Do I Need to Speak in Tongues to be Spirit Filled?
I was raised by a preacher of the gospel in the deep south of the United States. Under his tutelage I was blessed to receive much great advice. One of his many pearls of wisdom concerned the three keys to good preaching. Key number one was “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em”. Key number two was “Tell ’em. And the third key to successful communication was “Tell ’em what you told ’em” Bearing in mind this parental admonition, suffice it to say that one does not need to speak in tongues to be Spirit filled. I just told you what I intend to tell you. My father would be proud.
Many teach that speaking in tongues is the evidence of being filled with The Holy Spirit. To support this view they refer to the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The writer of Acts never calls tongues “the” outward sign of The baptism of The Spirit but there is no question that he accepts it as “a” confirmation that this spiritual event has taken place. From the words of Peter in Acts 2:17 we understand the prophet Joel to say that the outpouring of the Spirit would be accompanied by daughters prophesying, young men seeing visions and old men dreaming dreams. While admitting that I don’t know how to dream anything other than a dream I feel safe in saying that the case for the things mentioned in verse 17 being evidence of the Holy Spirit is stronger than the case for tongues. Peter goes on to say in verse 18 “And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:” Should we require the gift of prophecy as evidence of the Baptism?
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 not to be ignorant concerning spiritual gifts. He then proceeds to teach us that the gifts are diverse and not all Spirit filled people operate in the same gifts. Tongues and the interpretation of tongues are among those the listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Paul did not take this occasion to mention that any were the prevailing evidence of being filled with the Spirit. Rather, as he taught that all who are filled have at least one supernatural gift, this empowering in any of its expressions could be said to be proof of the baptism. Not all Spirit filled Christians operate in their appointed gift or gifts. While this may convict them in the minds of others this is not evidence that they have not been filled with the Holy Spirit. This action is subject to the dictates of each human soul and not necessarily a reflection of an absence of the baptism.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:5 “I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.” In this verse we hear Paul’s desire but not his requirement to speak in tongues. He does highly recommend it especially in the area of prayer in verses 15-18 writing “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified“. Paul places his high stamp of approval on tongues with the words “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:” Yet for all that he makes no mention of evidence for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
I believe I stand in agreement with Paul when I say of speaking in tongues “Must we? No.” “Should we? Yes.” But we must keep in mind that the ability of Spirit filled people to pray outside the scope of their understanding is not necessarily operating in the gift of tongues that requires interpretation. One of the most profound reasons to pray with the spirit is that Paul says this is a blessing to the Lord in 1 Corinthians 14:16, writing “Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit,…“. It makes God happy when we pray with the spirit. Praying with the spirit is when the human spirit is directed by either the Holy Spirit or possibly angels what to say in a heavenly language not known by the supplicant. David said “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise will continually be in my mouth“. When we pray with the spirit we are praising the Lord with perfectly formed words from heaven.
To sum up, our stance at PMT is to forbid not the speaking in tongues while not requiring it for evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Written by Wes Arnold, PMT ElderReturn to the Newsletter Archives