Speaking in Tongues at Spirit Baptism
John David Clark, Sr.
Socrates once remarked that it is madness to speak definitely on matters of opinion. He was right. Therefore, I want to avoid sounding overly confident in this little booklet. Over the years, the Lord Jesus has revealed truths to me concerning his New Testament, but this is not one of them. The best that I can say is something like Paul said to the Corinthian saints when he gave his judgment concerning a marital issue; that is, on this matter, "I think I have the Spirit."
Reason is not revelation, but it is a tool by which we can determine what is true if our reasoning is led by the holy Spirit. With humble confidence that the Lord will so lead us now, let us reason together about the issue of speaking in tongues at Spirit baptism. And with mercy from God, this reasoning together will lead us to the harmony that Jesus earnestly prayed his followers would enjoy.
There are many services which may be rendered to the household of faith by the phenomenon of the Spirit of God speaking through man. Praying in the Spirit (Rom. 8:23-27; 1Cor. 14:13-15; Jude 20) and the gift of diverse tongues (1Cor. 12:10) are examples of such services, but our focus will be the experience of speaking in tongues as it relates to the Spirit baptism.
Until fairly recently, Pentecostal denominations unshakably held that speaking in tongues is the "initial evidence" of receiving the baptism of the holy Ghost. Historically, that doctrinal position is what set Pentecostal groups apart from other Christian sects, but among Pentecostals, there seems to be some movement now away from that position. Many who are called "Charismatics" (the more modern version of Pentecostals) disagree with the old-line Pentecostal position. Instead, they teach that while speaking in tongues may occur when one is baptized, it need not occur in every case in order for the baptism to be genuine.
Using the Book of Acts
Pentecostals often fail in their attempt to persuade others of their point of view concerning speaking in tongues at Spirit baptism because they rely too heavily on the baptismal experiences recorded in the book of Acts. Actually, using personal experiences from the book of Acts alone, it is impossible to determine whether or not every person baptized with the holy Ghost speaks in tongues. It just doesn't say. In some accounts (Acts 2, 10, 19) speaking in tongues is mentioned, while in others (Acts 8, 9, 16) it is not. Pointing to these dissimilar accounts, opponents of the traditional Pentecostal doctrine have had justifiable criticism of it.
Of course, the book of Acts contains material relevant to this issue, but we must go beyond the limited descriptions of personal experiences found in the book of Acts to mine the gold that is available throughout the Bible. This is a doctrinal issue which is as fundamentally important to the faith as can be, especially if Pentecostals are right. We must, therefore, approach the matter from a teaching perspective, drawing from the Master's words and the teachings of the apostles and prophets.
I am persuaded by convincing evidence from these holy men of God that the traditional Pentecostal stance is the true one. I do not think that the Pentecostals' position on this subject lays out a path that God must follow. Rather, I think it recognizes the path that God laid out and which we must follow.
The State of Man
There are basic truths concerning mankind that must be realized in order for us to see the wisdom of God in ordaining speaking in tongues to be the "initial evidence" of Spirit baptism. An important biblical revelation concerning the human condition is that all of mankind is, by nature, estranged from the Creator and lives in deep spiritual "darkness". The ancient prophet Jeremiah described the condition of the human heart this way:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
We all are, or were before Jesus rescued us, a part of this world. There is not a single person excluded from this observation made by the apostle John:
"The whole world lies in wickedness."
Most people do not know that this is true. They do not understand that their lives need changing, that there is a holy life for them to live that is different from, and contrary to, the way they are living now. This is difficult for man to believe because he can so easily deceive himself. Being in the combined darkness of ignorance and pride, he can convince himself that he is right - and then refuse to look at any contradictory evidence. When a man does not know that his own heart is "deceitful" and "desperately wicked," he has the tendency to trust his own judgment concerning himself.
The Scriptures are replete with stories of people who were convinced they were holy, when they were evil. There were, and no doubt still are, many deluded souls who consider themselves to be servants of God, yet are not (e.g. 2Cor. 11:13-15; 2Pet. 2; 1Jn. 2:18-19; 4:1-5; Rev. 2:9; 3:9). When Paul wrote of men who considered themselves to be something in the kingdom of God that they were not (pastor, prophet, or whatever), he described them as spreading such deception to others (2Tim. 3:13). Jesus rebuked certain ministers of his time with these words: "You are they who justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts" (Lk. 16:15a). And he warned his followers of a time coming when "they will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he is doing God service" (Jn. 16:2).
This, then, is the state of man. He does not know truth, does not understand eternal life, cannot discern between good and evil nor appreciate the doctrines and deeds of the Spirit. And, most significantly, he does not know that he does not know! He is bound by his own darkened intellect, self-esteem, lust, and a wily, perverse heart. His spirit is restless, his work is temporal, his institutions vain, and his desires animalistic.
"Truly, every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walks in a vain show."
Confession of Faith
If man, by nature, is in this miserable spiritual state, then how can any human "confession of faith" be trusted? Whenever people, therefore, make confessions of faith, it basically means nothing, or nothing more than that they are making that claim. Nothing that men say makes anything true, whether they are speaking about themselves or God. Whether faith actually abides within a man's heart is not proved by what that man says.
Whatever anyone declares about himself or God is only as dependable as his spiritual condition, and man's natural spiritual condition is depraved. "In me," wrote Paul, "that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing" (Rom 7:18). But it was not only Paul who was in this lowly condition. The whole world is in darkness, as John said. Paul even observed that the spirit in men is so darkened that holy things seem foolish to them:
"A worldly man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot comprehend them because they are spiritually discerned."
Jesus understood man's deplorable natural state as no one else did. When the multitudes saw the miracles he performed at Jerusalem, they enthusiastically declared that they believed in him. But Jesus refused to acknowledge their confession of faith because "he knew what was in man" (Jn. 2:25). Before their conversion, Jesus' own disciples heard him belittle even their confessions of faith (Jn. 6:68-70; 16:29-32). On one occasion, the Lord bluntly stated to his listeners, "I accept no human testimony" (Jn. 5:34), and there is no indication, scriptural or otherwise, that Jesus' attitude toward man's testimony has ever changed.
Scriptures such as these reveal the utter worthlessness of man's estimation of his own standing with God. As such, it is obvious that man needs concrete, trustworthy evidence directly from God that will let him know that his confession of sin and his repentance have been accepted and that he is forgiven. This would be a chief reason for God to ordain speaking in tongues (or "stammering lips" - see Isa. 28:11-12) as the sign of Spirit baptism. Speaking in tongues at Spirit baptism is the voice of God, not man, declaring a person to be God's child. It is the Spirit's testimony, not merely a human one.
Jesus suggested that the witness of the Spirit should always precede one's personal confession (Jn. 15:26-27):
"When the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth which comes from the Father, he will testify of me, and you also will bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning."
Because man, on his own, cannot be trusted to know the truth about himself or God, we must conclude that until God's Spirit declares him to be born of God, there is no sound scriptural basis for him to consider himself to be a member of God's family. "The Spirit is the witness", wrote John, "because the Spirit is truth" (1Jn. 5:6b). And Paul taught that "the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:16).
Were it man's place to declare that he has received the Spirit (as many are taught), we would be in a position (as most of us are) of not knowing who to believe and, so, not knowing who is a brother and who is not. But if in every case, "the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God," then we may discern with certainty who is born again and who is not - without making any judgment about anyone on our own!
The Spirit speaking in tongues through a person when he is baptized with the Spirit is God’s personal witness that He has justified and cleansed the person through whom the Spirit is speaking. And waiting for the Spirit of the Lord to declare a man to be born again appears to be our only means of escape from the confusion and uncertainty which results from relying on human testimonies.
Jesus said to the Jews, "In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true. I am one who bears witness of myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness of me." (Jn.8:17-18). Two witnesses have always been required in order to establish the most important matters among the saints in God's kingdom (e. g. Deut. 17:6), and surely, knowing who is a member of the body of Christ and who is not is one of life's most important issues.
No man’s confession of faith can settle that issue, for man’s testimony is only one witness. Jesus even said of himself, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of me, and I know that the witness that He bears of me is true" (Jn. 5:31-32). If Jesus insisted that even his testimony was worthless if it was the only one he had, then surely we should humble ourselves to confess the same about ours.
What anyone on earth claims about his standing with God counts for nothing in the kingdom of God, though worldly, religious men may highly honor each other for their professions of faith. God requires a second voice, the testimony of the Spirit. And when the Spirit comes in and moves a person to begin to speak in tongues, that utterance is the other required testimony, the witness of the Spirit. That precious testimony, purchased for us by the blood of Christ, added to the testimony of the person through whom the Spirit is speaking, make up the two witnesses required by God for great matters to be established in His kingdom.
"Judge not, lest you be judged."
The scope of Jesus' command, "Judge not," includes a prohibition against judging people to be right with God as well as against condemning people. There are more ministers guilty of judging people to be forgiven (even though the Spirit has not given its witness!) than there are ministers who condemn people. Yet, it is just as wrong to judge people to be justified as it is to condemn them! Judging is judging, and Jesus said not to do it. Before judging someone to be born again, then, should we not wait for God’s Spirit to declare it? Only God knows the heart, as Peter acknowledged in Acts 15:8, after God had surprised everyone by baptizing Gentiles with the Spirit:
“God, who knows the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the holy Spirit, even as He did to us.”
Considering Jesus' refusal to make any judgment based on human testimony or action (cp. Isa. 11:2-4), it is simply unthinkable that his apostles would have done differently. The reliance upon the Spirit of truth to distinguish those who truly believe, rather than judging people's hearts for ourselves, is a pillar of the faith as taught and demonstrated by Jesus and his earliest followers.
The making of any judgment apart from the Spirit of truth is dangerous. If the Spirit was sent to guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13), then what truth may be obtained without the Spirit? Utter dependence upon the Spirit of God cannot be too much to expect when it was given to us for that very reason. The standard that Jesus set and that the apostles followed was to humbly rely on the Spirit of God as our guide in all things, especially in the making of judgments.
The Spirit's Voice
When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, the power of Jesus' comment about the necessity of being "born again" shook him. And as the elderly master of the Law sank in heavy contemplation, Jesus described the new birth experience in these mysterious words:
"The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it's coming from or where it's going. So is every one who is born of the Spirit."
"The Spirit breathes where it will, and you hear its voice, but you cannot tell where it is coming from or where it is going. So is every one who is born of the Spirit."
This is critical information concerning who is really a child of God and who is not. We know that we can trust what Jesus said on this and every other subject, but this revelation he gave to Nicodemus is vital; it is exactly the kind of information that can unite us in a common knowledge of the truth. In this verse, Jesus revealed three fundamental truths concerning conversion, or being “born again”. Let us carefully consider each of them.
First, at the end of that verse, Jesus said his description of the new birth applies to every person born of the Spirit. In other words, Jesus has said something about being born again that is present every time someone is born again. There are no exceptions at any time, with any one. Jesus said so. This is precious information from the Savior. The Son of God has told us how to recognize the new birth every time it happens.
Second, from the middle of the verse, we learn that the Spirit moves independent of men's minds. Men do not know where the Spirit has been or where it will go next. This reinforces our earlier discussion of man’s ignorance of divine life (cp. Isa. 55:8-9). Man cannot know who around the globe was last visited by the Spirit or who the Spirit will visit next.
Third, and most important, Jesus described in the opening phrase of John 3:8 the one characteristic of being born of the Spirit that is present in every case, without exception:
"The Spirit breathes where it will, and you hear its voice."
Now, it is not as important to know that a voice is heard when a person is born again as it is to know that it is the Spirit's voice that is heard. It is not an individual's pastor, or a verse from the Bible, or even an angel from heaven that is ordained to speak and to declare that one is born again; Jesus said that the Spirit itself would declare it. In every case, said the Master, "you hear its voice." A good question for all of us to ask ourselves is, "Who told me that I was born again?" Jesus said that the Spirit's voice is heard whenever anyone is truly born again. Remember his words:
"... so is EVERY ONE who is born of the Spirit."
The Cry Of Birth
Paul's references to the "crying out" of God's Spirit when it enters into a heart are reminiscent of the birth-cry of a newborn baby. Paul's comment to the Galatians stands out:
"And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
Notice that it is the Spirit's cry, not man's, that is emphasized in this verse. And to the assembly of saints at Rome, Paul wrote:
"For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
The Greek verb kratzo is the word translated "cry out" in the above verses, and it signifies a fervent verbal expression. Kratzo is used approximately sixty times in the New Testament books, and in every case it is used to denote an actual vocalization, usually the result of a circumstance overwhelming the speaker's being.
For example, demons "cry out" when face to face with Jesus' powerful presence (e.g. Mt. 8:29; Mk. 3:11; Lk. 4:41). Jesus' own death scream is called a "crying out" (Mt. 27:50). And desperate individuals, such as Bartimaeus and the Syro-Phoenician woman, "cried out" for deliverance when Jesus passed by.
The readers of Paul's message to the Romans and Galatians would never have understood his reference to the Spirit's "crying out" to be a private, internal event. The word kratzo never signified that. They would have understood perfectly that Paul was referring to the same spiritual experience that Jesus described to Nicodemus when he said,
"The wind blows where it will . . . and you hear its voice. So is every one who is born of the Spirit."
Before Christ came, children of Abraham were those from his physical seed, and as the sign of His covenant with Abraham, God chose to circumcise that part of the body through which Abraham's seed passed. This was no small matter with God. He commanded the elders of Israel to cast out any male who was not circumcised. He told Abraham on the day He first commanded him to circumcise himself, his son, and male slaves, "This is my covenant, which you will keep, between you and me and your seed after you: every man child among you shall be circumcised. And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin and it will be a token of the covenant between me and you.... And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant" (Gen. 17:10-11,14).
In the kingdom of God, to quote Jesus, “the seed is the word of God” (Lk. 8:11). Peter said that in this covenant, God’s people are no longer those who are “born of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God [the seed] that lives and abides forever” (1Pet. 1:23). Paul agreed with this concept, boldly teaching the saints in Rome that now, in God’s sight, “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit” (Rom. 2:28-29). I believe that under this New Covenant, as under the Old Covenant, the part of the body through which the seed of God comes, the tongue (the indicator of the heart’s condition), must be circumcised and that when it is circumcised, it speaks a new language that it could never speak while man had control of it. The tongue of man and the heart of man have a unique relationship. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34), which suggests that when the Spirit of God changes and fills the heart of a man, his mouth is moved to express something.
In this “better covenant”, circumcision is still required, and both men and women can receive it now because in God’s kingdom, circumcision is a matter of the heart, not of the foreskin. In Christ, God circumcises from the human heart its old, corrupt nature and replaces that sinful nature with His own holy one (2Pet. 1:4).
Since the time God made His covenant with Abraham, it has been unwise to refuse God’s offer of circumcision, for it was, and it still is, the gateway to the blessings and eternal promises of God. It confirmed, and it still confirms, one’s relationship with the father of all the faithful – back then, Abraham, but now, Christ.
"Calling On The Name of the Lord"
It is true that the scriptures say that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13). But what does the Bible mean by the phrase, "calling on the name of the Lord"?
In many places where that phrase is used, it is connected with the worship of God by His people, an example being Psalm 116:17: "I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call on the name of the Lord." This act of communicating with God during worship is not an act that sinners can perform. Sinners are they who do not call on the Lord's name: "Pour out your wrath on the heathen that have not known thee, and on the kingdoms that have not called upon your name" (Ps. 79:6). They are "the workers of iniquity", wrote David, who "call not upon the Lord" (Ps. 14:4); "but as for me," he said later, "I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me (Ps. 55:16).
Paul asked this rhetorical question: "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?" (Rom. 10:14). The obvious answer is, they cannot. Clearly, then, one must be a believer in order to be able to do what the Bible refers to as “calling on” God’s name.
Calling on the name of the Lord is an experience shared only by those who are in covenant with the Lord and whose prayers are anointed by Him to "enter into that within the veil." Speaking of events of the future New Testament time, the ancient prophet Zephaniah stated plainly that harmony among God's children, as well as the ability to call on the name of the Lord would be made possible only when God restored to the people "a pure language". This seems to be a clear reference to the divinely inspired utterance we know as speaking in tongues. These are the prophetic words that the Lord spoke through Zephaniah (3:9):
"For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent."
When David was moved by the Spirit to pray, "Give us life, and we will call upon your name" (Ps. 80:18), he was confessing that without new life from God, he could not call on His name. David was moved by the Spirit of God to say those words (2Sam. 23:1-2), and being moved by the Spirit to speak of things to come, David did not understand what he was saying, as often happened with God’s prophets (1Pet. 1:10-12). In this case, David was pleading for God to pour out His life-giving Spirit, which prayer was answered, because of Jesus, a thousand years later on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
In Psalm 51, the Spirit of God moved David to cry out for the soul-cleansing power of the New Testament. The Old Testament under which David lived did not provide for the inner, spiritual cleansing for which David felt such a deep need. As part of his earnest plea to God, the “sweet psalmist of Israel” prayed, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will show forth your praise” (Ps. 51:15). I understand this to be a cry for God to open our mouths and help us render praise to Him, and I believe that the answer to David’s prayer is the baptism of the Spirit that was first poured out on Pentecost morning, when God’s power, not the will of man, opened the lips of the disciples of Jesus:
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
How David would have loved to be there, to have God to wash away his sins and open his lips, so that David might praise God in the “new and living way” of this new covenant!
“The Spirit is life”, wrote Paul (Rom. 8:10); therefore, when David prayed for life, he was praying for the Spirit, whether he knew it or not. Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit is what makes men truly alive (Jn. 6:63), and he invited all who thirsted for eternal life to come to him for it (Jn. 7:37-38). John went on to explain that Jesus was inviting men to come to him to receive the holy Spirit (Jn. 7:39). When Jesus (Jn. 10:10) said, “I am come that they might have life,” he was referring to his life’s mission, which was to make the holy Spirit of God available to fallen man. The whole reason for Jesus’ suffering and death was to make the holy Spirit available to us, for it is only by the holy Spirit that we may have access to God (Eph. 2:18).
"Every Spirit That Confesses"
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. You know the Spirit of God by this: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ when he has come into flesh is of God, and every spirit that doesn't confess Jesus Christ when he has come into flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming, and now, already, it is in the world."
It is fundamental to the understanding of this passage of scripture to note that John is speaking of the confession (or absence thereof) of spirits rather than of the confessions of humans. It is obvious that John knew better than to think that anybody who states that Jesus lived in the flesh has the Spirit of God within them. Considering Jesus' refusal to trust the testimony of men (even that of his own disciples) and his warnings to John not to be fooled by what men said or appeared to be (e.g. Mt. 7:15; Lk. 21:8), it is inconceivable that John would later teach that whoever says that Jesus lived on earth in the flesh is born of God.
On the other hand, if John is saying that every time the Spirit of God enters the fleshly temple of repentant men, it "confesses" that Jesus Christ has come, then his teaching bears heavy resemblance to that of his Master: "But when the Comforter is come . . . he will testify of me" (Jn. 15:26), "you hear its voice" and "so is every one who is born of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:8).
When John states, "Whoever will confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God" (1Jn. 4:15), John's readers knew that John was speaking of a confession which can only be made when a person is moved by the Spirit of God to make it. In John's own words, "It is the Spirit that bears witness (confesses, or testifies) because the Spirit is truth" (1Jn. 5:6c). "Confession," as used here by John, is not an act that is possible for man without God's help. To do what John was talking about, confession must be inspired by the power of God. Paul said it this way:
"Wherefore, I give you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit is saying, Jesus be cursed! And no one is able to say, "Jesus is Lord", but by the holy Spirit."
The apostles were certainly wise enough to know that the spirits of greed (1Pet. 5:2; 2Pet. 2:3; Jude 11-19), or pride (3Jn. 9) or deceit (2Cor. 11:13-15) or even the spirits of envy and strife (Phip. 1:15-16) could prompt someone to proclaim the message that Jesus is Lord. When Paul wrote that only by the power of the Spirit could one confess "Jesus is Lord", he was teaching precisely what Jesus and John taught; namely, that the Spirit of God is the only true confessor of Christ and that men participate in that confession only as they participate in the life of the Spirit.
The Most Unruly Member
James said that although men have tamed virtually every species of animal on the earth and built magnificent wonders of technology, no man can tame his own tongue. "The tongue is a fire", James wrote, "a world of iniquity. So is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell" (Jas.3:6). He went on to say, "No man can tame the tongue, for it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (Jas.3:8). Because the tongue is the human body's most unruly member, if any man surrenders his heart to God and tames his tongue, then it is a sure indication that he has become master over the rest of his body (Jas.3:2), which is an impossibility without the power of the Spirit of God (Rom. 7:21 - 8:2). This last comment by James indicates the significance of God choosing the tongue as the sign of the New Covenant, for when the Spirit finally gains control of a man's tongue, that means it must have already subdued all the other members of his body, including his heart.
As we mentioned previously, Jesus revealed to his disciples that human speech is an expression of what is truly in the heart when he said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Lk. 6:45). From this, we can safely assume that the tongue is God's chosen indicator of what is in the heart and that when the Spirit of the Lord conquers the heart, the rebellious tongue must surrender to the power of God. But it is not a painful surrender. The Psalmist, moved by the Spirit of Christ, summed it up beautifully:"Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad!" (Acts 2:26).
Who Needs It?
If speaking in tongues is the evidence that a person has received the Spirit of God, then who needs that to happen, besides the one who receives it? God certainly needs no evidence; He knows all things. Who then needs to have proof that the Spirit has been received? Who needs to know which people really have God's Spirit and which do not? Obviously, unbelievers have that need. In Paul's words:
"Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not."
But if tongues are God's sign for unbelievers, we should then ask, "A sign of what?" Isaiah prophesied that speaking in tongues would be God Himself speaking through the believer, to the disobedient, showing them where they can find rest from sin (Isa. 28:11).
Believers in Christ Jesus declare openly the holiness, purity, and power of God. But then, so do Muslims, Jews, and others in various religions around the world. The attributing of glory to God does not (for the sinner seeking the truth) distinguish the true faith from false religions, for they all, in some way, do the same. The God-given mark of the one true way to eternal life is the holy Ghost baptism, with the Spirit's sign for unbelievers, speaking in tongues. This spiritual baptism comes only in the name of Jesus, and every religion without it is false.
As long as there is hope for unbelievers, there will be a need for speaking in tongues at Spirit baptism. It is only when "that which is perfect is come," and the Final Judgment on mankind has been made, that tongues will cease (cp. 1Cor. 13:8-10). No one will at that time need a witness from God to let him know who is a believer, for believers will be the only ones left standing. But as yet, there remains a need for God to help the thirsty to find the waters of life.
In this, the mysterious love of God is revealed, that in a world filled with voices of men declaring to have found the way of life, God Himself would condescend to speak through true and humble believers, declaring to every confused and hungry soul, "This is the way; come walk in it." It is the purest love and wisdom of God that He should begin each believer's spiritual life with a divinely inspired testimony for the sake of those looking for the truth. Oh, that we all would always follow such a heavenly example, from the moment of conversion to the moment of death!
Knowing the confusion and darkness of men's minds, God has not left man on his own to determine which way is right. In His unfathomable wisdom, God calls from heart to heart, not with reasons but with compassion. And when the presence of His Spirit fills a believer to overflowing, and "its voice is heard," the sinner is called upon for a decision. It is a decision of the heart, not the head.
Rest For The Weary
Early in his ministry, my father had a dream in which he was burying the Lord after his crucifixion. Just as he was about to lower him into the grave, Jesus opened both his hands and said to my father, "Here, this cannot be buried with me."
My father then saw in one hand twenty-eight dollars and eleven cents and in the other, eleven dollars and twenty-eight cents. He reached and took the money, as Jesus had instructed him, and as he looked at the money, it changed into two books of the Bible. The twenty-eight dollars and eleven cents became Isaiah, and the eleven dollars and twenty-eight cents became Matthew. Here is the verse from Matthew:
"Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
And from Isaiah:
"For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to his people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing; yet, they would not hear."
In the holy Spirit, Jesus offers us rest from sin and shame. But Isaiah's ancient question can still be asked: "Who has believed our report?" For God has chosen "the foolishness of preaching", and "the base things of earth, and things that are despised" (such as speaking in tongues), so that He might "confound the wise [of this world]", and "confound the things which are mighty." He has purposely designed this New Covenant so that only the truly humble will enter into the holy rest that Jesus purchased with his sacrificial death.
"The foolishness of God is wiser than men"wrote Paul, and God’s magnificent “foolishness” in choosing speaking in tongues at Spirit baptism is revealed, at least in part, by the fact that proud people are ashamed to be seen speaking in tongues, and self-willed people refuse to yield their hearts (and so, their tongues) to the Spirit. So, establishing the lowly standard of speaking in tongues at Spirit baptism has proved to be, at least in part, God’s immaculately wise way of keeping the most ungodly of earth from even wanting to be in His kingdom.
But the most ungodly of earth are often the most highly regarded and powerful. Paul wrote,
“You see your calling brothers, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many powerful people, not many of noble birth . . .”
Because of what Jesus described as “the deceitfulness of riches”, wealthy people often are too proud to repent and receive the holy Spirit. Jesus said it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mt. 19:24). James explicitly stated that God chose the poor of earth instead of the rich to receive His favor. Accordingly, it has always been the case in each generation since Acts 2 that very few from the upper classes of society have humbled themselves to receive the baptism of the holy Ghost, and every time that men from the upper classes gain control of a revival movement, it withers. The kingdom of God is for the poor in spirit, and undeniably, the poor in spirit are, in great measure, also the poor in this world’s goods.
With their traditional doctrine that insists that one is born again before receiving the baptism of the Spirit, Pentecostals have not followed a logical path. To defend the doctrine that one must be born again before receiving the holy Ghost baptism is a scriptural impossibility. The baptism of the Spirit is unquestionably how one becomes a member of the body of Christ (Rom. 6:3; 1Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27); that is, the baptism of the Spirit is itself the experience of being born again. That being so, it is illogical and unscriptural to teach that one must be born again (that is, become a member of the body of Christ) before receiving Spirit baptism.
Some years ago, a Church of God minister, a friend of mine named Lee, explained to me his church's position on this, that one must believe and "get saved" before being baptized with the Spirit. I replied, "But Lee, that's the opposite of what Jesus taught. Jesus said, 'He who believes and is baptized will be saved', not 'He who believes and gets saved shall be baptized.' Somebody has it backwards." Brother Lee promised he would get back with me after he reviewed the Church of God Minute Book, but unfortunately, he moved out of town and passed away before we had that discussion.
In 1979, in a letter sent to me from a prince in the kingdom of God, Oral Roberts (to whom I owe my life for healing my dying father before I was born), put forth the same position as did my friend Lee. Rather than summarize his remarks, and run the risk of misrepresenting this great man of God, I will reproduce his letter in full:
I read this letter at least twice, and yet I could not understand it. I bowed my head and prayed, and I earnestly asked God what this holy man, whom I loved so much, was trying to get across to me, but I still could not understand his words. Finally, I carried the letter to my elderly father, an old-time holiness preacher, and asked him to read it and explain it to me. He put on his reading glasses and read it in silence. Then, in a meek voice, he summed it up in one sentence. "He's saying that salvation is for sinners and the baptism is for saints."
Then I saw that one reason I had not been able to understand what this elder in the faith had written to me was that he was using the word "salvation" as a synonym for "conversion", which is a confusing error. But taken as a whole, Brother Roberts' letter was saying simply that one must be born again before one can receive the holy Spirit baptism.
I had hoped for more. That doctrine is typical of Pentecostals everywhere, though it is biblically indefensible. There is no example in the New Testament of anyone being born again and,later, being baptized with the holy Ghost. People did hear the Gospel of Christ, feel conviction for their sins, and repent before receiving the baptism, but no one was ever born again before receiving it.
As for "salvation", the apostles and the Lord Jesus most often referred to salvation as the future hope of the saints, the reward Jesus will give to faithful saints when he returns. In other words, salvation is most often used in the New Testament as a synonym for glorification, an event that happens after this life is over. Salvation is not offered to sinners unless they repent of their sins, become children of God, and then obey the Father's commandments. It is something Jesus will give only to faithful saints at the end of this life, not to sinners while they are still living (Mt.10:22; 24:13).
On the other hand, the baptism of the Spirit, from the first day it was poured out, was proclaimed to be for sinners who would repent and believe the gospel because it is the experience of new birth that sinners need. The inner cleansing, or baptism, of the holy Ghost is the very thing that washes away the sinner's sins (1Pet. 3:21; Tit. 3:5) and prepares them for salvation to come.
How could such a great man of God as Oral Roberts not see that? That was a deeply disturbing mystery that I cannot yet fathom. It has vexed my spirit many times over the years as I have pondered over how such anointed and righteous men as he could think that the baptism of the holy Ghost can be received only after conversion takes place, when the biblical evidence clearly shows that the baptism of the Spirit is conversion. This question troubled my spirit so badly, not because I thought I was closer to God than those men, but because I knew that they were closer to God than I was. It was because I honored them so very highly that my heart was grieved that we did not see alike on this fundamentally important issue.
More than a few times, I concluded that I must be wrong and they, right. But then, when I tried to read the Bible as they read it concerning the baptism of the Spirit, it was impossible for me to make them right. It was almost maddening. I wanted to be wrong; I ached inside to see my error; I tried to make the Bible say what they said so that I could agree with their doctrine and be one with them, but the Scriptures just would not yield themselves to it.
Such communications as those above, communications I have had with beloved Pentecostal and Charismatic believers, both small and great, indicate what the reader no doubt already knows; namely, I am in an extreme minority who believe that the baptism of the holy Ghost, with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues, is the experience Jesus described to Nicodemus as being "born again". But if we few people are right, what is there to be done? The numbers against us and the great names whose teachings contradict us are formidable. The traditions and doctrines that oppose us are set in stone, and they have been in place for centuries. They seem so secure and settled, as if revealed from heaven. As my father once put it, "It's like standing outside and facing a hurricane, trying to blow it back where it came from."
I am fully aware of the stunning ramifications of what I am teaching, and those ramifications, if understood, will make any reasonable man be slow to agree with what I am teaching on this issue. Still, if the traditional doctrinal position of Pentecostals is true, if every time a person is baptized with the Spirit, the Spirit's voice is heard, then the only logical and biblically sound conclusion is that no one is born again except those who have spoken in tongues (or had Spirit-inspired "stammering lips" - Isa. 28:11-12). This is earth-shattering in its meaning; nevertheless, I believe it to be the case.
God help me. Here I stand. I cannot see it any other way, though God alone knows how sincerely I have tried.
This booklet presents the most accurate and consistent biblical explanation I can find for speaking in tongues being the “initial evidence” of being baptized with the Spirit, as Pentecostals have traditionally taught. This doctrine, taken to its logical conclusion, alters radically the commonly accepted picture of the body of Christ. For since the baptism of the Spirit is the means of entering the body of Christ (1Cor. 12:13), we conclude that the body of Christ is composed exclusively of those who have received the baptism of the Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues, as the Spirit gives the utterance.
Further, since it is true that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His", it is absolutely necessary for us to know who has received the Spirit of God and who has not. Otherwise, we are lost in a world of religious confusion as to who really is born of God and who is not, which is the condition that exists among believers of today.
Having been taught that the baptism of the Spirit is only for a few saints, Pentecostal people are tempted to think that those who are baptized with the Spirit are the spiritually elite, or at least the spiritually mature of the body of Christ. But if their own doctrine is true, if speaking in tongues is the “initial evidence” of the baptism of the Spirit, then Spirit-baptized people alone are the body, for the Spirit’s baptism (as we have shown) is how one becomes a member of the body. On the other hand, non-Spirit-baptized people should be cautioned that we are not to “take it by faith” that we have received the Spirit. Rather, we "receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Being baptized with the holy Ghost is not something we are to assume has happened based on a doctrine we have been taught or on a Scripture that we believe; rather, it is a real experience that we receive simply because we believe the gospel and obey God. And the sign that it has happened is always that "you hear its voice."
God's acceptance of Abel's offering angered Cain so much that he murdered his brother rather than mend his own evil ways. Likewise, it sometimes happens that when God accepts the repentance of some and "bears them witness, giving them the holy Ghost," certain people without that Blessing are troubled, or even angered because they feel left out or exposed. But God, "who knows the heart," is the One who chooses whom to fill or not to fill with His Spirit.
If, as seems to be the case, speaking in tongues is God’s chosen “initial evidence” of the baptism of the Spirit, then the anger that this experience provokes among some who have not yet received it is an example of the kind of envy that motivated Cain, and it is to be avoided at all costs. The priests and elders of Israel fell victim to the spirit of envy when Peter described the ones whom God blesses with His Spirit. They were so angered by Peter’s innocent words that they wanted to kill both Peter and John. Nevertheless, Peter’s simple message stands as true today as it did when he humbly spoke to the Sanhedrine in Acts 5:30-32:
"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a tree. God has exalted him with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things, and so is the holy Ghost, which God has given to them that obey Him."
We all should be thankful that the Blessing of the Spirit is still available and that it is for everyone. Seeing others receive that Blessing should only encourage everyone without it to seek God earnestly for the it, for we know that "God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that fears Him and does righteousness is accepted with Him."