Speaking in Tongues
Can speaking in tongues prove a
person has the Holy Spirit but is not mandatory to everyone who has the Holy
The first question is what is the
purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit serves as the guarantee of our inheritance in heaven
Hence, we must be able to determine whether we have the Holy Spirit or
not, as receiving Him is not automatic after believing in Christ or even after
baptism, as seen in the case of the Samaritan believers (Acts 8: 12-17).
Although many agree that speaking
in tongues can prove that a person possesses the Holy Spirit, they believe
there are other ways of establishing this.
They come up with having gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing,
prophecy, interpreting tongues etc (1 Cor 12:4-11),
and radical changes in character as alternative proofs. But only divine workers
of God are given such gifts
in Greek) which are, therefore, not prevalent among ordinary believers. Hence, they cannot be used as a common determining
standard. This leaves us with the other
suggestion of radical changes in character or bearing the fruit of the Holy
Spirit (Gal 5: 22-23) such as joy and peace as proofs of receiving the Holy
Spirit. There is no dispute that the
Spirit of God can produce such effects, but there are other possible causes.
For instance, there are many recorded cases in history which show individuals
of low character undergoing amazing changes through sheer will power. Moreover, expressions such as joy, peace and
others can also be noticed in individuals who do not have the Spirit of
God. It would be unnecessary to use such
parameters to make Judgements as the effects mentioned are not always due to
the same cause. In other words, they are
neither unique enough to serve as evidence; nor are they able enough to serve
as proof. What we need is something
unique pertaining to the Spirit and something more concrete.
Uniqueness is stressed here and I
would like illustrate its importance using, an example: in order to convict a
person of a crime such as armed robbery, there must be characteristic evidences
such as finger-prints or videos showing the face of the robber. The perfect solution to this problem is
tongue speaking. Even the apostles used
this to gauge the reception of the Holy Spirit seen in the case of Cornelius
and his household (Acts 10:44-47). The
apostles and the hundred or so believers spoke in tongues on the day of
Pentecost, when the first downpour of the Holy Spirit occurred (Acts
2:1-4). Hence, this became the initial
evidence and, from, then onwards, the apostles used it as the determinant, as
it was the only thing unique pertaining to their own experience.
Another important rationale why
speaking in tongues is used is that it is a common and
shared experience. Three out of the only
five recordings of the reception of the Holy Spirit explicitly include this
phenomenon (Acts 2,10,19) - The two accounts that do
not record this are in Acts 8 and 9. If
we scrutinize the passage carefully we can conclude that the believers in Samaria spoke in
tongues. The church in Jerusalem was able to judge whether or not
the Samaritan believers received the Spirit of God (Acts 8:14-16), and the two
apostles consequently sent there were able to establish the exact moment of
reception (Acts 8:17). Moreover, Simon
also observed the incident. In order to
make such an assessment, the experience of the Samaritan believers must have
coincided with their own. For Simon to
be able to witness the event it must have been visible. Therefore the only possible explanation is
speaking in tongues.
Paul also mentioned in 1 Cor 14:18 that he spoke in tongues "more than you
all" (referring to all the believers) implying that all the believers had
this capacity. If this is not a common experience how can Paul, in 1 Cor 14:5, say "...want you all to speak in
tongues..."; and how can we expect everyone to do a certain thing unless
they all possess the ability to do it?
Furthermore, tongue speaking is for self-edification (1 Cor 14: 4). Who does
not need edification? Therefore, this
occurrence must be universal, as God is impartial. He would never restrict such a benefit to
only a few selected individuals.
In conclusion, speaking in tongues is unique to and inseparable from receiving the Holy
Spirit, and is the only conclusive evidence of having done so.