On Eagles Wings Ministries
Do All Speak With Tongues
The Gift of “Kinds of Tongues”
One common objection or misunderstanding is based on a question Paul asked: “Do all speak with tongues?” (1 Cor. 12:30). A careful examination of the context shows that Paul clearly implies that the answer to his question is: “No – all do not speak with tongues.”
Does this mean, then, that there were professing Christians in the New Testament church who had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit without speaking with tongues?
No, this is not what Paul is saying. Paul is not here speaking about the baptism in the Holy Spirit but about various supernatural manifestations of the Spirit, which can be exercised by the believer in the church subsequent to, and as a result of, the initial experience of being baptised in the Holy Spirit.
This agrees with what Paul says two verses earlier.
Now you are the body of Jesus, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues
(1 Cor. 12:27-28).
Paul is speaking of various ministries which may be exercised by different members within the church. Among these he enumerates “varieties of tongues” or, more literally, “kinds of tongues.”
Exactly the same expression is used by Paul still earlier in the same chapter when he enumerates nine gifts or manifestations of the Holy Spirit which may be granted to believers who have been baptised in the Holy Spirit. The list is as follows:
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all of these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills (1 Cor. 12:7-11).
Paul is speaking about gifts of the Spirit which may be exercised by believers subsequent to their receiving the baptism in the Spirit. This is confirmed by what he says in verse 13: “For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body.”
Or, more literally, “For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body.”
Paul here speaks of the baptism in the Spirit as an experience that has already been received by those to whom he writes. The nine gifts or manifestations of the Spirit which he lists may then be exercised by believers subsequent to, and as a result of, their having been baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Paul indicates that though the baptism in the Holy Spirit is for all believers – “in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body” – thereafter the various gifts of the Spirit are divided up among the believers according to the sovereign will of the Spirit Himself. One believer may receive one gift and another believer may receive another gift. Not all believers receive all the gifts.
Among the nine gifts of the Spirit listed by Paul, the eighth is “different kinds of tongues.” The phrase in the original Greek – “kinds of tongues” – is exactly the same as that translated “varieties of tongues” in 1 Corinthians 12:28. In each case Paul is speaking about a specific spiritual gift, not about the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
It is outside the scope of this serries to examine the operation of this particular gift. But you can study further about “The Reality of the Holy Spirit” Series. It is sufficient to have established the fact that in 1 Corinthians 12:28, as in verse 10 of the same chapter, Paul is not talking about being baptised in the Holy Spirit but about one of the nine spiritual gifts exercised by some believers (but not by all) following the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
When Paul says, “Do all speak with tongues?” the question he has in mind is not: “Have all at one time spoken in tongues?” – that is, when they were initially baptised in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:30). On the contrary, he is asking: “Do all believers who have been baptised in the Holy Spirit regularly exercise the gift of ‘kinds of tongues’?” To this question the answer – both then and now – is a definite no. In this respect, the experience of modern believers after being baptised in the Spirit is in full accord with the pattern established in the New Testament.
This distinction between the initial gift of the Holy Spirit, attested by the evidence of speaking in tongues, and the subsequent gift of “kinds of tongues” is very carefully preserved by the linguistic usage of the New Testament. The Greek word used for “gift” when it denotes the gift of the Holy Spirit received at the baptism in the Spirit is dorea. The Greek word for “gift” when it denotes any of the nine different gifts or manifestations of the Spirit (including the gift of “kinds of tongues”) is charisma.
These two words are never interchanged in the New Testament. Charisma is never used to denote the gift of the Holy Spirit received at the baptism in the Spirit. Conversely, dorea is never used to denote any of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested in the lives of the believers who have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The language, teaching and examples of the New Testament all indicate a clear distinction between these two aspects of spiritual experience.
Is Fruit the Evidence?
Those who claim that speaking with tongues is not necessarily the evidence of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit are obliged by logic to suggest some alternative evidence by which we may know, according to Scripture, that a person has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
One such alternative evidence which is commonly proposed is that of spiritual fruit. The suggestion is that unless a person demonstrates in his life the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a full way, that person cannot be considered to have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The complete list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is given by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
This and other passages make it plain that the primary fruit of the Spirit out of which all the rest develop is love.
Only a foolish, shallow-minded Christians would ever deny that spiritual fruit in general, and love in particular, are of supreme importance in the life of every Christians. This does not mean, however, that spiritual fruit is the scriptural evidence of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In fact, this test of spiritual fruit must be rejected as contrary to Scripture on two main grounds:
- it is not the test which the apostles themselves applied;
- it overlooks the clear, scriptural distinction between a gift and fruit.
Let us consider first the test which the apostles applied in their own experience. When the 120 disciples on the day of Pentecost received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the outward evidence of speaking with other tongues, Peter did not wait several weeks or months to see whether this experience would produce in his life and in the lives of the other disciples a much greater measure of spiritual fruit than they had previously enjoyed. On the contrary, he stood up the very same hour and said without any doubts or qualifications:
But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days,” says God, “that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:16-17).
What evidence did Peter have for making this statement? Nothing but the fact that they all began to speak with other tongues. No further evidence besides this was required.
Again, after many people in Samaria had been converted through the preaching of Philip, Peter and John went down to pray for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now 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, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!” (Acts 8:14-20).
From this account we understand that the people in Samaria had only been converted for a few days, or at the most a few weeks. Yet they received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of the apostles’ hands as a single, complete experience.
There was no question of waiting to see whether in the ensuing weeks and months sufficient spiritual fruit would be manifested in the lives of these new converts to prove that they really had received the Holy Spirit. No, their receiving the Holy Spirit was a single, complete experience, after which no further evidence or tests were needed.
The objection is sometimes raised that the Scripture does not explicitly state that these people in Samaria spoke with tongues when they received the Holy Spirit. This is quite true. However, the Scripture does make it plain that, through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, there was an open demonstration of supernatural power such that Simon, who had been a professional sorcerer, was willing to pay money to receive the power to produce a similar supernatural demonstration in anyone upon whom he might thereafter lay his hands.
If we accept that these people in Samaria, as a result of the laying on of the apostles’ hands, spoke with other tongues, this will fit in with every detail of the story as it is recorded in Acts, and it will also bring their experience into line with the cases of all the other people in the book of Acts who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, if people prefer to assume that in this particular incident in Samaria there was some supernatural manifestation other than speaking with tongues, they must at least acknowledge that we have no way of finding out what this other kind of manifestation was.
Upon this assumption, therefore, it is not possible to build any kind of positive doctrinal conclusion concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit. For example, a person cannot say: “I have not spoken with tongues; nevertheless I know I have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit because I have received the same evidence or experience as the people of Samaria.” If the people of Samaria did not speak with tongues, there is no way of knowing what else they may have done instead.
Thus this assumption leads only to negative and sterile conclusions. It cannot in any way affect the positive conclusions we have formed from the other cases where we know that people, on receiving the baptism in the Spirit, did speak with tongues.
Another case which is sometimes brought forward is that of Saul of Tarsus – later the apostle Paul.
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptised (Acts 9:17-18).
Surely if there was ever a case where the early church might justifiably have applied the test of fruit, it was in the case of Saul of Tarsus. Up to that time he had been, on his own admission, the bitterest opponent of the gospel and persecutor of the church. Yet here we find him receiving the Holy Spirit in a single experience, through the laying on of the hands of Ananias, and thereafter there is not the faintest suggestion that any further test of fruit in his life might have to be applied.
Once again, there are those who object that the Scripture does not state that Saul (later Paul) spoke with tongues when Ananias laid hands on him. It is true the Scripture gives no details of what happened to Paul. However, side by side with this account in Acts 9, we must set Paul’s own testimony, as recorded in 1 Corinthians.
I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all (1 Cor. 14:18).
When we combine this testimony of Paul’s with the other examples given in the book of Acts, it is reasonable to conclude that Paul first began to speak with tongues when Ananias laid his hands upon him for the infilling of the Spirit. This conclusion is strengthened by what happened when Paul in turn laid hands on new believers at Ephesus.
And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6).
It would be unnatural to suppose that Paul laid his hands upon these converts to transmit to them an experience he himself had never received.
One further and decisive case is that of Cornelius and his household, as related in Acts 10. Peter and the other believing Jews went to the house of Cornelius with reluctance, against their own inclinations, only because God had explicitly directed them to go. After Peter had preached a short while, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard his word. Peter and the other Jews were amazed because they heard these Gentiles speaking with tongues.
Up to this very moment Peter, like other Jewish believers, had not conceived that it was possible for Gentiles such as Cornelius to be saved and become professing Christians. Yet this one manifestation of speaking with tongues immediately convinced Peter and the other Jews that these Gentiles were now just as much professing Christians as the Jews themselves. Peter never suggested that it would be necessary to subject these Gentiles to any further tests or to wait for spiritual fruit or to look for any other kind of evidence. On the contrary, he immediately commanded that they be baptised, by which act they were openly accepted and attested as full professing Christians. Peter later gave an account of this incident to the other leaders of the apostolic church in Jerusalem.
And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning . . . If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Jesus, who was I that I could withstand God? (11:15,17).
We know from the previous chapter that Cornelius and his household all spoke with tongues. Yet in this account Peter does not find it necessary to mention this decisive manifestation. He merely says: “The Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning . . . God gave them the same gift as He gave us.” In other words, the manifestation of speaking with tongues was at this time so universally accepted as the evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit that Peter did not even need to mention it. Both he and the other church leaders took it for granted. The other church leaders concluded:
When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18).
What convinced Peter and the other apostles that Gentiles could experience salvation through faith in Jesus just as fully as Jews? One thing, and one thing only: The fact that they heard these Gentiles speak with tongues. In the whole of this account there is never any suggestion that Peter or any other of the apostles ever looked for any other kind of evidence in the lives of these Gentiles, apart from the fact that they spoke with tongues. There was no question of waiting for spiritual fruit to be manifested.
In this the apostles were perfectly logical – not because fruit is unimportant, but because fruit is, by its very nature, totally different from a gift. A gift is received by a single act of faith; fruit is produced by a slow, gradual process, which includes planting, tending and cultivating.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a gift – a single experience – received by faith. The evidence that a person has received this gift is that he speaks with other tongues.
Thereafter, one main purpose for which the gift is given is to enable the person to produce more and better spiritual fruit than he could ever have produced otherwise. It is no error to emphasize the importance of fruit. The error consists in confusing a gift with a fruit, in confusing the evidence that a gift has been received with the purpose for which the gift has been given.
In the next session we will consider a number of other common misunderstandings connected with tongues as the evidence of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.