The Gentiles and the Spirit

Acts 10: 44 – 45

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Peter, once brash and impetuous, matured into a grand spiritual leader. In this passage we see the perfect model of a New Testament preacher. The best message one can deliver is the one which invites and gives space to the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us the Spirit would teach us, guide us and be our constant helper. Jesus’ departure ushered in the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit is on the scene, miracles happen, people are healed and the blessings of the Lord touch the hearts of believers. The presence of the Spirit of God is what is needful because he is the power of God.

How do we know, however, when the Spirit is present? In today’s passage the circumcised believers (Messianic Jews) were amazed because they witnessed the pouring out of the Spirit upon the Gentiles. How did they know God poured out the Spirit on these Gentiles? Verse 46 reads, “For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.” The manifestation of speaking with tongues comes with the Holy Spirit. These people began speaking with tongues and exalting God and the Jewish believers recognized the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon them. Apparently, as they listened to Peter’s message about Jesus, the Spirit fell upon all who listened and the Spirit’s presence was obvious to those who accompanied Peter.

It must have been quite an occasion for celebration in Cornelius’ home that day. His family was saved, adopted into the family of God and they received the out pouring of the Holy Spirit. I would say Peter did his job.

It is not important that we say lofty, eloquent prayers or deliver sophisticated sermons. Jesus said only one thing was needful. That needful thing is the Divine Trinity. Where they are allowed freedom and communion, they charge the atmosphere with power and the glory of God. We just need God in all three persons. In this generation, we have given ourselves to the lordship of Christ. Through him we have met the Father face to face. Now we need to actively pursue the same sort of relationship with God’s Spirit. That relationship takes the same thoughtful and purposeful seeking which we each employed in coming to know the Father and the Son. If we do not pursue Him, then we will never know him or the power of his might. We will not have all Jesus died to give us. We can spend our entire lives never knowing him. Our Christianity will likely remain intact but will we be two-thirds Christian? How can we be fully united with God if we do not know one-third of the Triune Divinity?

I think these are troubling questions, theologically. The fix, however, is perfectly simple. It is our responsibility to seek the Spirit and come to know him as we do the Father and the Son. Second, as we wander through this world, engaging with others, our relationship with the Spirit brings him into association with those we encounter. We are the vessels which carry the Holy Spirit into all the world. It sounds trite but it is, none the less, God’s plan. Let us devote ourselves, therefore, to knowing the Spirit or, indeed, coming to know him better. Let us pursue him relentlessly. He is the teacher Jesus spoke of so importune him to teach you about himself and about all the things of God.

The Holy Spirit Speaks

1 Corinthians 14: 18

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all.

Speaking in tongues is not something we discuss often and I have decided that is error. No one wants to offend others so we avoid topics which are not understood or which are easily misunderstood. This is a topic, however, which we must not hide under the rock any longer. To do so is utter foolishness and simply the result of fear. We fear that someone will become upset with us because we open up a subject with which they are unfamiliar. Well, let us be unfamiliar with the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues no longer.

Tongues is a language God gave us so that we can communicate with Him. One of the most significant aspects of speaking in tongues is that this ability is a gift which we gain through the Holy Spirit of God. It was prophesied about in the Old Testament. Paul recounted this old prophecy from Isaiah in 1 Corinthians 14: 21 where he wrote, “IN THE LAW IT IS WRITTEN, ‘BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE.” This verse is only a couple of verses after the one where Paul says that he thanks God that he speaks in tongues more than anyone. The immediately following verse reads, “So then tongues are for a sign” (v. 22). My point is that he is still writing about tongues throughout these verses. In the second verse of this fourteenth chapter Paul gives us more insight into speaking in tongues. He wrote, “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.” Whoa! That is fabulous. God gave us a language so that we can speak to Him. Perhaps it is God’s own language which He gave to us. We are led by the Holy Spirit to speak from our spirits rather than from our minds. Praise God! Now ask yourself, “Why would God do that?” Well, Paul must have had the same question because he gave this answer, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8: 26).

God gave us the Holy Spirit to lead us, to guide us and to be our teacher. He is able to pray for us, and through us which is great because, honestly, most of the time we really don’t know what or how to pray. He leads us in our prayers and helps us to pray the deep things of our heart. It is such powerful prayer because it does not have to go through the filter of your mind which is full of rules and regulations and ego and questions. You are able to pray right out of your spirit, right from the deepest place of who you are. You can be completely honest with God, with yourself and with your emotions because there is no judgment being levied by the mind. It is like having a direct pipeline between you and God. That pipeline is the Holy Spirit.

Paul taught about the gift of speaking in tongues and also the ministry gift of tongues which is different but the same. Paul said that praying in tongues for our personal prayer builds us up (1 Corinthians 14: 4). The ministry gift of tongues is for edifying the church.

The clearest demonstration of the gift of tongues in operation can be found in Acts 2. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Christ who had gathered together. The scripture says tongues as of fire rested on them and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2: 4). There were witnesses from many different regions all about who, when they heard them speaking in tongues, marveled that they heard them speaking in their own languages even though the men were Jews. You will be so blessed to read the account and try to imagine yourself there witnessing this divine event.

This gift of speaking in tongues is such an important expression of the grace, power and love of God. It flows through the integration of our will and spirit with that of the Holy Spirit. It is high time we learned more about this third person of the trinity who is, in fact, God and it is so important that we learn his role and how we can cooperate with him. Additionally, it is really vital that we learn about this gift of speaking in tongues but really not so much learn as participate in. It is not important that you be able to teach a class on speaking in tongues, just that you do it. Paul said, “I wish that you all spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14: 5). I second Paul’s wish. There are too few people who are following this leading of the Holy Spirit and teaching of the Apostle Paul. We need to teach it in our churches, facilitate other’s learning and receiving and most of all never downplay or minimize its significance in the modern church, and as Paul said, “Do not forbid to speak in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14: 39).

All My Birthday Presents

1 Corinthians 1: 7

[S]o that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Imagine that it is your birthday. The dining room table is decorated beautifully and upon it you see a good-looking cake with your name on it, but that’s not all. The table is laden with festively wrapped packages. There must be twenty or more and they all have your name on them too. Wow! Now, here is the question – which one do you want? What is your answer?

Well, I am just a kid. I love birthdays, especially mine and I will confess I love getting presents. I love opening the presents and seeing what is inside them. So, since I am just a kid and pretty unrestrained when it comes to my birthday my answer is, “I WANT ALL MY BIRTHDAY PRESENTS!”

That is the way I approach my relationship with Jesus, Dad and the Holy Spirit. I very much think of Jesus having provided me with another birthday. Through him we have all been born again. His death, blood, crucifixion, but mostly his victory have provided us with so many wonderful gifts like salvation, redemption, grace and so on. Now which one of his many gifts would I choose not to receive? How about this one, “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2: 38). I want that one most of all. How shall I leave off the third person of the trinity? The Spirit is the power of God first unto salvation but then for victory in every area of life.

How about this one? “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2: 4). Boy, this one makes people flip out and it did me too. I had no understanding about tongues at all and it just freaked me out. But here is the thing, I was not about to let one of Jesus’ gifts to me go unclaimed. So, I sought out wise counsel and guess what? It was all over the Bible. I had no arguments left and I absolutely will not be left out of anything Jesus has for me. I want it all so if it is of Jesus, then I mean to have it!

What about you? What are you leaving on the table? Have you failed to receive his gift of forgiveness? How about the bestowment of grace? Maybe like me you stumbled over tongues. Well, here is my advice. Consult with Jesus about all of these things. Consult with your pastor. Call me. Find out to what you are entitled and then begin unwrapping all those presents. Don’t let one single thing slip through your fingers. Jesus’ ministry is and was all about providing you with birthday presents. Let us not make his sacrifice of no consequence. Rather let us be enraptured with all Jesus did for us and make the fullest use of it all. Do not deny yourself the Holy Spirit, do not deny yourself praying in tongues through the Holy Spirit. Don’t let grace pass you by. Be vigilant to receive the good things of God which he has provided you through the person of Jesus Christ. For goodness sake, open all your birthday presents and enjoy them with the joy of a child. This is why Jesus came, why he died and why he sent the Holy Spirit to us. Be a child and receive.