Baptism of the Spirit: Should We All Speak in Tongues?

Pastors everywhere are usually asked about the Bible’s view on speaking in tongues and the experience of the Second Baptism. Recently, I received the following question that I wanted to share with you:

Dear Pastor Scott,

We’ve been attending a Pentecostal church recently. I have many friends who are Pentecostal, and I enjoy how they preach and teach closely to the [Bible]. (For example, the practice of laying on of hands, and anointing the sick with oil.) It has been brought to our attention there, that they baptize in the name of Jesus only. They do not baptize using the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. I am aware that in Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. However, that’s just one instance, and all through the book of Acts it says to baptize in Jesus’ name.

I am also aware that the Pentecostals, (or at least where we worship) also believe that once you are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, then one will also receive the gifts of speaking in tongues. I already speak in tongues,and have for several years. I asked,and the Lord blessed me with it. I was baptized with the trinity. My husband was baptized in Jesus name and yet did not yet receive the gift of tongues. I believe things are done in God’s time,and not our time.

Sincerely,

Holly (name changed for purposes of anonymity)

Here’s my response:

Thank you for your question and your patience in my reply. I think there is so much to commend itself within Pentecostalism. Though I recognize there are many branches within Pentecostalism, they are our sisters and brothers in Christ and we share so much with them. I love their exuberant worship and their desire to obey all of God’s Word. I love their belief in miracles and wish many of my Baptist friends showed a similar confidence in God’s work. Yet, you’ve raised some concerns in your email.

First, the Pentecostal paradigm where a person is first converted and subsequently baptized in the Spirit as evidence of this by speaking in tongues is not found in Scripture. Those that advocate this view usually defend the position by showing that Jesus’ disciples were converted in the gospels and then later on, in the book of Acts, Jesus told them to wait to receive the Spirit (Acts 1:4). After waiting, the Spirit descended on them and they received a baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Therefore, Pentecostals argue that modern-day Christians should also follow the same pattern and we will enjoy renewed power for worship and ministry. Those that hold to this position find further proof in Acts 8:12, 14-17 and in Acts 19:1, 6.

But while I am sympathetic to such a reading we also should be careful not to see the paradigm from Acts as normal for contemporary Christians today. Why? Because the New Testament book of Acts represents a time of transition between the old covenant (think of the Old Testament) and the New Covenant (think New Testament). Unlike the Twelve Disciples, you and I did not become believers under the Old Covenant (e.g. before the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost described in Acts 2). Their “Baptism in the Spirit” happened after their conversion because they were in a unique point in history. Our conversion is on this side of the New Covenant. While much of Acts is normative for us, we should evaluate the idea that all should baptized in the Spirit through the entire New Testament. For example, I search in vein when I read my Bible for a command that says “Be baptized in the Spirit” after my conversion.

Also, we learn from places such as 1 Corinthians 12:13, where we see that “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” refers to the activity of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of our Christian lives where He gives us new spiritual life and gives a clean break with the power and love of sin. As author Wayne Grudem has written, “[What] happen at Pentecost for the disciples, … [happens] at conversion … for us.” (Source: Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology, page 774).

Having said this, I believe that many people have “second works” of the Spirit that can be very powerful but I must recognize that Spirit operates on many different levels and degrees with individual believers. Each of us seem to take a different path toward spiritual maturity.

While the Bible teaches that we are not to forbid the speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39), this gift is in no way to be viewed as the normative gift of spiritual maturity. Instead, the Bible argues that those who are mature in Christ will have a self-sacrificing love for others (1 Corinthians 13) and show the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). To select one gift of the Spirit (e.g. tongues) and make it the one sign of the Baptism of the Spirit is much like refusing all the gifts wrapped under the Christmas tree in favor of one! Instead, God has given His children a wealth of gifts, including gifts of teaching, healing, and serving. Again, why would we limit God by saying the truest evidence of the Spirit’s work is tongues? Why not prophecy? Why not miracles?

None of this is to deny the supernatural gifts of miracles, tongues, and prophecy in our day (1 Corinthians 12:27-31). In contrast to many intelligent and winsome evangelical friends, I cannot see where the Bible teaches that these gifts will cease. Yet, God calls on us to strive for the highest gifts where love reigns supreme in and through you. After all, heaven is a world of love and Jesus’ disciples are best characterized by this love for one another.

So, I encourage you to please be careful as you move forward and be sure to think biblically. Love the people of your church but resist the idea that everyone must speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 13:26).

Second, yes you are correct – we are to baptize in the name of Father, Son, and Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The Bible speaks of God who is Three yet One (2 Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 4:4-6 are two examples). While the word “Trinity” is not in our Bibles, the word is an accurate description of the Bible’s theology as it speaks of the Tri-Unity of God. I would be suspicious of anyone who refuses to baptize new believers in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Again, the critical word in the past sentence is “refuses.” If your church’s leadership teaches something other God is Three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then I would exit the church. Each member of the Trinity is equal to the Other, each completely loves the Other, while each is One, then I would encourage you to find another church.

I hope my answer is helpful. I recognize that many great Christian friends will disagree on some of what I have written above. My own views on the supernatural gifts have changed slightly as I have read the Bible more. But my hope is that I pointed you back to the Bible where the Spirit has spoken perfectly.

Sincerely,

Scott Maze

PS For those who want to do further study…

John R. W. Stott’s Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today is a short read and very helpful.

For advanced readers, I would point you to D. A. Carson’s Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14.