Q. I have a question for you regarding being filled with the Holy Spirit. Do you believe, and does the Bible support, being filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues or was it just for the book of Acts? My husband has been saved for 3 years and is still waiting for the evidence of speaking in tongues. Is it for everyone to use at all times or just certain times that the Lord decides? Any info you have would be great. Thanks!
A. All Christians have the Holy Spirit. At the first moment of our belief, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us (Ephes. 1:13-14) and will remain there till we’re raptured or die. Upon arriving, He begins counseling us to change our behavior to conform us to the image of Christ. He also assigns us one or more of His special gifts to help us fulfill the role He has for us in serving the Church (1 Cor. 12:7) The gifts He invests in us may include the ability to speak and understand languages we haven’t learned, or it may not. His gifts are distributed as He alone determines. (1 Cor. 12:11) Paul made it clear that not all would be given this gift because that wouldn’t serve the Body of Christ well. (1 Cor. 12:27-31)
The idea that speaking in tongues is a necessary evidence of Salvation stems from a generalization of two passages in Acts involving special circumstances. I’m setting aside Acts 2 because most everyone agrees that that situation was unique. There it wasn’t just the Apostles speaking in other languages. It was also that everyone heard what they were saying in his own native language (Acts 2:6)
The first time tongues is mentioned after that is in Acts 10 when Peter gave the Gospel message to a group of gentiles at Cornelius’ home. This was the first instance of the Gospel being officially and publicly shared with Gentiles, and speaking in other tongues was used to show the Jews that the Holy Spirit could be given to Gentiles as well. (Acts 10:44-46)
In the other one, Paul met some Gentiles who had only received John’s Baptism and were unaware of the Holy Spirit’s existence. When Paul baptized them some spoke in tongues and others prophesied. This was to show them the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 19:1-7) In both cases observers recognized other languages being spoken and saw the power of the Holy Spirit at work.
In the Greek language three words are used in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. The first is “para.” It means to be with someone. This is the way the Holy Spirit is described in the Old Testament. The second word is “ein” It means to be in someone, as is the case with every believer. The third word is “epi.” It means to come upon someone. Usually this is a temporary thing to accomplish a specific purpose. In all three cases in the Book of Acts the word “epi” is used to show that something unique and special was happening.
All of that said, there is no Biblical mandate that the gift of tongues is a necessary component of our salvation.
Today most people confuse the gift of tongues, which is literally the ability to speak understandably in a language you haven’t learned, with something called a prayer language, an ecstatic manifestation not meant to be understood. Advocates of this say that it’s found in two places in Paul’s writings. One is in 1 Cor 13:1 where Paul is really saying that even if he could speak in the language of angels, if no one could understand him it wouldn’t do any good. The other is in Romans 8:26-27 which says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in groaning that words cannot express. But in the first Paul was not claiming to speak in angelic tongues, but saying that even if he could it wouldn’t help anything if no one could understand. And in the second, it’s not the person who is praying, but the Holy Spirit praying for the person.
The Bible offers no further explanation on this, but it has always puzzled me that in some congregations everyone has a prayer language, while in others no one has one, and yet there must be at least some there who need the Holy Spirit’s intercession. Why, if it’s the Holy Spirit doing the praying, would He only pray for some? It makes me wonder how much of this is man made.
Here’s a link to a series I wrote that’ll give you more detail on Spiritual Gifts.