Speaking in Tongues and the Holy Spirit

Part of what led me out of the church in which I was raised and into the Chapel was my own belief that the ordinary church was spiritually dead. Through the Pentecostal teaching of the Chapel I became convinced that this was due to the absence of the fullness of the Spirit in ordinary believers - those who were "born again" because of their trust in Jesus as their Savior but who were without the fullness of the Spirit that God wanted them to have. This fullness of the Spirit (a phrase I will use interchangeably with the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" and the "indwelling of the Holy Spirit") was meant to be given in an initial experience that was always accompanied by the sign of speaking in tongues - being able to praise God in a language one had never learned, as had the disciples of Jesus had on the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts.

At the Chapel we were taught that this baptism in the Holy Spirit was an experience meant for all Christians and that is was separate from the new birth given by the Spirit - that it was something additional done by the Spirit after He had brought us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Though this was supposed to have been the Biblical pattern, it is possible and indeed common nowadays (we were taught) for Christians to be born again, but yet to be without the fullness of the Holy Spirit that God had always intended for them to have. Only by being baptized in the Holy Spirit, accompanied by its sign of speaking in tongues, could they be in the state desired by God and pictured as normal in the Bible for Christians and necessary for them to live the fully abundant Christian life, according to Pentecostal teaching.

But is this really what the Bible teaches? Is there a Biblical pattern that supports a view of salvation always being followed by a separate experience known as the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" that is always accompanied by speaking in tongues? Are believers who have "only" been born again (i.e., who have believed that Jesus died and rose again for the forgiveness of their sins and that they therefore are righteous before God and have eternal life) still without a work of the Spirit that is essential in a plan that God has for their life? Let us look at what the Bible shows about salvation, and at the question of whether or not it teaches that salvation by itself does not include the receiving of the Spirit, but needs to be supplemented by a "baptism in the Holy Spirit" as a separate experience. Following is a list of all the passages in the Book of Acts that show people being saved.

1) Acts 2:38-41: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call...And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Comment: All who repent and are baptized are promised "the gift of the Holy Ghost" - but no mention of tongues is made after they receive God's Word and are baptized.

2) Acts 8:14-18: Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.

Comment: Samaritans believe the preaching of Philip (the deacon, not the apostle) and are baptized, but do not receive the Holy Spirit until the apostles lay hands on them. Baptism comes first, then the reception of the Spirit after a period of time has passed. Tongues are not mentioned.

3) Acts 8:36-39: And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

Comment: The Ethiopian eunuch believes and is baptized - no mention either of receiving the Spirit or of tongues, though it says he went on his way rejoicing.

4) Acts 9:17-18: And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

Comment: Ananias is sent to the newly converted Paul that he should receive the Holy Ghost - then the only thing mentioned is baptism. Tongues are not mentioned.

5) Acts 10:43-48: To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Comment: The centurion and his household believed, had the Holy Ghost fall on them, and spoke in tongues. Then they are baptized because Peter sees they had received the Holy Ghost.

6) Acts 16:14-15: And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Comment: The Lord opens the heart of Lydia, she believes Paul's preaching, and she and her household are baptized. No mention is made of receiving the Holy Spirit or of tongues.

7) Acts 16:29-34: Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Comment: The Philippian jailer and his family believe and are baptized. No mention is made of receiving the Holy Spirit or of tongues.

8) Acts 18:1-8: After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth... And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks... And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

Comment: Many Corinthians believe; again, no mention is made of receiving the Holy Spirit, but baptism is mentioned.

9) Acts 19:2-6: [Paul] said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

Comment: Twelve Ephesians, knowing only John's baptism, believe in Jesus, are baptized, have Paul's hands laid upon them and the Holy Ghost comes upon them; prophecy and tongues are both mentioned but it is not made clear if each believer both spoke in tongues and prophesied, or if some only spoke in tongues and some only prophesied.

Now note that, contrary to what we were taught at the Chapel (and to what is taught in the Pentecostal world in general), there is no definite pattern or sequence regarding the reception of the Holy Spirit and tongues in these passages. Speaking in tongues is not always mentioned when the Holy Spirit is given, and when it is mentioned the circumstances and sequence of events are different each time. It is clear that we cannot treat the Book of Acts as if it gives an exact blueprint for, or spells out an exact sequence of experiences that must take place in, every person's relationship with God in regard to the working of the Holy Spirit. (Note though that baptism IS mentioned in every single instance.)

The Book of Acts is not, however, the only evidence we have for what happened in apostolic times. We also have the gospels of Christ's life an the letters to their churches that the apostles wrote for the instruction and edification of those churches, and for our own. In those we are also taught about the work of the Holy Ghost. In them it becomes more clear that we cannot disassociate the reception or indwelling of the Holy Spirit from salvation and baptism, or make it a separate experience that some Christians didn't receive if they didn't speak in tongues.

The scriptures show us that salvation brings every benefit of the Spirit that we need. Consider the following truths and the scriptures from which they are drawn:

To be born again is to be born of the Spirit.

John 3:5-8: Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

If one acknowledges Jesus as the Lord (i.e., is saved) one is in the Holy Ghost.

1 Cor 12:3: Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by (Greek en, "in") the Holy Ghost.

Our baptism into the body of Christ was a baptism in the Spirit; by it, we were made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Cor 12:12-13: For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by (Greek en, "in") one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Eph 4:4-7: There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Those who believe are children of God and have put on Christ.

Gal 3:26-27: For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Those that confess Jesus have God dwelling in them.

1 John 4:15-16: Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

Believers (even those to whom Paul is here writing at Corinth whom he had earlier called "carnal", "not spiritual," and "babes in Christ") are the temple of God - they have the Spirit of God dwelling in them.

1 Corinthians 3:16: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

The redeemed have been adopted as sons, and have had the Spirit sent into their hearts.

Gal 4:4-6: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Rom 8:15-16: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

From all of this I've concluded that it makes Biblical sense to say the Holy Spirit is always received when one is born again, although it is not necessarily a "moment in time" experience. But it is clear that if one has faith and has been baptized, then one already has the Spirit dwelling in oneself and does not need an additional experience in order to receive the Spirit. There is only one Biblical exception to that (the Samaritans), and that can be explained by the fact that this was the first entry of the Spirit into the Samaritan people (traditionally alienated from the people of God) and apostolic validation was needed for that. Additionally, it is easy to see that tongues are not mandated by the apostles for a sign of receiving the Spirit, although it did function that way in a few of the first instances.

"Receiving the Spirit" means that as a result of our justification in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, giving us the ability to approach God as sons. On top of that, He brings gifts won by Christ for the church by his victory over sin and death. Many (but not all) of the people on whom the Spirit was poured out received tongues and prophecy as gifts, important for the new church during its initial phase as it was being founded by the apostles. Those gifts showed the apostles authority to do so. With the passing of the apostles and the establishment of the written New Testament, the purpose of those particular gifts was fulfilled.

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