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.
Acts: 2:3,4 - Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
When I was reading an article on the 7 Reasons Every Believer Should Speak in Tongues this was the first Scripture that they quoted. Of course, looking at this Scripture without reading further in Acts 2 would be a good defense for those who believe speaking in tongues is the initial evidence. We need to look further on to figure out the purpose God had for these people to speak in tongues.
Acts 2:5-11 - And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”
Now we see that several people from different countries that spoke in different languages were gathered around. All these people heard the believers speak in their own language. Let me give you a modern day analogy. Let’s say there is a church in England where all the members only know English. Let’s say that one day there is a big event going on which draw people from France, Germany, Spain, etc. People from all these countries enter that church and the people that can only speak English all of a sudden speak German, French, Spanish, etc. This would take a miracle. What we see in Acts 2 is a miracle. God was demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit and showing that the apostles were on the right path. I challenge any church who claims that tongues is the initial evidence to pull something like this off.
Let’s see if the Bible says that all speak in tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:27-31 - Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 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. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
After getting done discussing how there are different people for different purposes in the body of Christ, Paul asks the question “do all speak in tongues?” verse 30. The obvious answer is “no.” Paul is saying that all people can’t do all things and therefore there needs to be diversity in the body in order for it to function properly. Paul compares the body of Christ to a human body in previous Scriptures. The questions in vs. 29 & 30 would be similar to asking questions such as: “Can all parts of the body hear? Do all parts of the body see? Are all hands? Are all feet? Etc. This Scripture alone should destroy the doctrine of tongues being the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit, however, they get around it. They argue that there are the tongues that are spoken once and then there is the separate gift of tongues. I have yet to find a really clear Scripture to prove that there is a separation of tongues.
Also, wouldn’t you think that Paul would have discussed speaking in tongues more if all who received the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues. Paul doesn’t seem to find it as an important issue.
Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a Must
As I said earlier in this article, some Pentecostal churches believe there is a separation between salvation and being baptized with the Holy Spirit. However, Scripture plainly states that in order to belong to Christ, you must have His Spirit.
Romans 8:9 - But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
You MUST have the Holy Spirit to make it to Heaven. I believe that many churches make this error because they want to be able to assure people that they are saved even if they haven’t prayed in tongues while still holding on to the doctrine that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit.
Is there a second part in receiving the Holy Spirit?
Acts 19:1-7 - And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 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.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 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.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all.
This Scripture is often used to defend the doctrine that there is a second part of receiving the Holy Spirit. However, there are a few things that they overlook. These men were baptized under John the Baptist so they were baptized before Jesus went to the cross. The Holy Spirit didn’t fall on believers until Pentecost (after the resurrection of Jesus) according to the Book of Acts. This was their first encounter with the Holy Spirit since they didn’t even know the Holy Ghost existed.
Today you see many people go up to the altar service after service and continually pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They have been taught that tongues is the initial evidence so they don’t believe they have received it until they pray in tongues. In the Bible, you don’t see where anyone who was genuine had to continually beg God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The people we read about in Acts 19 were rebaptized and received the Holy Spirit. We must also remember what Romans 8:9 says about those who don’t have the Spirit.
I have personally been to churches where those that speak in tongues are put on a pedestal, while those who don’t are looked down upon. These churches need to realize that if they carry this kind of attitude, many will fake speaking in tongues in order to look good.
I have also seen honest men and women go to the altar and continuously beg God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and they become more and more discouraged when they never speak in tongues. I personally have been one of these people and after not speaking in tongues I felt like God didn’t care for me like he did other people who did speak in tongues. I became hurt and discouraged. Fortunately, after I researched what the Bible says about tongues I understood that God wasn’t ignoring me, but I had been deceived. Those that teach that tongues is the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit are teaching an extremely dangerous doctrine and must stop.
Heathens, pagans, and many that are involved in the occult will speak in tongues. Does that mean they have been baptized with the Holy Ghost?
Holy Spirit Baptism vs. Holy Spirit Fullness
A teaching that often gets twisted is distinguishing between Holy Spirit baptism and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs when one is converted.
1 Corinthians 12:13 - For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
We are placed into the body of Christ when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is a one-time event (Unless someone falls away and later returns.)
Fullness of the Holy Spirit – We see people in the Bible being filled with the Holy Spirit more than once. We see Peter in Acts 4:31 being filled with the Holy Spirit. When someone is filled with the Holy Spirit they are in total submission yielding to the Spirit. An example would be when a believer is evangelizing to a non-believer, the believer allows the Holy Spirit to speak through Him in order to evangelize to the non-believer.
Note: This is different from the belief that there is a second part of receiving the Holy Spirit since this happens repeatedly.
Evidences Of The Holy Spirit
Evangelizing – Evangelizing is one evidence that someone has the Holy Spirit. Those that stand to be ridiculed and mocked yet will still win the lost to the Lord show evidence that they have the Holy Spirit.
Love – Love is another sign that someone has the Holy Spirit. I’m not talking about someone that only loves his or her friends and family. A person that can love their worst enemies show evidence of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13:1 - Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
Fruits Of The Spirit – In this magazine, we will look at the fruits of the Spirit individually.
Matthew 7:18-20 - A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Jesus said that “you will know them by their fruit.” One Who is baptized with the Holy Spirit will put to practice the fruits of the Spirit.
Today we see too much emphasis on tongues and not enough on the cross. I’ve even had a person tell me that I must start praying in tongues, yet this same person would turn around and do drugs and get drunk. So many desire the gift of tongues yet run for cover when it comes to the cross.
To many people are now looking for experiences instead of looking to the Scriptures. Since talking in tongues can be faked and even other religions practice it, there will be many false experiences. It’s amazing how in some churches, if a person prays in tongues once, they are considered to have the Holy Spirit, however, if someone is producing good fruits, love the Lord with all their hearts, yet have never spoken in tongues, they are considered to never have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. The bible say that signs such as tongues will follow believers, but it also states that we’ll know them by their fruit. We know if someone is a genuine Christian by the fruits of the Spirit, not by whether they have prayed in tongues.
Acts 19:6 - And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
Many say that we need to duplicate what happens here. Should we duplicate experience just because they are in the Bible? Paul was blinded for 3 days. Paul was bitten by a venomous snake and survived. We don’t have to duplicate experience in the Bible unless they are written as a commandment for all. Remember that speaking in tongues is NOT commanded in the Bible. Here is an example where someone believed, yet there is not evidence that he spoke in tongues.
Acts 8:37-39 - Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of
the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
Acts 10:45-47 - 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. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
Acts 10 is an example many try to use to prove that tongues is the initial evidence. This is the first instance where the Gospel was preached to the Gentiles by Peter. A reason that they spoke in tongues could very well be because God was demonstrating the walls being broken down between the Gentiles and Jews, not because it is the initial evidence. Notice in verse 45 it says that those with Peter were astonished to see the Holy Spirit being poured on the Gentiles? There was a big gap between Jews and Gentile so the mending of the separation had to be shown.
To teach that tongues is the initial evidence can cause some to have spiritual pride. They look at others that haven’t spoken in tongues as not being as Spiritual. Pride is a very serious sin against the Lord. Jesus spoke many times against the Pharisees who had an issue with spiritual pride. Pride has caused people to leave churches because they think they’ll never be as spiritual as those speaking in tongues. The teaching that tongues is the initial evidence is a deception from Satan in order to divide and weaken the believers.
Remember, the Corinthians, who had the Spiritual gifts were rebuked by Paul as being puffed up and carnal.
1 Corinthians 3:1-4 - And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
What a tragedy it is when believers focus more on Spiritual gifts than on loving one another. Spiritual gifts are useless if those using them don’t love others and think of themselves as better than others.
Wicked ones seek signs
Matthew 12:38-40 - Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by saying that an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. Would He give the church the same rebuke today? Those that look to see if someone is saved or filled with the Holy Spirit by whether they have prayed in tongues or not are seeking after a sign. The only sign that Jesus gave was His death, burial, and resurrection. The only sign we should use to see if someone is a Christian is similar. Has their old way of living been put to death and buried. Have they risen to a new life in Jesus Christ giving their lives totally over to Him? We need not be concerned about whether someone has prayed in tongues or not, we need to be concerned about whether they have picked up their cross and followed Jesus.
Problems With Sign Seeking
Matthew 24:24 - For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Jesus warned us that false christs and false prophets would come along using signs and miracles to deceive many even the elect if it were possible. So many people today seek after signs and miracles whether it be speaking in tongues, healings, financial blessing, etc., yet forget the warning Jesus gave about seeking signs.
2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 - And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
The son of perdition will deceive many by using signs and lying wonders. A great apostasy occurs at the time. Another warning is in Revelation 13. Satan is going to use signs and wonders to deceive many. Signs and wonders are what people find convincing. Some people claim to have talked to or seen images of Mary and are led down a path of deception.
1 Timothy 4:1 - Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.
Tongues being the initial evidence is a modern doctrine. Being something fairly new you need to question how legitimate it is. Is this one of those doctrines of devils that is leading people down the wrong path. Many churches believe that they are on the right track even though they are nowhere near God. You’ll find many churches who love to speak in tongues yet they totally miss the message of the cross. They have been seduced and deceived by this false doctrine.
A Warning To The Churches
A warning goes out to all the churches who put restrictions on those who have never spoke in tongues. If you are forbidding someone to preach, teach, or do ministry of any sort because they never spoke in tongues, you may be holding back the will of God. You are causing division between the tongue speakers and the non-tongue speakers. You will be accountable to God on judgment day regarding these matters.