“These signs will accompany those who believe… they will speak in new tongues.” (Mark 16:17)
The God of the Bible is the God of signs, miracles, and wonders. He showed the world what He is like through His Son, Jesus Christ. He “reflects the glory of God, and bears the very stamp of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). The Bible described Jesus as “a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.”(Acts 2:22)
The New Testament shows the miraculous nature of God as it is also revealed in His children: “God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:4).
God does not change, nor does His Son, nor do His signs.
The Signs in the Bible
In these days when God is pouring out His Spirit, more people than ever before are wanting to know how they can be sure they have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Some say, “I hope I have been filled.” Others say, “I think I have received it.” In the Bible days, they knew when they were filled with the Spirit. They knew when others were filled too.
Throughout the Bible, God confirms His covenants and promises with signs. Our Father’s promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is also accompanied by the sign of speaking in unknown tongues as the Holy Spirit Himself gives the words to say. Speaking in tongues is not the evidence of a Spirit-filled life. Neither is speaking in tongues the only sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, nor is it the sign of a sanctified or spiritual life. In many circles speaking tongues has been magnified out of all proportion to what is really taught in the Word of God.
Nonetheless, when believers were filled with the Spirit in Bible days, the first thing “seen and heard” at the time of their initial infilling in Acts was supernatural utterance in unknown tongues.
Jesus promises: “These signs will accompany those who believe…they will speak in tongues” (Mark 16:17)
When believers received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit in Bible days, they spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them the words to say:
1. The 120 Disciples
The first fulfillment of Jesus’s promise of the Father “is recorded in Acts 2. It is true that various miraculous manifestations took place as the Spirit came (they still happen today). But the sign that most arrested the attention of the astonished multitude was that the newly Spirit-filled disciples “began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4)
In his Expository Dictionary of the New Testament Words, W.E. Vine defines speaking in tongues as: “The supernatural gift of speaking in another language without its having been learnt.”
Some have been taught that the reason the disciples spoke in tongues on the Day of Pentecost, was so that the multitude could hear the Gospel. But many highly esteemed Bible scholars refute the theory. W.E Vine comments:
“In Acts 2:4-13, the circumstances were recorded from the viewpoint of the hearers. To those in whose language the utterances were made, it appeared as a supernatural phenomenon: to others, the stammering of drunkards. What was uttered was not primarily to the audience, but consisted in recounting ‘the mighty works of God.’”
Furthermore, in New Testament days, all who lived within touch of civilization spoke two languages his mother tongue and Greek. Thus, in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, the Greek or Aramaic language would have been sufficient to communicate with the assembled multitude. A miracle whereby the disciples spoke in foreign languages to preach the Gospel would have been unnecessary.
Clearly then, this incident of “speaking in tongues” was not so the astonished Jews could hear the Gospel. God was giving this miraculous sign to prove He was filling the disciples of Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power. He left it to Peter to preach the Gospel to the multitude in a language they all understood. (Acts 2:14-44)
2. Cornelius and His Company:
Many were gathered together when the Spirit fell on the household of Cornelius, but only one sign is mentioned: “While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the Word” (Acts 10:44).
The six Jewish believers who had come with Peter from Joppa “were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.” They were fully persuaded that they had received the Holy Spirit because “they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God” (verse 46).
3. The Apostle Paul
In accordance with the Scriptural pattern, Paul was converted on the Damascus Road, and three days later was filled with the Spirit as Ananias prayed for him.
Did he speak in tongues? We are led to think so because as he wrote to a church about the use of tongues he testified: I thank God that I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18)
4. The New Christians at Samaria:
Although the Bible does not record that the Samaritans spoke with tongues when they received the Holy Spirit, there is plenty of evidence to suggest they did:
Acts 8 tells of Simon, a magician with such mighty magical power, who “amazed the nation of Samaria.” So much that, “They all gave heed to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is that power of God which is called Great’ “(verse l0). What deceptive powers he must have had to command such honor and obedience! And yet it is written, “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit’ “(Acts 8: 18, 19).
Although Simon had seen Philip cast out devils, and work amazing miracles of healing, he never offered to buy that power. However, he was so greatly impressed and amazed at the miraculous sign that accompanied the Holy Spirit, he was prepared to pay money so people would respond as miraculously to his touch. He “saw” some outward sign more impressive to the magician than all his former magic tricks, and greater in his thinking than all the mighty miracles Philip had done before his eyes.
He certainly could not have only seen people kneeling down, the apostles laying hands on them, and quietly saying, “Get up now. You have received. Take the baptism with the Holy Spirit by faith.” Anyone could have easily done that. Simon the magician ”saw” something happen that convinced him the believers had received the Holy Spirit. He offered his money for a distinctly supernatural gift.
If it was not the power to cause people to speak with new tongues he wanted, what was it? If the Samaritans did not speak with tongues, what did they do?
Most widely accepted Bible commentators agree the Samaritans spoke with tongues.
From these four instances in Acts, we see the sign was they were all heard speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. Something was seen and heard!
The theory of some who oppose this conclusion is that “speaking in tongues” was only an initial sign for the Jews and Gentiles. After the Church was born, they suggest, it was no longer needed.
For this to be true, no other occasions of “speaking in tongues” would be recorded in the Bible.
But there are. For example:
5. The Ephesian Believers:
Twenty years or more after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 disciples in Acts 2, Paul laid his hands upon the disciples at Ephesus. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6).
6. The Church at Corinth:
The church at Corinth certainly knew the blessing of the presence of the Holy Spirit. When they first heard the Gospel, Paul’s “speech and message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power” (I Corinthians 2:4).
As a result, their faith did “not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (verse 5).
The sign of speaking in tongues was in their church. It is true that the apostle Paul gave certain instructions to regulate the proper operation of speaking “in tongues, and we do well to heed these today. But he did not tell them to stop speaking in tongues. On the contrary, he commanded: ” I want you all to speak in tongues . . . do not forbid speaking in tongues” (I Corinthians 14:5, 39).
Can any man have the audacity to forbid that which Almighty God commands us not to forbid?
Other examples can be cited from the New Testament. Speaking in tongues as the sign of obeying God’s commandment to “Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” is the rule. Speaking in tongues is the sign that this vital stone in THE ONLY FOUNDATION has been laid.
The Sign Today
You too, can enjoy God’s fullness. Do not be satisfied with frustration and doubt. Stop only admiring the New Testament, and act upon it! In Bible days, our unchanging Lord confirmed He had filled His followers with the Holy Spirit, accompanied by a sign – they spoke in tongues. All over the world today, Christians are rediscovering the blessing, benefit, and assurance this sign of God brings to the Spirit-filled believer.
Receive the testimony of the Bible. Reaffirming the counsel of the Word of God, the Lord Jesus said, “Every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matthew 18:16). Here we have not two or three, but six witnesses from the New Testament (and there are more), all teaching us the same thing about the sign of having received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He Who confirmed the promise of the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in tongues in the New Testament has not changed. There is not one word in the whole Bible to suggest that God has ever changed or done away with this sign.
By Graham Truscott