"In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people ...
wherefore tongues are for a sign ..." (I Cor. 14:21,22).
The word "sign" as used in the new testament writings, refers to an indication, or a token. The word "token," in old testament terminology, means an evidence, or a sign. According to the preceding scripture, the supernatural phenomenon of speaking in tongues has been given by God for the purpose of being a sign, or we could say a token. Have you ever asked yourself the question, "If tongues are a sign, then what are they signifying? If an indication, then what are they pointing to?"
God permitting, I would like to add just a little clarity to this vastly misunderstood and controversial subject of
tongues, for the sake of our increased fellowship and joy in the body of Christ. And I know of no other way, than by carefully examining the Scriptures, to make such an attempt.The Covenants
To begin with, I would like to point out, that with every major covenant God has ever made with mankind, He has always provided His own chosen sign, or token, to mark evidence of the establishment of that covenant. After man's tragic fall in the garden of Eden, Noah became the first man with whom God established a covenant: "And I will establish My covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, this is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth" (Gen. 9:11-13). So every time we see the rainbow appear in the sky, we are reminded of this very covenant that God made with Noah.
Next we find that God chose to establish His covenant with Abraham. Hear the instructions which He gave to Abraham: "This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised . And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt Me and you" (Gen. 17:10,11). The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the
Assembly at Rome explained, "And he
(Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal (or mark) of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised" (Rom. 4:11). So it is evident that God set His stamp of approval, so to speak, on Abraham's faith by marking him with with the token, or sign of circumcision. And not only so, but this same token was also required to be on all his seed after him. God sternly warned Abraham, "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; He hath broken my covenant" (Gen. 17:14)
When God established the Mosaic covenant with Abraham's seed at Mount Sinai, this token of circumcision remained in effect for those who were Israelite born, as well as for foreigners who desired to become worshippers of the God of Israel (Gen. 17:12). And they also were given the sprinkling of blood after agreeing to the terms of God's covenant as spoken to them by Moses (Exd. 24:7, 8).
Furthering this thinking on God's covenants with man, I would like for us to consider, that a covenant, according to Mr. Webster, is actually "a mutual consent or agreement
between two or more persons." So we must realize, that in order for God to establish His covenant with anyone, He first must be convinced that His terms have been met. God always determines the criterion which is to be held in a covenant. It is always the duty of mankind to comply with His standard before we can be counted worthy of engaging in his covenant. This, I am persuaded is the reason that God Himself provides His own token, or sign, with which He marks those whom He accepts into His covenant. I find no evidence in the Scripture, of God having left any place for men to validate their own claims of being in covenant with Him, either by themselves, or among themselves! Glory to God!
The New Covenant
Jesus came into this world to accomplish a work that would enable Him to become "the mediator of a better covenant" (Heb. 8:6). And what is the substance of this new and better covenant (or testament)? The night before His crucifixion, Jesus carried out the symbolic
Passover of the Old Covenant with His twelve apostles. Knowing that His own blood would be the fulfillment of this ceremony, He passed out to His followers cups of wine saying, "Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the New Testament [or covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:27, 28).
Yes dear friend, this New Covenant which God has made available to us by the death and resurrection of His dear Son, is for the actual remission of the sinful nature from the heart of man; something the Old Covenant could only point to through its ceremonial ordinances (see Jer. 31:31-34). With "joy unspeakable" Paul wrote to the Hebrews: "For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, PURGE YOUR CONSCIENCE from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:13, 14).
May we now, "with reverence and godly fear," consider these all-important, weighty questions: When and how did this blessed New Covenant come into effect?
And how do we know that God has accepted us into His covenant?
Has God, Whom the Scripture says never changes, altered His practice of giving man His own token, or sign of His established covenant with Him?
In this greatest of all covenants, made available at such great cost, has God left it in our hands to confirm to ourselves, or to one another, that we have been accepted into His covenant? I think we would do well to let the Scriptures answer these things for us.
If Jesus' blood, as He said with His own mouth, was to be shed for the remission of sins; and if His followers were required to drink of that blood for the washing away of their sins, as He symbolized for them at the last supper; then when did this momentous event take place? We know that the wine he gave them was not it, for it was only a shadow type. He had not yet shed any blood. Was His natural blood which he shed on the cross the blood which took away sin from His followers' hearts? I have found no instance in the Scriptures where anyone drank of that blood. No, His disciples no more drank of His blood which was shed at Calvary than they broke up His crucified body and ate of it. They were hungering and thirsting for something beyond that; something that could reach the soul and fill that
void in the inner man.
The Priesthood And Blood Sacrifice Fulfilled
Under the Levitical priesthood, when the priests were ordained to offer sacrifice for the people, they first were required to spend seven days of consecration inside the tabernacle. Only after these days of consecration could they be permitted to offer atoning sacrifices for sin (Lev. 8:33-36). We know that Jesus was the true sacrificial "lamb of God" who was typified under the Old Covenant. We also realize that He is the true High Priest, also portrayed by the Mosaic order, through the Levitical priesthood. Now the Levitical high priest's main function was to mediate between God and Israel for the forgiveness of sins (Lev. 16). Paul explains how this was accomplished: "But in the second
(Most Holy Place) went the high priest alone once every year, NOT WITHOUT BLOOD, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people" (Heb. 9:7). It is also needful for us to consider that Jesus was not an High Priest while still on earth (Heb. 8:4), and therefore he could not procure forgiveness for the people's sins according the "new and living way."
With these things in mind, let us consider the timing and pattern of events which led to the establishment of the New Covenant. There were fifty days between the
Passover, or the last supper, and the day of Pentecost. Jesus was crucified the morning after taking the
Passover, and according to the Scripture, He spent three days and three nights in the tomb (actually his body was entombed while his spirit went to the "heart of the earth" and "preached unto the spirits in prison"). Luke tells us in Acts 1:3 that Jesus spent forty days on earth after His resurrection "speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That leaves seven days between his ascension and the day of Pentecost.
Friend, can you agree that Jesus was slain at Calvary as that perfect lamb, but he still needed to carry the blood of His sacrifice into "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Heb. 8:1, 2)? And why was it expedient for Him to offer Himself in the heavenly sanctuary? Paul explains that "when He had by Himself PURGED OUR SINS, [He] sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high..." (Heb. 1:3). Dear reader, according to what we have already seen, Jesus did not sit down at the right hand of God after dying on the cross; neither did he do so after coming forth from the grave. Only after He ascended "into heaven itself,... to appear in the presence of God FOR US" (Heb. 9:24), did He take His
mediatory seat by the Father, for this is where His work as High Priest began. The seven days between his ascension and Pentecost were His seven days of consecration which God required of Him before He could be permitted to bring remission of sins to those faithful, waiting disciples.
The New Covenant was established when Jesus began acting as High Priest and consequently "shed forth" from heaven the true remission of sins. As He poured out his precious life's blood that day, approximately an hundred and twenty thirsting, eager souls had their heart's cup turned up toward heaven, earnestly anticipating the blessed reward of their faith in the One whom they had watched die, resurrect, and ascend into heaven. As that flowing stream of mercy and forgiveness made the descent from heaven to earth, we are told that these dear souls "were all FILLED with the
holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, AS THE SPIRIT GAVE THEM UTTERANCE" (Acts 2:4). What power and joy they experienced as the heavy burden of the sinful nature was finally
washed away from their innermost being! In fact, the praise and worship they felt toward their Lord for bestowing this glorious experience upon them was far to great to express in their own words or by their own power. Jesus had told them previously, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (Jn. 6:53). With the utmost assurance, they could now say "Amen!" And again Paul emphasizes this reality to us in saying, we "have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (I Cor. 12:13). More Scriptural Notes Of Confirmation
When Paul, in I Cor. 14:21, 22, spoke of tongues as being a sign, he actually was referring to a prophecy of Isaiah: "For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak unto this people. To whom He said, this is the rest wherewith you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the REFRESHING..." (Isa. 28:11, 12). Peter, after his conversion at Pentecost, echoed the reality of this fulfilled prophecy, proclaiming, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of REFRESHING shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19). Yes reader, the burden of sin is lifted, or blotted out by the reception of the
holy Ghost, or we could say by entering into God's covenant; and the result is blessed rest and refreshing for the soul. And according to Isaiah and Paul, tongues are the accentuating sign, or token of the occurrence of this wonderful experience.
Paul informed the Hebrews that they had come "to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that SPEAKETH better things than that of Abel" (Heb. 12:24). Abel's blood cried unto God from the ground for justice, he having been slain by his brother Cain (Gen. 4:10). However, the blood of Christ, when it speaks through us, is declaring the forgiveness of sins which Jesus has offered to those whose sins were the reason for His agonizing death (meaning all of us). Again Paul verifies this for us: "But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God...whereof the
holy Ghost is also a witness unto us" (Heb. 10:12,15).
When one is cleansed from sin by the infilling of the Spirit, he is pure in the sight of God. After this however, he has the option of whether or not he is going to continue to purify himself through this same "spirit of holiness." Many people have seen imperfect behavior in some who are known to speak in
tongues, and therefore have been persuaded that this is not the determining evidence that one has
received the Spirit. But we need to take into consideration, that the Spirit of God, when it speaks through someone, is not necessarily signifying that person's righteousness (except in the case of the first time utterance), but it IS ALWAYS a token of the righteousness of Christ, and God's acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul relates this to us: "Wherefore I give you to understand, that NO MAN speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed..." (I Cor. 12:3).
Many feel that they have been forgiven of their sins because they have had an initial experience of deliverance from God, before or without being baptized with the Holy Ghost with the accompaniment of tongues. But we would be wise in noting that God did not establish His covenant with Noah, or Abraham, or the children of Israel
immediately upon dealing with them. Noah first built the ark and rode out the flood. Abraham spent several years in the land of Canaan after being called out from Ur of the Chaldees before God established the covenant with him. The children of Israel were delivered from Egypt and crossed the Red Sea before entering into covenant with God at Mount Sinai. All of these were given a promise of the covenant, but were first required to demonstrate obedience before actually entering into the covenant. Now with this thought in mind, listen to Peter: "For the promise [holy Ghost] is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39). And to this he adds: "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the
holy Ghost, whom God hath given TO THEM THAT OBEY HIM" (Acts 5:32).
The Evident Scriptural Conclusion
So the heart of the matter is, as the wise apostle tells us, "that NO MAN can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the
holy Ghost" ( I Cor. 12:3). In other words, our claims of being in covenant with God (having our sins forgiven) are not valid unless and until God has confirmed His testimony to us by His own self-appointed sign; which sign is the inspired utterance of "other tongues." Jesus prepared His disciples for this understanding when he told them, "But when the Comforter [holy Ghost] is come... he shall testify of Me, AND YE ALSO shall bear witness..." (Jn. 15:26). And they demonstrated their obedience by waiting for the divinely empowered testimony, or utterance of the Spirit, before making their own claim that He had been made "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 1:4,5; 2:36).
So now we can see that God has not left it to our judgment to determine the token of His covenant. He has given us His. Furthermore I find no place in the Scripture where He has omitted or changed this token. Dear friend, has God marked you with His token? Do you know of a certainty that He has established His covenant with you, even the forgiveness of your sins? If He hasn't, He is earnestly desiring to do so. In light of these few scriptural realities, let me encourage you to trust God's Spirit, and let His loving conviction "guide you into all truth." I might add that we do not receive the token of the covenant by seeking for tongues, but by offering to God the sacrifice of a repentant and contrite heart, which things please Him. If this message has been a help to you, let us know. The true genuine fellowship of God's people is our joy. Amen and God bless.
For those who would like more confirmation that the blood of Christ is truly the
holy Ghost, I have provided the following scriptural comparisons:
Heb. 10:29 with I Cor. 6:11 (sanctification)
Heb. 13:12 with Rom. 15:16 (sanctification)
Rom. 5:9 with I Cor. 6:11 (justification)
Eph. 2:18 with Heb. 10:19 (access to heaven)
Heb. 13:20 with I Pet. 3:18 (the resurrection)
Tit. 3:5,6 with Heb. 9:14 (soul cleansing)
Rev. 1:5 with I Cor. 6:11 (soul cleansing)