Perhaps nothing in
American Christianity seems to generate more controversy than
the topic of "speaking in tongues". To many Christians,
it seems strange, far-fetched,
or even embarrassing. Many believers want Christianity to be "respectable"
— and speaking in tongues does not seem to be professional
or upper class. Some Christians have a theological belief that
all "supernatural" ministry ended with the last of the
original 12 apostles (or perhaps some later date). Is speaking
in tongues — praying in an unlearned language — for
today, and what should we think about it? Does the Bible definitely
clarify this for us?
Addressing the controversial aspect
of tongues, I know one pastor who said, "The unknown
tongue has never caused a church split yet, it's always been the
known tongue talking about the unknown tongue that caused churches
to split!" There is a lot of truth to this. We Christians
need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. Frankly,
I suspect that church board members disagreeing over the color
of new carpet have caused as many church splits as the issue of
speaking in tongues. We need to be able to have pertinent discussions
about theology among Christians and in the church. If we Christians
can't discuss this in the church, then who can and where? It is
not an obscure or minor theological issue for us to study and
discuss because the largest and fastest growing churches in the
world believe in speaking in tongues.
At the root of the discussions and disagreements
about speaking in tongues is the central issue of whether God
still does "supernatural" ministry (or miracles) today
in the world. Either He does or He does not. One interesting point
that all evangelical ministers agree on is that a person being
born-again has a supernatural experience (a miracle). Beyond that
point is a growing volume of medically documented evidence of
dramatic and instant healings of people through prayer. Additionally,
intercessory prayer has shown to reduce complications in cardiac
patients in two different classic double-blind scientific studies
as documented in the Southern Medical Journal (July 1988) and
the Archives of Internal Medicine (October 1999). So even God
answering our prayers makes a "supernatural" difference
in people's lives — so how can we say God is finished doing
supernatural things on the earth if He still answers prayer?
As an objective person reads and studies supernatural
healings, it becomes intellectually impossible to say these healings
were somehow "of the devil" when the person in question
prayed to God in the name of Jesus and gave God the glory for
the healing. Consider this question — could sound theology
say that God allows Satan to produce supernatural healings and
"speaking in tongues" to mislead people, but God Himself
is prevented from doing supernatural things on earth for the last
2,000 years? Addressing this point, all Christians agree that
God performed miracles in the Old Testament, and the Bible says
God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
The Bible has a significant amount of scripture
addressing the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" which we
are told is what produces the ability to pray or speak in a language
which the person has not learned. There are five examples in the
New Testament of people being filled with the Holy Spirit, and
it can be scripturally proven that they spoke in tongues in every
#1) The best known case is the day of Pentecost
where 120 believers were in the upper room and the Holy Spirit
came upon them and they "began to speak with other tongues"
#2) When this same Holy Spirit baptism
came upon the Gentiles, "they heard them speak
with tongues and magnify God" (Acts 10:46).
In Acts 11:15-18, Peter addresses this same Gentile experience,
saying "The Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the
beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord...you shall
be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
#3) In Acts 19:1-6, Paul traveled
to Ephesus and asked some Christians, "Did you
receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
And when Paul had laid hands on them, "the Holy
Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied."
Keep in mind these were not mature, knowledgeable Christians which
God bestowed this experience on.
#4) In Acts 8:12-21, Peter and John
went to Samaria to pray for the Christians that they might receive
the Holy Spirit. "Then they laid hands on them,
and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through
the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given,
he offered them money, saying, 'Give me this power also, that
anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' But Peter
said to him...You have neither part nor portion in this matter."
The key issue here is the word "matter". In the Greek,
it is logos which is also translated as utterance in 2nd Cor.
8:7 and Eph. 6:19. So what Simon was wanting to pay money for
was the ability to produce supernatural utterance by the laying
on of hands — clearly in context it was "speaking in
other tongues" when they received the baptism of the Holy
#5) After Paul's road to Damascus experience,
Ananias prayed for Paul to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts
9:17-19). Later, Paul said he spoke in tongues (1st Cor. 14:18).
So we find that in every case in scripture
of people being filled with the Holy Spirit, they prayed in other
tongues. This prayer language is received by faith the same way
we receive our salvation by faith. We don't earn it or deserve
it, it is by the grace of God. It does not make the recipient
"better" in the eyes of God than other Christians, but
it is definitely beneficial. And this baptism or filling with
the Holy Spirit appears in scripture to be available to every
believer — none were excluded and there were no qualifications
other than being born-again.
From my experience in the Body of Christ,
I believe a lot of Christians have had a time in their private
prayer life where they told God that He could baptize them with
the Holy Spirit if it was His will — then nothing happened.
But that would be like an unsaved person telling God He could
save him or her if it was His will. Of course it is God's will
for all to be saved (1st Timothy 2:4 & 2nd Peter 1:9). The
issue is not whether it is God's will; the issue is whether the
person truly desires something from God and then humbles himself
and receives it by faith according to scripture.
Many people have a legitimate concern that
they might get the "wrong thing" — something that
is not from God, a "counterfeit gift" from the devil.
Jesus directly addressed this in Luke 11:11-13 where He personally
promised that if a believer asks to be filled with the Holy Spirit,
he or she will not get a stone, serpent, or scorpion.
Additional evidence for the validity of the
baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other
tongues includes the experiences of people who have had strangers
from other countries understand their praying in tongues (see
enclosed examples of people I know personally which this has happened
to). While it is true that we should not form doctrine based on
our experiences, at the same time we should not ignore supernatural
experiences that are happening all around us.
But why should a person want to be filled
with the Holy Spirit and even have this ability to pray in another
language? The list is long, but the first reason is the power
that comes into a person's life — power to overcome and
live their witness, power to witness to others, power to understand
the scriptures in a brand new way, and power to experience God
in a fresh new way. Additionally, the baptism of the Holy Spirit
usually allows other special gifts of the Holy Spirit to occur
in that person's life (1st Corinthians 12:1-11). The baptism of
the Holy Spirit seems to allow a person to be able to "hear"
the still small voice of the Holy Spirit better. And praying in
the Spirit enables a person to pray more and pray the perfect
will of God. Also, the Bible says praying in tongues "re-charges"
a person spiritually (Jude 1:20).
In my teaching tape on The Baptism of the
Holy Spirit, I give even more evidence for praying in other tongues;
three kinds of speaking in tongues; other obstacles that can be
overcome to receive the gift of praying in tongues; as well as
six steps any person can use to help other believers receive the
baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other
Filling Others with God's Spirit,
Dale & Judi Leander