THE HOLY SPIRIT AND TONGUES AT PENTECOST (Acts 2:1-21)
INTRODUCTION - Most charismatics claim that an individual does not receive the Holy Spirit when he or she believes
in Christ. While some claim that the Holy Spirit comes at the time a person is baptized (Acts 2:38), many see that this is
not the case,and teach that the Holy Spirit may not be received until sometime after baptism (Acts 8:16). They teach that
to receive the Holy Spirit, a person must repent of his sins, be baptized, and then ask for the Holy Spirit to be given him
(Acts 2:38, Luke 11:13).
Confusing the various New Testament ministries of the Holy Spirit to believers, which all began on the day of Pentecost,
charismatics make no distinction between being filled with the Spirit, being baptized in the Spirit, or simply receiving the
Holy Spirit. To them they are all one in the same thing. Charismatics thus see a pattern emerging with Acts 2:4, claiming
that because the text says, "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with tongues," therefore speaking
in tongues must be the "initial evidence" or a sign that a believer has "received" or been "baptized" in the Holy Spirit.
The implication, of course, is that if you claim to be a believer and have not spoken in tongues, you have not yet received
the Holy Spirit!
As we begin looking at the apostles' experience of tongues on the day of Pentecost, there are three things we should remember:
1) Speaking in tongues is nothing new. Dating from 1100 B.C. a document called the "Report of Wenamon" details how
a worshipper became possessed by a god and spoke in an ecstatic utterance. Instances of religious devotees making ecstatic
utterances may also be found in the writings of the Greek philosopher Plato, who lived in the 4th century B.C. Plato observed
first that these tongues speakers were not under their own control when speaking. Second, they did not understand what they
were saying. Third, there was a need for interpretation by another. Finally, visions and healing usually accompanied the speaking.
2) Speaking in tongues is not a distinctly Christian phenomenon. It has been reported that the Eskimos of Greenland
speak in tongues at their religious services led by the medicine man or priest. These services are an attempt to get in touch
with the world of departed spirits. Tongues have also been reported amongst the Buddhist monks of Tibet, sometimes speaking
in known languages, and other times in ecstatic utterances. And missionaries from around the world have reported that speaking
in tongues or ecstatic utterances form part of the practice of many religions of the world including Islam.
3) It should be remembered that the New Testament gives several instances of demons speaking through individuals such
as the demoniac of Gadara (Mk. 5:7-12) and the maid with the spirit of divination who troubled Paul at Philippi (Acts 16:17).
Satan has the power to speak through individuals who are under the influence of demonic forces.
However, before we can understand the significance of speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost, we need to understand
what really happened at Pentecost, while the apostles were gathered in the upper room waiting for the promise of the Father
(cf. Acts 1:4,5). If the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Trinity has existed from eternity past (Gen. 1:3; Heb. 9:14),
in what sense was He given to believers on the day of Pentecost? What, if any, new ministries did He begin?
We will first see that to be baptized in the Spirit and to be filled with the Holy Spirit are two very different things.
Every person who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, receiving Him as their Lord and Saviour, becomes
a child of God (John 1:12). But since Pentecost, if a person does not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, "he is none of
His" (Rom. 8:9). A person cannot be without the Holy Spirit and still be a child of God. This is because all believers receive
the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. All believers are also joined to Christ at the moment of salvation. Through Spirit
baptism they share in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3,4), and are placed into His body, the church (I Cor. 12:13).
This is automatic! There is no command in Scripture to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. There is a command in the Scriptures,
however, for the believer to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). It is the filling of the Holy Spirit which
empowers the believer for fruitful Christian service and victorious Christian living.
To come to a Scriptural conclusion about the Holy Spirit and tongues at Pentecost, we must examine the answers to three
different questions: 1) What really happened at Pentecost? 2) Why do charismatics teach the Holy Spirit comes to a believer
sometime following salvation with speaking in tongues as the "initial evidence"? 3) What was the significance of speaking
in tongues at Pentecost?
I. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT PENTECOST?
A. Baptism in the Holy Spirit
1. The Prophecy
a. The baptism in the Holy Spirit was first prophesied by John the Baptist as he preached, saying, "There cometh one mightier
than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I, indeed, have baptized you with (more
properly in water, but he shall baptize you with (or in) the Holy Spirit" (Mk. 1:8).
b. The Lord Jesus confirmed this promise to the Apostles when he met with them and commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for the promise of the Father. He told them, "For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with
the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5).
2. The Fulfillment
a. As they waited in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, suddenly they heard a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty
wind, which filled the house. Then they saw cloven (divided) tongues of fire which sat upon each of them (Acts 2:1-3). Luke
then reports that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4).
b. Was this the fulfillment of what John had prophesied and the Lord Jesus had promised? Peter says it was. As he
reported to the church at Jerusalem on his ministry to the Roman centurion Cornelius and his family, Peter said, "And as I
began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how he said,
'John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit'" (Acts 11:15,16). Peter says that what took
place at Pentecost was the baptism with (or in) the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised.
B. The Filling of the Holy Spirit
1. The Baptism in the Spirit to Be Distinguished from the Filling of the Spirit
a. Now, is baptism with the Spirit, the same as being filled with the Spirit? Charismatics consider baptism with
(or in) the Holy Spirit to be the same as being filled with the Holy Spirit, however other scripture reveals them to
be two entirely different aspects of the Holy Spirit's ministry in the New Testament age.
b. In I Cor. 12:13, Paul reveals that it is baptism by (or in) the Spirit which places a believer into the spiritual
body of Christ. In Romans 6:3,4, Paul teaches that it is this baptism which joins a believer to Christ in his death, burial,
and resurrection. The Greek of I Cor. 12:13 makes it clear that all the believers at Corinth had experienced this baptism,
regardless of their level of spirituality. There is no command anywhere in scripture for believers to be baptized in with
or by the Holy Spirit. This now becomes the universal experience of every believer at the moment of salvation.
c. In contrast, believers are commanded "to be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). In the Greek, the verb "to be filled"
is in the imperative mood. In other words, it is a command. But it is also in the present tense, which in the Greek, indicates
a continuous action. The force of this command in the original is "keep on being filled with the Spirit". It is something
believers should repeatedly seek.
2. The Importance of the Filling of the Holy Spirit
a. It was the filling of the Holy Spirit which gave the early Christians the promised power to witness, and take the gospel
to the ends of the then known world (Acts 1:8). Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit when he preached to the Jewish court
in Jerusalem (Acts 4:8). Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit when he faced death as a martyr, praying for his persecutors
(Acts 7:55-60). The baptism in the Spirit and filling with the Spirit are two distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit in this
b. Why then did Luke report, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4)? At Pentecost, the Father gave
the Holy Spirit to believers, in answer to the Son's prayer (John 14:16). At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit began all his New
Testament ministries in the lives of believers, in a way that had been hitherto unknown in Old Testament times. Not only were
believers to experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit, they were to experience His filling, His sealing ministry (Eph. 1:13;
4:30) and His permanent indwelling of the child of God (Rom. 8:9; 14-16; I Cor. 6:19).
II. WHY DO CHARISMATICS TEACH THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES TO A BELIEVER SOME TIME FOLLOWING SALVATION, WITH SPEAKING
IN TONGUES AS THE "INITIAL EVIDENCE"?
Let us consider the Scriptures used by the charismatics:
A. To Show that the Holy Spirit Comes to a Believer Subsequent to Salvation
1. Charismatics use Eph. 1:13 and Acts 19:2 as their "proof texts" based on the KJV translation of Eph. 1:13 , "in whom
also after ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." "After ye believed" is PISTEUSANTES,
an aorist participle.
2. The same word is used in Acts 19:2, where the KJV translates it "since ye believed" In English, participles are "ing"
words. In Greek, the aorist participle may show antecedent, subsequent or contemporaneous action. It could therefore also
be translated "having believed" or "when you believed". Therefore, neither of these verses can be used to prove that
the reception of the Holy Spirit does not accompany the act of believing. In fact, Scripture plainly declares the contrary,
"Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9b). See also Rom. 8:14-16.
B. To Show that a Believer Must Ask for the Holy Spirit to be Given Him_
1. Charismatics teach that to receive the Holy Spirit, a person must repent of his sins, be baptized, and then ask
for the Holy Spirit to be given him (Acts 2:38, Luke 11:13).
2. This use of Luke 11:13 ignores its context, in which Jesus was speaking to His disciples about the fact that the Father
answers prayer. The illustration Jesus selected about the Holy Spirit was made prior to Pentecost when the promise
of the coming of the Holy Spirit was indeed fulfilled (Acts 2:4).
C. To Show that Speaking in Tongues is the Sign a Believer Has Received the Holy Spirit
1. Charismatics claim that only when an individual speaks with tongues is there scriptural authority to say that
he has received the Holy Spirit. Because they ignore the transitional nature of the book of Acts and consider receiving the
Holy Spirit, Spirit baptism, and being filled with the Spirit as all one and the same thing, they see Acts 2:4 as teaching
that when a person receives the Holy Spirit, he or she will speak in tongues.
2. Charismatics see two other passages as confirming this teaching, Acts 10:44-46 and Acts 19:5,6. These two are the only
other passages where speaking in tongues is mentioned in the book of Acts. In both instances it is recorded that the individuals
upon whom the Holy Spirit came spoke in tongues following their reception of the Holy Spirit. Let us take a closer look at
a. In Acts 10:44-46, we see that the Apostle Peter has just brought the Gospel message to a new category of people, the
Gentiles, assembled in the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. In this instance, the Holy Spirit came upon those who believed
while Peter was preaching (44). Contrary to the charismatic teaching, these Gentile believers received the Holy Spirit
at the moment of salvation, before they were immersed in water (47). And there is no evidence that they prayed or otherwise
asked for God to give them the Holy Spirit.
b. In Acts 19:1-6, the Apostle Paul shares the Gospel with another category of people, some disciples of John the Baptist,
which he met in the city of Ephesus. Whether they were Jews or Gentile proselytes to Judaism is not important. What is significant
about them is their faith was still in a Messiah to come and not in the resurrected Christ. They were "Old Testament"
believers in the "New Testament" age. Since the cross of Calvary, no man or woman, boy or girl is saved without trusting in
the finish work of Christ. The fact that they had not received the Holy Spirit when they believed John's message, was an indication
that they had not been saved. In this instance, Paul preached the Christian message to them, they believed and were baptized.
Then Paul laid hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came upon on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
3. Each of these incidents is sufficiently different from that which happened on they day of Pentecost, so that they can
not be used to establish any pattern for receiving the Holy Spirit, as the Charismatics try to do. There were no sounds of
mighty rushing wind or cloven tongues of fire. In the case of Cornelius' household, the Holy Spirit came upon them, while
they were listening to the Gospel message and believed. They were subsequently baptized in water. In the case of the disciples
of John the Baptist, they believed, were baptized, and subsequently received the Holy Spirit, who, only in this case,
was given by the laying on of hands.
4. Actually, the only common element in these three incidents is the speaking in tongues. Why then, did the speaking of
tongues occur these three times in the book of Acts? At Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost, the Gospel of the resurrected
Christ was publicly preached to the Jews. In the home of Cornelius, the Gospel went forth to the Gentiles for the first time.
At Ephesus, the Gospel message was given to yet a third class of individuals, Old Testament believers living in the New Testament
age. When the Gospel was given later to members of these groups, no instances of speaking in tongues are recorded. The speaking
in tongues accompanied only these instances in which the Gospel was being given and the ministry of the promised Holy Spirit
extended to a new category of individuals.
5. Carefully examining these incidents, we may conclude that speaking in tongues is not the evidence that a believer has
received the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures clearly teach that the believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation,
and if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Romans 8:9). If you are a Christian, God has given you His
blessed Holy Spirit to live inside you, to witness to you that you are a child of God, to be the seal of your salvation, to
fill you with spiritual power for witnessing, and to lead you and guide you into a life that is pleasing to God.
III. WHAT WAS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES AT PENTECOST?
A. The Nature of the Tongues
1. The Greek word for tongue is GLOSSA. It is used in scripture to describe the tongue as an organ of speech
(Phil. 2:13) and to describe the world's languages (Rev. 5:9). It is used to describe both the fire seen to sit upon the apostles
in the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3) and the words spoken by the apostles as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4).
It is evident that in this instance, the tongues were known languages (Greek DIALEKTOS) (Acts 2:6), the "mother
tongues" of many of the Jews gathered in Jerusalem from all parts of the world on the day of Pentecost. The miraculous thing
being that these languages would have been unknown to the apostles who were Galilaeans.
2. Because the same word GLOSSA is used for the gift of tongues (I Cor. 12:10, 28), there is no scriptural
reason for believing that the gift of tongues differed from the ability to supernaturally speak a legitimate language naturally
unknown to the speaker.
3. However, while it is evident that the tongues spoken in Acts 2 were a known, that is a recognized language or
dialect (Acts 2:6, Greek DIALEKTOS), charismatics do not insist that the tongues they speak today be a known
language. If fact, quite to the contrary, many claim that they are speaking a "heavenly" language or the "language of angels".
a. They cite I Cor. 13:1, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as a sounding
bronze, or a tinkling cymbal" to prove that there must be a heavenly language, the language of angels. However, in the Greek,
Paul uses a grammatical construction called a 2nd class condition to introduce the thought. It indicates not something that
the speaker believes to be true, but merely a hypothetical situation. Paul does not teach that there is a language of angels,
but merely that if there were, and a person spoke it without love, his words would be empty.
b. While some tongues speakers claim to have spoken in recognized languages, although unknown to themselves, most admit
that they are speaking something else. If the tongues spoken by many charismatics are not a known language as in the book
of Acts, nor a "language of angels" are they some other type of heavenly language?
c. Numerous linguistic experts have studied recordings of charismatics speaking in tongues. Their conclusions are that
the tongues speaking of today lacks the distinguishing vocabulary and grammatical features which make up even the most basic
of languages. In fact, measured by the criteria which differentiate between language and simply sounds, the vast majority
of tongues speakers today are simply making ecstatic utterances, and speaking no language at all.
B. The Reason for the Tongues
1. Charismatics teach that speaking in tongues was the "initial evidence" that the disciples had "received" the Holy Spirit,
an event which took place subsequent to their salvation. They generally make no distinction between the baptism in
the spirit and being filled with the spirit. They fail to recognize the transitional aspect of the Holy Spirit's coming
on the day of Pentecost and therefore claim that the normative experience for believers today is to "receive" the Holy Spirit
sometime after salvation with the "initial evidence" that they speak in tongues.
2. In contrast, the apostle Peter explains the significance of the speaking in tongues to the crowd gathered to hear the
disciples. He quotes Joel 2:28-32, a passage which clearly describes events relating to the Jews in Israel, immediately preceding
the future "the day of the Lord" (Joel 2:30,31), and the subsequent establishment of Christ's millennial kingdom (Joel 3:18-21).
Peter's point was that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be accompanied by prophetic utterances as prophesied
by Joel. The tongues were not unintelligible, ecstatic utterances, but rather messages concerning "the wonderful works of
God" (Acts 2:11).
a. Some have suggested that Peter believed this supernatural ability to speak with other tongues manifest at Pentecost
was similar or like that which would be manifest at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the remnant in Israel,
immediately preceding the day of the Lord. While the literal Greek simply says, "This is that...", it may be that Peter's
quotation from Joel, including the phrase "before that great and notable day of the Lord come" (Acts 2:20) was to distinguish
that which Joel prophesied from that which was actually happening at Pentecost, hence only showing the similarity.
b. Others have suggested that as Christians hope that every significant event in the Middle East will lead up to the rapture
of the church, i.e. Christ's coming for His own in the air (I Thess. 4:13-18), Peter actually did think that the events taking
place on the day of Pentecost were indeed that which was prophesied by Joel and that the day of the Lord would soon follow.
Even after Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, the apostles were still looking for the Messianic kingdom promised to Israel.
They questioned the Lord about this, just before His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:6). Immediately after Pentecost, Peter
preached to the Jews assembled at the porch of the temple, telling them that if there would be national repentance on the
part of Israel, Jesus Christ would return from heaven to establish "the times of restitution", i.e. the Messianic kingdom
spoken by the prophets (Acts 3:19-21). Peter was not wrong in his understanding, for if the nation Israel had received its
Messiah at that time, the remainder of what Joel had prophesied would have come to pass.
c. In either case, as the cosmic disturbances and the subsequent coming of the day of the Lord did not take place at Pentecost
(Joel 2:30,31), we may be sure that the prophecy of Joel was not fulfilled at that time, as the charismatics claim.
The speaking in tongues by the disciples on the day of Pentecost was not a sign that they had finally "received"
the Holy Spirit subsequent to their salvation. Rather, in accord with the principle established in Joel 2:28,29, God's "pouring
out" or giving of the Holy Spirit to a particular category of believers would be accompanied by prophetic utterances.
The speaking in tongues at Pentecost was a sign that the Holy Spirit had been given to believing Jews.
Speaking in tongues is not the "initial evidence" or a sign that a believer has "received" or been "baptized" in the Holy
Spirit. Since Pentecost, every person who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, receiving Him as their
Lord and Saviour, becomes a child of God (John 1:12). If a person does not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, "he is none
of His" (Rom. 8:9). All believers receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. All believers are joined to Christ at
the moment of salvation. Through Spirit baptism they share in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3,4), and are placed
into His body, the church (I Cor. 12:13).
For any individual or religious movement to teach that a believer does not have the Holy Spirit or Spirit baptism until
he speaks in tongues is a perversion of the truth. It is wrong for a believer to ask to receive the Holy Spirit or Spirit
baptism because, since Pentecost, these blessings come upon an individual the moment he believes.
The apostle Paul commanded the Christians at Rome, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them who cause divisions and offenses
contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). To the Thessalonians he said, "Now
we command you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly
and not after the tradition which ye received from us" (II Thess. 3:6). It is wrong for Bible believing Christians who see
the charismatic error to remain in organic fellowship with those who either teach the charismatic error or permit it to be
taught in their churches. The command of Scripture is "withdraw" and "avoid them".
Now, while speaking in tongues is not the sign that a person has received the Holy Spirit from God, you may be surprised
that the Bible says there are some signs that a person has received the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul tells us that the first
sign a person has received the Holy Spirit is that, "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children
of God" (Rom. 8:16). The Holy Spirit gives the true believer assurance that he has become a child of God. Do you have that
peace and assurance in your heart today?
Paul also says, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). The true believer
will sense the Holy Spirit's leading in his life, showing him truth from error, right and wrong, and showing him God's direction
for his life. Do you sense the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life?
My friend, if you can not say "yes" to these two questions, it may be that you have never received the Holy Spirit, because
you have not yet truly received the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. Why not confess your sin to God, and ask Jesus
to save you today?