We’ll finish up our discussion of baptism this week with a controversy that is somewhat related to the topic. You’ll remember that last week we talked about a “second” baptism of the Holy Spirit. Many churches insist on a second baptism of the Holy Spirit in addition to the traditional water baptism. Based on the Biblical evidence, we suggested that one is baptized into the Holy Spirit upon coming to faith. If one “professes with the mouth and believes in the heart that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Romans 10:9), not only does that person receive salvation, he/she also is indwelt with the power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself, the third person of the Trinity. When this happens, the person is “born again” (John 3:3) to live a life in the Spirit, as opposed to a life seeking selfish, fleshly desires (Galatians 5:19-25).
Some denominations and believers take this a step further. Certain Pentecostals, for example, believe in “stages of salvation” that require multiple baptisms. This is based in part on such passages as Acts 8:14-17, “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
In this view, a sign of being baptized in the Spirit in speaking in tongues. (Speaking in tongues refers to ecstatic utterances of the Spirit as opposed to speaking in a different language. Such speaking is unintelligible and sounds like gibberish without someone to interpret). Some will go so far as to say that unless you can speak in tongues, you must not be filled with the Holy Spirit. There are several Bible passages (Acts 2:4, Mark 16:17, Acts 19:6, etc.) that seem to support this.
Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10), but there is nothing to suggest that it is an absolute requirement or proof of faith. At the end of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul asks rhetorically, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Do all have the gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30), implying strongly that such gifts are not given to all. He also lists speaking in tongues last in his ranking of spiritual gifts, after apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healing and guidance (1 Corinthians 12:28).
Paul goes further in 1 Corinthians 14: “If I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:6, 18-19).
This is not to denigrate the power, effectiveness or value of speaking in tongues. It has a definite place in the life of a believer as he or she has been gifted by the Holy Spirit. But such gifts are at the Spirit’s discretion, and each believer is gifted based on his/her unique situation. The lack of such a gift does not mean the believer is not filled with the Holy Spirit.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.
Pastor Brad Schultz, Zion Evangelical Church, firstname.lastname@example.org