What The Bible Says About The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit, And One Person's Experience Of Recently Getting The Gift Of Tongues

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The Bible says:

Mark chapter 16 (TEV)

9 After Jesus rose from death early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went and told his companions. They were mourning and crying; 11 and when they heard her say that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe her.

12 After this, Jesus appeared in a different manner to two of them while they were on their way to the country. 13 They returned and told the others, but these would not believe it.

14 Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. 15 He said to them, "Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 Believers will be given the power to perform miracles: they will drive out demons in my name; they will speak in strange tongues; 18 if they pick up snakes or drink any poison, they will not be harmed; they will place their hands on sick people, and these will get well."

Some people think that passage is a forgery, since it appears in some manuscripts but not others. They theorise that it was added later. To read some discussion of the issues, visit Did Mark's Gospel end at 16:8?

In chapter 19 of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which describes the activities of the first Christians, it says:

Acts chapter 19 (NLT)

1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior provinces. Finally, he came to Ephesus, where he found several believers. 2 "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" he asked them. "No," they replied, "we don't know what you mean. We haven't even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3 "Then what baptism did you experience?" he asked. And they replied,

"The baptism of John." 4 Paul said, "John's baptism was to demonstrate a desire to turn from sin and turn to God. John himself told the people to believe in Jesus, the one John said would come later." 5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian church in the New Testament:

1 Corinthians chapter 12 (NLT)

4 Now there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 6 There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us.

7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.

8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice;
to another he gives the gift of special knowledge.
9 The Spirit gives special faith to another,
and to someone else he gives the power to heal the sick.
10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles,
and to another the ability to prophesy.
He gives someone else the ability to know whether it is really the Spirit of God or another spirit that is speaking.
Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages,
and another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.

11 It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

1 Corinthians chapter 12 (TEV)

27 All of you are Christ's body, and each one is a part of it. 28 In the church God has put all in place:
in the first place apostles,
in the second place prophets,
and in the third place teachers;
then those who perform miracles,
followed by those who are given the power to heal
or to help others, or to direct them
or to speak in strange tongues.

29 They are not all apostles or prophets or teachers. Not everyone has the power to work miracles 30 or to heal diseases or to speak in strange tongues or to explain what is said. 31 Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts.

Best of all, however, is the following way...

1 Corinthians chapter 13 (TEV)

1 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains-but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned - but if I have no love, this does me no good.

4 Love is patient and kind;
it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable;
love does not keep a record of wrongs;
6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.
7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.
8 Love is eternal.

There are inspired messages, but they are temporary;
there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease;
there is knowledge, but it will pass. 9 For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial;
10 but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear.
13 Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians chapter 14 (NLT)

1 Let love be your highest goal, but also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For if your gift is the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking to God but not to people, since they won't be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious.

1 Corinthians chapter 14 (TEV)

3 But those who proclaim God's message speak to people and give them help, encouragement, and comfort.

1 Corinthians chapter 14 (NLT)

4 A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally in the Lord, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church. 5 I wish you all had the gift of speaking in tongues, but even more I wish you were all able to prophesy. For prophecy is a greater and more useful gift than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church can get some good out of it.

1 Corinthians chapter 14 (TEV)

6 So when I come to you, my friends, what use will I be to you if I speak in strange tongues? Not a bit, unless I bring you some revelation from God or some knowledge or some inspired message or some teaching. 7 Take such lifeless musical instruments as the flute or the harp-how will anyone know the tune that is being played unless the notes are sounded distinctly? 8 And if the one who plays the bugle does not sound a clear call, who will prepare for battle? 9 In the same way, how will anyone understand what you are talking about if your message given in strange tongues is not clear? Your words will vanish in the air! 10 There are many different languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 But if I do not know the language being spoken, those who use it will be foreigners to me and I will be a foreigner to them.

12 Since you are eager to have the gifts of the Spirit, you must try above everything else to make greater use of those which help to build up the church. 13 The person who speaks in strange tongues, then, must pray for the gift to explain what is said. 14 For if I pray in this way, my spirit prays indeed, but my mind has no part in it.

15 What should I do, then? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray also with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will sing also with my mind. 16 When you give thanks to God in spirit only, how can ordinary people taking part in the meeting say "Amen" to your prayer of thanksgiving? They have no way of knowing what you are saying. 17 Even if your prayer of thanks to God is quite good, other people are not helped at all. 18 I thank God that I speak in strange tongues much more than any of you. 19 But in church worship I would rather speak five words that can be understood, in order to teach others, than speak thousands of words in strange tongues. 20 Do not be like children in your thinking, my friends; be children so far as evil is concerned, but be grown up in your thinking.

23 If, then, the whole church meets together and everyone starts speaking in strange tongues-and if some ordinary people or unbelievers come in, won't they say that you are all crazy? 24 But if everyone is proclaiming God's message when some unbelievers or ordinary people come in, they will be convinced of their sin by what they hear. They will be judged by all they hear, 25 their secret thoughts will be brought into the open, and they will bow down and worship God, confessing, "Truly God is here among you!"

26 This is what I mean, my friends. When you meet for worship, one person has a hymn, another a teaching, another a revelation from God, another a message in strange tongues, and still another the explanation of what is said. Everything must be of help to the church. 27 If someone is going to speak in strange tongues, two or three at the most should speak, one after the other, and someone else must explain what is being said. 28 But if no one is there who can explain, then the one who speaks in strange tongues must be quiet and speak only to himself and to God. 29 Two or three who are given God's message should speak, while the others are to judge what they say.

1 Corinthians chapter 14 (NLT)

30 But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. 31 In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. 32 Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can wait their turn. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the other churches.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul says:

1 Thessalonians chapter 5 (NLT)

19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Keep away from every kind of evil.

In the book Chasing The Dragon, Jackie Pullinger describes her missionary work in Hong Kong from when she went there in the late 1960s to the mid '70s. She says that she grew up in Croydon, (in England), and then she worked among Triad gangsters in Hong Kong, who lived violent lives, making money from the results of dealing in drugs and forcing girls into prostitution. She says that many of their lives were completely changed when they received God's Holy Spirit and the gifts of his Spirit.

The information about this book is here for the purposes of interest. It's not meant to be taken as advice.

In chapter 5 of the book Chasing The Dragon, Jackie Pullinger describes something which took place fairly early in her missionary work.

She says she went to play the harmonium in the chapel. A Chinese couple were to take the service, and as soon as she saw them, she knew they "had it". She didn't know what "it" was, but she felt sure that even while they prayed, she sensed a vitality, a power. They seemed different. After the service, she went straight up to them to ask them what it was. She didn't know much Chinese at all at that point, and they hardly knew any English. Still, it was soon clear what they were trying to make her understand. They said she hadn't got the Holy Spirit. A little indignantly she said she had, and they said she hadn't. She said she had again, and the argument continued as they walked out of the chapel and back to her bus stop.

She stopped and thought over it. She was sure she must have the Holy Spirit, since she thought surely she couldn't believe in Jesus if she didn't have it. Still, she didn't think it was worth arguing, since the fact was that she felt sure they had something different that she felt she needed, that she felt sure she sensed even without understanding their sermon. They might call it having the Holy Spirit, and she might think perhaps it was called by some other name, like perhaps receiving the power of the Spirit, but it didn't really matter; she thought if God had something else to give her, she wanted it. So she made an appointment to go to their flat the next afternoon.

Their flat was only little, just like many others in Hong Kong. She felt a bit nervous because she didn't know what to expect.

Then she sat down and they laid their hands on her forehead and said over and over again in pidgin English: "Now you begin speaking, Now you begin speaking, now you begin speaking."

Some time passed, but nothing happened. It seemed they were expecting Jackie to burst into the "gift of tongues", and she thought it wasn't going to work.

She'd heard people speaking in tongues in the Christian fellowship group she'd attended before she came to Hong Kong, and she'd heard of other people who'd done it, but no one had ever been willing to discuss it with her. She loved the idea of a new language in which it was possible to speak often and express all your innermost thoughts to God. But she'd assumed it must be something a person had to be rather advanced and spiritual to get. She shut her mouth firmly. She thought that if she was going to get the gift, it was going to be through God, not through her own efforts. That way, it would be genuine.

The couple carried on and on saying, "Now you begin speaking, now you begin speaking."

She became extremely embarrassed and began to get cross with them. She felt hotter and hotter and more and more uncomfortable; she was sure she wasn't going to speak in tongues and they were going to be very disappointed.

Still they carried on saying over and over again, "Now you begin speaking, now you begin speaking ..."

Eventually she couldn't stand it any longer, so she opened her mouth to say, "Help me God", and then it happened! As soon as she made a conscious effort to open her mouth, she discovered she could speak freely in a language she'd never learned. She says it was a beautiful articulate-sounding language that sounded as if expression was being put into the voice like it would be in other languages.

But she didn't experience an emotional high with it. She'd imagined that would be what happened, but she didn't. The couple were quite emotional about her having received the gift.

As she got to the door on the way out, they told her she could expect the other gifts of the Spirit to appear soon. She didn't understand what they meant at the time.

Every day for the next week or so she was waiting for the gift of healing or gift of prophecy to "pop up". They were the only other gifts she'd heard of then, though she says there are nine. She says in England, two of the ministers she'd most respected had used those gifts and they were very effective in their ministry, and she'd also heard about an MP's wife who had the "gift of healing". She says they followed Bible teaching carefully, so she felt sure the gifts were genuine and useful, but she wondered how anyone would know when they had one. How would they know if they had healing, for example?

She was also puzzled as to why she was still unemotional about having received the gift. She'd read books like They Speak in Other Tongues that had led her to expect she'd have a great emotional high. But she didn't. She wondered if perhaps she hadn't got the right thing. She thought perhaps the gift was vastly over-rated anyway. She went around Hong Kong trying to find someone who would talk to her about it and no one would.

As the months passed, she began to dismiss the whole subject, since it seemed the "gift" obviously hadn't changed her Christian life.

But one day, she was introduced to an American couple called Rick and Jean Willans.

Jean asked if she spoke in tongues. Jackie said no, she hadn't found it that useful so she'd stopped. She found it a relief to be able to discuss it with someone.

But Jean wouldn't be sympathetic. She said stopping was very rude of her; it wasn't a gift of emotion but a gift of the Spirit; she shouldn't despise the gifts of the Spirit; the Bible said those who prayed in tongues would be built up spiritually; so never mind how she felt, she should do it anyway". Then she and her husband made Jackie promise to pray every day in tongues.

Jackie was shocked by her bluntness. Then, she was horrified when they suggested they all pray together in tongues. She wasn't sure it was allright, since the Bible says people shouldn't all speak aloud in tongues at the same time. The Willans explained that Paul had been referring to church services where if outsiders came in and heard people doing that, they'd think they were all crazy. But they said just the three of them alone in private wouldn't be offending anyone, and it would be nice because they'd be talking in the language God had given them.

Jackie knew she'd have to go along with them. So they all prayed and she felt silly saying words she didn't understand. She felt hot. And then to her consternation, they stopped praying while she felt impelled to carry on. She knew the gift is under the control of the user - she could stop and start when she wanted. But she just felt an urge to continue, although she began to think she'd die of self-consciousness. But then she felt as if God was saying to her, "Are you willing to be a fool for my sake?"

She gave in, thinking, "Allright, Lord, this doesn't make sense to me, but since you invented it, it must be a good gift, so I'll go ahead in obedience and you teach me how to pray."

After Jackie had finished, Jean said she had understood what she'd said. She said God had given her the interpretation, and she said what it was. Jackie thought it was beautiful! Jean said she'd said her heart was yearning for God and calling for him as if from the depths of a valley stream to the mountain tops. She loved him and longed for him to use her.

It was in language much more expressive and impressive than anything she could have put together. She decided that if God was helping her to pray like that, she'd never despise the gift again. She concluded that he was helping her to pray perfectly.

Every day after that, as she had promised the Willans, she prayed in tongues. Fifteen minutes by the clock. She still found it to be a chore. Before "praying in the Spirit", she would always say, "Lord, I don't know how to pray, or whom to pray for. Will you pray through me - and will you lead me to the people who want you?"

She says that after about six weeks, she noticed something "remarkable". The people she talked to about Jesus believed. She couldn't understand why at first and wondered how her Chinese had improved so much in such a short time, or whether she'd somehow managed to hit on a wonderful new evangelistic technique. But she was saying the same things as before. It was a while before she realised what had changed. But then she started to feel sure what was happening was that now she was talking about Jesus to people who actually wanted to hear. She'd let God have a hand in her prayers and it had produced a direct result, it seemed. Instead of deciding what she wanted to do for God and asking his blessing, she was now asking him to do his will through her, as she prayed in the Spirit.

She discovered that now, person after person wanted to accept Jesus. She felt she couldn't be proud; she could only wonder that God let her be a small part of his work.

Then, she did start feeling strong emotion. It never came when she was speaking in tongues; but when she saw the results, she was "literally delighted".

Listen to Jackie Pullinger sermons and talks about her life.

Read reviews of the book Chasing the Dragon on Amazon.

The true story of how one woman's faith resulted in the conversion of hundreds of drug addicts, prostitutes and hardened criminals in Hong Kong's infamous Walled City.

Caution Against Believing All Speaking in Tongues is Supernatural

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
If you'd like to read the basic Bible teaching about the way the Bible says God's Holy Spirit can transform people's lives, helping to turn them into better, less sinful people, please visit : What The Bible Says About The Life-Changing Power Of The Holy Spirit.

Or go directly to the next in the series: Claims Of Miraculous Cure From Heroin Addiction Through The Use Of The Gift Of Tongues.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

Warning Against Believing Everything you Hear or Read

Don't be afraid to question the truth of what a religious authority figure tells you, or even the Bible or other holy books themselves, or certain people's interpretation of them. Nothing to do with religion or the supernatural is so well established in fact it shouldn't be questioned. To find out why caution is a good idea, visit:

The Beauty of the New Testament's Moral Teaching and Other Important Pages on this Website

Are you up to trying the challenges of the New Testament's moral guidelines, and would you like to know more of what it says about the love of Jesus? Here are some links to Bible quotes about the beautiful ideals the New Testament encourages Christians to try to live up to:

There are a lot of pages on this website with quotations from the Old Testament on them. Many of these are unfortunately rather gruesome, since the main theme of the Old Testament is warnings and stories about how it says societies were punished for mass lawless and hurtful behaviour, even to the extent of having war brought on them by God, that seem to have been designed to scare societies where crime and violence were rampant into behaving more ethically. In case there is any misunderstanding, it should be understood that this website does not endorse war as anything other than a last resort. The position of the website owner can be gleaned from the articles:

Fancy some light relief or laughter therapy? Then go to the first of our jokes pages:

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