Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
This was a watershed moment in human history, not to mention the history of the Church. (Actually, it was the birth of the Church.) From an objective viewpoint, it is fascinating that the phenomenon experienced here, of ignorant Galileans speaking in languages they had never learned, has been so controversial and divisive. Two days ago I wrote about how this gift requires a release of control on the part of the one exercising it, and we don’t like to be out of control, as we think of it. That’s why some people insist on calling this “ecstatic speech,” rather than “other languages” as the Greek clearly says. (Incidentally, it’s helpful that the Japanese term for “the gift of tongues” is very very clearly “other/alien language.”) Paul implies that the languages spoken may not all be human (1 Corinthians 13:1), and the person speaking will most likely not recognize what language they are using, but there are many documented cases of what is being said being understood perfectly by native speakers of that language. We have had two experiences of that ourselves. In one case, a friend who had never been out of Virginia was ministering deliverance to a woman troubled by an evil spirit, and he started saying “Get out! Get out! Get out!” over and over very rapidly – in Japanese, of which I am a native speaker. He was saying it faster than I could have! Another experience was when we had a group of Filipina trainees for a Japanese company here in Omura (over 20 years ago). Cathy went to their dormitory once a week to hold a prayer meeting with them, and in one time of group prayer she was praying quietly in tongues, when the girls became very excited. It turned out she was praying for them in Tagalog, which she certainly doesn’t speak! To this day, several of them are convinced she is a fluent speaker of Tagalog, but it still makes no sense to her. The point is, this event on the Day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of what Jesus had said in Acts 1:8. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately began “declaring the wonders of God” (verse 11) to people “from every nation under heaven,” (verse 5) in their own languages. That’s something worth doing!
As I have shared many times, my own experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit was rather different, and the confirmation that it had occurred was my sharing Christ with a total stranger in Japanese, which I certainly understood at the time. However, I did receive the gift of tongues a couple of months later, to my great satisfaction, because I wanted a tool to be able to pray when my intellect had no idea how to do so. On one occasion, in a small prayer group, I was used to speak out something in a language that sounded Eastern European. Words were very distinct, and very strongly spoken. When I finished, all three of us present were somewhat shaken, and I said, “I’m glad that wasn’t addressed to me!” I had the distinct impression that I had uttered a Word of correction and admonition to someone, and that they had heard those words in a dream or vision. I don’t have any Biblical examples of that so I certainly can’t be dogmatic about it, but I do know that God can do anything at all, and that’s what I feel happened. Today, tongues are a frequent part of my prayer life, but not something I use in church services, or generally in front of other people. I am grateful for the gift, but any spiritual gift is meaningless if I don’t exercise it in obedience to and fellowship with the Lord who gave it to me.
Father, thank You for Your overwhelming grace in so many areas. I feel that You indeed want to pour Your Spirit out on this church, and I pray that would happen soon. May we have hearts fully open to whatever You want to do in and through us, for the advancement of Your kingdom and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!