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Questions & Answers

The evidence of tongues

First posted: February 9, 2005

 

Question

Some believers say that a person cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit unless he or she has the evidence of speaking in tongues. Some also argue that a person cannot be saved unless he or she speaks in tongues. Are these valid claims?

 

 

Answer

Tongues and salvation

It is wrong to say that a person is not "saved" unless he or she speaks in tongues. Consider, for example, the following passage where Jesus is speaking to one of the thieves who was crucified with Him: 

 

"And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43)

 

There is no evidence supporting the idea that the thief spoke in tongues as he was hanging from his cross. The reason why he was saved from eternal damnation was because he believed in the Lord (as evidenced by Luke 23:39-42)... 

"9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10)


According to this passage, "believing" in the heart and the confession of that belief immediately lead to salvation. Consider, now, the following passage:

"1And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2He 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." (Acts 19:1-2)


Notice that Paul makes a differentiation between "believing" and "receiving the Holy Ghost". The "believing" that Paul refers to is the initial believing that leads to salvation from eternal damnation. As Paul explained the baptism of the Holy Ghost to them, they believed yet again, and they received the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:3-7). They were already "believers" before Paul spoke to them (meaning that they were "saved"), but their faith or "belief" grew into a new dimension. Their Holy Spirit baptism was a manifestation of the growth, not the beginning, of their salvation.


The "effects" of Holy Spirit baptism

It is generally believed that a person is not "filled with the Holy Spirit" unless he or she has the evidence of speaking in tongues. There seems to be a great deal of evidence in Scripture supporting this, but there are other things to consider:

 

Luke 1:15 declares that John the Baptist would be "filled with the Holy Ghost" even from his mother's womb. Despite the fact that John was filled with the Holy Spirit throughout his entire life, it is never said that he ever spoke in tongues.

In Acts 6:5, Stephen is said to have been full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and in the following chapter, the Scriptures declare this about Stephen:

"But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55)


At this moment, Stephen's Holy Spirit fullness is not manifested in the form of tongues; instead, he spoke words that the audience around him understood, so much so that they stoned him to death!!!

Luke 4:1 says that Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, was led to the wilderness to be tempted. Matthew 4:1 says that this was after the Spirit of God came upon him after being baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17). Yet, neither Matthew nor Luke speak of Jesus speaking in tongues. In fact, His fullness of the Spirit manifested itself in that He went to the desert to be tempted, just as Stephen's fullness manifested itself in him saying things that got him killed.

Acts 4:8 declares that Peter, being "filled with the Holy Ghost", boldly confronted the "rulers of the people" and the "elders of Israel". Again, Peter's fullness did not manifest itself in the speaking of tongues; instead, he spoke words that the authorities understood, and they were words that the authorities did not want to hear.

Acts 4:31 says that the believers were "filled with the Holy Ghost", and that they spoke the word of God with boldness. Again, the Holy Spirit fullness manifested itself in the expression of understandable words that defied and disobeyed what the authorities had told them to do (Acts 4:18-21).

 

Acts 13:9-11 says that Saul (i.e.- Paul), "filled with the Holy Ghost", pronounced judgment on Barjesus the sorcerer. Again, the Holy Spirit fullness manifested itself in the expression of understandable words of judgment.

In Luke 1:67, Zechariah, John the Baptist's father, prophesied about the Lord Jesus when he was "filled with the Holy Ghost". Again, no tongues are mentioned.

Having said all of the above, there are a few passages that do relate the filling and baptism of the Holy Spirit with the speaking of tongues (Acts 2:4, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:6). According to 1 Corinthians 14:21-25, the speaking of tongues is a sign to unbelievers, meaning that it works to confront unbelief. If you read through the passages mentioned above, you will notice that, in one way or another, the words or actions that follow the filling of the Spirit are always designed to confront or challenge unbelief (or non-belief), and the speaking of tongues is one of the many ways that unbelief is challenged. The Spirit produces expression in tongues only when the situation requires it.

 

Conclusion

Every time that Scripture speaks about Holy Ghost filling, the filling is immediately followed up by words or actions that boldly confront unbelief or non-belief. In other words, Holy Ghost filling produces wild-ass prophetic boldness, which leads to red-horse believers who are willing to challenge Cain's established structures and traditions. As we have said before, when Isaiah 32:15-17 speaks of the Spirit being "poured out", it actually says that the Spirit will be "uncovered" (in the original text). When the Spirit is uncovered, He speaks, and when He speaks, He challenges man's ways.

 

In Pentecostal congregations, the emphasis of the Holy Spirit baptism has always been on charismatic manifestations such as speaking in tongues. Even though speaking in tongues is one of the manifestations of Holy Spirit fullness, it becomes meaningless if the believer is not transformed into a prophetically bold person who speaks in the authority of the Spirit to confront earthly structures and manifest God's Glory.

 

Having said all of the above, all believers should pray and long to speak in tongues. When this manifestation is not present, it is a sign of a spiritual barrier in our souls that must be broken through. When the Spirit overflows, He always breaks any seal of natural containment, and when He does, growth is produced in us.