The first time the Holy Spirit came upon Christians was quite remarkable. Not only were there supernatural sounds and sights but also there was a tangible reality—the people could speak in known tongues from all around the world. Granted, they looked a little drunk as the very presence of God entered their beings, and Peter had to explain what was really going on. Another evidence of the Holy Spirit was that 3,000 people responded to the explanation Peter gave about the Holy Spirit. Those 3,000 were impacted by the Holy Spirit and wanted to follow His leading to repentance and baptism.
So why can’t I speak another language? I have the Holy Spirit. I never saw a vision or heard a loud sound like wind. An unknown African author of the sixth century answered this question for me. “And so if anyone says to one of us: ‘You have received the Holy Spirit; why do you not speak in tongues?’, he should reply: ‘I do speak in every tongue. For I am in the Body of Christ, the Church, which speaks in every tongue. For what did God signify by the presence of the Holy Spirit if it was not that his Church would speak in every tongue?’
The Church is speaking in every tongue. That is the vision of the church. There are still some languages that do not have the Bible, but the church is working on that. Acts 1:8 quotes Jesus as saying: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 resulted in the confusion of languages so that the peoples of earth could form a relationship with God. The Church compassionately learns all the languages of the earth so that it can bring the message of God’s love in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, opening hearts to receive God’s gift of salvation. This salvation is unexplainable in any language and must be received through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The love of God and His great gift of salvation is beyond explanation and language cannot contain it.
We Christians use language to describe or witness to others. It is not our responsibility to close the deal. We merely recount our own story of salvation and lead people to the words of God in their own language that back-up our personal experience. Then we watch the Holy Spirit do His work just as He did on the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2 when 3,000 people were added to the 120 believers that day in Jerusalem. I imagine as Paul preached, the other 119 were translating in smaller groups so that the message could be better understood. The complexities of God are best understood in your own language.
The work of the Church in bringing the Words of God to all languages is not completed. The Day of Pentecost clearly displays God’s will that all people groups belong in heaven. He never intended for one of us to be separated from Him. I want that too. I want to be a part of the church that has this world-wide focus.