By John David Clark, Sr.
The phrase, “Ye must be born again”, came from Jesus himself. The Lord made that statement to Nicodemus, a respected elder of Israel who “came to Jesus by night”. Jesus made it clear to his night-time visitor that he was speaking of the nation of Israel as a whole when he told him, “You must be born again.” They were already God’s people by virtue of being born physically as Jews, yet there was a great change coming that would require them to be born again – this time spiritually – in order to remain God’s people.
Jesus compared the new birth to the unpredictable wind. He said, “The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it is coming from nor where it is going. It is this way with every person born of the Spirit.” (Jn. 3:8). These words are of the greatest importance, for in them Jesus has given us a description of the new birth that applies to “every person born of the Spirit.” In other words, Jesus has given us a sign which lets us know who is born again and who is not.
This sign, the one consistent element in every experience of new birth, is “its sound”. This “sound” of the Spirit caused quite a stir in Jerusalem when the disciples were born again. “And they were all filled with the holy Ghost, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Yes, the sound of the wind of God, which our Lord said was the one consistent feature of every new birth experience, is the Spirit speaking in tongues through the person who receives it. When the holy Ghost is received, some may weep, and some may laugh, some may jump for joy, and others may fall prostrate on the floor. Some may be overcome with the power of God, and some are dealt with very gently by the Spirit. But the one invariable evidence of receiving the Spirit is the sign of the sound of the Spirit.
A person is born of the Spirit when he receives the Spirit. This is why Paul wrote, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). When one receives the Spirit, it is called in the Scriptures the “baptism of the Spirit”. The disciples received the Spirit (the promise of the Father) on Pentecost morning when they were baptized with it (Acts 1:4-5). The believers in Samaria received the Spirit when they were baptized with it (Acts 8:14-17). Cornelius and his household received the Spirit when they were baptized with it (Acts 10:44-47). Therefore, since receiving the Spirit is to be born again, and since receiving the Spirit is to be baptized with it, we can say that we are baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1Cor. 12:13). Or we can say that we are “baptized into Christ” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). Or we can even say “baptism saves us” (1Pet. 3:21). However we choose to express it, the new birth and the baptism of the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues are the same experience, which happens today just as Jesus said it would happen when he first described the new birth to a wondering Jewish elder named Nicodemus.
All who receive the Spirit speak in tongues or have “stammering lips” (Isa. 28:11-12) when they receive it. This means that if you have not yet spoken in tongues, you have not yet received the real Spirit of God. However, even if that is the case with you, my friend, do not be discouraged! Rather, be thankful that this baptism of the holy Ghost is still available!
If “tongues are for a sign to unbelievers”, as Paul said (1Cor. 14:22), then we should ask, “A sign of what?” The obvious answer for this is that speaking in tongues is God’s sign to point unbelievers to the way of Christ. The Spirit that speaks in tongues through men when it enters is the Spirit of God (1Jn. 4:1-3). As one man said, “When Jesus was here, he cast out dumb spirits. He doesn’t now give them to men.” The Spirit of God isn’t dumb. It speaks when it enters, and that sound is for a sign to those who are seeking the way into eternal life.
“Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound”, wrote the Psalmist (89:15). This joyful sound is the sound of the Spirit confessing Christ through the one who has received Him (1Jn. 4:1-3) in a language which the speaker has never learned. It is what Peter called the “answer of a good conscience toward God” (1Pet. 3:21), and it is “more sure” than hearing God’s own voice coming out of heaven (2Pet. 1:17-19). Speaking in tongues is the “testimony” Jesus said the Spirit would give when it comes (Jn. 15:26-27). God has given this witness concerning His Son, and it is this “witness” which empowers us to proclaim God to be our Father (Rom. 8:15). Every soul who refuses His witness calls God a liar (1Jn. 5:10). It is the “deep” that “calls unto deep” in times of trouble (Ps. 42:7). It is the means by which men “call upon the name of the Lord” (Zeph. 3:9). One can easily understand why Paul was motivated to say that no one could say Jesus is Lord without the holy Ghost (1Cor. 12:1-3), for it is the holy Ghost that empowers men to be living witnesses to his glory (Acts 1:8).
The disciples were born again on the day of Pentecost when a sound of a holy wind blew down from heaven into an upper room, and its sound was heard by the crowds in Jerusalem – coming from the disciples’ tongues! In amazement, the multitude beheld the disciples stagger as drunk men under the mighty power of God. Some mockingly said the disciples were drunk (Acts 2:13). However, Peter soon let these misguided onlookers know that the men and women whom they were watching were not drunkards. He explained, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16), and what Joel had spoken of was the outpouring of God’s holy Spirit upon men - the new birth! Do you have it?