Water. The elixir of life. You can’t live but a few days without it. It is such an important part of life that Jesus refers to it in so many of his teachings.
Now because water is so important to life it is no wonder that in this section He uses water as the principle that will give us life. Jesus quotes the Old Testament prophet saying, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (Verse 38) Living water! John then goes on to describe what Jesus was talking about and how we partake of this living water.
What is the Living Water?
Well that’s a pretty easy question because John tells us in verse 39. “Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Note that at the time the words were spoken by Jesus the Holy Spirit had not been given to man. Jesus said to the twelve in John 14:16-17,
16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever,
17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
The Holy Spirit was with the disciples prior to the death and resurrection of the Lord, but the Holy Spirit was not in-dwelling in them. John says that they “…were to receive…” the Holy Spirit, but they had not done so at that time.
We saw the beginning of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit after Jesus died, was resurrected and had returned to the Father. The initial outpouring took place on Pentecost Day when the disciples received the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues and prophesied that first time.
Do You Need to Speak in Tongues Today?
Tongues is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We clearly saw it given to the disciples at Pentecost and again at Ephesus when Paul laid hands on those disciples (Acts 19:1-6). But do we need speaking in tongues today? This is probably one of the most argued and discussed issues in the modern church. So lets look at it a little.
I will state first that you do not need tongues for salvation. Jesus saves us through the power of his death and resurrection. We are saved from sin by His death and born again to a new life in Christ through His resurrection. Tongues is not required then to be saved. But salvation is not the purpose of tongues.
Some think that the purpose of tongues was to preach the gospel in the early church. They believe that after the initial outpourings in the time of the disciples until the New Testament as we know it was written, tongues was no longer necessary.
They are wrong. All gifts that come from God are good gifts and every gift is of value including and especially tongues. Consider these scriptures:
1 Corinthians 14:5, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy.”
1 Corinthians 14:39, “So, my brethren, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”
Mark 16:17, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues…”
Note especially the last of these was a command of the Lord as part of the Great Commission. Tongues are one of the signs that will accompany those who believe according to His calling. Not the only sign, but one of them.
One of the strongest arguments about whether tongues are for today comes from Peter at Pentecost. In Acts 2:38-39 he said,
38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
This promise of the Holy Spirit and all that they saw that day, including the speaking in tongues, was to all that are far off, which includes us who were far off in time. But more importantly the gifts were for, “…every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
Do you believe you have been called to the Lord? If so, then this promise is offered to you. Do you speak in tongues? If not, then there is still a gift of the Holy Spirit that is on offer to you that you have not partaken of. Why would anyone reject a gift from the Lord? He ONLY gives us His good gifts and the gifts are given for a purpose. Many do not understand the purpose of the Holy Spirit and even more so the purpose of tongues.
What is the Work of the Holy Spirit?
The work of the Holy Spirit is primarily to do the work of transformation in our life and to change us into the image of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Verses in John 14, 15 & 16 show us that the Holy Spirit is our teacher, comforter, counselor, guide and protector. He does all of this so that the work of transformation can occur in our life. But what about the tongues?
Tongues are a form of communication. It is a prayer language between the indwelling Holy Spirit in us and God. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:26-28,
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
27 And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.
Each time we use the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues it is the Spirit using our tongue to converse and pray to the Lord “…with sighs too deep for words.” Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? And as we also see here, God knows what the Spirit wants for us and the the Spirit intercedes for us to God directly for OUR good. Everything the Spirit says to God on our behalf is for our benefit whether it is teaching, protection or to lift our spirits when we are down.
But some might say why not just speak in tongues? If the Spirit always speaks what is good for us and what we need, why both praying ourself? Well simply put the Lord wants to hear what we have to say. He wants us to come to Him with our praises and our requests, our worship and our burdens.
So Paul again gives us guidance as to how to use tongues saying in 1 Corinthians 14:14-15,
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my Spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.
15 What am I to do? I will pray with the Spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the Spirit and I will sing with the mind also.
What Paul is saying is to do both. When you pray, speak to the Lord yourself with your own voice and mind and then speak to the Lord with tongues. Do both and then you have all the bases covered.
Do you need to receive the Holy Spirit?
I would hope by now you can see there is value in receiving or at least seeking the gift of tongues from the Lord. You cannot speak in tongues unless you have first received the Holy Spirit. So if you do not receive the Holy Spirit, how can you receive all the benefits of the gift of the Spirit? How can you use this spiritual prayer language that is offered to “…every one whom the Lord our God calls to him,” (Acts 2:38) if you do not receive the Holy Spirit in the first place?
And if you don’t receive the Holy Spirit how can the work of transformation be fully achieved in your life? That is the primary work of the Spirit but if you do not receive the Spirit, how can this important work be done?
And how can you take the sword of the Spirit as described in Ephesians 6 if you don’t have the Spirit in the first place. It would be like sending a soldier to war without a weapon.
I will add one more point too. Another function of the Holy Spirit is to lift you up when you are down. This is walking in the Spirit. Any time that you are feeling low, or being attacked by Satan or having wrong thoughts or whatever. You can use the Holy Spirit to walk in the Spirit by speaking in tongues.
Tongues is not the only way to walk in the Spirit, but it is definitely one of the best. After all, what better way to walk in the Spirit than to use the power of the Spirit to lead, guide and lift you up. We see this discussed in 1 Corinthians 14:2 saying, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”
Prophecy builds up the whole church when it is used in the church, but tongues build up the individual. Just as a church may need direction from the Lord from time to time through prophecy to lift it up, so too the individual needs lifting up when they are down.
Does it work? Absolutely! So to answer the question…do you need the Holy Spirit? Only if you want ALL that the Lord is offering to, “…every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” Only if you want the Living Water that comes from Jesus.
Is that you? Want to know more? Add a comment or send me an email.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Izabelha)