On Eagles Wings Ministries
One common view today is that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an intense emotional experience. One word often used in this connection is “ecstasy.” This view of the baptism in the Holy Spirit draws its support mainly from two sources.
First, there are theologians who do not actually have the experience themselves but who theorise about it on the basis of passages in the New Testament or the writings of the early church fathers. For some reason, these theologians have chosen the word ecstasy or ecstatic to sum up the essential nature of this supernatural experience.
Second, many believers who have actually received the experience, when testifying of it to others, lay the main emphasis on their own subjective, emotional reactions. The result is that they convey, often without meaning to do so, the impression that the essential nature of the experience is emotional. Probably the emotion most commonly mentioned is joy.
The Place of Emotion
Now, in considering the relationship between the emotions and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we do well to begin by acknowledging two important facts.
First, man is an emotional creature. His emotions constitute an integral and important part of his total makeup. Therefore, man’s emotions have an important part to play in his total worship and service of God. True conversion neither suppresses nor obliterates the emotions. True conversion, on the contrary, first liberates and then redirects the emotions. If a man’s emotions have not been brought under the control and power of the Holy Spirit, then the purpose of that man’s conversion is not yet fulfilled.
Second, in Scripture the word joy is often closely associated with the Holy Spirit. For instance, the fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22, is first love, then joy, and so on. In this list, joy comes immediately after love itself, which is the primary fruit of the Spirit. Again, we read concerning the early professing Christians in Antioch:
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52).
We see, then, that in the New Testament joy is often closely associated with the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, the teaching that intense joy or any other strong emotion by itself constitutes evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit cannot be reconciled with the New Testament. There are two main reasons for this.
First, in the actual passages where the baptism in the Holy Spirit is described, there is no direct mention of emotion. Never once is any form of emotion depicted either as the evidence, or as the direct consequence, of having received the Holy Spirit.
Any person who equates receiving the Holy Spirit with an emotional experience has no scriptural basis for his doctrine. This usually surprises the average religious person who does not base his opinions directly on the New Testament.
In fact, sometimes believers seeking the Holy Spirit receive a clear, scriptural experience of speaking with other tongues and yet afterward are unconvinced and dissatisfied with their experience simply because there was no intense emotion, as they had wrongly been led to expect.
We may illustrate this by the example of a little boy who asks his parents for a spaniel puppy as a birthday present. When the present arrives, it is a beautiful golden cocker spaniel puppy, exhibiting all the marks of a pedigree spaniel of its class.
Nevertheless, to the parents’ dismay, the little boy is obviously far from satisfied with the gift. When his parents ask why, they discover that all the little fellow’s friends have been telling him for weeks that all spaniels are black, and therefore he has formed in advance a strong expectation that his puppy will be black.
No matter how beautiful the golden puppy may be, it now cannot satisfy him, simply because it fails to live up to his expectation of being black. Yet his opinion that all spaniels are black has no basis in fact but has been formed merely by listening to the opinions of friends his own age who know no more about spaniels than he does.
So it is sometimes with professing Christians who ask their heavenly Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit. In answer to their prayer they receive an experience of speaking with other tongues, which is in perfect accord with the examples and teaching of the New Testament.
Yet they are not satisfied with this scriptural answer to their prayers simply because it was not marked by any intense emotional experience. They fail to realise that their anticipation of some intense emotion was based on the ill-considered opinions of misguided fellow professing Christians, not on the clear teaching of the New Testament.
The second reason why we cannot accept any strong emotion, like joy, as evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit is that there are instances in the New Testament of believers who experienced a wonderful sense of joy but who nevertheless had not yet received the Holy Spirit. An example is the first disciples’ reactions after the ascension of Jesus (but before the day of Pentecost).
And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God (Luke 24:52-53).
Here we find that the disciples, even before the day of Pentecost, experienced great joy in their worship of God. Nevertheless, we know it was not until the day of Pentecost that they were actually baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Again, after the people of Samaria had heard and believed the gospel of Jesus preached to them by Philip, “there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8).
We see that the wholehearted acceptance of the gospel immediately brought great joy to these Samaritans. Nevertheless, as we read on in the same chapter we discover that it was only later, through the ministry of Peter and John, that these people received the Holy Spirit.
These two examples prove, therefore, that an intense emotional experience, such as great joy, is not an essential part of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and cannot be accepted as evidence of having received this baptism.
Another type of experience often associated with the baptism in the Holy Spirit is some kind of powerful physical sensation. Over the course of years I have asked many people on what grounds they based their claim to have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Their answer is often: some strong physical sensation or reaction.
The following are some of the experiences which have been mentioned to me: a sensation of a powerful electric current; a sensation of a fire or of intense heat in some other form; being prostrated forcefully on the floor; a powerful shaking of the whole body; seeing a very bright light; hearing the actual voice of God speaking; having a vision of heavenly glories; and so on.
Once again, in considering theories of this kind, we must acknowledge that they contain an important element of truth. Throughout the course of the Bible we find many instances where the immediate presence and power of almighty God produced strong physical reactions in those of His people who were counted worthy to come close to Him.
When the Lord appeared to Abraham and began to speak to him, Abraham fell upon his face (see Gen. 17:1-3). Several times in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, when God’s presence and glory were visibly manifested among His people, both Moses and Aaron and others also of the children of Israel fell upon their faces. When the fire fell upon Elijah’s sacrifice and all the people saw it, they fell upon their faces (see 1 Kin. 18:39). At the dedication of Solomon’s temple:
. . . the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering [more literally, could not stand to minister] because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God (2 Chron. 5:13-14).
There are two passages in which the prophet Jeremiah gives his own personal testimony of the strong physical effects produced within him by the power of God’s Word and God’s presence.
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him [the Lord],
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not (Jer. 20:9).
Here Jeremiah testifies that the prophetic message of the Lord within his heart produced the impression of a burning fire in his bones. Later he says again:
My heart within me is broken
Because of the prophets;
All my bones shake.
I am like a drunken man,
And like a man whom wine has overcome,
Because of the Lord [more literally, from the face or presence of the Lord],
And because of His holy words (Jer. 23:9).
Here also Jeremiah’s words indicate a powerful physical reaction to God’s presence.
Again, powerful physical effects came upon Daniel and his companions because of a direct vision of the Lord.
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror [or trembling] fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigour was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength (Dan. 10:7-8).
At the immediate presence of the Lord, Daniel and his companions – just like Jeremiah – experienced strong and unusual physical reactions.
Reactions of this kind are not confined to the Old Testament. One example is the vision of the Lord granted to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus. Saul saw a very bright light; he heard a voice speaking to him from heaven; he fell to the earth; and his body trembled (see Acts 9:3-6).
When John describes a vision of the Lord that he received on the island of Patmos, he concludes:
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead (Rev. 1:17).
Here, too, there was obviously a very powerful and dramatic physical reaction to the immediate presence of the Lord.
In some of the older denominations of the Christians church there is a tendency to dismiss all such physical reactions or manifestations as “emotionalism” or “fanaticism.” However, this attitude plainly goes far beyond what Scripture warrants. Doubtless, there can be occasions when manifestations of this kind are the product of “emotionalism” or “fanaticism” or possibly of a carnal desire for self-display. But who would dare to bring charges such as these against men like the prophets Moses, Jeremiah and Daniel or the apostles John and Paul? Too often the tendency to reject all forms of physical reaction to the presence and power of God is based on false, man-made traditions of what constitutes true holiness or of the kind of behaviour that is acceptable to God in the worship of His people.
We see, then, that the Scripture gives room for unusual reactions in the bodies of God’s people, caused by His immediate presence or power. However, nowhere is it ever suggested that any of these physical reactions or manifestations constitutes evidence that a person has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In the cases of the Old Testament prophets, we know that none of these received the baptism in the Holy Spirit because this experience was never granted to anyone before the day of Pentecost. In the cases of John and Paul in the New Testament, it is equally clear that their strong physical reactions to the presence of the Lord were not evidence of their receiving the baptism in the Spirit.
At the time when John received his vision on Patmos, he had already been baptised in the Spirit for more than fifty years. On the other hand, Saul’s physical reactions on the Damascus road happened before he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He received this infilling as a separate, subsequent experience three days later when Ananias laid hands on him in Damascus.
No matter from what angle we approach this subject, we are always brought to the same conclusion: There is one, and only one, physical manifestation which constitutes evidence that a person has received the Holy Spirit. That manifestation is speaking with other tongues, as the Spirit gives utterance.
Three Scriptural Principles
In closing this study, let us consider briefly three different, but basic, principles of Scripture, all of which confirm that speaking with other tongues is the appropriate evidence that a person has received the Holy Spirit.
First, Jesus says:
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34).
In other words, the heart of man, when it is filled to overflowing, overflows in speech through the mouth. This applies to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. When a person’s heart has been filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, the overflow of the heart then takes place in speech through the mouth. Because the infilling is supernatural, the overflow is supernatural also. The person speaks a language which he has never learned and does not understand, using this to glorify God.
Second, Paul exhorts us as professing Christians:
Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Rom. 6:13).
God’s requirements go beyond the mere surrender of ourselves – that is, our wills – to Him. He demands that we actually present to Him our physical members, that He may control them according to His own will as instruments of righteousness.
However, there is one member of the body which none of us can control.
But no man can tame [or control] the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8).
As the final evidence or seal that the presenting of our physical members to God has been made complete, the Spirit takes control of the very member which none of us can control – that is, the tongue – and then uses it in a supernatural way for God’s glory.
The third principle of Scripture that establishes the relationship between tongues and the baptism in the Spirit is derived from the very nature of the Holy Spirit Himself.
In various passages Jesus emphasises that the Spirit is a real Person – just as real as God the Father and God the Son.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak (John 16:13).
Here Jesus emphasises the personality of the Holy Spirit in two ways: 1) by using the pronoun “He” rather than “it,” 2) by attributing to the Holy Spirit the ability to speak. Reflection will show that the ability to communicate with words is one of the decisive, distinguishing features of personality. To anything capable of communicating with words for itself we naturally attribute the concept of a person; but if anything lacks this ability, we would not consider it a mature person. The fact that the Holy Spirit speaks directly for Himself is one of the great marks of His true personality.
Side by side with this we may set the words of Paul.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? (1 Cor. 6:19).
Here Paul teaches that the physical body of the redeemed believer is the appointed temple in which the Holy Spirit desires to dwell. Appropriately, therefore, the evidence that the Holy Spirit as a Person has taken up His dwelling in this physical temple is that He speaks from within the temple, using the tongue and the lips of the believer to make this speech audible.
So it was also in the tabernacle of Moses. When Moses went into the tabernacle to commune with God:
He heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the mercy seat (Num. 7:89).
Because Moses heard this voice – the mark of personality – he knew that the Person of the Lord was present in the tabernacle. In like manner today, when we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking audibly from within the temple of a believer’s body, we know by this evidence of personality that the Holy Spirit Himself – the third Person of the Godhead – has taken up residence within the believer.
We find, then, that speaking with other tongues as the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit accords with three great principles of Scripture.