Summary: The proper uses of speaking in an unknown (to the speaker) language, both in private, and in public settings.
Heavenly Languages Explained
Pastor Eric J. Hanson
May 24, 2015
Today is Pentecost Sunday. This is a good time to remember what happened on the first Pentecost after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord, and to consider what these things means for us now. Let’s review Acts 1:1-14 so as to set the stage for what happened next. (Read these verses now.) Now let’s continue in chapter 2, and consider the supernatural occurrences there. (Now read verses 1-13)
There were some rare things that the Holy Spirit did on that occasion, such as manifesting Himself as a mighty rushing wind, and then as visible fire. These are not unique in Bible history. As early as Genesis chapter 3, God revealed himself as wind or “the breeze of the moment”(in the Hebrew language) when he came into the garden after Adam first sinned. Various times, such as the burning bush in the wilderness, which was on fire but did not burn up, and really grabbed Moses’ attention, God revealed himself as fire. But on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts Chapter 2, the Holy Spirit revealed himself both ways.
Immediately after the fire of God rested on each of the 120 believers in that room, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they all began to speak in languages they had never learned, telling the wonderful works of God in such a way that the foreigners who were crowding Jerusalem because of the Feast of Pentecost then heard about God, each in his or her own language.
This outburst of many languages amazed the crowd and it grabbed their attention totally. When Peter stood up and began to explain to them what was going on, and then shared about Jesus, they were listening intently. Nobody was bored or distracted. The final result that very day, was that 3000 people became followers of Jesus Christ.
Unlike the unusual wind and fire manifestations on that day, the phenomenon of believers in Jesus becoming filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, and also speaking in totally unlearned languages, became widespread, and has been repeated millions of times across the past 2000 years. Even today, there are millions of Holy Spirit filled believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, who pray in languages they have never learned, and who also sometimes bring a message forth publicly in such a language, unknown to the speaker, but either known to the hearers of the message, or else interpreted into a language known to the hearers, immediately after it has been spoken forth.
Unfortunately, there is also much confusion about these things, in the minds of many church people today, even among people who have long been active in churches and/or organizations which believe in these expressions of the Holy Spirit’s work and power within us, there remain many questions and misperceptions.
Today, the burden the Lord has given me is to bring clarity to the matter of speaking in unknown languages, or in old style English, unknown tongues. It is important for Christian people to have a good understanding of this matter.
First I need to mention that it is still quite normal, as on the Day of Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2, for believers in Jesus Christ to receive the ability to speak forth in a Heaven given language, at the same time that they become baptized in the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is possible to be endued with power and filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit without speaking forth in an unknown language. God can work around people’s fears and hang-ups that way. But, I also believe that it is normative to receive the ability to speak forth in an unknown language, for anyone who receives Hoy Spirit baptism. Some Sunday, I’ll do an entire message on just the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and will explain things that I am merely mentioning here today. Now, let’s look at the two main uses God has for enabling people to speak in languages that the people speaking neither know, not understand.
2 Totally Different Uses and Types of Speaking
Paul wrote about two totally different practices when he used the term “speaking in unknown tongues”, or to update the terminology without changing its meaning, “speaking in languages unknown to the one doing the speaking”. The two major purposes of speaking supernaturally in languages that you have never learned, and that your mind doesn’t know, are as follows.
Purpose One: (I Corinthians 12:10-11)
God may choose to use you to bring a public message, speaking it forth in an unknown language. In order for this use of speaking in an unknown language to help people, a second gift must then be exercised, which is called the interpretation of unknown tongues. Speaking in a language unknown to the person doing the speaking, coupled with the interpretation of such speaking can be done with two people present or with two thousand. This public manifestation of the gift (Greek: Charism or grace-gift) of tongues, and the gift of interpretation working together, is for the purpose of building people up in the faith.