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  • Writer's pictureJosh Reading

Questions on Tongues

This post is a follow up and part of a wider blog series on the Holy Spirit. You can find the beginning of this series here. The Apostle Paul encourages us, when considering the Gifts and their operation to think in a mature regard (1 Cor 14:20). I think there is a tendency to think of personal comfort rather than approach the matter as Paul encourages us, thinking of others. thinking deeply. For this reason, I LOVE good questions that are not seeking to mock like a meme can either explain or discount good theology


I will add to this post as there are some more questions I have received over time. Remember, questions are not evidence nor arguments in themselves, they are simply doors to new possibilities. Questions on Tongues 

QUESTIONER: 

1. First question is, In Acts 19 when Paul encounters those baptised under John.

The argument is that these disciples have not received salvation.   Therefore, the moment is not a second baptism into fire (HS) but rather a salvation moment. This argument would align with some from the evangelical group on the basis that you are spirit filled at conversion. How would you respond?  

JOSH:   Actually I think this is an incredible easy one to deal with and an important one as arguably Luke and Paul emphasise the role of the Holy Spirit slightly differently at times. In my experience people often try to quote Paul OVER Luke as if one text can be more inspired yet all scripture is useful for teaching (2 Tim 3:16 – 17) Paul in his writings tends to focus on the salvific operation of the Spirit in drawing the person to Christ (1 Cor 12:3) sealing the believer in salvation (Eph 1:13) baptising us into Christ (1 Cor 12:13) however Luke does not emphasise this operation virtually at all but rather the empowering of the believer for Ministry and Mission (Luke 3:16, 24:49, Acts 1:8, 2:4).    The answer is actually in Paul's question itself. It betrays his view of what is happening. The exact state of those being questioned is not really that relevant.   Luke records Paul in Acts 19:1b – 2 “There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” “No,” they answered, “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:1b – 2)  “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” Acts 19:2  First note: Paul assumes they were believers and recognised the possibility that they may NOT HAVE received the Holy Spirit in the nature that Luke is recording since they had believed. That they responded as not knowing the Holy Spirit is in itself not really relevant and the Holy Spirit is not part of the Gospel teaching  This is approximately 21 years after Pentecost and the role of the Spirit in drawing, indwelling and sealing each and every believer has ALWAYS been the same.  

All believers have the indwelling of the Spirit, otherwise they are not believers but not all believers have received the Spirit in the way Luke references.   What does Luke reference? “But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8    QUESTIONER: 

2. You briefly mentioned in your article “what can I expect? Tongues and the empowering of the Holy Spirit” under point E. At Samaria 8:4-25 could you potentially elaborate more on how the evangelical argument that this is a moment to illustrate a unified church is not the point of this moment or how would I respond to this position or argument more in depth if possible?    JOSH  The conservative evangelical I believe intentionally overlooks their own theology. These people are clearly saved, salvation requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13 – 14)  A person without the indwelling of the Spirit is not and cannot be a believer (1 Cor 12:3).  

No evangelical scholar on the face of the planet that I have ever heard of would disagree with this.  

We are regenerated by the Spirit through repentance and faith in Jesus, all of which the Samaritans had, they had received the word (Acts 8:14) and had been baptised (Acts 8:16).   What they did not have, was what the Apostles had experienced and were encouraged to wait for, the empowering, which had specific evidences.    Note Acts 8:15, “When they (Peter and John) arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them”  What do we learn?  They were saved (which necessarily involves regeneration, indwelling and adoption by the Spirit) yet they had not received the Holy Spirit.    What was the “receiving of the Spirit” about in Luke? Was it salvation? Nope.  

“And you shall receive Power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”  


Why? To make one saved? Nope, rather to bring salvation,  


“and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea…” Acts 1:8 


Now, the excuse some argue, is that this is just the evidence of a unified Church.


Firstly, that does not negate what is above, it can and should be both.  


All believers MUST have the indwelling of the Spirit, otherwise they are not believers however Luke’s use of the Spirit is solely focused on empowering.   Whilst this occurrence does emphasise the coming of the Gospel to Samaria, such only goes to reinforce the purpose of the empowering (Acts 1:8) which led them to preach the Gospel beyond Jerusalem “and in all Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8).   It is the power of the Spirit which enabled Phillip to proclaim the Gospel and perform miracles (Acts 8:4 – 6) 

 

Questioner 


3. Acts 10 with the Gentiles, similar argument to Acts 19, they argue that a similar point that these gentiles don’t have salvation so what we see is not a second baptism but rather their first, given that the angel says to Peter “declare this message by which you will be saved” (11:14). How should we respond?  


JOSH  I don’t dispute that Cornelius can be classified as a new believer. Acts 10 is not used as a text to prove subsequence but it does anchor an evidential basis of Tongues upon reception of the Spirit (Acts 10:46)  I make this clear in my initial post “The household of Cornelius received Christ as Saviour and the empowering of the Holy Spirit immediately after being born again.” (under the Cornelius point)  Given the transition in Covenant, it is neither ‘here nor there’ whether Cornelius was saved. 


The Jews also were not saved until they received Jesus as Lord and this will become important.  In the Old Covenantal sense however it is clear, he was most certainly in communion with God, his entire family was “devout and God-fearing” (Acts 10:2) a “righteous and God-fearing man” (Acts 10:22) 


However, lets go with him “not being saved” under the new covenant for a second. It makes no difference. We have already established that earlier, the Samaritans most certainly had believed, been baptised yet had not received the Spirit in the way Luke speaks.   Peter speaks the Gospel, which he now fully understands due to the vision that God accepts people from “every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:35)  In speaking the Gospel we see something curious and important…  

 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. 


Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:44 – 47)   


Peter later recalls this  


 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.” Acts 11:15  


This is important because Peter actually makes the Acts 2 experience the primary precedence.   Was Acts 2 about saving the Apostles? Of course not, they already believed and were set apart and sent rather it was about empowering them for the mission (Acts 1:8)  


Acts 10 is not really a key passage for teaching subsequence and as such I don’t make that argument in my original post rather, what it does show is that this experience is the same as the Apostles first received (Acts 10:47), with the same purpose as theirs (Acts 1:8, Acts 2)  


The Apostles were saved, believing in the Lordship of Jesus, his death and resurrection, yet they still had to wait.   Again, no where in the writings of Luke / Acts is any emphasis on the pouring out of the Spirit being salvific. It is power for witness (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8)   What is exciting about Acts 10 and clear is that a new believer can immediately receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit and speak in other tongues as evidence (Acts 10:46). This experience of course is not a subjective indwelling as can happen in salvation but rather is clearly objective and evidenced as is seen in Acts 10:46.  This example however, does not mean that every believer does receive the Baptism of the Spirit in salvation OTHERWISE, the key evidence textually for salvation would be “…speaking in Tongues…” Acts 10:46.  


QUESTIONER: 


4. Another argument made again is that the disciples should not set the narrative practice of being filled with the Spirit as a second baptism because of the time period they were living in. the argument is that they lived at a point of time where they had salvation under the OT but were transitioning into the New Covenant, so they had salvation but not in its fullness through Christs redemptive work. Therefore, to say they set the norm is historically incorrect. 


Further some would even say that they didn’t have salvation and what occurred at Pentecost was their salvation moment. How should we respond?  


JOSH  There is no evidence the disciples were not saved until this point, frankly it is a fairly silly argument. Jesus made it clear that his job was finished in his death and resurrection, the Temple curtains had been torn and the requirements of the new covenant established. The reason for waiting in Jerusalem was not for salvation but rather the empowering (Luke 24:49)   Keep in mind the Sinai nature of Acts 2. Acts 2 does establish the nature of the new community as did Sinai with Israel YET in both cases they had ALREADY been delivered from Egypt / Sin. Salvation from sin was already the case in Pentecost / Sinai.  


What saves us? Confession of Jesus as Lord and saviour.   


Secondarily, chronologically, after Jesus’ resurrection Jesus himself breathed on the Disciples to received the Spirit (John 20:22) The language is immediate in nature. YET they still had to wait for the empowering.   Such a position also makes the entire New Testament period a bit redundant. Paul is clear “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Tim 3:16 

People don’t get to decide to ignore parts of scripture because it is narrative.   Thirdly, I guess they missed the memo but Peter made it clear that what was happening was for “ALL whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39)   


“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise…” 


 What is the promise? If you return to Acts 1:4  “…wait for the gift my Father promised” (Acts 1:4b)   It is the promise of the Father to be baptised in the Holy Spirit for power (Acts 1:8)  


Who is it for? Lets continue in Acts 2:39…  


“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38 – 39 


Repentance is for us. 

Baptism is for us.   

Forgiveness is for us  

And receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is for “you and your children and for all who are far off – for ALL whom the Lord our God will call”  

 

Questioner 


5. Personal question, can someone be baptised/empowered by the spirit show tongues as the initial evidence but then not speak in tongues again?  


Or is the argument/position regarding tongues as the initial evidence mean that you will always speak in tongues after this moment as well?  


Could you make a distinction from initial evidence (a one-off moment in a person’s walk with Christ) and tongues as an ongoing gift given just like other gifts?  


JOSH:  My answer is a person may choose not to speak in Tongues for all sorts of reasons but that would be foolish and selfish. Tongues edifies / builds up the one who speaks (1 Cor 14:4), it is a sign for unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22). It is a prayer language (1 Cor 14:14)  

 

It would be selfish to actively choose not to speak in other Tongues as it helps the believer be more effective and more connected in their Spirit. We need more emboldened believers for the mission not less.  If a believer has stopped then they need to fan into flame the gift.   I believe it quite clear that 1 Cor 12 – 14 shows a clear difference between person giftings and public giftings, even if they are like two sides of one coin in nature.   


Questioner:  


I feel like if that is the case, what happens in Corinthians when Paul says he wishes all to speak in tongues or encourages all to speak in tongues, this is not a sign of baptism in Spirit but a sign of the gift and therefore different? I don’t see this as an argument against tongues as the initial evidence if this is talking on something different. What are your thoughts? 


JOSH  Paul is dealing with extremes in the Corinthian Church, he quite clearly implies that they are coming together and “everyone speaks in Tongues” (1 Cor 14:23b)


However, although proud he speaks in Tongues more than them all (1 Cor 1 Cor 14:18) IN CHURCH he would rather than speak intelligible words (1 Cor 14:19) and as such he starts to establish patterns of practice. One could try and see the 'initial evidence' tongue as different from the Gift in a timeline sense but I don't think that is what is going on in 1 Cor 14. I think we are seeing an emerging distinction between private gifting for personal edification and gifting for public edification. We see this distinction logically arise when we view 1 Cor 12 in contrast with 1 Co 14 (and Acts) which says things like "Some have faith" (9).


This leaves the interpreter with a conundrum, if we believe there is an absolute exclusivity implied by 1 Cor 12, then only "some" in the Church are saved, for without faith one can't be saved. That obviously does not work.


The same approach should be applied consistently for all the other gifts mentioned in 1 Cor 12. Do all have wisdom? The answer implied is no, but most certainly one can still ask for a grace of wisdom for life. Both are a grace but Paul is speaking to a piblic sense verse a private sense. In 1 Cor 14, this develops somewhat naturally through the administration of the gifts. If one speaks in a Tongue and no one interprets, then speak to oneself and to God. In this moment I believe it most consistent to understand that there has, in practice now become a distinction between those who have a limited gift mentioned in 1 Cor 12, and Tongues as an overflowing grace as seen in Acts and evidently seen in 1 Cor 14 as atleast the majority seem to be speaking in Tongues. There are some additional questions I will address but if you have one about this topic, feel free to drop a comment and I will try and get to it. I will do so however by editing this blog post not adding additional posts.

 

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