Before he was taken up to heaven, Jesus said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). This was an apt instruction to his disillusioned followers who suddenly found themselves to be without a Lord. The disciples took this to heart and waited for the promised Holy Spirit. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).
But what is this promise for? In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for the empowering of the believers. It is one thing to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit—which happens at the moment we receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour—and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Foremost, the infilling of the Holy Spirit empowers believers to live victoriously and be good witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. This was emphasized by the Lord Jesus when he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The initial manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the speaking in tongues. When the 120 disciples were baptized, they all spoke in tongues. Even to these days, speaking in tongues is a visible manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is not true that this gift of the Holy Spirit ceased when the last of the apostles died. How can one say that this is no longer applicable today when Jesus said, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues”? (Mark 16:17). When Jesus gave the Great Commission, he had in mind those who would believe then and those who will believe in him now. Therefore, believers today enjoy the same gifts that those who believed then enjoyed.
While the coming of the Holy Spirit was described as tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on the believers, it can also be described as “tongues on fire”. When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, we receive the power to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ and our tongues are “on fire” in testifying about our faith and in sharing the blessings that we receive from the Lord day by day. This is clearly manifested by new believers who are recently baptized. They cannot hold their tongues and they are very much on fire. They speak in tongues and they witness to others through their testimonies. They are excited to go to church and to gatherings of believers. They are not easily discouraged by criticism, but consider these as a form of persecution and they persevere in their walk with the Lord. They believe that they can transform the world just as the 120 disciples transformed the whole world when they were empowered on the day of Pentecost. That day marked the birth of the Christian church.
Another reason why speaking in tongues has not ceased as a gift is the fact that when we speak in tongues, we speak to God (and we still speak to God today). This is clearly explained by the apostle Paul in his epistle: “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit…he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…therefore, my brothers…do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14). When we come together as a church, we reserve a moment during our fellowship when we speak to God in tongues and express our deepest needs and the secrets of our heart. This is a moment for self-edification and no one gets embarrassed, since no one will understand—it is just between God and us.
Let us all be filled with the Holy Spirit and be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us start with our own “Jerusalem”, our families. Let us bring them over to the fold of the Lord that they may be saved. The best way to win them over is to live a victorious Christian life. This is our best witness to them and this is accomplished when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, be filled with the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!