By Rev. Tim Sullivan


Even before the historical Day of Pentecost, there were men and women (howbeit a chosen few) who were filled with the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost. Among many others, we have the examples of Zacharias and Elisabeth, the parents of John the Baptist:

Luke 1:41
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

Luke 1:67a
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied...

Their son, John, (known throughout Christendom as "John the Baptist") was filled with the Holy Ghost even before he was born! No one before or after him has experienced such a unique anointing.

Luke 1:15
For he [John] shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

The use of this phrase – being "filled with the Holy Ghost" – is unique to the inspired writings of Luke. In addition to its three appearances in his gospel, it is found six more times in the book of Acts, and always in association with the marvelous thing that follows; it is the CAUSE that produces the EFFECT.

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.

Acts 4:8
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel... [This begins Peter's prophetic message].

Acts 4:31b
...and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Acts 13:9-10a
9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
10 And said... [This is where Paul rebukes the sorcerer Elymas.]

Paul acknowledges this cause and effect in his letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:18b-19
18 ...be filled with the Spirit;
19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Being "filled with the Holy Ghost" is not unique to the dispensation that began on the Day of Pentecost. But something else IS unique to this age. Now that the Comforter has come, a person can be "baptized with the Holy Ghost." Jesus likened it to being baptized in water.

Acts 1:5
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

It is through this spiritual baptism that a person receives the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:17
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

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As we learned in the first lesson of this series, The Ministry of the Holy Ghost, one of the great purposes of the indwelling Spirit is to SEAL our salvation. But this is a truth we must accept by faith, just like the promise of eternal life. There is no feeling of euphoria or holiness that accompanies the arrival of the Holy Spirit into our lives. What PROOF does anyone have that the Holy Ghost really dwells within him? Jesus prepared his disciples to receive "power from on high." What is energized by this power that, among other things, provides tangible proof that the power is REAL?

Until you plug an appliance into your wall socket and turn it on, you do not know if that socket is wired into electricity. Power is made manifest through the things it energizes. The Holy Spirit manifests its presence in a person’s life through the special abilities it distributes and then energizes. These abilities are commonly known as the gifts of the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:8
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

The place where "he saith" this is Psalm 68. It is here we learn that these gifts are not a REWARD for a close walk with God. They help you DEVELOP a close walk with God.

Psalm 68:18  
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.

Just like a house that is equipped with electricity and filled with appliances that are plugged in but not turned on, the gifts of the Spirit lie dormant within you until they are stirred into action. No additional faith is required to RECEIVE the gifts (they come with being baptized with the Holy Ghost) but it does take faith to UTILIZE them.

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Only God knows the fullness of the unseen work of the Spirit within you. But the Holy Ghost makes its presence known when the gifts it brings are stirred into action. This evidence of things unseen, the MANIFESTATION of the Spirit, benefits the individual, the church, and ultimately, the world.

1 Corinthians 12:7
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 

1 Corinthians 12:4 says, "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." Chapter 12 lists nine different ways the Holy Spirit can show itself through the people it indwells.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

The Bible clearly states that every man (that is to say, everyone who has received the Holy Ghost) receives "several" gifts. Everyone who has received the Holy Spirit can be used to manifest its power in more than one way.

1 Corinthians 12:11
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

The different gifts are distributed and energized by the Holy Spirit according to a person's calling, his faith, and the Spirit's purpose.

1 Corinthians 12:29-30
29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

The ultimate jurisdiction over these gifts belongs to the Holy Spirit. No gift will "work" until it is energized by the Spirit. Some gifts are more exclusive than others – clearly, not all Christians are apostles or prophets. No one has ever been given the ability or authority to heal whoever he wishes to heal. But there is also the matter of faith. Paul did not ask, "CAN all speak with tongues?" He asked, "DO all speak with tongues?" That is a big difference. Suffice to say, when the will of God and the faith of the believer are in harmony, the gifts will be energized by the Holy Spirit.


The nine gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 divide logically into three group according to their use and profit:

By three gifts we SPEAK a new thing:
1) divers kinds of tongues, 2) prophecy, and 3) interpretation of tongues.

By three gifts we LEARN a new thing:
1) the word of knowledge, 2) the word of wisdom, and 3) the discerning of spirits.

By three gifts we DO a new thing:
1) faith, 2) the working of miracles, and 3) gifts of healings.

In-depth study of the Bible is required to understand these gifts and how they fit into God's plan for his people. If there is anything that has crippled the Christians of this generation, it is their desire for (and satisfaction with) fast answers. An impatient mind is an undisciplined mind, and a disciplined mind is the first step towards being a disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Matthew 28:19
Go ye therefore, and teach [matheteuo: make disciples of] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

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How is speaking in tongues helpful to a Christian in his private life? This is what we will look into now.

In the King James Version of the Bible, one gift from the Holy Spirit is called "divers kinds of tongues." Here, DIVERS is an Old English spelling of the word DIVERSE meaning "differing one from another."

A "kind" is a classification or genre. We learn from the book of Genesis that all life on earth was brought forth "after his kind."

Genesis 1:11
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

Genesis 1:24
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

The Scriptures name two KINDS or classifications of tongues: the languages of men, and the languages of angels.

1 Corinthians 13:1  
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

When someone speaks using the gift of tongues, the language he speaks will be either a tongue of men or a tongue of angels, according to the prerogative of the Holy Spirit.


Of the nine spiritual gifts, the gift of tongues is the only one whose principle benefit is for the person using the gift. This is very intriguing since the Bible clearly states that the person speaking in tongues will not understand the meaning of the words he says.

1 Corinthians 14:2
For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

The purpose of language is communication. But this gift is NOT for communicating man-to-man. This gift allows my spirit to talk to God about things that are beyond the capacity of my own mind.

The art of teaching requires comparing something unknown to something familiar. For God to teach us about himself, he must compare himself to something from our world. He tells us that he is a rock, a strong tower, and a shelter. Of course he is SO MUCH MORE than these things. God's true essence is incomparable to anything in this world, anything we know. Whatever we perceive God to be, he is MORE.

Unfortunately, our natural mind is an expert at masking its limitations. Anything that exceeds its comprehension is tossed into a bin it calls "foolishness." As 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him." Everything about the Spirit of God is RIDICULOUS to the natural "scientific" mind of man. The idea that a person can speak in a language he has never heard before, and can neither identify nor understand, is inconceivable.

But together with the Spirit of Christ, "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). The mind is Christ IS able to fathom the unfathomable things of God. And when we speak in tongues, our spirit "speaketh unto God" and "speaketh mysteries."

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The Spirit of Christ in a born-again Christian is called his "inner" man. The unregenerated man of the flesh is called the "outward' man.

2 Corinthians 4:16
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

When we speak in tongues, we increase the capacity of the inner spiritual man, allowing it to exercise more control over the outward carnal man.

Jude 1:20
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost...

As the Spirit of God manifests itself through our speaking in tongues, the inner man is edified or built up.

1 Corinthians 14:4a
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself…

Why should I speak in tongues? It is God's desire for every member of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:5a
I would that ye all spake with tongues …

Remember, Paul did not ask, "CAN all speak with tongues?" He asked, "DO all speak with tongues?" If we believe the Bible, we must concede that God would like for ALL his children to speak in tongues.

(The 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians compares the benefit of the gift of tongues to the gift of prophecy during a congregational meeting. Right now, we are studying the benefits of speaking in tongues in the seclusion of your private life, and so I am including only the part of the verse that is relevant to that. We will look at these verses in their entirety in the next lesson.)

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Speaking in tongues strengthens and expands our personal prayer life. It is by speaking in tongues that "my spirit prayeth."

1 Corinthians 14:14-15   
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

Prayers with our understanding unburden our hearts of our cares and troubles. Prayers with the spirit help us when we do not know what we should pray for.

Romans 8:26a
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought...

Being a Christian means being burdened for those who do not know Christ or are struggling along the way. We have a unique responsibility to pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority" (1 Tim 2:2). As for ourselves, Jesus taught that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). Our minds can grow weary just THINKING about all the things that need our prayers. But all the while we are praying in tongues for other people, we are ministering to ourselves! How foolish it would be to neglect such a useful gift!

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Finally, speaking in tongues helps us to express our thankfulness to God when our own minds cannot find the appropriate words.

1 Corinthians 14:17a   
For thou verily givest thanks well…

As 2 Corinthians 9:15 says, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift."


Holding a trumpet to your lips does not produce sound. The sound comes as you use your lips and your breath to blow through the trumpet. Your participation is required. The same is true for the gift of tongues. You use the gift by SPEAKING. Acts 2:4 says the apostles “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The men spoke and the Spirit gave them the words to speak.

2 Samuel 23:2
The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.

Speaking in tongues is an act of faith and trust. The words are born AS you speak and not BEFORE. You speak in faith that God will provide the words. Yes, your natural mind will try to dissuade you. But once your mind stops fighting the IMPROBABILITY of it all, the words will flow like a river.

John 7:37-39
37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

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In the next and final lesson of this three-part series, we will learn the Lord's guidelines for using the gift of tongues in a congregational meeting, and how the gift of tongues compares to the gift of prophecy.


Presented 21 November 2021 in French Settlement, Louisiana