World of Faith

What is Charismatic? – Part Four: Prayer Language and Speaking in Tongues – Evidence of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit | January 10, 2007

Before I get into the fourth installment of “What is Charismatic?” I want to do two things. First, I want to apologize to everyone for releasing this week’s post a little later than usual. Normally, I try to release each week’s post around Sunday or Monday, but because my church had a guest speaker this weekend, I’ve been tied up, and so this week the post is being released a few days later than normal. Second, I want to give everybody a “heads up” and a roadmap to the next several posts, beginning next week. The next three posts will almost operate as a series within a series. Beginning next week, I am going to spend at least 3 weeks on the subject of spiritual gifts. Next week I will discuss the motivational gifts, as listed in Romans 12. The following week will be a discussion of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12, and three weeks from now I will discuss the office gifts and five-fold ministry, as discussed in Ephesians 4. I believe that will round out the series “What is Charismatic?” For those wanting to really know what is ahead, I believe the next series will be “What is Real Faith?” But we’ll see about that, I’ll let y’all know.

This week I am discussing having a prayer language, or speaking in tongues, which is the biblical evidence of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or the infilling of the Holy Spirit. As a review, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a distinct experience, which happens after one is saved. It is a separate work from salvation, when we are baptized into Christ. the New Testament teaches at least 3 different baptisms as normative experience for Christian believers, and the third of these is the focus of this week’s post. Hebrews 6:1-3 (NKJV), “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.” Again, notice that baptisms is in the plural, but all notice that the foundation listed after “doctrine of baptisms” is the foundation of “laying on of hands.” The three baptisms we have been discussing are (1) baptism into Christ, which occurs at salvation, and is performed by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) (2) water baptism, and (3) baptism in the Holy Spirit, which was last’s week discussion, and is performed by Jesus (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16).

Thus, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an enduement of power for Christian living and service, the power to be an effective and bold witness in one’s life for Christ, etc. It is a normative experience that all Christians should experience. It is documented several times in the Book of Acts, and I refer you to the discussion concerning that in Part Three.

It is also normative for believers to expect for the Holy Spirit to give them utterance (speak in tongues) once they have been initially filled with the Holy Spirit. There are three reasons why speaking in tongues, or having a prayer language should be expected by the believer as “evidence” he has been filled with the Holy Spirit. These three reasons are #1, Jesus said to expect this Himself, #2, this is the scriptural pattern found in Acts 2 and other passages in the Book of Acts, and #3, other scripture verses exhort us as well.

The first reason why believers should expect to receive a prayer language and speak in tongues when they are filled with the Holy Spirit is because Jesus said to expect this Himself. Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18, “These signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and see them recover.” There is no limitation here. Some say this was for the early Church, but — that’s not said here, either. A simple exegesis leads one to believe that in verse 17, Jesus is saying speaking in tongues is for all Christians, not just for a few.

The second reason why believers should expect to receive a prayer language and speak in tongues when they are filled with the Holy Spirit is because this is the biblical pattern found in Acts 2, and other passages in the Book of Acts. I covered much of this last time in Part Three, but as a recap, Acts 2:1-4 gives this account, “When the day of Pentecost has come they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Then, in Acts 10:44-46, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them (the Gentiles) speaking with tongues and exalting God.” Peter explained this in Acts 11:15-16, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did on us at the beginning (see Acts 2). And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” The last recorded occurrence of disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit is in Acts 19:1-6, “It happened while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, Jesus.’ When they (the disciples) heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.” So, these major passages of the Book of Acts presents a pattern that the initial evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues.

The third reason why believers should expect to receive a prayer language and speak in tongues when they are filled with the Holy Spirit is because there are a plenary of other Bible verses that exhort us to exercise one’s prayer language and speak in tongues as well. Much of this exhortation is Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 12-14. But also select verses from Romans 8 and Jude give an exhortation as well. I will discuss these verses in turn. 1 Cor. 12:4-7 states, “Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are a varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” I believe this manifestation of the Spirit given to all is one’s prayer language, enabling such a person to speak in tongues. I believe that when this prayer language is given like a prophecy in a public setting (in church), then it now is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and must be interpret so the congregation can be edified. This is what Paul touches on in 1 Cor. 12:30, when he rhetorically asks whether all speaks in tongues. Not all have the gift of publicly prophecying in tongues, but ALL (normatively) should expect to pray in tongues, and speak in tongues as Jesus exhorted Himself in Mark 16. Paul even exhorted this in 1 Cor. 14:1-5, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue doe not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophecies speaks to mean for edification, exhortation, and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.” Let’s break this passage down. Paul is exhorting the believers at Corinth to seek ALL the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophesy. He is not exhorting this congregation to NOT speak in tongues at all. Paul does make clear, actually, that when tongues are used as a gift in the public assembly, they need to be interpreted. He says in 1 Cor. 14:13, “Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” Paul then adds later in verses 27-28, to reiterate this point, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.” These are restrictions on the use of tongues as a spiritual gift in the public assembly. Paul says that one who speaks in tongues edifies himself. Paul is endorsing self-edification, here. Elsewhere in the Bible, Jude endorses self-edification in Jude 20, “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.” This is a reference to the practice Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 14:14-15, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit AND I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.” Paul further contemplates this in Romans 8:26-27, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Lastly, Paul writes in 1 Cor. 14:39, “Therefore, my brethern, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. Thus, all these other Bible verses exhort us to expect to pray and speak in tongues. It is the biblical and normative pattern for “evidence” of being filled with the Holy Spirit, found in the Book of Acts. Further, even Jesus told us that a sign of a believer is, among other practices, we WILL speak in other tongues (Mark 16).

Thus, having a prayer language and speaking in tongues is normatively to be expected by all Christians (Mark 16), and becomes a spiritual gift when prophesied in public in a church gathering. In the latter case, it must be interpreted, so that the body can be edified. Next time we’ll begin our discussion of spiritual gifts in general, beginning with the motivational gifts in Romans 12.


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  1. Mark 16 lists 5 miraculous signs that will follow believers. Where does it say that every believer should exhibit at least one of these signs and why must tongues in particular be so important? Matthew 16:20 also says that the signs were used as confirmation of the word, not as confirmation of a believer’s relationship with the Holy Spirit–that is, it does not seem to support, as you suggest, a differentiation between tongues as a prayer language and tongues as a gift. Even if this distinction can be made, the idea of tongues as a normative command to all Christians seems shaky.

    I admit that I still don’t fully grasp charismatic theology and I could be misled in my criticisms. I’ve heard conflicting and vague things (from other charismatics) about just what tongues and prayer languages mean. Surely, they are edifying, but the idea that all believers should receive such a particular edification–when the pattern seems that God is selective about who gets what gifts–does not seem well supported by scripture and does not seem to be fundamental to a non-cessationist viewpoint.

    Comment by Ken — January 11, 2007 @ 7:56 pm

  2. Ken,

    Thanks for stopping by. Let me try to answer and respond to your questions and concerns.

    First, I want to separate your question into two questions. You asked where it says every believer should exhibit at least one of these signs. You also asked why must tongues in particular be so important.

    Here’s the answer to your first question: Let’s look at the context. I am going to begin in Mark 16, verse 16, “He who has believed and is baptized shall be saved; but he who disbelieves shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe.” Jesus is making a distinction between those who are believers (Christians like you and me) and those who are non-Christians, who are sinners. In verse 17, Jesus says that certain signs will follow those that believe. Jesus says that in His name, they will do all these things that are mentioned. Jesus is saying this is normative practice for Christians, there is no exception clause in this passage.

    Your second question, why I am stressing speaking in tongues, is because that is what happened in Acts 2. This installment is a follow-up to Part 3, which I hope you have read. In Part 3, I attempt to explain what the baptism (or infilling) of the Holy Spirit, and here in Part 4, I try to explain why tongues is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit (when one is filled the first time). That’s why it is so important. The key is the normative nature of the practice, that’s all.

    I think you meant Mark 16:20, and not Matthew 16:20 in your next comment, because Matthew really does not deal with this issue you are bringing up. Mark 16:20 says, “And they (the disciples) went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.” Here, the term “signs” is used. We don’t know what that means, because it could be any one of the signs mentioned above. To clarify, I believe that EVERY believer is called to do all the things listed in Mark 16, we all have a believers’ ministry to be a witness for Christ. We should be casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc. This is what the disciples did. This is what the disciples did before Jesus died and rose again, and what they did afterwards, too. However, it is apparent that speaking in tongues is confirmatory of when one is filled with the Holy Spirit. If you go through the Book of Acts (and pay attention to the events in Acts 2, 10-11, and 19), you will understand more.

    I hope that helps clarifies your understanding and answers your questions. Please let me know if you have additional questions or issues you would like me to address here. Thanks.


    Comment by Jonathan — January 11, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

  3. *yes, I did mean Mark 16:20

    Ok, thank you very much for clearing up what you wrote, and doing so in a timely manner.

    Comment by Ken — January 12, 2007 @ 2:59 am

  4. Jonathan,

    Regarding Mark 16.17, do you believe it is normative for all believers to pick up snakes and to drink poison?

    I personally find an important cross-reference to this verse in Hebrews 2.3b-4: “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit DISTRIBUTED ACCORDING TO HIS WILL” (not meaning to shout, just emphasize). This also seems to me to be parellel to 1 Cor. 12.11: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, JUST AS HE DETERMINES” and 1 Cor. 12.29-30: “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?”

    Regarding Acts, chapter 8 does not clearly state that the new believer in Samaria ever spoke in tongues. I know that some assume they did, because Simon “saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands,” but, as far as I can tell, this is just an assumption. There is no reference either to the Ethiopan eunuch receiving the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” or speaking in tongues. Some imply that Saul/Paul must have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of tongues in Acts 9 because in 1 Cor. 14 he says he speaks in tongues more than all the Corinthians. But this is also an assumption. It is just as likely, in my reading, that Paul had a gift of tongues that was not necessarily part of a normative experience for all believers. In Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13), there is no reference to “baptism in the Holy Spirit” or speaking in tongues. Neither in Iconium, Lystra, Derbe (Acts 14), Philippi (Acts 16), Thessalonica, Berea, Athens (Acts 17) or Corinth (Acts 18, though the “gift of tongues” is evidently present in Corinth later on). Yet in all these places, we read that disciples were made. Also, I wonder if you think it is “normative” for people to be baptized in water first, and then receive the Holy Spirit and tongues (as in Acts 19) or first receive the Holy Spirit and tongues and then be baptized in water (as in Acts 10)? Tongues as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit doesn’t appear so “normative” after all to me in the book of Acts. On a few occasions, it occurs, but far from all. Unless you asssume it occurred as well the times it is not mentioned. But that is just that: an assumption.

    Regarding the rest of the passages you mention, I agree that speaking in tongues, sometimes manifested as a “private prayer language” is indeed a legitimate spiritual gift. I am not so sure, though, that is what is being referenced in Romans 8.26-27, as it is the Holy Spirit himself interceding in “groans that words cannot express” rather than the believer praying in words of an unknown language. What I still do not see is a differentiation between the “gift of tongues” and the normative “manifestation” of tongues for all believers. But I have not read your later posts yet. Perhaps you will comment more on that there.

    Comment by David Rogers — January 26, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

  5. David,

    I’m going to take some time to explore these issues with you, and develop some of my thoughts further for our on-going discussion.

    First, Mark 16:17-18 states, “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it wil not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and see them (the sick) recover).” I believe that this passage, in its entirety, is normative for every Christian. You yourself even stated in a recent comment in Part 3 that the words of Christ should be normative for every believer. I will note that there is no spiritual gift for casting out demons. Certainly one who has the gift of working of miracles would be excellent at doing so, but what Jesus is saying here is every Christian has the authority and power to cast out demons and minister deliverance. It is normative for you and me today. Same with speaking in tongues (although that’s a matter of controversy). What about picking up serpents and drinking deadly poison? Let me address the poison issue first. The text says “IF they drink deadly poison,” which implies accident. We should not be tempting God saying, “I know this is deadly poison, but I am going to drink it anyway, God, and I expect you to deliver me.” That’s not wise, and in fact, its foolish. This Scripture is saying is that IF a Christian drinks poison by accident, then it is normative for us to expect God to deliver us. For instance, lets say you are a praying mother, and your baby gets into the cleaning cabinet and ingests poison… you can pray and expect God to deliver your baby and heal the child from the ill effects of the poison. That is a practical application of the deadly poison clause here. The picking up serpents issue is even more interesting. Gramattically, I see the serpent thing and the deadly poison thing connected. I do not see any biblical reason WHY a Christian would, in all wisdom, desire to actually handle a snake. However, there ARE reasons for every other item listed here, even the deadly poison example I gave above. So, that’s how I apply Mark 16, and I hope that answers your question there. What do you think?

    Now lets look at your cross-references. I do not see Heb. 2:3-4, and the ones you mentioned in 1 Cor. 12 as really valid cross-references to Mark 16. This is why. Jesus did not make any distinctions in Mark 16 that only specially gifted individuals would do these things, and others would not. I do believe that all the gifts (and the items discussed in Mark 16, some of which are not correlated to specific gifts) are a confirmation to the gospel. But I do not see the cross-reference you infer here.

    As regards to Acts 8, I don’t recall discussing that passage in my original post. However, this is what I will say. Look at verses 14-17: “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and praye for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet FALLEN on any of them; they had been simply baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they (the apostles) began laying hands on them, and they (the Samarians) received the Holy Spirit” So, what does this text tell us what actually happened? In verse 14, we learn that those in Samaria “received the word of God.” To me, this implies they had been saved. The fact they had been baptized (verse 16) also tells us these disciples were saved. So, why was there a need for them to “receive the Holy Spirit” – ? This was subsequent to salvation. Thus, it was for the Acts 2 baptism in the Holy Spirit, or initial infilling if you will. David, you’re right to note that there is no speaking in tongues here. That’s why we say speaking in tongues is “normative” evidence — it is not compulsory or mandatory for the believer, just something to be expected as an evidence, normatively (or usually) that the believer has received the infilling.

    There are several other passages in the Book of Acts that DO document tongues as evidence of the initial infilling of the Holy Spirit. We don’t know if that happened in Acts 8, but we do know the Samarian disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their salvation.

    As regards to the Ethiopian eunuch, all we know is he was saved and water baptized after Phillip preached to him. After these two tasks were completed, Phillip was transported away. You really cannot base doctrine on this passage besides saying that as soon as a believer gets saved, they need to be water baptized. That’s really all you can discuss in the latter part of Acts 8.

    As for Paul in Acts 9, I believe Paul was saved when he actually encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, but then was filled with the Holy Spirit (see verse 17) LATER, when Ananias laid hands on Paul, and Paul was healed. This is when I believe Paul received the infilling, but Paul had already been converted before he met Ananias.

    David, you are correct to note there is no reference to baptism in the Holy Spirit, or being filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 13-18. The next example we have is Acts 19. Speaking of which you asked about a normative order. I believe that the only requirement for water baptism, and the only requirement for the initial infilling, is the same requirement: you got saved. I don’t believe water baptism is a prequisite to be filled with the Holy Spirit, or vice versa. Some people get water baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit simultaneously. Others get water baptized first, and then filled with the Holy Spirit. Still others (like myself) were filled with the Holy Spirit, and then water baptized. I do not believe in a normative order, except that salvation must come first for either, and I think you’ll agree there.

    I do believe, however, that all three experiences are normative for the believer. That’s the pattern I see in the Book of Acts, and more generally in the NT.


    Comment by Jonathan — January 27, 2007 @ 1:55 am

  6. Jonathan,

    Mark 16 does not say “if they pick up serpents.” It says “when they do.” Grammatically, I do not see “these signs will accompany those who have believed” to necessarily mean ALL these signs will accompany ALL those who have believed. It is quite plausible, for me, to understand this as saying something more like: “Here are some examples of some of the signs that will accompany some of those of believe.”

    I definitely see a parallel thought to Mark 16 in Hebrews 2.3-4. The idea is that of “signs” that confirm the witness of those who announce the message of Christ in both passages. It is significant to me that Hebrews 2.3-4 also links these “signs” to “spiritual gifts.” That is where I think the cross-reference to 1 Corinthians 12 is also valid.

    I am happy to hear you say “normative” for you does not necessarily mean “compulsory” or “mandatory” for the believer. Such being the case, our positions are perhaps not all that far apart, after all. I would even agree that it is generally a good thing to be “expectant” regarding the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. However, I think we must always be careful to avoid anything that could be taken as manipulation. As I said on my comment on the last post, God does not need our help in order to work his miracles.

    Comment by David Rogers — January 29, 2007 @ 11:45 pm

  7. David,

    As regards to Mark 16, let me give another spin on “pick up serpents,” as to what this means. This is fairly “hot off the press,” because my pastor dealt with this on Sunday, during his sermon. One possible interpretation of what Jesus said here is not literal “serpents,” but what “serpents” represent in the Bible, which is lies and bondages. If that is an appropriate interpretation, then I would say it is normative for believers to deliver people from bondages and destroy the lies of the enemy, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ. What do you think about that?

    As regards to saying “these signs will accompany those who believe,” I believe that at least one sign mentioned here will accompany each believer, at a minimum (and I am not referring to having a prayer language, necessarily, here). But I believe it is normative for a Christian believer to be operating in as many of these signs, wonders, and miracles as God allows them. In other words, it would NOT be normative for a Christian to NOT be operating in ANYTHING in Mark 16. Does that make sense?

    I think that the Heb. 2 cross-reference is a bit of stretch. I can see your point and where you’re coming from, but I don’t see it directly connected.

    Lastly, as I said I last post, I think we agree on the issue of manipulation — it definitely grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit, and neither of us wants that.


    Comment by Jonathan — January 30, 2007 @ 3:06 am

  8. keyword

    I don’t agree with you in 100%, but you covered some good points regarding this topic

    Trackback by Bible Searches For New Testament — July 1, 2007 @ 7:23 pm

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