Is Speaking In Tongues The Only Initial Evidence Of The Baptism With The Holy Spirit?

(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New King James Version).

Most (if not all) Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are of the opinion that speaking in tongues is the only initial evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Because of this belief, speaking in tongues is considered synonymous with the baptism of the Holy Spirit by many. Thus, anyone who doesn’t speak in tongues is considered not to have been baptised with the Holy Spirit. Is speaking in tongues the only initial evidence of being baptised with the Holy Spirit? Is it possible to receive the Holy Spirit and not speak in tongues? In this study, we shall attempt to answer these questions through a careful examinination of the Scriptures.

When the disciples first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they manifested the gift of speaking in tongues- the supernatural ability to speak foreign languages (tongues) they hadn’t learnt previously. Also, in the house of Cornelius (the first Gentile to receive Christ and the baptism of the Holy Spirit), while Peter was still preaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those listening to him, and they all began to speak in unknown foreign languages. On the occasions described, people who got baptised with the Holy Spirit spoke in varieties of unknown (foreign) tongues (languages).

The Acts 2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

The Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

The Acts 2:3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.

The Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.

The Acts 2:6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

The Acts 2:7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?

The Acts 2:8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?

The Acts 2:9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

The Acts 2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

The Acts 2:11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”

The Acts 2:12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

The Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

The Acts 10:45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

The Acts 10:46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered,

The Acts 10:47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

The Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

From these two incidents where the manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was recorded, speaking in foreign languages or tongues was the first visible evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Is that then to mean that everyone baptised with the Holy Spirit must speak in tongues? Should speaking in tongues be taken to mean the universal initial evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit? It doesn’t appear to be so, as another recorded instance of the manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Scripture shows.

The Acts 19:1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples

The Acts 19:2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”

The Acts 19:3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”
So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”

The Acts 19:4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

The Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

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

The Acts 19:7 Now the men were about twelve in all.

In the passage above, we see another instance of a group of people receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and manifesting certain gifts of the Spirit immediately after being baptised with the Holy Spirit. On this occasion, we see that while some spoke in tongues, others prophesied! This means that speaking in tongues is not the only initial manifestation or evidence of being baptised with the Holy Spirit! Prophesying too can be an initial manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit!

In yet another instance in the New Testament where people were filled with the Holy Spirit, we see them being filled with boldness and speaking the Word of God without fear, as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Though this was not a group of people receiving the Holy Spirit for the first time, it is instructive to note that, in this case, the people needed boldness to preach the word of God without fear, and when filled with the Holy Spirit, they received the boldness they needed! This was the same group of people that spoke in tongues when they were filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Then, speaking in strange tongues was needed to catch the attention of the foreigners in their midst and open them up for evangelism, and they got just that! But now, they needed boldness, and when filled with the Spirit, boldness came upon them. Boldness too is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit!

The Acts 4:24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,

The Acts 4:25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?

The Acts 4:26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’

The Acts 4:27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together

The Acts 4:28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

The Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,

The Acts 4:30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

The Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

2 Timothy 1:6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

In the Old Testament, when the Spirit of God came upon people, they manifested his presence in different ways. Some prophesied, others displayed supernatural physical strength, while others performed miracles, carried out healings, and spoke the word of God with boldness. In other instances, some people upon whom the Spirit of God descended got special knowledge and understanding to do amazing things (including the ability to perform intricate skilled artisan works!), while others manifested supernatural wisdom, discernment, keen insight, bravery and courage in leading God’s people, among a host of other attributes. Let’s look at some of these manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

1 Samuel 10:6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.

1 Samuel 10:7 And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.

1 Samuel 10:10 When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.

1 Samuel 10:11 And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

2 Chronicles 24:20 Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.’”

1 Samuel 11:5 Now there was Saul, coming behind the herd from the field; and Saul said, “What troubles the people, that they weep?” And they told him the words of the men of Jabesh.

1 Samuel 11:6 Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused.

1 Samuel 11:7 So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.”
And the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.

Judges 14:5 So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah.
Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him.

Judges 14:6 And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.

Judges 14:19 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men, took their apparel, and gave the changes of clothing to those who had explained the riddle. So his anger was aroused, and he went back up to his father’s house.

Judges 15:14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him. Then the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands.

Judges 15:15 He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it.

Exodus 28:3 So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.

Exodus 31:2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.

Exodus 31:3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,

Exodus 31:4 to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze,

Exodus 31:5 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.

Exodus 31:6 “And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you:

Judges 3:8 Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years.

Judges 3:9 When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.

Judges 3:10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of knowledge, understanding, wisdom, might (power/strength), counsel, and of the fear of the Lord. He also has several gifts that he brings into people’s lives when he comes upon them or fills them. These gifts of the Holy Spirit include speaking in tongues or unlearned foreign languages, interpretation of unlearned foreign languages, prophecy, healing, miracles, faith, discernment of spirits, word of knowledge, wisdom. Also included among the gifts of the Spirit are the gifts of the five-fold ministry- apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Other gifts of the Spirit include special adminstrative abilities, ability to show mercy, giving, exhortation, ability to lead others, boldness and courage, etc. Any of these gifts of the Spirit, singly or in combination, could come upon a person once the Holy Spirit fills the person.

Isaiah 11:1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.

Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,

Romans 12:5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;

Romans 12:7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;

Romans 12:8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

1 Corinthians 12:4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.

1 Corinthians 12:6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

1 Corinthians 12:8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4:8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”

Ephesians 4:9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?

Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,

Ephesians 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Ephesians 4:13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Ephesians 4:14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

Ephesians 4:15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Those who teach that all who are baptised with the Holy Spirit must speak in tongues as an initial evidence imply that all believers have the gift of speaking in tongues. That’s the only way all will be able to speak in tongues after being Spirit-filled. However, it is obvious from Scripture that not all believers have the gift of speaking in tongues. Paul stated this by asking a series of rhetorical questions in his letter to the Corinthians. The answers to these questions should be obvious to all!

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?

1 Corinthians 12:30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

If all believers are not expected to have the gift of speaking in unknown tongues, then why should anyone make the gift of speaking in tongues the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit? For any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be considered the initial evidence of baptism with the Holy Spirit, it must be present and it must manifest in everyone who receives the Holy Spirit at all times. But, we do not see speaking in tongues manifested in everyone who got filled with the Holy Spirit in Scripture. And, we’re told in Scripture that not all believers who have the Holy Spirit speak in tongues. If the gift of speaking in tongues is not present in all believers who have the Holy Spirit, then it cannot be the only initial evidence or manifestation of the Spirit baptism. The Spirit can choose to manifest any of his numerous gifts in any believer at baptism and subsequently! When the Holy Spirit comes upon a believer, he manifests himself in a way, usually through the display of any of his gifts. This manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone who has the Spirit. It may not be the same manifestation in everyone, as all do not have the same gifts of the Spirit. The Spirit alone determines who manifests what gift. The manifestation of the gifts in individual believers is according to the will of the Spirit. It is therefore wrong to expect everyone to manifest the same gifts of the Spirit upon being Spirit-filled.

1 Corinthians 12:4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.

1 Corinthians 12:6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

1 Corinthians 12:8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

In conclusion, from the evidence of Scripture alone, it cannot be conclusively proven that speaking in tongues is the only initial evidence of baptism with the Holy Spirit. To be baptised with the Holy Spirit is not synonymous with speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit can manifest at baptism with any of his gifts, of which speaking in tongues is just but one out of so many. There is evidence in Scripture of people manifesting other gifts of the Spirit like prophecy, gifts of healing, boldness to preach, knowledge, wisdom, etc, upon being first filled with the Holy Spirit. Besides, not all Spirit-filled believers speak in unknown tongues. It’s therefore unreasonable and unscriptural to expect everyone to manifest speaking in tongues as an initial evidence of being baptised with the Holy Spirit.

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Published by Dr. Ndubuisi Emmanuel Ojo

Dr Ojo is a Biblical scholar and teacher who believes firmly in the original Apostolic faith as the only authentic version of Christianity, and the only legitimate basis for Christian doctrine and conduct.

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