PENTECOST SUNDAY IS THIS SUNDAY: “RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT”
By: Frank G. Tunstall, D. Min.
When Jesus wanted to teach about receiving the Holy Spirit, He chose to tell a story about a man who was on a journey and stopped about midnight at his friend’s house. Of course, the traveler was hungry, but the host was out of bread. So, he went at midnight to a neighbor, woke him up, and asked him for a loan of three loaves of bread. The neighbor answered, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything” (Luke 11:57).
After sending his neighbor back toward home empty-handed, the man in bed began to think about the request to feed a hungry traveler. My neighbor wouldn’t be asking this of me at midnight unless he really was out of bread, and he has a guest in his home who must be starving! This neighbor changed his mind, got up and made the loan. Jesus then said friendship was not enough motivation to make the man get up at midnight, but the neighbor’s boldness in asking was.
“So, I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).
Next, the Lord related the lesson to fathering. When a child is hungry and asks for a piece of fish, no loving father will give him a snake, or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion.
Then the Lord proceeded to the clincher. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13).
Boldness in asking with a famished heart for God is the key to receiving the Holy Spirit.
The neighbor at midnight went confidently, seeking, wanting to feed his starving guest. He simply could not give the man a bed, and go back to bed himself, with his guest obviously famished. We are also to ask courageously and with a seeking heart for the Holy Spirit; like the confidence of a very hungry child seeking out his dad and asking for a lamb sandwich or an egg for a snack. A genuine need existed with this traveler, and the host went into action, boldly asking for help at midnight, and believing he would get it – and he did. That attitude defines seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
With this boldness in asking in mind, how does a person know when he has received the Holy Spirit? In Acts of the Apostles, speaking in tongues was the initial evidence a person had received the Holy Spirit.
Four outpourings of the Holy Spirit are recorded in Acts. The Upper Room Pentecost (2:1-47), the Samaritan Pentecost (8:4-24), the Gentile Pentecost in Caesarea (10:1 – 11:18), and the Ephesian Pentecost (19:1-7). Three of the four included speaking in tongues as the initial evidence: the Upper Room, the Gentile Pentecost at Caesarea, and the Ephesian Pentecost. Tongues speaking is not recorded at the Samaritan Pentecost, but neither is it denied. An argument from silence, as a principle of Biblical interpretation, cannot yield a conclusion either for or against speaking in tongues in the Samaritan Pentecost. However, a hint is in the record based on the witness of Simon. Dr. Luke recorded that Simon saw something that made him know “the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands.” One can honorably conclude what he observed was speaking in tongues.
The Azuza Street Pentecostal outpouring of 1906-1909 launched the Pentecostal revival that became the greatest spiritual awakening in the Lord’s church in the 20th century. The fathers of the movement concluded speaking in tongues was the initial evidence of a person’s being baptized in the Holy Spirit. By initial evidence is meant the first evidence, while accepting that there are other evidences as well, one of which is boldness in witnessing.
With this Biblical evidence, the classical wing of the Pentecostal revival holds to this day to the initial evidence teaching as a cornerstone doctrine. In addition, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18).
Four purposes for the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues stand out in Scripture, with the initial evidence being the first [although I make no claim my list is exhaustive]. Paul said he received these as a command from the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37).
2. Speaking in tongues and evangelism. “Tongues are a sign,” Paul said, “not for believers but for unbelievers” (I Corinthians. 14:22). The gift can cause conviction of sin and help bring a person to repentance. This was certainly true in the Acts 2 initial outpouring when the crowd heard the 120 speaking in their languages the wonderful works of God. Tongues can also be spoken as a contemporary language unknown to the speaker but recognized by a bi-lingual unbeliever. When this happens, it becomes a powerful sign that opens hearts in soul winning.
3. The Holy Spirit as Intercessor. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27).
4. Praying in the Spirit. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions,” Paul said, “with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). And Jude wrote: “Dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Praying in the Spirit can also include singing in the Spirit.
Paul received specific instructions from the Lord regarding how to manage and keep order in a worship service while making room for speaking in tongues. It is a 16-item policy, expressed in 1 Corinthians 14.
1) Follow the way of love (agape) and eagerly desire spiritual gifts (14:1).
2) Tongues speaking is speaking to God (14:2).
3) Prophecy speaks to people to strengthen, encourage and comfort (14:3).
4) Speaking in tongues edifies (or instructs and improves) oneself; prophesies edify the church (14:4).
5) A person who prophecies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets (14:5).
6) “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So-it-is with spiritual gifts” (14:8-9). Spiritual gifts must bring clarity in the church.
7) “Anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says” (14:13).
8) “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So, what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (14:14-15).
9) “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire,” including speaking in tongues (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
10) “In the church, I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:18-19).
11) Isaiah prophesied that speaking in tongues would be in the New Covenant: “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking [or as you think about this], be adults. In the Law it is written: ‘Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then, they will not listen to me,’ says the Lord (14:20-21; Isaiah 28:11-12).
12) Tongues are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers (14:22).
13) “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. These must be done to strengthen the church” (14:26).
14) “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two – or at the most three – should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God” (14:27-28).
15) “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” (14:29.
16) “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (14:32-33).
Paul concluded his catalog in 1 Corinthians 14 with this summary: “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:39-40, KJV).