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How can we know if we have received the Holy Ghost?  If I speak in tongues?


The greatest evidence that a person has received the Holy Ghost is a changed life.  Consider the words of Galatians 5:13-17  "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."

Those who have the Spirit of God live differently than those who do not.  They are no longer ruled by "the flesh".  They are now guided and directed by Christ to live a holy life, one that brings forth the fruits of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." Galatians 5:22-26

If we're walking in God's Spirit, then changes are going to take place in the way we think, speak, act, and treat others.  We will have God's love shining through us; His Joy filling our hearts.  This is the best way to know that someone is truly filled with the Holy Spirit.  As Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit"  Matthew 7:16-18

The Bible also says that there are spiritual gifts given to the true followers of Christ, but Jesus said we will know them by their fruits (the way they live) not by their gifts.  The Scriptures also teach that there are many types of spiritual gifts : "for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."  1 Corinthians 12:8-11

Today, there is a lot of emphasis on speaking in tongues.   Some believe that everyone that is filled with the Holy Ghost will speak in tongues, but the Bible says: "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?  Do all have gifts of healings?  Do all speak with tongues?  Do all interpret?"  1 Corinthians 12:29-30

Paul is asking a series of rhetorical questions and the answer is obviously "no".  Notice how the New Living Translation puts verse 30 "Does everyone have the gift of healing? Of course not. Does God give all of us the ability to speak in unknown languages?  Can everyone interpret unknown languages?  No!"  This whole chapter addresses the fact that all believers do not receive the same gifts.  In fact, speaking in tongues is down at the bottom of the list.  The most important thing to remember is that this is all just setting the stage for Chapter 13, where Paul makes it clear that the fruits are definitely more desirable and valuable than the gifts.   If we don't have love to begin with, then the gifts are useless!

The Bible gives us many examples where individuals were filled with the Holy Spirit (over 50), but only three occasions where anyone actually spoke in tongues.  Here are only a few examples from the first few chapters of Luke:

Luke 1:41-55 - Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was "filled with the Holy Ghost" and the Bible records every word she spoke, but it doesn't mention speaking in tongues. 

Luke 1:67-79 - Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was also "filled with the Holy Ghost", and he was given the gift of prophecy, but not speaking in tongues.  Most importantly, consider what the Bible says about the fruits of this couple's life: "And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."  (Luke 1:6) Talk about fruits!  Don't you wish the Lord could say that about us?

Luke 2:25-35 - Simeon was obviously filled with the Spirit: "the Holy Ghost was upon him", certain things were "revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost", and "he came by the Spirit into the temple".  He certainly had the gift of prophecy, but he did not speak in tongues.  However, he definitely possessed the fruits because he is described as "just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel".

Luke 3:22 and 4:1 - No one can deny the fact that Jesus was "full of the Holy Ghost", yet the Bible never mentions Him speaking in tongues.  Intrestingly, He had the gifts of wisdom, prophecy, healing, working of miracles, discerning of spirits, teaching, etc.  We all know that He had the perfect fruits of the Spirit and He is our example!

Some people teach that every time a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, he or she will speak in tongues.  Yet of the 27 books in the New Testament, only three mention the gift of tongues.  There are about 39 Bible authors, but only three (Luke, Paul, and Mark) even speak about tongues.   In other words, we should put the emphasis where God puts the emphasis!

With all of this, we must remember that there is a true gift of speaking in tongues.  Keep in mind that the word "tongue" in the Bible is actually just an Old English word for "language".  For example,  if you have a King James Version, then you will probably have this statement written near the front of your Bible: "Translated out of the Original Tongues and with Previous Translations Diligently Compared and Revised".   The Greek word used for "tongue" in the New Testament simply means a "language or dialect". 

What does all this mean?  It means that when the early Christians in the Book of Acts spoke in "tongues", they were speaking in the various languages of the earth because the people they were preaching to were foreigners who did not speak their language.

This is very clear in Acts chapter 2:4-11  "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs--we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

This is very easy to understand: there were many people gathered together and very few of them spoke the same language.  So God gave the Apostles the ability to speak all those different languages so that the foreigners could hear and comprehend the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is why they said in verse 8 "We hear them speaking the languages of the lands where we were born!"  NLT The true gift of tongues is given so that we can spread the Gospel to those who do not speak the same language as we do.  It has nothing to do with babbling or speaking in some kind of heavenly language because this is not found in the Bible.

Here's a great online resource if you would like to know more about the true and false gift of tongues:

"Captured By Tongues"

Click here to read "Captured By Tongues" by Doug Batchelor

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