Summary: Some churches claim that tongues is the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit, what do the Scriptures teach?
Is Tongues the Initial Evidence of The Holy Spirit?
As I have been to a number of Pentecostal churches, I noticed many of them teach that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit. For those unfamiliar with what speaking in tongues is, it is where someone speaks in a language that they don’t know by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s say Jim can only speak English but by the power of the Holy Spirit he speaks fluent French. This would be speaking in tongues according to the Bible. There are a few examples where believers speak in tongues in the book of Acts. We are going to take a look and see if someone must speak in tongues in order to have the Holy Spirit.
When I went to a United Pentecostal Church, they taught that unless you spoke in tongues at least once you did not have the Holy Spirit and therefore are not saved. According to them, one must speak in tongues in order to enter Heaven in the afterlife. A friend of mine who went to that church didn’t believe speaking in tongues was the initial evidence and as a result, he was kicked out of the church and the pastor told the rest of the members of the church to shun him and his wife. I left along with my friend because I agreed with him.
Churches like the Church of God, Assemblies of God, and other Pentecostal churches also believe that praying in tongues is the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit. They have a different belief about it though than the United Pentecostal Church. They basically believe there are 2 steps in receiving the Holy Spirit. They believe that when someone becomes a believer they receive part of the Holy Spirit. They however, are not filled with the Holy Spirit unless they speak in tongues at least once.
A pastor from the Church of God once used the example of Smith Wigglesworth. He told me that Smith Wigglesoworth was unable to really preach and did not believe it was necessary to speak in tongues in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He then went on to tell me Smith Wigglesworth told God at a church service that if speaking in tongues is the initial evidence that he would speak in tongues that night. As the story goes, he spoke in tongues and was able to preach after that. Of course, this particular pastor said that you cannot find a clear Scripture that supports speaking in tongues as the initial evidence.
Many Assemblies of God will not allow a person to preach unless they have spoken in tongues at least once. I have been to several church services where the preacher would pray over someone and put much pressure on this person to speak in tongues. I remember an Assembly of God preacher telling a person he was praying over that this person was to speak in tongues a minute and a half each day. This kind of behavior has become commonplace.
Many will go to a Pentecostal Church and after not speaking in tongues they become discouraged and end up leaving. A division in the church has been made between those who speak in tongues and those who don’t. Those that speak in tongues are looked at as being more spiritual and having a closer relationship with God while ones who don’t ever speak in tongues are unqualified for leadership positions in the church. Some may not think this is not a big issue, however, because it has caused enormous divisions and those who don’t speak in tongues are often outcasted, we must take a look at the doctrine of speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit. Even though tongues speaking is primarily discussed in the book of Acts and I Corinthians, we will start our journey in the Book of Mark.
Mark 16:17-18 - And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Many Pentecostal churches will use this Scripture to say that all speak in tongues. It’s strange how they chose tongues out of all these signs to be the initial evidence. Out of these signs, speaking in tongues is the easiest to fake. I’m sure many people fake speaking in tongues so they can be more accepted by the church. What happens if a church decides to take up serpents or drink something deadly to prove a person has the Holy Spirit (I hear that there are these kinds of churches)? Most people would look at a church like this as being insane, even most who speak in tongues would think twice before becoming a part of this kind of church. If a church is to use speaking in tongues as the initial evidence, they will need a way to prove that the person is speaking in a valid language. I’ve heard of people recording those that speak in tongues and then research it to find out if it is a language and their search turns up empty. We do see many of these signs being fulfilled in the book of Acts such as Paul getting bit by a snake, demons being cast out, and people speaking in tongues. Let’s move on to our next Scripture.