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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Holy Spirit and Us

Don Stewart :: Is Speaking in Tongues Always a Result of Being Filled with the Spirit?

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Is Speaking in Tongues Always a Result of Being Filled with the Spirit?

The Holy Spirit and Us – Question 16

On the Day of Pentecost, the Bible says that the disciples of Jesus Christ supernaturally spoke with languages which they had never before learned when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This is also known as “speaking in tongues.” We read the following.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance (Acts 2:4 NASB).

The disciples of Jesus spoke in these languages when they were filled with the Spirit. The fact that this happened to Jesus’ disciples has caused some people to think that this sign of speaking in tongues should be the experience of every believer who receives the Holy Spirit. Is this true? What does the Bible say?

There Is the Only Instance of This Occurring

When we search the Scripture we find that “speaking in tongues,” or languages never before learned, does not occur when each and every believer is filled with the Holy Spirit. In fact, this episode in the Book of Acts is the only case in the New Testament where speaking in tongues is mentioned in connection with the filling of the Holy Spirit.

There are two other instances where the Holy Spirit came upon believers and they spoke with tongues. In one case, the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles when they heard the Word of God. The Bible says.

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who had heard the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles, too. And there could be no doubt about it, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” (Acts 10:44-47 NLT).

This was their initial experience with the work of the Holy Spirit. Yet we are not told that they were “filled” with the Holy Spirit on this occasion.

In Ephesus, the Bible says the Holy Spirit came upon certain disciples. The Book of Acts records it as follows.

And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying (Acts 19:6 ESV).

As was true with the Gentiles, this was the first experience these disciples had with the Holy Spirit. Yet we are not told that these men were “filled with the Spirit.”

Thus, in neither of these instances do we find that the people who speaking in tongues were said to have been “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:4 is the only verse where the filling of the Spirit is connected with speaking in tongues.

This seems to be due to the fact that the disciples were already believers when they were said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Gentiles, in Acts 10, and the disciples in Ephesus, in Acts 19, had not been believers in Jesus Christ before their experience.

Speaking in Tongues Is the Exception, Not the Rule

Thus, speaking in tongues, in connection with the filling of the Holy Spirit, was the exception, not the rule. In every other example in the New Testament there was no supernatural “speaking in tongues” when people were said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The evidence is as follows.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was filled with the Holy Spirit when she greeted Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke we read the following account of her being filled with the Spirit.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:41-45 NASB).

While Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit no tongue-speaking is mentioned in reference to her being filled.

Zechariah

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied when he was filled with the Spirit. Luke also records what took place when the Spirit came upon him.

And His Father Zechariah Was Filled with the Holy Spirit and Prophesied, Saying (Luke 1:67 ESV).

Like the case with his wife Elizabeth, there is nothing said about him speaking in tongues when he was filled with the Spirit.

Jesus

The Bible says that Jesus was filled with the Spirit after His baptism. Again, we read what Luke had to say.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness (Luke 4:1 ESV).

When Jesus was filled with the Spirit He was led to be tempted by the Devil. Yet, there is no record of Him ever speaking in tongues.

Peter

When Peter was filled with the Spirit he boldly proclaimed Jesus Christ to the religious leaders. The Bible says.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel” (Acts 4:8 NKJV).

Yet this filling of the Holy Spirit did not result in him speaking in tongues.

The Early Church

The early church preached the message of Jesus Christ with boldness when they were filled with the Spirit. The Book of Acts says.

When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31 NRSV).

Again, there is no reference to tongue speaking.

Stephen

The martyr Stephen saw the glorified Christ when he was filled with the Spirit. We read the following.

But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55 NKJV).

However, there is no record of him speaking with tongues

Conclusion: The Filling of the Holy Spirit Is Not Accompanied by Speaking with Tongues

Therefore it is wrong to conclude that the filling of the Holy Spirit will always cause a person to speak in tongues. Except for the one instance on the Day of Pentecost, the filling of the Holy Spirit is never connected to speaking with tongues.

Summary – Question 16
Is Speaking in Tongues Always a Result of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit?

It has sometimes been claimed that speaking in tongues, or speaking in a language never before learned, is a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit. Yet, as we search the Scripture we will find that this is not the case at all.

Indeed, there is one instance in the Book of Acts where people spoke in tongues when they were specifically said to have been filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the only place in the New Testament where “speaking in tongues” is connected with the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Yet we are given numerous examples of people being filled with the Spirit of God who did not speak in tongues. This includes the parents of John the Baptist; Zechariah and Elizabeth. Jesus was filled with the Spirit but it is never recorded that He spoke with tongues. Simon Peter is another example of one who was said to have been filled with the Holy Spirit without exercising any sign of tongues.

The early church, when gathered together, was said to have been “filled with the Spirit.” However, we again find no reference to them speaking in tongues.

Thus, none of these instances, where people were filled with God’s Spirit, included speaking with tongues.

Therefore we should not insist that a person speak in tongues when he or she is filled with the Holy Spirit – the Bible makes no connection between the two and neither should we.

What Are the Results of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
What Is the Fruit of the Spirit? 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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