The Holy Spirit is not a ghost, but He frequently goes unnoticed in churches today. All too often, He is left out of church teaching altogether—as if only people who want to become really mature believers need to know Him. We need to recognize that the Holy Spirit is a foundational part of our lives as Christians. Jesus told His disciples not to go anywhere or say anything until the Holy Spirit came (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4-5). Think about that. Jesus’ death and resurrection was the greatest news the world had ever known, but He told the disciples not to tell anyone until they received the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us to live the Christian life. We can’t live the Christian life without Him, and we shouldn’t try to.
Jesus didn’t begin His public ministry until He received an anointing from the Holy Spirit, even though Jesus was God from birth. The angels sang “Glory to God in the highest” and they called Jesus “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11, 14). Jesus didn’t somehow become God through a process of maturation. He was born God. Yet Jesus didn’t begin His earthly ministry until He had received the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17), and the Bible doesn’t mention Him performing a single miracle until after that time. If Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit before He began to minister, and if He told his disciples not to minister without the power of the Holy Spirit, then how arrogant is it for us to believe that we can accomplish anything in our own power?
We need the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, inspiring us, and anointing the words we speak. Yet multitudes of people today who call themselves Christians have relegated the power of the Holy Spirit to a secondary issue. They have put the Holy Spirit aside and decided that He isn’t important. They don’t even want to talk about Him. The reason we have so many people sharing words from the Bible but not seeing results, is that they don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of them. They haven’t received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
After His resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem until they received the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). His last instruction to them before He was received up into heaven is recorded in Acts 1:4-5:
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
After Jesus spoke to His disciples about the Holy Spirit, the heavens opened up and received Him out of their sight. Simply realizing that these were Jesus’ last words puts tremendous importance on them. We value a person’s last words because it is the last opportunity for him or her to say something important. This is why people pay special attention to the last words of men and women in leadership positions, such as ministers, businessmen, and politicians.
Jesus was about to turn over the future of His kingdom to the disciples. They were going to be responsible for telling the world the Good News and presenting God’s plan of salvation. He was about to put everything He had worked and suffered for into their hands. Jesus’ last words to them were certainly important. He said,
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The fulfillment of the promise to receive the power of the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. On that day, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). We would call what they were doing speaking, or praying, in tongues. Speaking in tongues has become a divisive issue, and there are a lot of misconceptions. Specifically, some people argue that the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues isn’t a gift that God gives believers today. They think it was something God only gave to the believers in the early Church. I disagree, and I think that putting Jesus’ last words into context will show that speaking in tongues is a gift for us today.
Following His death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples on several occasions. The first time He appeared to them, one of the disciples, Thomas, was not present. The other disciples told Thomas that Jesus had risen from the dead, but Thomas didn’t believe them. He said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). Eight days later, all of the disciples were gathered together and Thomas was with them. Jesus appeared in the midst of them and said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” ( John 20:27). Upon hearing this, Thomas answered Jesus and said, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus then commented that Thomas believed because he saw, but blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe ( John 20:28-29).
We know from Scripture that all it takes to be born again is to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). Thomas confessed that Jesus is Lord, and Jesus commented that he believed it, so we can conclude that Thomas must have been born again. Yet Thomas was one of the eleven disciples that Jesus told to wait until the Holy Spirit was given, so being born again and receiving the Holy Spirit can’t be the same experience.
I have heard people try to get around these Scriptures by claiming that this was a special circumstance because the Holy Spirit hadn’t been given to anyone yet. Now, they contend, every person gets all of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit you can get when you are born again. But the book of Acts is full of examples showing that being born again and the baptism of the Holy Spirit remained separate experiences long after the day of Pentecost.
In one instance, Philip preached in the city of Samaria and the entire city believed in Jesus (Acts 8:4-8). During that time, Philip performed many miracles, and there was great revival in that city.
But then it says,
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
This Scripture makes it clear that the Samaritans were born again. They were also baptized in water, which Scripture says you only do after being saved (Acts 8:36-37). Philip wouldn’t have baptized them unless they had already believed and were converted. Clearly, these people were born again. So, they were already Christians, but they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. The Apostles went down to their city and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit after their initial born again experience.
This same thing is recorded when the Apostle Paul found some people who were already disciples but were not yet filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-10). When Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed they said, “We haven’t even heard there is a Holy Spirit.” There are people in denominations all across the world today who could say the same thing. Paul prayed for those men and they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from salvation. It is a second encounter with God when you receive power from on high. There are about a dozen instances recorded in the book of Acts where people received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and in every instance, they spoke in tongues. They didn’t speak in tongues some of the time or most of the time; they spoke in tongues every time.
Speaking in tongues is a valid gift for today, and it accompanies receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t speak in tongues, then either your beliefs are preventing you from doing so, or you haven’t received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I received the Holy Spirit about ten years after I was born again, but it took me another three years to speak in tongues. I wanted to speak in tongues and I prayed for the ability to do so, but I had been taught so much against speaking in tongues that I couldn’t do it. I had too much fear and unbelief built up in me. It took a while to get my mind renewed by the Word of God to get rid of the unbelief.
I’m mentioning my personal experience to show that it is possible to be born again and to have had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, yet not speak in tongues. If you have had an encounter with the Holy Spirit but you don’t speak in tongues, it’s because you’ve been taught something that is hindering you. The ability to pray in tongues is important in the life of believers, and it is a gift from God we need today.
Another common misconception is that all miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, ceased when the last apostle died. This argument claims that God only used miracles to confirm His Word until the Bible was complete, but now that we have the Bible, we don’t need miracles or baptism of the Holy Spirit anymore. This misunderstanding stems from a wrong interpretation of something the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:8-10
These verses state that there will come a time when prophecies will cease, tongues will cease, and knowledge will vanish away. Certainly, that time will certainly come—but when? Opponents of speaking in tongues believe it has already come. They cite the verse that says “when that which is perfect is come” and believe that the Bible is what is being spoken of. Therefore, they conclude, prophecies and tongues have passed away.
The Bible is perfect, but I don’t believe the Apostle Paul is talking about the Bible in this passage of Scripture. The same passage also says that when tongues and prophecies cease, knowledge will vanish away—but knowledge hasn’t vanished away. As a matter of fact, there is a prophecy in the Old Testament that says that knowledge will increase in the end times (Daniel 12:4). Today, you can look around and see that there is an exponential increase of knowledge in the world. The cumulative knowledge of mankind regarding the universe, biology, and technology is growing at a tremendous pace, so clearly knowledge hasn’t ceased yet.
Not only does this Scripture from 1 Corinthians say that knowledge will cease after that “which is perfect” has come, it also says that we will see God face to face:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12
Now we see dimly, as through a dark glass, but then (when that which is perfect has come) we will see clearly, face to face. Obviously, we have not come to see God face to face yet. I’m not saying that God couldn’t appear to someone, but this is a blanket statement that applies to everyone seeing Him face to face. It’s talking about the second return of the Lord, or our gathering together unto Him. When we see the Lord face to face is when “that which is perfect is come.”
The Scripture also says that when "that which is perfect" has come, we shall know even as we are known. God knows us perfectly, but we certainly don’t know everything perfectly right now.
The things that these verses state will happen at the same time that prophecies and tongues vanish haven’t happened yet. Knowledge hasn’t passed away, we haven’t seen God face to face, and we don’t know everything perfectly the way we will in eternity. You can’t just use these verses to say that speaking in tongues has passed away and ignore everything else that is supposed to happen at the same time. It is obvious that the “that which is perfect” which is being spoken of here has not yet come to pass.
I believe the “that which is perfect” being referred to is our glorified body. Praying in tongues helps us only as long as we are in this physical body and have the limitation of a mind that is not completely renewed. Your spirit is praying when you speak in tongues, and the Holy Spirit can pray through you (Romans 8:26). You are speaking mysteries in the spirit and edifying yourself (1 Corinthians 14:2, 4). Speaking in tongues bypasses the unbelief that is in your brain, and allows you to talk directly to God. It is powerful, but it’s only for this life.
When we receive our glorified bodies, we won’t have the infirmity of not knowing. At that time, we will know all things, even as we are known. We will know how to pray perfectly. We will see God face to face, and we won’t need to speak in tongues anymore. But until our glorified bodies come and our minds are completely renewed, we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We need the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, specifically the power of speaking in tongues.
Anyone who has been born again but doesn’t have the power of the Holy Spirit needs to receive it. You can’t live the life that God intends for you to live without the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues; this is the power to live the Christian life. There is a lot about praying in tongues that I can’t cover in this short synopsis, but I guarantee that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues will produce a radical change in your relationship with God. The Word of God will come alive, and you will begin to see and understand things you never noticed before. You need this ability.
The good news is that God wants you to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to speak in tongues even more than you want it. Jesus said,
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a f ish, will he for a f ish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Some people teach that you can’t have any sin in your life or God won’t fill you with the Holy Spirit. They think that God won’t fill a dirty vessel. I want you to know that God doesn’t have any other kind of vessel to fill! If we could be perfect without the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t need Him. The very fact that you aren’t perfect makes you a candidate to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is God’s will for every born-again believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to speak in tongues. He created you to fill with His Spirit, so there is no way He isn’t going to do it when you ask. The only requirement for receiving the Holy Spirit is to be born again. Jesus is the one who baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, so if you haven’t received the Giver, you can’t receive the Gift.
One of the things that kept me from speaking in tongues right away when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit was that I didn’t understand that I had to do the speaking. The Holy Spirit inspires you, but you have to do the talking:
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Just as God doesn’t make people receive salvation, He isn’t going to make you speak in tongues. God doesn’t take over people’s bodies, so you're going to have to initiate the use of your voice to start and stop speaking. You can’t just open your mouth and wait for sound to come out.
As you begin to utter the words the Holy Spirit is inspiring you to speak, the words will come more and more easily. You won’t understand what you are saying because the natural mind can’t understand the things of the spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14), but you can pray for an interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:13). Receiving an interpretation doesn’t mean that you’ll get a word-forword translation of everything you have said in tongues. It could mean that you’ll pray in tongues today, and sometime in the near future God will give you a word of knowledge or wisdom. The only time that an interpretation is required immediately is when someone speaks in tongues during a church service. It isn’t necessary when you are praying in tongues privately.
Speaking in tongues builds up your faith and draws out the power and knowledge that is in your spirit. If you recognize that you need this gift and you have already been born again, all you have to do is ask God and He will give it to you:
Father, I thank You that I am the temple of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, I welcome You to fill me right now. Thank You for filling me with Your presence.
Sometimes people feel something when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, sometimes not. When I received the Holy Spirit I didn’t feel a thing, but I got Him. Regardless of whether you felt anything or not, begin to speak in tongues by faith. Open your mouth and utter the words that the Holy Spirit is inspiring within you.
Make praying in tongues a regular practice and you will begin to see the supernatural power of God manifesting in your life!