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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: Why Do Some Argue That Speaking in Tongues Is a Sign of Receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?

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Why Do Some Argue That Speaking in Tongues Is a Sign of Receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 5

Among those who see the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” as second work apart from salvation there is disagreement over whether there is any sign that accompanies it. There are some who argue that “speaking in tongues,” the ability to speak in languages that were previously unknown to the speaker, is the sign of the reception of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The Case for Speaking in Tongues as a Sign of Receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

For many, the sign of tongues is evidence that a person has been baptized “in” or “with” the Holy Spirit. Although the Book of Acts does not record this manifestation in every case where the baptism with the Holy Spirit is received, whenever the results are described, it is something immediate and supernatural. Furthermore, there are always outward manifestations.

These outward signs convinced the receiver, as well as the other people in attendance that a divine power was working. In every case there was the speaking of a language that the person had never learned. The case for tongue speaking as a sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit can be given as follows.

Speaking in Tongues Occurred on the Day of Pentecost

In Acts 2:4, we find speaking in tongues accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The Bible says.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:4 NET).

In the initial coming of the Holy Spirit with power, we find the gift of tongues. This indicates that the gift of tongues accompanies the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Tongues Speaking Occurred in Caesarea

Tongue speaking also occurred in another instance in the Book of Acts. There were certain Gentiles in Caesarea who believed in Jesus. Scripture explains their conversion as follows.

While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God (Acts 10:44-46 RSV).

We know what happened to them on this occasion was the “baptism with the Holy Spirit.” Peter later described the situation as follows.

“When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came to these people. This was the same thing that happened to us in the beginning. I remembered that the Lord had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit.’ When they believed, God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. So who was I to interfere with God?” (Acts 11:15-17 God’s Word).

They received the gift of speaking in tongues when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is obvious from the context.

Tongue Speaking Occurred in Ephesus

There is a third instance in the Book of Acts where we find tongue speaking accompanying the reception of the Holy Spirit. Paul met certain disciples in the city of Ephesus who had something lacking in their spiritual lives. After explaining the message of Jesus Christ to them these disciples received the Holy Spirit.

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6 RSV).

In this instance, as at Pentecost and Caesarea, tongue-speaking accompanied the reception of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tongue Speaking Probably Occurred in Samaria

Tongue speaking is also implied in the account of the Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit. We read the following.

Simon saw that the Spirit was given to the Samaritans when the apostles placed their hands on them. So he offered Peter and John money and said, “Give me this power so that anyone I place my hands on will receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:18, 19 God’s Word).

Simon, in some way, saw that the power of the Holy Spirit was given to the Samaritans by the apostles. This seems to infer there was some outward sign. Since speaking in tongues was the outward sign in the other recorded receptions of the Holy Spirit, it most likely occurred here also.

It is argued that these instances give sufficient evidence that the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by speaking in tongues.

Response

The case for the baptism with the Holy Spirit being accompanied by speaking in tongues has no biblical basis whatsoever. The following points demonstrate this.

Tongues Only Occurred on Certain Occasions

Tongues were only given as signs on certain occasions. On Pentecost, it was the sign that the Holy Spirit’s power was now available for all believers. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the three thousand who believed spoke with tongues.

There Is No Evidence of Tongue-speaking in Samaria

While tongue-speaking may have occurred in the city of Samaria, the Scriptures do not tell us this is what happened. Therefore, we cannot draw any conclusion from this episode.

The People in Caesarea Were Not Believers

In the city of Caesarea, the sign of tongues convinced Peter that the Gentiles were indeed believers. However, this was not a second experience with the Holy Spirit for these Gentile believers. Indeed, it was when they were converted. He made this clear in his explanation of the event at the council of Jerusalem.

First, he said the people understood the message Peter brought was for their salvation. It had nothing to do with any second blessing. We read the following.

He will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household (Acts 11:14 RSV).

Thus, the message of Simon Peter was an evangelistic message.

Furthermore, the description of what occurred made it clear that this was their initial conversion – not some second blessing. Peter said.

When they believed, God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. So who was I to interfere with God? When the others heard this, they had no further objections. They praised God by saying, “Then God has also led people who are not Jewish to turn to him so that they can change the way they think and act and have eternal life” (Acts 11:17, 18 God’s Word).

This was not a second blessing for these people. It was their conversion experience.

The People in Ephesus Were Not Believers in Jesus

In Ephesus, the last recorded instance of the sign of tongues, there is nothing stated about the disciples being baptized with the Holy Spirit. As was true in Caesarea, these people had not been converted to Jesus. The passage makes clear that they had never heard of Jesus. We read the following.

Paul asked them, “What kind of baptism did you have?” They answered, “John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. John told people to believe in Jesus, who was coming later.” After they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:3-5 God’s Word).

These disciples had not heard of the message of Jesus. Therefore, the fact that they spoke in tongues has nothing to do with receiving some “second blessing” after salvation. This episode was their first experience with Jesus Christ.

In sum, we can say that there are no solid arguments whatsoever for speaking in tongues as a sign of the reception of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Summary – Question 5
Why Do Some Argue That Speaking in Tongues Is a Sign of Receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?

Some people who believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second work that accompanies salvation also believe that the sign that a person has been baptized with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. There are a number of passages in Scripture they use illustrate their point.

At Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit which fell upon the disciples came with “speaking in tongues.” It is argued that this set a pattern.

When the Gentiles in Caesarea received the power Holy Spirit they responded to it by speaking in tongues. Consequently, we have another instance of the gift of tongues being a sign of the baptism with the Spirit.

In the city of Ephesus there were certain disciples who spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit came upon them. This is further evidence of the sign of tongues is given for the reception of the power of the Spirit.

Most likely this sign of tongues also occurred in Samaria when the believers in that city had to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit.

These passages have caused some people to assume that this was, and is, the sign of receiving the power of the Holy Spirit.

However this theory has no biblical basis whatsoever. We can make a number of points.

On Pentecost, only the disciples spoke in tongues – not the three thousand who were converted. Even if one wishes to argue that the disciples were receiving a second experience with the Holy Spirit what happened to them did not set a pattern.

At Caesarea, we are dealing with people who had not been converted to Jesus Christ. This was their initial reception of the Holy Spirit.

In the city of Ephesus, the people whom Paul spoke to had not even heard of Jesus Christ! Consequently, it could not be a “second blessing.”

Therefore, we do not find any evidence whatsoever that speaking in tongues is a sign of the reception of the power of the Holy Spirit or the “baptism with the Holy Spirit.”

What Are the Arguments for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Being a Second Experience That Follows Salvation? ← Prior Section
In What Sense Is the Holy Spirit Given Only to Those Who Obey God? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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