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.

You’ve Got the Time: Background to Acts 18

I hope you are continuing in listening and/or reading through the pages of the New Testament along with so many in our church. I’m a little behind the schedule but working to catch up! As I move throughout the community so many people are telling me how important this time is to them. Firemen are handing the Mp3’s out in their firehouse as well as teachers to their friends at school. It’s been a great time in the life of our church.

As you listen to Acts 18 on Saturday, I offer some background on the kind of city Corinth was at the time when Paul encountered it. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful. Remember, Saturday is the halfway point of our campaign. Keep listening!

Corinth’s Importance

If you were traveling east to west in Paul’s day, you would have traveled through Corinth. It was a center of business, commerce, travel, and culture. Corinth was the most important city in Greece during Paul’s day. Corinth was also the biggest city Paul had yet encountered with approximately 250,000 people.

The city of Corinth was just about 100 years old when Paul arrived. In 44 BC, Julius Caesar decided to establish a Roman colony at Corinth shortly before his assassination. Rome had destroyed the city earlier (146 BC) and nothing existed there for 102 years. So, Paul would not have encountered any building more than 100 years old. The poor of Rome along with numerous freed slaves had settled the town. Many of them came to this relatively new city to find a new life. In additional to slaves, Rome sent its army veterans there. Rome even gave them land to set up a home. Yet, Julius Caesar recognized the strategic location of the city and its ability to make lots of money.

Corinth was the master of two harbors. The city pulsated with life and all the trappings of sin when Paul arrived there many years ago. It was a natural crossroad for land and sea travel. Cenchreae was six miles to east and opened ships to Asia. Lechaeum was two miles to the north and opened ships to Italy. A four-mile rock-cut track connected the two ports. This four-mile land bridge saved sailors around 200 miles of sailing around the cape. Boats would be removed and placed on rollers to cross the isthmus. In additional, it prevented them from experiencing potential storms as they traveled around the cape of Greece was dangerous in the winter. There was a saying among sailors: “Let him that would sail around Malea make his will first.” To give you a little more an idea, here is a picture of a new canal built today. A canal was first attempted by Nero (67 AD) and not completed until 1893. When Paul arrived there in the late 40’s AD, there was no canal cut, only a land bridge. So, Paul would have encountered a number of potential sailors during his time here.

Corinth’s Sports

When Paul arrived in Corinth, he probably would have seen whatever was left from the Isthmian Games in 49 AD. Corinth hosted these games and they were second only to the Olympic games in popularity. People from all corners of the Roman Empire would have come every two years to participate and watch this important athletic event. They could see chariot races, athletic contests for women, poetry readings, all kinds of athletic events. There was even a game where a rider would leap from one team of horses to another. Paul even alludes to these games in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. The games were very important to the economy of Corinth.

Corinth’s Wealth

Because Corinth was the master of two harbors, the town was wealthy. The town offered incredible financial opportunity to the people of the first century. Because the town was relatively young, there was no entrenched aristocracy. Instead, they had a real opportunity to move up in social rank by acquiring wealth and buying friendships. Again, many freed slaves were working to forge a new life in Corinth and the city’s opportunities attracted a number of people.

This lack of tradition would also have been helpful to Paul’s attempts at evangelism – the people and the city’s culture was more open to change. Think of Corinth in terms of a boom-town in the American West more than a century ago. The prospect of wealth elicits numerous people to come, yet many leave with their hopes dashed. The prospect of money attracts people like dead meat attracts flies. And Corinth quickly experienced a great influx of people from both West and East. As one person said of Corinth, only “the tough survived there.” This was a competitive town where the “Big Man” ruled. The town was highly materialistic. One writer described why he didn’t go to Corinth about 100 years after Paul’s time there: “I learned a short time the nauseating behavior of the rich and the misery of the poor.” The majority of Corinth’s population was on the lower end of economic ladder.

Corinth’s Religion

The temple of Aphrodite was built upon the flat surface a 1,800-foot high precipice called the Acrocorinth. This small mountain was behind the city of Corinth as it displayed a foreboding presence to everyone who visited the city. The Corinthian people credited Aphrodite with bringing wealth to the city of Corinth. There were 26 sacred places in Corinth devoted to the many gods of the Roman religion. So the competitive nature of the city was not only financial but religious as well. Paul’s preaching of Christ as the only true God would not have been welcome by many in such a diverse religious community. The major religion of Corinth in Paul’s day was self-promotion and self-achievement. A competition for success was everywhere in Corinth.

Sexual Sin

 To call the city “sex-obsessed” would not be too much to say. Aphrodite (Roman god Venus) was worshipped in Corinth. She was called the “Goddess of Love” and her worshipers made use of the Hierodules – 1,000 consecrated temple prostitutes. Aphrodite was worshipped by sacred prostitution.

In 464 BC a man named Xenophon, a citizen of Corinth, an acclaimed runner and winner of the pentathlon at the Olympic Games, dedicated one hundred young girls to the temple of the goddess as a sign of thanksgiving. A museum is now in Corinth were nude statues of the god Apollo can be seen. These statues were thought to stimulate male worshippers of Aphrodite to homosexual acts. Yes, Corinth was a center of homosexual practice.

You could hear such slang terms as: Corinthian – a person known for loose, extravagant, living. Or, to Corinthianize – wild partying – think of Las Vegas or of New Orleans during Mardi Gras A Corinthian girl was known as a prostitute.

When Paul traveled the 53 miles from Athens to Corinth in verse one, this is the kind of city he encountered. For more on Acts 18 and its implications for sharing the Gospel with others, see my notes here.