Follow the Spirit

Follow the Spirit

I received this prophetic word on May 14, 2018. May it encourage you to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

My child, I have called you to follow me. I’ve called you not to follow the doctrines of men or the religion of humankind. I’ve not called you to follow the Church, but I’ve called you to follow the leading of my Spirit. For I will lead you and guide you into all truth.

I will make my face to shine upon you and I will show you my way. I will light the way before your feet, for my word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. I will speak my word to you; I will direct you and guide you in the way that you should go.

I will guide you with my eye upon you. I see the way before you, and I will open your eyes to that which I would show you. I will enlighten your eyes.

I will illumine my word within you, and I will grant unto you my revelation. For this revelation comes by my Spirit, and by my Spirit I will open your eyes and I will open your mind and I will open your understanding to that which I desire you to comprehend.

For I have more that I would share with you. I desire to open the heavenlies unto you, that you might see, that you might partake, that you might enter in to all that I have set aside for you. For this is my glory: that you be glorified in me and that you share my glory by contemplating me.

Seek wisdom, and I shall surely grant it, for I am Wisdom to you. I am Peace, I am Life, I am Strength. Follow me. Look not to another, but lean wholly on me. Run after me. I will lead you into all truth and I will make you like my Son.

You Can Prophesy

prophesying

You can prophesy, did you know it? If you desire to bless and encourage others, you can deliver messages from God. Here’s how to get started.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prophecy

On the day of Pentecost, God poured out the Holy Spirit on the followers of Christ. The Apostle Peter quoted 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

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prophecy. If you’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit, you’ve been given the potential to speak for God.

When Paul placed his hands on [the Ephesian disciples], the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
–Acts 19:6 NIV

Paul told the Corinthians, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. … For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged” (1 Cor. 14:1, 31 NIV).

All Spirit-filled believers have the potential to prophesy. But they must eagerly desire the gift to bless others.

What is the gift of prophecy?

Christian prophet Dennis Cramer defines prophecy as “a supernatural message given for the purpose of ‘strengthening, encouraging and comforting’” (You Can All Prophesy, Arrow Publications, 2003). His definition comes from the words of the Apostle Paul:

But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
–1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV

The gift of prophecy is available to all believers filled with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7). The gift of prophecy is not for foretelling world events, but simply for bringing strength, encouragement, and comfort to those who receive the message. You can prophesy to individuals or groups.

Here are four principles to focus on if you want to prophesy.

1. Esteem the prophetic gift.

First Thessalonians 5:20 says, “Do not despise prophecies.” J.N. Darby translates it, “Do not lightly esteem prophecies.”

The first principle in becoming a prophetic person is to value the prophetic gift. The revelation of the Spirit is precious. Treat it like it’s important and respect the message. (As well as the messenger.)

“I hold prophecy in high esteem.”

2. Believe you can prophesy.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged” (1 Cor. 14:31 NKJV).

You can prophesy. You all can prophesy. You can all practice prophesying so that everybody learns.

Prophesying—speaking a message from the Holy Spirit—is not just for a chosen few who are specially gifted, but for everyone who wants it. That means you. Say with me:

“I can prophesy!”

3. Desire to prophesy.

Believe it or not, a key factor in determining whether you move in prophecy is how badly you want to.

Some believe they’ll deliver a message only if the Holy Spirit overpowers them. It doesn’t work that way. Romans 12:6 says you prophesy “in proportion to your faith.”

You can prophesy. But you must believe it—believe it enough to step out in faith, try, and keep trying. Faith comes to those who prepare for it through desire.

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Cor. 14:1 NKJV). Another version puts it, “you should truly want to have the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy” (NCV).

If you follow the way of Christ’s love, you’ll want the Holy Spirit to use you to speak inspired words of strength, encouragement, and comfort to others.

“I desire to prophesy.”

4. Be eager to prophesy.

Wanting to prophesy is important, but it isn’t enough. You must be eager to do so every chance you get. This is another area where desire will open the door to opportunity.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39 NIV). The word “eager” is zeloo in Greek, which means “to burn with zeal; to desire earnestly, pursue; to envy; to covet.” Strong words, but good advice.

You esteem prophecy. You can prophesy, you want to prophesy, and you have a burning desire to receive and deliver the message from the Spirit. You must be zealous to prophesy at every opportunity.

“I am eager to prophesy.”

Understand that any prophetic message is instigated by the Holy Spirit, not your own desires. Part of learning to prophesy is being sensitive to the Spirit’s nudgings. So be eager without being too aggressive.

Start by ministering to your close friends, then as you grow in your abilities, branch out to other acquaintances who are on the same page spiritually. Be eager but start slow and learn as you go.

Prophetic principles to promote prophecy

This is my daily meditation. if you make it yours, God will use you to bless others with encouraging messages from above.

  1. I hold prophecy in high esteem.
  2. I can prophesy.
  3. I desire to prophesy.
  4. I am eager to prophesy.

Let me know how this has helped you in your life and ministry. God bless you!

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.

Drinking of the Holy Spirit

Water

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
–1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV

Although the word “baptism” is used in the first part of the verse above, it does not refer to water baptism or the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It simply means that the Holy Spirit immerses us into, or makes us a part of, the one Body of Christ, the Church (see also Galatians 3:28).

This happens at conversion when the Holy Spirit regenerates us and is the same thing as being included in Christ (Ephesians 1:13). It should be followed by water baptism.

In the last part of the verse, however, “drinking” of the Spirit does refer to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Some commentary will help to differentiate between these two experiences:

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body (at conversion)—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and (some time later) we were all given the one Spirit to drink (the baptism in the Holy Spirit).
–1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV (parenthetical phrases my addition)

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is for those who have accepted Christ as Savior—those who are spiritually regenerated (see Titus 3:4-6). All of the Corinthians were first converted and then baptized in the Holy Spirit, which is referred to as drinking of the Spirit.

Unfortunately, this cannot be said of most Christians today. Many are saved, but not all have gone on to drink of the Spirit’s fullness.

Jesus told the woman at the well, “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14a NASB). This was a foreshadowing of Pentecost, for later, Jesus equated thirst and drinking with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
–John 7:37–39 NIV

Notice in verses 38 and 39 that “drinking” of the Spirit is available to those who believe in Him. And these believers would not receive the Spirit until after Jesus was “glorified.”

This glorification is what Jesus prayed about in John 17:5: “glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (NIV).

We know this glorification took place after His ascension, when Jesus sat down at the Father’s right hand. Ten days after this, the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.

So the Spirit being given after Jesus’ glorification refers to the Pentecostal outpouring. Drinking of the Spirit in John 7:37–39 means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Paul also compared drinking with being filled with the Spirit:

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
–Ephesians 5:18 KJV

You get drunk by drinking (but don’t!). Likewise, you get filled with the Spirit by drinking.

So far, we have been dealing with contrasts. But there is a similarity between salvation and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Salvation and the baptism in the Holy Spirit are both symbolized in the New Testament by immersion.

At salvation, the Holy Spirit regenerates the repentant sinner. That is also when the Holy Spirit immerses him into the Body of Christ, making him a member of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13a). But with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Jesus immerses believers in the Holy Spirit to empower them (see John 1:33). When believers are immersed in the Spirit, they drink and are filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4).

Have you drunk of the Spirit’s fullness? Are you thirsty? Ask Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit: “If you … know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13 NIV).