Ruach HaKodesh and “Tongues”

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Ruach HaKodesh and “Tongues”

Shalom,

I have a question about the ministry of the Ruach haKodesh, (Holy Spirit).

I have a friend that has been a Christian for 24 years in a Pentecostal church. She believes very strongly that the ministry of the Holy Spirit gives men spiritual gifts.

"YHWH also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.” (Hebrews 2:4)

"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Ruach ha Kodesh” (Jude 1:20)

She telephoned me last week and during our conversation she said that these scriptures referred to a holy language that we should use between us and God ... that I should pray to speak in tongues. I researched the Scriptures and found that in that matter of speaking in tongues we do differ; men and women will be having their say until the Lord returns and settles the matter. The term that is used to identify the tongues movement is “glossolalia,” made up of two Greek words, glossa (language or tongue) and lalia (speech). It therefore means speaking in languages or tongues.

For me, I have come under the conviction that the “languages” spoken of in the Bible refers to the individual’s language and was designed for the unbeliever.

Yesterday she rang again and said the same, but also that as a receptacle filled with Ruach haKodesh we should be doing the same as the disciples: making the blind see, raising the dead, making the deaf hear, etc.

To be honest, I thought this was metaphorical and we have a daily life in the Lord -- not to go seeking these things. She is embarking on a trip to Israel and says that the Lord wills these things. She says that I am too “religious.” She also said she can’t stay in a Messianic Synagogue because they don’t sing in tongues, or dance, or have freedom in the Holy Spirit.

I really do not know how to answer her, and we speak often. Am I wrong? What is the true ministry of Ruach ha Kodesh?

Thanks for your input.

L.T.

[Question edited for privacy — Ari]


Shalom, L.T.

The answer to your question is not an easy one, and differences of opinion have literally split Christianity over this very issue. The question of “tongues” is therefore not a “Messianic” question, per se, but one that applies throughout the entire Body of Messiah.

First of all, let me give a bit of personal background so you will know where I am personally coming from. I turned 63 yesterday (May 17, 2009) and have been involved in some sort of ministry since I was ten years old. [More about that here.] That gives me over 50 years of ministry involvement, approximately 14 years of which were spent in lay leadership within Pentecostal congregations. I have a great love for Pentecostal Christians and their devotion to Messiah.

However (and here’s the really tricky part), in the 14 years I spent in Pentecostal assemblies I NEVER — not one SINGLE time — witnessed the use of “tongues” that followed the Biblical pattern or requirement, and I have observed that within Pentecostal assemblies, those who do not practice “tongues” are considered and treated as less spiritual than those who do, and are often treated as “second class citizens.” This is far from Biblical! So, that being said, we need to find out (without becoming emotionally involved in the discussion) how the “gift of tongues” was used in the Apostolic Scriptures.

Having studied the subject at considerable length, I can find only three times in the entire Apostolic Scriptures that specifically state that people “spoke with other tongues” when they received Ruach HaKodesh.

The first time was at the Temple (nope, not in an “upper room") on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) [See also here.]

The second time was in the home of the Roman Centurion Cornelius, a Gentile (Acts 10:44-48).

The third time was with the Jewish disciples of Yochanan the Baptizer (Acts 19:1-7).

In Acts 8:14-17 Kefa (Cephas or Peter) and Yochanan (John) were ministering to the first Messianic Samaritans, and when “they began laying their hands on them, ... they were receiving the Holy Spirit.” However, in this instance there is no mention of them speaking in other “tongues” (languages).

So let’s examine these four events in chronological order to see if we can find some common denominators — a pattern.

On Pentecost (Shavuot, Acts 2) all the Apostles were waiting to be “endowed from on high” with power for ministry as Yeshua had promised. Ruach HaKodesh came in what was essentially a reenactment of the Sinai experience (in which the Torah was given, according to the tradition with which the Apostles would have been familiar, in all of the 70 languages of humanity). When Ruach HaKodesh came upon them they began “speaking of the mighty deeds of God” in languages which they had not previous known. Dr Luke is very clear in his telling of the event that these languages were not some “unknown tongue” or “heavenly language” or “gibberish,” but were the languages of all these “devout men from every nation under heaven” who were their witnesses. Then Dr Luke provides a partial list of the languages represented.

They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak. Now there were staying in Yerushalayim religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered; they were confused, because each one heard the believers speaking in his own language. Totally amazed, they asked, “How is this possible? Aren't all these people who are speaking from the Galil? How is it that we hear them speaking in our native languages? We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Y'hudah, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome; Jews by birth and proselytes; Jews from Crete and from Arabia! How is it that we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done?” (Acts 2:4-11, CJB)

Who were present? Apostles and unbelieving Jews from Jerusalem, Judea, and the Diaspora. (Though they were “devout men” who loved ADONAI and followed His Torah, they were “unbelieving” that Yeshua was the Messiah for Whom they were waiting.) What was the result? Unbelievers became believers, and there was a visible sign that Adonai was at work bringing Jews from all over the world into the Messianic Community.

The chronologically second of the four events I listed above (Acts 8) is when Kefa and Yochanan were ministering to the first Messianic Samaritans, and when “they began laying their hands on them, ... they were receiving the Holy Spirit.” However, in this instance there is no mention of them speaking in other tongues.

When the emissaries in Yerushalayim heard that Shomron [Samaria] had received the Word of God, they sent them Kefa and Yochanan, who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Ruach HaKodesh. For until then he had not come upon any of them; they had only been immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua.

Then, as Kefa and Yochanan placed their hands on them, they received the Ruach HaKodesh. Shim'on [a.k.a. Simon the Sorcerer] saw that the Spirit was given when the emissaries placed their hands on them, and he offered them money. (Acts 8:14-18 CJB)

In Dr. Luke’s account of this event there is absolute no mention of “speaking in other tongues.” However, there was some sort of physical manifestation by which all those present were made aware that the Believers had “received the Ruach HaKodesh.” Our Pentecostal friends insist that this sign was the sign of languages, so let’s grant them that for the moment, and look at the pattern.

Who were present? Apostles, believing Samaritans (half-Jewish people), and unbelievers. What was the result? There was some kind of visible sign that Adonai was accepting half-Jewish Believers into the Messianic Community, and unbelievers throughout the area apparently came to Messiah (v. 25).

The next time chronologically that we find a similar event is in the home of Cornelius, a Gentile.

Kefa was still saying these things when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on all who were hearing the message. All the believers from the Circumcision faction who had accompanied Kefa were amazed that the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh was also being poured out on the Goyim, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Kefa’s response was, “Is anyone prepared to prohibit these people from being immersed in water? After all, they have received the Ruach HaKodesh, just as we did.” And he ordered that they be immersed in the name of Yeshua the Messiah. Then they asked Kefa to stay on with them for a few days. (Acts 10:44-48 CJB).

Who were present? Apostles, other Messianic Jews, and Gentile Believers. What was the result? There was a visible sign that Adonai was accepting Gentiles into the Messianic Community, and the Gospel advanced into the entire world.

The fourth and final time in Scripture that speaks of the giving of Ruach HaKodesh, and the third time that languages are specifically associated with the event, was with the (apparently Jewish) disciples of Yochanan the Baptizer in Ephesus (in the Diaspora).

While Apollos was in Corinth, Sha'ul completed his travels through the inland country and arrived at Ephesus, where he found a few talmidim. He asked them, “Did you receive the Ruach HaKodesh when you came to trust?” “No,” they said to him, “we have never even heard that there is such a thing as the Ruach HaKodesh.”

“In that case,” he said, “into what were you immersed?” “The immersion of Yochanan,” they answered. Sha'ul said, “Yochanan practiced an immersion in connection with turning from sin to God; but he told the people to put their trust in the one who would come after him, that is, in Yeshua.” On hearing this, they were immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua; and when Sha'ul placed his hands on them, the Ruach HaKodesh came upon them; so that they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. In all, there were about twelve of these men. (Acts 19:1-7 CJB)

Who were present? Apostles and Jewish disciples of Yochanan the Immerser in the Diaspora? What was the result? Adonai gave a physical sign that the Gospel was to be carried into the Diaspora, disciples of Yochanan became disciples of Yeshua, and many Jews and Gentiles in Ephesus came to Messiah.

So then, what is the clear pattern in these events? In each event, there were Apostles present, and a physical sign was given TO THOSE APOSTLES of Adonai’s acceptance of a specific group of people into the Messianic Community (those who received Ruach HaKodesh). The first time marked the acceptance of Jews and God-fearers in Jerusalem; the second event marked the acceptance of Samaritans, who were only half Jewish; the third time marked the acceptance of Gentiles; and the fourth and final time that a manifestation of languages accompanied the giving of Ruach HaKodesh was at the acceptance of the Jews in the Diaspora into the Messianic Community. Thus we can see the clear pattern that God gave the Apostles specific signs of acceptance as the Gospel advanced from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), throughout Y'hudah (Judea), then to Shomron (Samaria), and finally to the ends of the earth (the Diaspora). (Acts 1:8)

Subsequent to these events in the Book of Acts, Rav Sha'ul lists languages (or “tongues”) among the sign gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and provides further instruction for their used in 1 Corinthians 13 and 14.

Now there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. Also there are different ways of serving, but it is the same Lord being served. And there are different modes of working, but it is the same God working them all in everyone. Moreover, to each person is given the particular manifestation of the Spirit that will be for the common good. To one, through the Spirit, is given a word of wisdom; to another, a word of knowledge, in accordance with the same Spirit; to another, faith, by the same Spirit; and to another, gifts of healing, by the one Spirit; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the ability to judge between spirits; to another, the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues; and to yet another, the ability to interpret tongues. One and the same Spirit is at work in all these things, distributing to each person as he chooses. (1 Cor 12:4-11 CJB)

The Bible teaches that ALL believers now receive the permanent indwelling Ruach HaKodesh at the moment of salvation, however the Pentecostal movement teaches that the manifestation of languages is ALWAYS the first evidence of anyone receiving Ruach HaKodesh. To accept that teaching literally forces us to conclude that only those who “speak in tongues” are saved, since salvation includes receiving Ruach HaKodesh. Does Rav Sha'ul agree?

Now you together constitute the body of the Messiah, and individually you are parts of it. And God has placed in the Messianic Community first, emissaries; second, prophets; third, teachers; then those who work miracles; then those with gifts of healing; those with ability to help; those skilled in administration; and those who speak in various tongues. Not all are emissaries, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? or teachers? or miracle-workers? Not all have gifts of healing, not all speak in tongues, not all interpret, do they? (1 Cor 12:27-30 CJB, emphasis added)

Rav Sha'ul, writing under the inspiration of Ruach HaKodesh (about Whom he is writing) clearly says that not all Believers speak in tongues. If the Scriptures are true when they say that all Believers receive Ruach HaKodesh at salvation, and if the Scriptures are true when they say that not all Believers speak in tongues, then who is correct? The Pentecostal teachers or the Scriptures?

In 1 Corinthians 14 Rav Sha'ul goes on to say that he would prefer that Believers would prophesy rather than speak in tongues. It is important to understand that the word “prophesy” does NOT mean to foretell the future, though the ancient prophets did so. The word translated “prophesy” literally means to speak on behalf of another. Thus when Adonai commissioned Moshe to confront Pharaoh and Moshe balked because he was not an eloquent speaker, Adonai appointed his brother Aharon to be the “prophet of Moshe” (Exodus 7:1-2) — that is, Aharon was to speak to Pharaoh on behalf of Moshe. While it is absolutely true that the ancient prophets included predictive elements in the message of Adonai that they spoke to the people on His behalf, those predictive elements were to demonstrate the authority of Adonai by which they spoke, since only Adonai can see the future. However, they were not prophets because they foretold future events; they were prophets because they spoke to the people on behalf of Adonai.

So what, then, is Rav Sha'ul saying is more important to the Messianic Community than the ability to speak in languages that the speaker has not learned? More important is the ability to speak to the Community on behalf of Adonai — we call that “preaching” and/or “teaching”  nowadays! Rav Sha'ul then continues in the same letter to teach that “tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers” and to provide the “rules” for the exercise of the gift of languages in the assembly:

Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole congregation comes together with everybody speaking in tongues, and uninstructed people or unbelievers come in, won't they say you're crazy? But if you all prophesy, and some unbeliever or uninstructed person enters, he is convicted of sin by all, he is brought under judgment by all, and the secrets of his heart are laid bare; so he falls on his face and worships God, saying, “God is really here among you!” What is our conclusion, brothers? Whenever you come together, let everyone be ready with a psalm or a teaching or a revelation, or ready to use his gift of tongues or give an interpretation; but let everything be for edification. If the gift of tongues is exercised, let it be by two or at most three, and each in turn; and let someone interpret. And if there is no one present who can interpret, let the people who speak in tongues keep silent when the congregation meets -- they can speak to themselves and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, while the others weigh what is said. And if something is revealed to a prophet who is sitting down, let the first one be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, with the result that all will learn something and all will be encouraged. Also, the prophets' spirits are under the prophets' control; for God is not a God of unruliness but of shalom. (1 Cor 14:22-33 CJB, emphasis added)

So then, the use of languages in the assembly is to be governed by these rules:

1. Everything done is to be done in order and for edification of the Body.

2. There are to be no more than two or three messages in languages given at any one time.

3. The message given in languages is to be interpreted by a translator other than the speaker of that message.

4. If there is no translator present then the speaker of languages is to remain silent.

Additionally, every time that languages are manifested in the Scriptures, they are the known languages of someone present. Thus when languages are used in the assembly in accordance with the Biblical requirements, the language is not known by the speaker but is known by another person in the assembly who can render an accurate translation so that all present may know that the message comes from Ruach HaKodesh and not from the speaker.

Well, then, what about the “language of the angels” that some claim to have been given the ability to speak? There is absolutely no evidence anywhere in the Scripture that any human has ever been given the angelic language. In fact, the only mention is in 1 Corinthians 13:1 when Rav Sha'ul provides a list of things that he does NOT have and does NOT do. This literary tool is called hyperbole, or exaggeration for the intent of illustration.

If I speak with the tongues of men [which I do] and [even] of angels [which I do not], but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy [which I do], and know all mysteries and all knowledge [which I do not]; and if I have all faith [which I do not], so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor [which I have not], and if I surrender my body to be burned [which I have not], but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor 13:1-3 NASB)

You said that you “have come under the conviction that the languages spoken of in the Bible was the individual’s language and was designed for the unbeliever.” I believe that you are absolutely correct. Moreover, I believe that the sign of languages was given specifically for the Jewish unbeliever, not for the Gentiles.

For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom. (1 Cor 1:22)

I have a bit of a challenge for your friend: If she expects you to come around to her way of thinking, then she must be able to tell you when she personally made the blind see, personally raised the dead, or personally made the deaf hear. If she cannot, then she is asking you do do something that she herself is either unwilling or unable to do.

She also said she “can't stay in a Messianic Synagogue because they don’t sing in tongues, or dance, or have freedom in the Holy Spirit.” She is totally incorrect in that regard! In most Messianic Synagogues they sing in Hebrew [a “tongue” usually spoken fluently by only a very few, if any at all, in the congregation], practice Davidic dance, and have total freedom in Ruach HaKodesh — however, most do follow Rav Sha'ul’s instruction to “do everything decently and in order.” In fact, there are many Messianic Synagogues which practice “speaking in tongues” as do Pentecostal Christian assemblies. [So there are obviously many Messianic Synagogues, rabbis, and pastors who disagree with my understanding of the Bible’s teaching on the issue of languages in the Body of Messiah!]

The last part of your question was: “What is the true ministry of Ruach ha Kodesh?”

The Biblical ministry of Ruach HaKodesh is to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He is a Divine Person, possessing all of the attributes of Deity, He is fully God, and is therefore coequal to and coeternal with the Father and the Son. With both the Father and the Son, He was an active agent in the creation, and He is the Supernatural Agent in regeneration and sanctification, immersing all believers into the Body of Mashiach (the Miqra), equally and permanently indwelling every believer, and sealing them unto the day of redemption. He is the Divine Teacher, Who inspired and superintended the writing of Scripture, Who illuminates the interpretation of Scripture, and Who guides believers into all truth, assisting believers to understand and appropriate the Scriptures. It is therefore the privilege and duty of all true Believers in Mashiach to be filled with and controlled by Ruach HaKodesh.

Again, please understand that I certainly do not speak for the entire Messianic Jewish movement — not by a long shot! But disagreement about such a relatively minor issue should NEVER be the basis for separation of fellowship. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and certainly don’t anticipate having them this side of the Olam Habah!

I love what the old radio preacher James Vernon McGee use to say: “When we get to Heaven, you will find that you agree with me because we will both have changed our minds about a lot of things!”

In closing (how’s that for preacher talk?) let me provide you with a narrative of the ONLY time that I have personally heard of in which the gift of languages was used following the true Biblical pattern. I did not personally observe this event, but the pastor of this particular congregation was my Greek professor in Seminary.

A member of my professor’s congregation in San Francisco was a Messianic Jew. (Remember that the modern Messianic Movement only began in 1967. This event occurred in the mid-1970’s before there were more than a very small handful of Messianic Jewish congregations in existence anywhere.) For the sake of the story, let’s call him Jacob. Jacob could only read enough Hebrew to get him past his Bar Mitzvah. That is, he could phonetically pronounce the words of Torah, but only with very limited understanding.

Jacob had an Orthodox friend (let’s call him Saul) who was a very successful physician in San Francisco. For years Jacob had been trying to convince Saul that Yeshua is Israel’s Messiah, and Saul had for years successfully resisted.

Finally, Saul told Jacob to “stop with all the Jesus talk if you value my friendship. I’m a Jew and I am NOT going to convert to Christianity!” So in order to maintain their friendship, Jacob stopped “witnessing” to Saul.

One evening Jacob was having dinner in Saul’s home, and after dinner they retired to the den to relax over their coffee. Jacob felt compelled by Ruach HaKodesh to try one more time to win Saul to the Messiah. Because he did not want to hurt Saul’s feelings and run the risk of losing his friendship, Jacob resisted for over two hours.

When it was almost time for Jacob to go home, he could resist Ruach HaKodesh no longer, and began for what he felt would be the last time to try to lead Saul to his Messiah. Beginning with Isaiah 53, he explained how Yeshua had fulfilled all the prophetic requirements for the Messiah, and to his utter amazement, Saul actually listened for the very first time.

After about an hour, Saul finally interrupted him. “Jacob,” Saul said, “this is all very interesting. But when did you learn to speak Hebrew? I thought you didn't know how!” It turns out that for the past hour, Jacob had been speaking fluent Hebrew; a language of which he had only a very rudimentary vocabulary.

Jacob explained to Saul that he in fact could not speak Hebrew, and explained to him Joel’s prophecy just as Peter had explained it at the Temple that Pentecost.

The following Sunday morning just as the choir was coming in and the pastor (my professor) was taking his place on the platform to begin the worship service, Saul came running down the aisle shouting and leaping for joy that Yeshua is Israel’s Messiah and Saul’s savior!

To the very best of my understanding, the experience of Jacob and Saul is exactly the pattern that the “gift of tongues” is to follow.

Shalom b'Mashiach!

Ari

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