Spring 2013: Seeking After a Sign - Part 2
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Summary: In our hyped up, thrill-seeking culture, today’s Christians clamor for miraculous signs. Is speaking in tongues the sign of baptism by the Holy Spirit? Seeking After a Sign examines the evidence in Scripture.
 
This article is part of a series. We recommend that you first read: Seeking After a Sign - Part 1.
 

The extreme. The flashy. The totally shocking. These are the things that people in our culture seem to want.

We have degenerated into a society of adrenaline junkies and fear addicts. If it doesn’t grab us, we aren’t interested. The simple, quiet, calm things in life are just not enough to attract our attention. This state of things is by design—not God’s design, of course, but Satan’s. It is his plan to get our senses so debilitated, so corrupted, that we are no longer interested in the peace, quiet, and simplicity that God has to offer. This is why miraculous signs are such a draw for people today in the Christian world. Signs are just one more extreme, one more totally shocking experience to complement and satisfy the need we see evident in our society today.

The Gift of Tongues

Some would say tongues is the gift of the Holy Spirit. I would say that the ability to speak in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit, one among many. Yet there are many charismatic churches today that believe that the gift of tongues is the evidence that you have the Holy Spirit within you. If you believe this, I challenge you to look more closely at Scripture. You may be surprised to see what the Bible really says about the gift of tongues.

We are counseled to combat error with truth:

Do not cherish a spirit of controversy. Little good is accomplished by denunciatory speeches. The surest way to destroy false doctrine is to preach the truth. Keep to the affirmative. Let the precious truths of the gospel kill the force of evil. Show a tender, pitiful spirit toward the erring. Come close to hearts (Lt 190, 1902 [Ev 304]).

The Work of the Holy Spirit

What then does the Bible say about the gift of tongues? Is it the miraculous sign that signifies the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as many believe? In order to understand the gift of tongues, we must first understand the purpose of this gift and the work of the Holy Spirit. So let’s begin with a closer look at the work of the Holy Spirit. This work is described in John 16:6-14:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment Of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for he shall receive of Mine, and shall show [it] unto you (emphases added).

Let us look closely at this passage. First, the Holy Spirit is a Comforter. The word in the Greek is paraklētos:

  • Summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid; in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant.1
  • An intercessor, consoler: - advocate, comforter.2

In short then, the work of the Holy Spirit is to come to our aid, to intercede, to strengthen (succor), console, and to help us. John 16:6-14 also provides a more detailed description of the Spirit’s work:

  1. Reproving the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment,
  2. Guiding us into all truth, and
  3. Glorifying Christ.

These are the parameters of the Holy Spirit’s work which God has laid out in Scripture. I did not invent this job description so that I could limit God. And we shouldn’t try to make the Holy Spirit work outside of these parameters, either!

Purpose of the Gifts

As we now look to the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s gift of tongues, we must not reach outside God’s definition of the Holy Spirit’s work, nor outside the purposes for the gifts. To find the purpose of tongues let us begin in Acts 2:4: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." "Tongues" is here translated from the Greek word glossawhich, according to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon means "the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations."3

This same word is used many times in the Bible to denote just that: known languages of distinct people groups (See Revelation 5:9, 7:9, 14:6; Mark 16:10).

Going back to the book of Acts now, let us look to the context of this story in Acts 2:5 to see exactly what the Lord is saying:

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

Notice what the Bible says: the Galilean disciples were speaking in the mother tongues of foreigners from "out of every nation under heaven." They were not speaking in unintelligible syllables or noises that needed to be translated. What did the foreign Jews hear? "We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). And that, my friends, is in perfect harmony with the purpose of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ and convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment. How wonderful is the Word of God! If we would just read it for what it says—and believe it—how much less confusion would we have to endure!

The work and purpose of the Holy Spirit is the parameter within which the gifts work. The gifts are only for fulfilling the purpose that God has laid out in the Scripture. What then do we say to those who are experiencing tongues in their church? Come back to the Word of God! Experience alone doesn’t lead to truth. The Word is truth.

Stay tuned for part three! We will be going to 1 Corinthians and letting the Bible explain the gift of tongues.

Until then, may God be with you always.

After having served the Lord as lay pastor and then pastor in the Rocky Mountain Conference for six years, speaker/evangelist Joel Kratzke has felt called to preach the Three Angels’ Message to any and all who will hear. Committed to going wherever the Lord leads to share the everlasting Gospel, Joel draws on his past experience as pastor/evangelist to share the present truth in a clear and moving manner, from prophecy to Bible truth for every day. Joel lives with his wife Valerie and their children in Minnesota.

Watch for a lecture series by Joel Kratzke on the Amazing Discoveries webstore.


1. Joseph Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Henderson Pub, 1996).

2. James Strong, "paraklétos." Strong’s Concordance, http://biblesuite.com/greek/3875.htm.

3. Joseph Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Henderson Pub, 1996).

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