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The Holy Spirit: Beyond Speaking in Tongues

1 Corinthians 14:28

if there is no one to interpret, let them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.


The Holy Spirit is one of the most profound, yet often misunderstood, aspects of Christian faith. The Evangelical denomination in particular associates the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with the ability to speak in tongues, a gift first manifested on the Day of Pentecost. However, it is important to remember speaking in tongues is not the only indicator of the Holy Spirit's presence. The Holy Spirit's work is far more comprehensive, affecting every aspect of a believer's life.


The New Testament provides us with detailed teachings about the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16, Jesus promises to send another 'Helper' or 'Comforter', referring to the Holy Spirit. The Greek term used here is 'Parakletos', which also means 'Advocate' or 'Counselor'. This indicates that the Holy Spirit's role is not limited to enabling believers to speak in tongues. The Holy Spirit is our constant companion, guiding us in truth, comforting us in our sorrows, and empowering us to live out our faith. In Luke 11:13, Jesus tells us that the Father will surely give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.


In Galatians 5:22-23, Apostle Paul outlines the 'fruit of the Spirit' - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These virtues are the tangible evidence of the Holy Spirit's indwelling. They are the transformative effects of His work in us, shaping us to become more like Christ. Therefore, a believer who exhibits these qualities, even if they do not speak in tongues, can be assured of the Holy Spirit's presence in their life.


Moreover, the Holy Spirit bestows a variety of spiritual gifts upon believers, as described in 1 Corinthians 12. These gifts, which include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, and discernment, are given 'for the common good' (1 Corinthians 12:7). While speaking in tongues is one of these gifts, it is not the only one, nor is it the greatest. As Paul emphasises, all gifts are equally valuable, and they should be used to serve others and build up the church.


Furthermore, in Romans 8:14-16, Paul explains that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. This inner assurance of our divine adoption is another crucial aspect of the Holy Spirit's indwelling. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to cry out 'Abba, Father', affirming our intimate relationship with God.


We should also exercise caution because speaking in tongues historically always had a literal interpretation, the Apostles spoke fluently in other men’s languages that they knew not, making their tongues a miracle that convinced foreign-speakers. Unfortunately, today we often see those doing it without interpretation, which as far as we know could be gibberish that anyone, even an unbeliever, could imitate to exploit others.


Without interpretation the gift of tongues is perhaps the most easily faked gift of the Holy Spirit. We should remember to exercise 1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. If someone speaks in tongues but has no other fruit of the Spirit we should be cautious. In 1930’s Germany we saw the world-shaking power of mass-hysteria when large groups gathered to shout certain words.


In conclusion, while speaking in tongues is a valid and valuable spiritual gift, it is not the sole or primary indicator of the Holy Spirit's indwelling. The Holy Spirit's work is far-reaching, touching every facet of our lives. His indwelling is evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in our character, the spiritual gifts we use to serve others, and the inner assurance of our identity as God's children.


Let us not confine the Holy Spirit's work to a single manifestation, but celebrate the diversity of His gifts, and strive to be receptive to His transforming power in all areas of our lives. Let us remember that the Holy Spirit is our Companion, Counsellor, and Helper, guiding us, empowering us, and affirming our identity as children of God. Indeed, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a profound mystery and a precious gift, to be cherished and nurtured with a humble and open heart.