Summary: How did the saints of old interact with the Spirit of God?
The Spirit IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
The confusion of tongues is where this study must begin. John Macarthur has written what many call a classic about what he terms the chaos in the Pentecostal movement. And there’s no doubt about it. Even among those who speak in tongues there are wide differences as to who must speak, and how they are to speak, and when, and what a tongue sounds like. Please do not read any further if you think I will resolve any of these issues! I look beyond all of that to only one question. Are there gifts from the Holy Spirit today as there were recorded in the history of our church?
Anyway, here in Genesis, carnal man, recently wiped out by a worldwide flood, was at his worst yet again. God had promised there would be no more floods, but He had to do something to keep man from deserving such a fate. He split them up into factions based on language, and therefore later into cultures as they moved to places of the earth that demanded such differentiations, and allowed them to evolve into states that would be in competition with each other as much as with Him.
The nations of the earth were given a sampling of what God had intended from the beginning when Pentecost came on that Sunday several weeks after Jesus’ resurrection. He truly does want one world cooperating in harmony, but with Him as Lord. On Pentecost, He entrusted sameness of language to a handful of believers, the beginnings of His Nation that will one day rule all. Pentecost meant a lot more than that, but it did mean that. God’s people are no threat to God. Let them come together in unity, and I – God- will cement that unity with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Surely such power was not reserved for the first believers only? Surely the unity of which I speak is not merely a human thing in our generation, but cries to be received from Heaven in our day too! The Body of Christ, baptized corporately into the Spirit of Christ. What could be more natural? And for us, supernatural.
11 For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, 12 To whom He said, "This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest," And, "This is the refreshing"; Yet they would not hear.
This passage is quoted by Paul in his lengthy discussion of the gifts of the Spirit, a selection we will study in detail later. Though the context is a bit negative, the facts of the prophecy cannot be ignored. Isaiah seems to be linking speaking in tongues with a rest that the people of God will enjoy. It was not until the Spirit of God fell on Pentecost that this peculiar gift was manifested. Jesus had promised that he would give the heavy laden a rest. The promise was fulfilled at Pentecost. Stammering lips. Other languages. The weary rest. Let God speak through me and resolve my issues. The weary refreshed. What a wonderful thing for God to do. Yet for all that, so many of the Jews rejected their Messiah.
Of course it was not only Jews who were promised the rest. The promise is to all the Lord our God shall call, Peter reminds us. Cornelius’ very Gentile household received it. And Gentiles have been receiving it down through the ages. Was the gift of the Spirit with the accompanying tongues, only for the first century believers? Why would that be? Are there not many tired weary people in our generation, Jew and Gentile alike, who would profit from a refreshing outpouring such as this? The question will not go away until we answer it, and the Scriptures are the only place where that answer resides.