By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I am a member of Casas and I work for (company name withheld). We take the girls to various Assembly of God Churches, but I am allowed to bring some of them to Casas on Sunday mornings and they love it. The Church we go to on Saturday night is offering Bible classes that I thought about taking…. The application is very detailed and asks if I have been filled with the Holy Spirit with evidence of tongues, and (do I use) tongues in my current prayer life? This was the only question on the application that I did not know how to answer... except (to say) “no”. :) I welcome any advice and suggestions. Thank you, (Name Withheld)
Dear Name Withheld,
The Bible makes a clear distinction between the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Filling of the Holy Spirit. They are not the same. In direct reference to your question, some believe that the Bible teaches that speaking in tongues is the manifestation that occurs when a person receives Christ. They also teach that speaking in tongues is the sign of being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit.
When Peter preached to Cornelius in Acts 10, Cornelius and his family received Christ before Peter’s sermon was even finished! They simultaneously spoke in tongues. Peter took this as a sign that even Gentiles could receive Christ. He thought previously that only Jews were welcomed into the family of God.
When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he encountered some Jewish disciples of John the Baptist. After hearing about Jesus they believed in Him and became followers of Christ. When Paul laid hands on them they spoke in tongues as the “Holy Spirit came on them” (Acts 19:1-7). Those who believe in speaking in tongues and simultaneously being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit derive their understanding and practice from the two passages above as well as several other like them in the early passages of the Gospels.
One example is when John the Baptist declares that when Jesus comes, He will “baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Frankly, there is a wide variety of interpretations of the meaning of John’s words. The other extreme view regarding this issue is held by those that teach that the spiritual gift of tongues no longer exists today. They base this on 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul teaches (as I shared in my last answer to you) that tongues will “cease by themselves”.
They teach that tongues is a “sign” gift that was needed in the first century to help the early Christians understand that Christianity was for Gentiles, too, since Gentiles coming to Christ had the same experience as the disciples had on Pentecost. These folks teach that since we have the Bible we no longer need this sign, so the gift stopped.
Now, “Name Withheld,” let me draw what I think are solid principles that may be of help to you as you make your own decisions concerning your beliefs and practices.
First, it is impossible to hold the position that tongues are the sign of conversion and/or the baptism or the filling of the Holy Spirit!
Paul explicitly declares that not all shall speak in tongues, but that all are baptized of the Holy Spirit (compare 1 Corinthians 12:30 with 1 Corinthians 12:13) Thus, Paul clearly makes a distinction between speaking in tongues and being baptized in the Holy Spirit. The corollary teaching is that it is dangerous to elevate any spiritual gift and make it be a sign of the filling of the Holy Spirit—or to make the possession of any gift normative for a spiritual experience.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion
(1 Corinthians 12:13; 6:19). It is not necessarily accompanied by the gift of speaking in tongues. It would be fair to say that most Christians do not speak in tongues when they receive Christ. The word, “baptism” means to “dip in” or to “immerse” For example, in the "Odyssey", Odysseus escaped from the Cyclops by sticking (the Greek word is “baptized”) a stake into his eye. Odysseus did not sprinkle it in. He immersed it deeply. In the Bible “baptize” never means “to sprinkle” as some teach today. When we receive Christ, we are immersed (“baptized”) fully by the Holy Spirit into Christ and into the family of God (for example, read Romans 6:1-10).
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is received by simple faith in Christ.
The Baptism follows automatically, positioning us in Christ and cementing us securely into the family of God. Paul taught these “position in Christ” concepts in Colossians 2:12. Peter also enunciated them in 1 John 4:15. The baptism of the Spirit refers to the new Believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ by a spiritual-organic union effected by the Holy Spirit. Peter declared the same in his sermon in Acts 2:28. The new Christian is now "in Christ".
The Baptism in the Spirit is permanent and is bestowed at conversion. It is not to be repeated.
(Acts 2:38). There is no Scripture text urging believers today to seek for the Spirit's Baptism. The point is that it is not possible to receive what we already have!
On the other hand, what the Bible does urge us to seek and receive is the filling of the Holy Spirit. The key verse here is Ephesians 5:18: "Do not get drunk on wine … Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” The term “be filled” is often translated in Greek as “keep on being filled” with the Spirit. It is a continual present tense. From this we deduce that the filling of the Spirit is not permanent, but is to be repeated again and again. As a drunk is saturated and under the direct influence of alcohol, so we are to live saturated and under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit.
I see a direct parallel between being filled with the Holy Spirit and enjoying the living waters (John 7) and to experiencing the abundant life (John 10:10) that can be ours in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, sin and personal choices can soil and stymie the filling, the living waters, and the abundant life. However, our sins and poor choices never threaten our relationship with God. They may affect our fellowship with God but never our relationship with Him. We are born into the family of God. He is our Father and we are His children and that can never be undone.
7 Biblical Steps for Being Filled with the Spirit
While none of us can demand or make God pour out the Spirit-filled life upon us, the Bible gives definite guidance on being filled with the Spirit.
1. Stop sinning. Do not grieve the Spirit by sin (Ephesians 4:30).
2. When you do sin, confess your sin to God (1 John 1:9). We must be empty and clean in order to be filled).
3. Seek to live every moment in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:6 and 6:33). A.W. Tozer said, “Every man is just as spiritual as he wants to be.”
4, Make every effort to respond positively to the guidance and speaking of the Spirit deep within. As far as possible, never quench His voice or refuse to do what He says (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We must unreservedly yield our lives to Christ (Luke 14:33; 9:24).
5. Pray to become a spiritual man or woman at any price (1 John 2:12-14).
6. Ask God to pour His Spirit into your life so that you might receive the filling of the Spirit. You are now in a great position to experience the filling, abundant life, and living waters of the Spirit.
7. Leave the results to Him and soon you will enjoy the experience of walking hand in hand with Jesus (1 John 1:7).
Well, Name Withheld, I know you well enough to know that you are baptized in Christ because you received immersion into the family of God the moment you received Jesus. I know that you did not speak in tongues at that moment. I don’t know whether or not you do so today. You are well along in your journey. I know that you've experienced the filling of the Spirit on numerous occasions—perhaps not knowing or understanding the Biblical terms for what you were experiencing.
I hope my answer is helpful for you and gives some clarity about the three distinct experiences of tongues, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit.
This article is part of our larger resource library of terms important to the Christian faith. From heaven and hell to baptism and communion, we want to provide easy to read and understand articles that answer your questions about theological words and their meaning.
Heaven - What is it Like, Where is it?
Hell - 10 Things You Should Know
Baptism - What Does it Mean and Why is it Important?
Communion - 10 Important Things to Remember
Armor of God - What is it and How to Use it