- Hope on Union
The Christian Church celebrates Pentecost as the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers. However, our understanding is minimal and confused. In Acts, we find the Holy Spirit come down as a fire upon believers, and the people spoke in languages they did not know. However, this is an adaptation of a story from the book of Numbers about a group of people becoming new leaders.
As Moses is leading the people through the wilderness, he needs help to judicate the conflict that rose between people. According to the oral tradition, his father-in-law advises him to designate 70 people to act as judges on his behalf. This system then became the governing method in the Promised Land.
However, to ensure that people accept them as the leaders, the Spirit of God “rested” upon them, and they “prophesied.” The Spirit coming upon them legitimized their authority as representatives of God; they would not be making decisions by their own wisdom, but they would be guided by God.
The allegory of the Spirit “resting” on them is again used in the book of Acts by the new religion of The Way to symbolize that God is with them. The Spirit “resting” upon them signified a new era of leaders for the people of God. However, just like the seventy elders before them, there is no record of them “prophesying” or speaking in tongues ever again.
The Old Testament text reports that the leaders spoke in tongues only once to make it clear that the ability to prophesy was not based on the power of individuals themselves but the work of God.
Paul is the only one who mentions speaking in tongues, but only in the early letters. As he gains legitimacy among the people, his need to speak in tongues disappears. Some scholars also conjectured that this was a theological error on the part of Paul that others helped him correct. Either way, the constant manifestation of the Spirit by means of “dramatic prophesying” or “speaking in tongues” does not become a part of the early church. Once the messenger is accepted as acting on behalf of God, special divine activity is no longer necessary.
However, there are some who take verses out of context and will quote Paul to promote the idea that we need special dispensation of the Spirit at all times. Some even go as far as claiming they have fuller experiences of the Spirit because they have a personal “tongue” language. Without it, they say we only experience salvation but not the “fullness” of God, meaning we are lesser Christians than them. When they “speak in tongues,” they do not know what they are saying; they assume it is God. Because they do not understand it, they assume it must be spiritual. This is contrary to the Bible.
Scripture is clear that they are “deceived by the devil” and they are “false teachers” because the work of the Spirit on the selected few was a symbolic way of ensuring that the rest of the people accept those individuals as leaders in the church. We now “ordain” and “install” people into various leadership positions to signify the same thing.