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 (Showers of Blessing 5)
Speaking in Tongues
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Speaking in Tongues

Can speaking in tongues prove a person has the Holy Spirit but is not mandatory to everyone who has the Holy Spirit?

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 (Ephl:13f).  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

("charisma" 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.