Last weekend, Christians around the world celebrated Pentecostal Sunday. In his sermon, Pastor Kong Hee explains why speaking in tongues is important.
“Together with the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, Pentecost is one of the major feasts in Israel,” Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church preached as he began his sermon on 4 and 5 June. Pentecost means 50—marking the 50th day after the exodus from Egypt when the 10 Commandments were given to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai.
Comparing the two Pentecostal events in the Old and New Testament, Pastor Kong noted that powerful wind and blazing fire were present at both Mount Sinai and the Upper Room (Acts 2:2). At Mount Sinai, the law was written on tablets of stone; while on the Day of Pentecost, the law was written on human hearts. At Mount Sinai, 3,000 died when they rebelled against God; but on the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 gave their hearts to Jesus Christ.
“Pentecost was the first time the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the believers and the church was born,” Pastor Kong continued. In the Old Testament, the Spirit came only upon the people for specific purposes but from Pentecost onwards, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in believers, to enable a transformed life to become more like Jesus.
Zephaniah 3:9 reads, “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” On the Day of Pentecost, this Scripture was fulfilled. When the 120 believers gathered with one accord in the Upper Room, the Spirit came upon them and restored to them the language of the Holy Spirit.
The pastor noted that the Bible used the word “restore”—which means that God was bringing back what had previously been lost. “Since the early church in the first century, Pentecost is understood as the divine reversal of the curse of Babel,” Pastor Kong explained.
The tower of Babel was built by the people to challenge God. In Genesis 11, God said that because they spoke a common language, they could do whatever they put their hearts to, including building the tower that could reach heaven. So God confused their language and the people split up into 70 nations.
“In Acts 2, people from 70 nations and ethnic groups were present in Jerusalem for the feast. God then reversed the curse of Babel,” Pastor Kong taught. He restored to the believers a common language so that nothing they planned to do would be impossible for them.
Reading from Acts 2:1-4, Pastor Kong described what it was like when the Holy Spirit came upon the people and “gave them utterance”. “Notice that you must decide to speak, but the utterance comes from the Holy Spirit,” the pastor emphasised.
WHY SHOULD CHRISTIANS SPEAK IN TONGUES?
Speaking in tongues is the first step to being empowered by the Holy Spirit—the gateway into the supernatural. That was why Jesus gave His disciples the promise that they would drive out demons and speak in new tongues (Mk 16:17).
When Pastor Kong was in the Philippines for the first time in 1986 and prayed in tongues in a meeting, two Filipinas told him that he was speaking their local dialect. Last week in Surabaya, Pastor Kong’s interpreter shared with him a similar experience. He was praying in tongues in a prayer conference when a Middle Eastern Christian leader told him that he was speaking Arabic.
While Christians can speak in tongues of men as they pray in tongues (1 Cor 13:1), we mostly speak the tongues of angels—which is a heavenly language.
With that, he gave the church five reasons—among many—why Christians should speak in tongues.
1. Tongues is for edification
Reading from 1 Corinthians 14:4 and Jude 20, Pastor Kong taught that speaking in tongues strengthens and energises a Christian’s inner man. He likened it to charging a mobile phone—when a phone is fully charged, it can be used. However, when the battery runs out, it needs to be charged again. The more often one uses the phone, the more they need to charge it.
Speaking in tongues recharges a person’s inner spiritual battery so that they can be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and their prayers will become powerful. Conversely, not speaking in tongues would cause the believer to be spiritually drained—they may start to doubt God because they can’t hear Him, and it would be hard for them to activate the spiritual gifts that God has given to them.
“So, for me, I pray in tongues all the time,” the pastor shared. “Without speaking in tongues, you can still be a very nice person, an intellectual, cerebral Christian; but you can never be a powerful person.”
2. Tongues is for praise, which is the power of Heaven
On the day of Pentecost, those who understood the language were amazed when they heard the disciples declaring the wonders of God in their dialect.
Ephesians 5:19 reads, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” One way to praise God is to sing spiritual songs in tongues. Reading from 1 Corinthians 14:15, Pastor Kong encouraged the church to sing and pray in tongues just like they would in the language they understand.
He went on to share that a long time ago, one Saturday night—long before CHC was started—he gathered two of his cell group members to pray—Yong Te-Chong and Choong Tsih-Ming. They started out worshipping God in English and slowly found themselves singing in tongues. This went on for the next one to two hours.
“That night, the Holy Spirit came so mightily upon us. We went home drenched in the presence and the power of the Spirit of God,” Pastor Kong recalled. Shortly after, he was invited to Anglican High School to share his testimony and there, revival broke out. Many of the students who gave their hearts to Jesus in that revival are now pastors in CHC today.
3. Tongues is for intercession
Romans 8:28 reads, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
Intercession is to pray on behalf of someone else. Pastor Kong shared a testimony of his friend Bob Harrison, who was flying from one city in the US to another. Midway through the flight, the plane’s engine malfunctioned and they experienced tremendous turbulence. At that moment, in another place, Bob’s wife was driving when she felt a strong burden to pray. She pulled the car over and started praying in tongues urgently.
Meanwhile, in the air, the plane was about to lose control when it suddenly stabilised, and the pilot managed to land it safely. The Harrisons later realised that the Holy Spirit was helping Bob’s wife intercede for him.
Pastor Kong, too, had a similar encounter when his wife, Sun, was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. As he was apart from her, there was nothing he could do but pray. So, he prayed for her day and night in the Spirit.
Shortly after, Sun was worshipping God together with the church singers and musicians in an impromptu worship session. There, God’s healing touch came upon her. Pastor Kong knew that God had used his prayer to bring them together for that divine encounter.
4. Tongues is for spiritual warfare
The devil will oppose every great plan God has for believers. It is easy to get discouraged when this happens, but the Bible teaches believers to put on the full armour of Christ to withstand the devil (Eph 6:13).
“What do you do after you put on the armour of God?” the pastor asked. The answer is found in V18—“praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”. “You attack the devil by praying in the Spirit. Praying in tongues releases salvation, power, truth, peace, faith and the promises of God against the devil,” Pastor Kong proclaimed.
5. Tongues is for spiritual rest
Reading from Isaiah 28:11-12, Pastor Kong explained that the resting place mentioned in this passage is when a believer speaks in tongues.
In 2006, secular scientists from the University of Pennsylvania reported their research on speaking in tongues. They discovered that when Christians spoke in tongues, there was less blood flow in the frontal lobe of the brain. This means that Christians are more relaxed when speaking in tongues. When the Holy Spirit is moving in a believer, giving them words to say, it takes away that burden and they enter into rest.
“Neuroscience is proving today, that speaking and singing in tongues actually relax us and is super beneficial for us,” the pastor shared.
In closing, Pastor Kong encouraged the church to speak in tongues in their daily prayers. He also prayed for those who had yet to receive the gift of tongues.