are recognized as known human languages. Jordan Daniel May has collected testimonies of xenolalic occurrences in his inspiring Global Witnesses to Pentecost: The Testimony of ‘Other Tongues’ by Jordan Daniel May (Cherohala Press, 2013).

Whether we use tongues as private prayer language or deliver a Spirit-prompted message in tongues at a gathering of believers, we are speaking prophetically and glorifying God.

16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'”
–Acts 2:16-18 NIV


1. Paul is comparing private prayer language, given as evidence of being baptized in the Spirit, with the spiritual gift of tongues, a Spirit-prompted utterance in a public setting that must be followed by the Spirit-prompted gift of interpretation.

Reading the Bible Chronologically

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Did you know that the material in the Bible is not arranged in strict chronological order?

Here’s the current pattern of books arrangement: https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/66books.cfm.

And here’s a link that lists the books chronologically, according to the historical time periods they cover: https://ichthys.com/mail-Bible%20chrono.htm

Have you read the entire Bible, cover to cover? I have. But now I want to read it chronologically—in the order the historical events occurred. The following plan from Blue Letter Bible will enable you to read the whole of Scripture chronologically in a calendar year:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/assets/pdf/dbrp/1Yr_ChronologicalPlan.pdf

Here’s another plan that lets you read from the Old Testament, Psalms or Proverbs, and the New Testament each day: https://www.biblica.com/resources/reading-plans/

What version or translation should you read? There are many. But the five most popular are listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_translations_into_English#Popularity. I prefer the New International Version (NIV).

To access many Bible versions online, I go to https://www.biblegateway.com.

Many blessings on your reading adventure!

The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
–Psalm 119:130 NKJV