The following text is taken from Chapter 9 of Treasures in Heaven.
Treasure in Earthen Vessels
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give us the Light of the knowledge of the glory and majesty of God [clearly revealed] in the face of Christ. But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves.
—The Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 4:6, 7)
During His time in the Holy Land, Jesus introduced us to the concept of worshipping God in the Spirit and in truth. No longer would the temple in Jerusalem be the focus of worship, but rather, worship would be in the temple of the living God. Jesus prophesied:
[B]elieve me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. [A] time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:21, 23, 24)
“[B]elieve me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” With the New Covenant, worship of the Almighty would no longer be confined to the temple in Jerusalem. For, the Son of God ushered in the global temple of the living God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Simultaneously, Jesus Christ ushered in a new form of worship: by the same Holy Spirit with which we are baptized.
Jesus prophesied: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” This prophecy is directly connected to Jesus’ prophecy of the Comforter: “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth” (John 14:16).
All the revelation Christ gave about the Holy Spirit to His apostles expounds upon His original prophecy: “the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.”
Christ gave unique revelation to His apostles to form a unified picture of what it means to worship God in the Spirit and in truth. Look at how Paul connected the temple of God with the Holy Spirit that dwells in us:
Do you not know and understand that you [the church] are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells [permanently] in you [collectively and individually]? (1 Cor. 6:16)
Christ’s revelation on the Holy Spirit is given to open our eyes to true worship.
Embrace it. Revel in it. See it fulfilled in your life.
Now, consider the revelation Jesus gave on the very day He ascended into Heaven: “[F]or John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). And on that day, Jesus also prophesied: “These signs will accompany those who believe… they will speak in new tongues” (Mark 16:17).
How important are prophecies given by the Son of God on the day of His Ascension?
The prophecy of being baptized in the Holy Spirit signaled how we would worship God in the Spirit. The prophecy of “new tongues” signaled a new form of worship: by the language (tongue) of the Holy Spirit.
In the revelation Christ gave to Paul, Christ described how speaking in new tongues is worship:
For one who speaks in an [unknown] tongue speaks not to men but to God, for no one understands or catches his meaning, because in the [Holy] Spirit he utters secret truths and hidden things [not obvious to the understanding]. (1 Cor. 14:2)
Speaking in new tongues is direct, spiritual communication with God, worshipping God by speaking “secret truths” and “hidden things.” These secret truths and hidden things are spoken in the language of the Holy Spirit—which is perfect. Thus, speaking in new tongues is perfect worship of the Almighty in the temple of the living God!
In addition, not only is speaking in new tongues a new form of worship, it is a supernatural sign. God’s Son gave us the assurance that although He was leaving Earth, He would still be present with us by way of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural sign of its indwelling presence: “speaking in new tongues.”
A Divine Sign
What separates Jesus Christ from every other prophet is that He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Although some people render this divine revelation to be a story, those who embrace the Son of God know it to be true. Heaven has given Earth a supernatural sign that Jesus is Earth’s Messiah.
Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, a son of God is empowered to bring forth a divine sign: speaking in tongues (divinely inspired languages). This language is divine because it is of the Holy Spirit. These divine languages are known by God, but not by the one speaking. Thus, speaking in a divine language is a supernatural sign from God.
This sign of tongues is a sign of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead. For the only way to speak forth a divine language is through the Holy Spirit, and the only way to be filled with the Holy Spirit is if Jesus Christ baptized you with it. And the only way He could baptize you with it is if He was resurrected and ascended to the right hand of God.
The Grandeur and Surpassing Greatness of the Power
We, as God’s creation, are earthen vessels. Our treasure in earthen vessels is “the knowledge of the glory and majesty of God [clearly revealed] in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). In addition, our treasure is the “grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power [shown to be] from God” (2 Cor. 4:7).
In the knowledge of glory and majesty of God is found a mystery—a supernatural sign—which reveals the grandeur and surpassing greatness of power shown to be from God. This supernatural sign was hidden within the mystery; it is a treasure of knowledge once hidden in Christ which He did not reveal until the very day of His Ascension into Heaven.
This supernatural sign would testify to the Good News of the gospel of grace. In other words, God would testify to the world that His salvation through Christ would be backed up by visible, supernatural power. That is precisely what the New Testament reveals:
This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Heb. 2:3, 4)
In the first century A.D., God testified to His salvation—and He continues to testify in the twenty-first century. Any thought to the contrary has no scriptural basis.
Regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul said all gifts will remain within the kingdom until Christ is revealed and the kingdom is raptured. Paul’s prophecy is unmistakable:
For in him [Christ] you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (1 Cor. 1:5–7)
Paul handed us Christ’s revelation. If Paul said, “you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” then logically, until our Lord Jesus Christ is revealed, His kingdom cannot lack any spiritual gift. Thereby, God continues to demonstrate the grandeur and surpassing greatness of His power by all gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7–11), including the gift of speaking in tongues.
In the first century A.D., the apostles were revolutionary. Never in recorded history had man spoken forth a language inspired by the Holy Spirit born within. In the twenty-first century, it is still revolutionary to speak forth a language inspired by the Holy Spirit.
This is the supreme authority of Scripture: Our King gave this divine sign to His kingdom in the first century, and it remains just as valid in the twenty-first century. Everything the Son of God heralded about the Good News is still the Good News. To be “born again” is Good News. To store up “treasures in Heaven” is Good News. To “speak in new tongues” is Good News. It’s all good news.
Let me share with you a story about a seasoned minister, a dear friend of mine, Dr. Arthur Rouner. He was searching for greater understanding of this sign of new tongues.
After serving for many years as a Congregational minister, Dr. Rouner attended a renewal at a Catholic seminary connected with St. John’s University. At that renewal, he was eager to hear more about the prophecy of speaking in tongues.
While at lunch with fellow ministers, he shared his lack of clarity on the matter. He even wondered if he was a good candidate for such a gift. In the same breath, he heard back the following wisdom, “any and every Christian may and can receive the baptism and have the gift of tongues—and, of course, other gifts as well.”20
Soon thereafter, a Lutheran minister walked with Dr. Rouner onto the lawn which was set below the great abbey church. The Lutheran minister explained the language of the Spirit was “already there, down inside.”21 He then prayed over Arthur.
Following this, Arthur stated: “I mumbled in response a few syllables which seemed strange and stumbling and totally inadequate to me.”22
The Lutheran minister responded, “That’s right. That’s a start. All you have to do now is practice your new language, go in peace, and be glad!”23 Dr. Rouner described speaking in a divine language as a “freeing and healing personal experience.”24 I second that.
Dr. Rouner broke through the walls of his own religious tradition and fulfilled Christ’s prophecy. He then moved forward with his ministry, praying over many in his congregation who would also speak in divine languages.
Like Dr. Rouner, I was also searching. In 1980, Christ baptized me with His Holy Spirit, and soon thereafter I spoke forth the sign of tongues. I too witnessed my divine language begin with just a few syllables. I learned that the mechanics of speech are the same—whether you are speaking your native language or speaking your divine language, you are in control, and you breathe and speak what is already within you.
How do you think I felt after I fulfilled a prophecy spoken by the Son of God? Peacefulness and overwhelming joy! Without question, the grandeur and surpassing greatness of this power was shown to be from God. He demonstrated it by a divine sign: the gift of speaking in tongues.
Thankfully, there is no need to wonder about God testifying in your life through the gift of tongues. Christ made known the will of the Holy Spirit. By revelation, Paul said: “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:5). That’s the truth. Not a single Scripture—stated before or after—contradicts Paul’s clear statement.
“I would like every one of you to speak in tongues” means “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.”
Why should anyone be surprised at the will of the Holy Spirit? Speaking in new tongues is direct, spiritual communication with God. Why would God deny anyone in His kingdom this glorious form of worship? He wouldn’t.
The Gift of Speaking in Tongues
It was from Heaven, that Christ gave Paul the abundance of the revelation on speaking in tongues. Paul said: “Now about the spiritual gifts [the special endowments given by the Holy Spirit], brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Cor. 12:1). “[T]o each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). This includes “speaking in different kinds of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:10). In other words, the Spirit is manifested, or demonstrated, by speaking in the Spirit.
It is also demonstrated by praying and singing in the Spirit.
I [Paul] will pray with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will sing [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also. (1 Cor. 14:15)
Singing is a form of worship: “come before his presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). And singing in the language of the Spirit is perfect worship.
Prayer is a form of worship: “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). And praying in the language of the Spirit is perfect worship.
Speaking unto God is a form of worship: “I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue” (Ps. 66:17). And speaking by the language of the Spirit is perfect worship.
Paul worshipped God by singing, praying, and speaking by the language of his own mind, and by singing, praying, and speaking by the language of the Holy Spirit. And Paul said: “Pattern yourselves after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah)” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul’s revelation about worshipping the Almighty in the language of the Spirit is ours to embrace.
Paul’s revelation about the gift of tongues is in complete harmony with all the revelation Christ gave in the Holy Land, and with the Old Testament, and with the testimony in the Acts of the Apostles.
Acts of the Apostles
The book in the Bible known as the Acts of the Apostles documents the apostles’ acts in the first century A.D. It is not just a history book. It is our standard for right application of sound doctrine in the twenty-first century. The letters written by Paul and the prophecies of Christ confirm this.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the Son of God issued a prophecy to His disciples on the day of His Ascension: “[Y]ou shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
When this prophecy came to pass (ten days after the Ascension) the history of mankind witnessed dramatic divine intervention. Man’s future was forever altered. Peter and the other eleven apostles were the first among Christ’s followers to “receive power.”
The twelve apostles spoke forth this divine sign of divine languages on the holy day of Pentecost. (Pentecost was ten days after Christ’s ascension and fifty days after the Resurrection.) On that day, man’s great high priest—Jesus Christ—baptized His apostles with the Holy Spirit.
Before this prophecy came to pass, the risen Messiah prepared His apostles for Pentecost. The Lord told them:
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:4, 5, 8)
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:49–53)
As Christ lifted off to the clouds, the apostles stood staring into Heaven with the assurance that their Lord would fulfill His promise. Then, the apostles stayed “continually at the temple” because that’s where man’s great high priest would clothe the Twelve with “power from on high.”
After Christ ascended, Peter prepared for the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy. This included selecting a new apostle—Matthias—to replace Judas Iscariot. Peter declared to a multitude of faithful followers (about 120 people), that Matthias would become a witness of the Resurrection with him and the other apostles. On the eve of Pentecost, Peter addressed the followers of Jesus:
“It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:21, 22, 26)
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)
The spiritual shock of all ages burst upon the house of prayer during an hour of prayer. As powerful winds rushed throughout the corridors, flaming tongues of fire burned above the twelve men. With the visual sign of tongues given, the twelve apostles spoke forth new tongues, becoming witnesses of the Resurrection by the sign of the Resurrection.
As caravans of devout followers of Moses traveled from many countries, making their pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem, they had no idea what awaited them on Pentecost. As thousands of people gathered in quiet adoration to pray at the temple, heavenly signs shattered the silence. At nine o’clock in the morning, God sent an unmistakable exclamation mark shooting through the hearts of all the worshipers present. The prophecies of the Old Testament regarding the first coming of Christ and His New Covenant had been fulfilled completely.
Where else would God Almighty usher in His New Covenant worship but at His house of worship, the temple: the “house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13)?!
Where did the apostles stay continually after Jesus ascended off the planet, but at the “temple” (Luke 24:53)?!
Where else would the apostles be on the holy day of Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks), but at the temple—praying during an hour of prayer?!
Where else could thousands of followers of the Old Covenant witness God’s fulfillment of prophecy but at the temple?!
By way of the apostles, God spoke to thousands of His followers at His house of prayer. Inspired by the Holy Spirit within, the men from Galilee spoke multiple foreign languages and people from many nations heard God speak. Thousands of people heard the wonderful works of God spoken in their ears in their native languages.
Pentecost was the unmistakable line of demarcation, separating the Law from faith. No longer would righteousness be earned, rather, it would be granted by faith. This outpouring of the Spirit established the New Covenant with mankind. Christ’s kingdom would now worship in the living temple of the living God, as this temple would be built not by stones but by the baptism of Holy Spirit—and it would be made known to the world by divine signs.
The indwelling Spirit of Christ enabled the Twelve to speak in new languages, but it was the apostles themselves who actually spoke the sign of tongues into being. The Holy Spirit did not control them. The apostles were in control of their own act of speaking. As explained by Paul, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32). After Christ filled the Twelve with His Spirit, the apostles spoke the sign into evidence.
This mystifying display of supernatural energy in the temple caused the onlookers to be struck with disbelief:
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” (Acts 2:5–8)
“[W]e hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
In order to establish the significance of what the crowd witnessed, Peter quoted the prophet Joel, one of the Old Testament prophets. Peter told the crowd that they had heard divine prophecy fulfilled in their ears.
‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Acts 2:11–21)
Hundreds of years before Christ, Joel foretold of the day God would pour out his Spirit upon flesh and blood. Joel recorded the very words spoken by the Almighty: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28, 29). On Pentecost this prophecy came to pass.
Not only did Peter declare the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (with the Spirit being poured out), Peter continued to quote Joel to complete what God will accomplish: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
In other words, Peter quoted a unique section of Joel. He told the crowd at the temple that God had given birth to a new kingdom (those filled with His Spirit), and how those in the kingdom would prophesy, and how all in the kingdom (those who call on the name of the Lord) would ultimately be saved (raptured) on the day of the Lord! It was the mystery revealed.
By way of Peter, the Lord God heralded the mystery of the church to His faithful followers who gathered at the temple from over the known world.
By way of the Twelve, the Lord God spoke in various tongues to all of those who sought Him—testifying that Jesus was the Christ.
This holy day of Pentecost represented fulfillment of not only Joel’s prophecy, but that of Isaiah’s as well: “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” (Isa. 28:11, 12). This is exactly what Paul quoted in his letter:
In the Law it is written: “With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers. (1 Cor. 14:21, 22)
God fulfilled His promise. He said that He would bring rest and repose (refreshing) to His people, and speak to His people with “foreign lips” and “strange tongues.” On Pentecost, this prophecy of new languages was fulfilled. Yet for all of this, Isaiah foretold that there would be followers of Moses who would not embrace even a supernatural sign from God. On Pentecost, some devout followers of the Old Covenant even accused Peter of being drunk when he spoke in tongues.
Peter shrugged off the accusations and took center stage as he stood up to address the crowd. All eyes were riveted on Peter as he began to teach about Jesus Christ and eternal life. Without hesitation, he set in order the things pertaining to this Jesus of Nazareth and the New Covenant that He had established on Earth. The result of this great oration was the acceptance of the covenant by thousands of people on that one day.
Interestingly, just fifty days earlier, this same Peter had been hiding behind locked doors, “for fear of the Jewish leaders” (John 20:19). Peter had even denied knowing the Lord; he had nothing to say publicly concerning Him. With the Crucifixion of Jesus, Peter and the others had been overcome with grief and loss. But now, infused with spiritual power from on high, Peter changed from a man controlled by fear to a man of great confidence and faith. Only one thing could have changed him—Pentecost—and Peter began teaching boldly in the name of Christ.
Peter had a new set of eyes with which to view life. The apostle looked quite differently on those whom he once feared when he gave the crowd prophetic knowledge:
Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (Acts 2:22–24, 32, 33)
Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:36–41)
“Brothers, what shall we do?”
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
This question and Peter’s response are just as alive and real today as they were some two thousand years ago. The promises of God are unchanging.
On the first day of the “church,” about three thousand people in the temple area believed Peter and received the Holy Spirit. Imagine what could have been going through the mind of Peter. Ten days earlier, he had watched Christ ascend off the planet. Now Jerusalem was filled with the presence of Heaven, and it would soon overflow into every bloodline.
Divine intervention assured that the apostles received the inspiration they needed to carry forth what Christ had initiated on Pentecost. As documented in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter received revelation from Christ in the form of a vision, directing him to take the gospel of grace to the Romans. Upon his arrival at the home of a Roman soldier, Peter expounded upon the will of God:
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. (Acts 10:34–46)
After Peter taught the words of Christ, the Romans manifested the sign of tongues. No one was denied entrance into the kingdom of God, and no one was denied its sign. This is the New Covenant that Christ gave to every nation, to every bloodline.
As Peter demonstrated the truth of Christ’s gospel, so did Paul. When Paul visited the city of Ephesus, he taught twelve disciples about Christ’s baptism, and they spoke forth the gift of tongues:
Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1–6)
Paul asked a question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” This question is just as valid today as it was in the first century A.D.
What does “receive the Holy Spirit” mean? Certainly it means to be baptized with Holy Spirit. Yet, there was more to the story with these believers in Ephesus. It has to do with God testifying to salvation. To “receive” the Holy Spirit literally means “to take what is given pointing to an objective reception.”25 In other words, receiving the Holy Spirit speaks of manifesting the Holy Spirit. That is precisely what speaking in tongues is: a “manifestation of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:7).
Paul explained to these disciples exactly what John the Baptist explained: Water baptism would be superseded by the spiritual baptism of Christ, and God testified to it by the sign of tongues. John said:
I [John] baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Matt. 3:11)
The Son of God baptized the apostles with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in tongues. Christ baptized Cornelius and his company with Holy Spirit and they spoke in tongues. Christ baptized the Ephesians with Holy Spirit and they spoke in tongues. God testified to their salvation by the power that is unmistakably His—and thank God, His will hasn’t changed.
The Will of God
Before concluding this chapter, it is vitally important to first address the will of God for the assembly of believers.
After revealing the will of God (through the Holy Spirit) for individual believers, Paul revealed the will of God for the assembly of believers. Paul said:
I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. (1 Cor. 14:5)
This is the will of God for individuals: “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.”
This is the will of God for the assembly of believers: “I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.”
The will of God for the assembly and for individuals is revealed: They are different and each truth stands on its own merit. The goal is the same: edification (which means to strengthen). The individual is strengthened by speaking in tongues, and the assembly is strengthened by prophesy and/or speaking in tongues with interpretation.
In addition to the will of God for spiritual gifts, there is the will of God for gift ministries in the church for the assembly of believers. Importantly, there is the gift ministry of tongues designed to benefit the assembly (the body of Christ). Regarding gift ministries and the will of God, Paul said:
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. (1 Cor. 12:27–31)
This section of Scripture is about gift ministries which are placed by God in the church. These are unique ministries given by God where they are needed. “Do all speak with tongues?” refers to the gift ministry of tongues in the church. “Do all speak with tongues?” The answer is no; not every ministry is a gift ministry of tongues.
Conversely, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:5) refers to the gift of speaking in tongues which is distributed by the Holy Spirit, available to every individual believer.
In this light, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues” and “Do all speak in tongues?” do not contradict one another. Each refers to an entirely different function and purpose in the kingdom.
The First Century and the Twenty-first Century
In the first century, Paul gave us what we needed to know about the will of God and the gifts. Yet, before the end of his life, Paul suffered the loss of loyalty from those he taught, and many in the kingdom turned away from him. Paul wrote: “You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me” (2 Tim. 1:15).
Abandoning Paul meant abandoning Paul’s revelation. The implications are staggering.
Dr. Rouner and I both grew up with a Christian tradition that did not promote the gift of tongues. For each of us, fulfilling prophecy began with listening to the Scriptures, not religious tradition.
The Scriptures reveal the truth: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). And God testifies to salvation “by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4).
Speaking in new tongues is exactly what Christ said it is: a sign. (The sign of tongues is not a requirement for salvation, but rather testifies to that salvation.) The supernatural sign of tongues is the irrefutable statement from God that the one speaking has entered the eternal kingdom of Christ and shall live to see the new Earth. And yes, that changes you!
If you would like to speak forth this divine sign of tongues, you are at the same place I once was, as well as Dr. Rouner. Follow Paul’s inspiration: Follow the love of God and “earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments (gifts)” (1 Cor. 14:1).
God bless the truth: The divine sign of tongues will continue until Christ the King is seen “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). It is then we will “know fully” (1 Cor. 13:12). It is then we will no longer need a sign of salvation—because He will bring us to His throne!
So I [Jesus] say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, 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 11:9–13)
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. (Ps. 67:1, 2)