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Tongues and the Baptism with the Spirit

Part One

By Gary F. Zeolla


The following discussion began with the e-mailer commenting my Newsgroup Post Question on Tongues. Here, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

Exchange One

>I agree that things can get out of hand in a Pentecostal service, and that the order in scripture must be followed. But the tongues at Pentecost, 120 all at once speaking in tongues, was not out of God's order. Plainly then, the type of tongues at Pentecost were of a different sort than the tongues that Paul regulates in I Chore. 14.

Also, Paul seems to be regulating public utterances of tongues, that are for the purpose of communicating a message from God. But at the beginning of that chapter he makes the point that "he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto man but unto God; for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries."

This kind of tongues, just as at Pentecost, is not regulated by the "at most by three" rule.

I assume you are a believer in the inspiration of Scripture. Part of this doctrine is that the Word of God is from eternity to eternity, eternal in scope. The Holy Spirit inspired these words of Paul. But to say that the tongues at Pentecost were the same as the tongues for messages in I Chore. 14 would make the Holy Spirit violate his own rules, because there were 120 approximately that were all filled with the Spirit at the same time, causing so much noise and commotion that the crowd came together.

This cannot be. God cannot violate His own rules. It is a monstrosity, because it posits a contradiction in God.<

Reverend Joseph Dinwiddie<

Thank you for your e-mail. I will comment briefly.

Both at Pentecost, and in Pentecostal services, yes there are more than three speaking in tongues at once. But, IMHO, that is where the comparison ends. At Pentecost, the 120 were speaking outside. As a result, crowds gathered. This included foreigners. They heard the 120 speaking in their own languages. Thus the Gospel was proclaimed.

In Pentecostal services, the people are gathered inside. Bo outsiders gather around to hear what is being said. And no foreigners hear the Gospel preached to them in their own languages.

So there was an evangelical purpose to the tongues at Pentecost. And probably the reason more than three were speaking was so that each type of foreigner would have someone speaking in his language. So it could be said that there were many mini-congregations at Pentecost. So the "three" rule wasn't really broken.

Now, I know you tell me you know of a time when a foreigner did come in and say he heard someone speaking in his own language. I have heard many such stories. But it never happened in any of the charismatic services I attended. And I attended my former charismatic church faithfully for over four years, and have visited many other such churches in PA and in CO.

Now, let me make it clear that I have no objections to you having speaking in tongues at your church. Where my main problem comes is when charismatics/ Pentecostals say that their church is more spiritual than those without tongues. I would particularly have a problem if a Pentecostal thought he should be a "missionary" to my church and try to convert it into a tongues-speaking church. I can remember people at prayer meetings talking about being such at my former church. I thought it was a little strange even at the time, someone being a "missionary" to another church.

God bless,
Gary Z

Exchange Two

> It is a mistake to say that the tongues at Pentecost were for the purpose of preaching the Gospel, and very unnecessary too. All of those gathered were Jews, even if from other countries, and conversant in their own language, the Aramaic.<

But hearing those who did not know their language speaking in it was a "sign to unbelievers."

> Peter very likely preached to them in Aramaic, although possibly Greek.<

The bulk of the message yes; after those speaking in their language got their attention.

> And it was not until Peter preached that any asked "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" This is significant, both to that situation and to the place of preaching in the work of God.

I know of no man who thinks that our churches are superior to churches that do not have the experience of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.<

I know plenty. My former church was filled with them. But I am glad that yours is not.

>Superiority is shown in the results in the congregation of the Word of God and the work of the Spirit. But the superiority is not intrinsic, but the direct result of the Spirit of God applying the Word of God to a sinners life.<

By their fruits you will know them. And it has been my experience that tongues-speakers lead no more, or less, holy lives than non-tongue speaking Christians.

>The real question is not do some get proud, but rather, what does the Word of God teach? If the Word teaches that people will speak in tongues when they are baptized in the Holy Ghost, then all those people who have never been given this manifestation of the Spirit have never been baptized, filled, etc., with the Holy Ghost. In this case they are not what they think they are.<

Of course, this is where we disagree; my reading of the Scriptures tell me that ALL Christians are baptized in the Spirit whether they speak in tongues or not.

>I don't have a bad spirit when I say this, because there are many people who are very God-conscious, like Apollos in Acts 18 or like the 12 disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19. They just need to be taught is all. I don't think I am proud in saying this. But I am concerned.

Reverend Joseph Dinwiddie<

And I expressed my concerns in my pervious e-mail.

God bless,
Gary Z.

Exchange Three

>I am sorry you have had a bad experience with some folks who may be carnal in their assessment of themselves and of other people.<

Let me give you an example. At my old church there were several occasions during the four years I attended when the pastor would ask say for all the ex-Baptist to stand up. There would then be a round of applause, with many shouts of "Praise the Lord" thrown in.

Then he would ask the ex-Presbyterians to stand, followed by more clapping and shouts. The scene would repeat with each denomination the pastor could think of. He would always save the ex-Catholics for last and when they stood there would be a standing ovation.

I always found this practice to be rather ridiculous. I simply could not understand why people were cheering because people moved from on church to another, unless, of course, my old church considered itself to be superior to all the surrounding churches.

Now, you can claim that such attitudes are not common in charismatic/ Pentecostal churches, that my old church was an aberration. But I as I said previously, have visited many other such churches in PA and in CO and have found many with such attitudes.

In any case, visited some of those surrounding churches and eventually joined one (a Baptist church). I found it was not "dead" as my old church would describe any non-charismatic church but was filled with God-loving people and had a pastor who had a strong heart to serve the Lord. I also found it to be much sounder theologically.

> Nevertheless, the truth of God cannot change. And my point is valid. If those who have never been filled with the Holy Ghost yet think they have, they are not what they think they are.<

True statement; but what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Does it mean speaking in tongues, or something much more important, like how a person lives his life? Gal 5:18-25; Eph 5:18-21 indicate to me it is the latter.

>You should check out Acts 8. It doesn't mention speaking in tongues there directly, but it is strongly implied. I do not merely infer this. But the salient point here is that verse 14 - 16 says they had not yet received the Holy Ghost, only that they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. That raises a couple of questions, in light of your standard evangelical belief. They had already become believers in Jesus Christ and had been baptized in His name. But they as yet had not received the Holy Ghost. It had not been poured out on them yet. This does not square with the theology that teaches that the Spirit is received automatically upon faith.

Another question raised by this text: In verse 16, how did the apostles know they hadn't yet received? And in verse 17, how did they know they had? Obviously there was a sign that they looked for that had not yet taken place in verse 16. And obviously this sign did take place when Peter and John laid hands on them and they received the gift of the Holy Ghost.<

This is a one-time, unique situation that I do not believe can be used as a pattern for all time. For instance, in order to receive the Spirit the apostles had to lay their hands on them. So to apply this today would mean that no one could be filled with the Spirit as there are no longer any apostles. If you believe there are apostles today, that would be another discussion entirely.

Whatever the case, Jesus tells us we only need to ask the Father for the Spirit (Luke 11:13). So again, the above cannot be normative for the Church age.

Moreover, 1Cor 12:13 says we are ALL baptized by the Spirit; meanwhile verse 30 indicates that not all speak in tongues. Also Rom 8:9 teaches that unless one has the Spirit he is not a Christian. And please note, terms like "receive the Spirit" - "have the Spirit" - "baptism with the Spirit" and "filled with the Spirit" are used interchangeably in Scripture (Acts 1:5; 2:4; 8:17; 10:47; 15:8; 19:2).

Now, to be clear here, what I am saying is I do not see the Scriptures teaching there are two classes of Christians: those with the Spirit and those without. All Christians have been baptized by the Spirit. In other words, I do not see a two-stage development in the Christian life: first one gets saved, then later he gets the Spirit.

However, there is a development in ones relationship with the indwelling Spirit. Those Paul will tell those with the Spirit to be filled by Him. The question then is, what does it mean to be filled by the in Spirit?

In Eph 5:18 Paul contrasts being drunk with being filled with the Spirit. Having gotten drunk many times in my pre-Christian days I know that when one is drunk he is controlled by the alcohol. So the point of the command is that we are to be controlled by the Spirit.

So one with the Spirit must continually let himself be controlled by the Spirit (the Greek voice is passive in Eph 5:18). So there can be repeated "fillings" as the Holy Spirit more and more controls the person.

So, IMHO, the Christian walk should be one of ever increasing holiness. A gradual increase over time, with pitfalls and jumps along the way, but increasing nevertheless. Kind of like the stock market: it goes up; it goes down; sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. But over time, there is an overall increase. So, though we may stumble and fall at times, and at other times have "mountain top" experiences however one describes it, the important point is that over time we are growing more Christ-like.

>It's true enough that tongues are a sign to the unbeliever, given from God for that purpose. But again, the tongues at Pentecost were different than the tongues in I Cor. 14, where it says tongues are a sign to the unbeliever. If the rule of three only speaking by turn a message to be interpreted is not applicable here, then it is not too hard to believe that the other rules may not be applicable either.

Carnality can and sometimes does get involved. But that's why the Lord gave the church pastors, like me or my associate.

As far as living holy lives is concerned, I've have known folks in churches that I've pastored who have been very carnal, sometimes disguising it as spirituality -- at least what they think is spirituality. But again the ministry of a pastor comes in.

But most folks are normal. Once in awhile you get a ringer. But they did in the early church too, folks that would come in, make a big splash, but all the time with an ulterior motive.

The Corinthian church, a tongue talking church, was noted for its carnality, and called forth two epistles by the apostle Paul to correct the carnality in that church. So what else is new? That idea doesn't prove a thing.<

If the baptism of the Spirit means nothing but speaking in tongues then it is an useless experience. As indicated above, if someone is truly filled with the Spirit they should be ever increasing in holiness. That was Paul's point in writing to correct the abuses in Corinth. They had put too much emphasis on external signs and not on the more important matters. There is a reason why the great "love" chapter exists in the middle of the discussion on tongues.

> Everything that is said against speaking in tongues today can be leveled at the church of the first century.<

Exactly. As I read 1Cor 12-14, charismatics/ Pentecostals today are doing the very things Paul rebuked the Corinthians for doing. They are conducting their services in the way the Corinthians were doing and giving the "gifts" an unbiblical emphasis.

For instance, as I count it, at most, tongues are mentioned in eleven chapters in the Bible: the three in 1Cor, three chapters in Acts where they are specifically mentioned and three others, like the one you mention, where they are not mentioned but possibly were occurring, the last chapter of Mark (which, of course has textual debates over it), and the chapter in Isaiah that Paul quotes from.

Now, there are 1186 chapters in the Bible. So that means that tongues are mentioned in about 0.1% of the chapters. It seems to me that if such a count were done on say love, it would be a much, much higher percentage.

The point is, to me, tongues is really a non-issue. If you want to speak in tongues, fine go ahead. But to make it any kind of sign of spirituality is to put way too much emphasis on it, way more than the Bible does.

Moving beyond the Bible, a study of Church history will show that the vast majority of Christians over the centuries did not speak in tongues. I am not talking about mere professing Christians but untold numbers of godly men and women whom God used to change lives and the world.

For instance, God used C.H. Spurgeon to bring tens of thousands to Himself during Spurgeon's lifetime and his sermons continue to bless people over a century after his death. Now that is my definition of a Spirit-filled Christian!

But Spurgeon did not speak in tongues, nor did he believe in "Second Blessing" theology. So according to your theology, you would have to say Spurgeon, and the many, many more like him, were not filled with the Spirit.

>I think that a lot of the aversion of white folks in America to emotionalism in worship is a cultural phenomenon. I work with Asian folks, speak one of their languages, and I have noticed that they don't consider the emotional aspects of Pentecostal worship as something strange at all.<

If charismatics want to have a "rowdy" worship that is just fine by me. Just don't say it is "better" than a calm and orderly service and don't try to introduce your style of worship into my church. [See Questions on Worship for more on my thoughts in this regard.]

>Have you ever seen Jews praying at the wailing wall in Jerusalem? They all pray at the same time, rock back and forth, etc.

This is strange to our American eyes, yet it seems to be a normal thing for these folks, who don't even believe in the Gospel, much less the moving of the Spirit.<

Which shows that emotional experiences are meaningless one way or the other.

>I appreciate your response anyway. If you want to respond further, you can send something to bibleman2@hotmail.com, or bibleman1@juno.com. Both e-mails work.

Reverend Joseph Dinwiddie<

Thank you for your response also.

God bless,
Gary Z.

This discussion is continued at: Tongues and the Baptism with the Spirit - Part Two.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above e-mail exchange was posted on this Web site July 6, 1998.

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