Baptism in the Holy Spirit

5. Comments on a commentary

This is an extract from a well known commentary and as such is useful for studying the response of a typical protestant opinion. (Italics in red are my added comments )

Tongues, Speaking in (Glossolalia )

One of the nine charisma, or “grace-gifts,” of the Spirit in I Cor.2:4-11. It has two functions: in the Acts of the Apostles, it is an initiation or authentication gift meant as a divine affirmation of a new group entering the church; and in I Cor. 12-14 or Rom. 12 it is a “spiritual gift” bestowed upon sovereignly chosen individuals within the church. It is vigorously debated whether the NT
favours unknown or known languages, with a slight majority favouring the former. Many others opt for a both/and rather than an either/or.

Extra biblical Evidence

In the ancient world, pagan prophets were commonly associated with ecstatic utterances, trances, and frenzied behaviour. There are records of ecstatic speech and the like in Egypt in the eleventh century B.C. In the Hellenistic world the prophetess of Delphi and the Sibylline priestess spoke in unknown or unintelligible speech. Moreover, the Dionysian rites contained a trancelike state as well as glossolalia. Many of the magicians and sorcerers of the first century world exhibit similar phenomena, as in the case of the “spirit of divination” (or possibly ventriloquism) at Philippi in Acts 16:16-18.

NT Evidence.

In Matt. 3:11 John the Baptist prophesies that the Messiah “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Pentecostals often see in this a precursor of their doctrine of “baptism by the Spirit,” but the passage more likely looks forward to Pentecost. James Dunn argues that this is a metaphorical expression for that “baptism” into the kingdom that was an extension of John’s own ministry
of baptism. It is true that neither Jesus nor his disciples speak in tongues in the Gospels, and there is no hint there of a connection between tongues and the activity of the Holy Spirit. The only passage that may do so is Mark 16:17, which makes “new tongues” one of the “signs” that will accompany the Christian. However, most scholars agree that this “longer ending” of Mark was added in the second century and so refers back to the apostolic gifts. Nevertheless as such it is evidence that the second century church still accepted the validity of these supernatural gifts. The Acts of the Apostles is naturally a key portion of Scripture on this issue. Pentecost (Acts 2) has been the focus of much debate.

First, there is the “Johannine Pentecost” (John 20:22), which some say contradicts the Acts account and others say is proleptic, promising the later event. Neither fits the evidence. Most likely, when Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he was providing a private infusing of the Spirit, while Acts 2 was the public empowering, which inaugurated the new age of the Spirit.

(There is no problem here if one accepts the “baptism” as a separate experience from salvation.)

Second, others argue that the miracle was one of hearing rather than speaking and that this ecstatic utterance was meant as the obverse to the Babel incident regarding the confusion of tongues (Gen. 11:1-9). This too is unlikely, for the tenor of the passage favors a miracle of speaking. While the Babel theme may be present, the major theological emphasis deals with the universal mission. The catalogue of nations in Acts 2:9-11 sweeps from east to west, stressing the future redemptive mission of the church (cf. 1:8).

The rest of Acts builds upon this as we have the Samaritan Pentecost (8:14-19), the Gentile Pentecost (10:44-46), and the Ephesian Pentecost (19:6).

Two misconceptions need to be explained.

First, some say that Acts presents the Pentecost-type of encounter as the necessary initial experience for one who is filled or baptized with the Spirit. The problem is twofold:

(1) the historical passages cannot be used to establish dogma unless they are corroborated by teaching material, since historical narratives tell what happened rather than what always must be.

(2) There are too many episodes in Acts where tongues are not the necessary initiatory experience (e.g., 4:31; 8:17; 9:17-18).

(Acts 4:31 NIV) After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
(Acts 8:17 NIV) Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

note the initial experience is to be born again. i.e. regenerated by the Holy Spirit which had happened to these people. Then a second experience. One that Simon coveted. Why?

(Acts 9:17-18 NIV) Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord–Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here–has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” {18} Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized

Note that later Paul spoke in tongues, so tongues could have been part of the above experiences. Not possible to know and hence the argument against is not valid.)

While the Samaritan Pentecost probably included tongues (Simon’s reaction shows that something spectacular had occurred), it is not the main stress of the passage and does not support the weight placed upon it by proponents of the thesis above.

Second, others argue that tongues were sign gifts intended to authenticate the apostolic message and so this gift ceased at the end of the apostolic age.

This too goes beyond the evidence of Acts. In actuality, they authenticated the addition of new groups to the church, not for the sake of non-Christians but rather for the sake of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

There is no hint that the supernatural gifts had so narrow a purpose. Therefore both of these theories must await further data from the NT.

The next major source is I Cor. 12-14.

The purpose of the gift has obviously changed drastically. It is no longer apologetic proof, but has now become part of the cultic worship of the church. “cultic” is used emotionally here. Paul approved of tongues. He taught that tongues edified the believer.

The problem at Corinth was the tendency of the enthusiasts there to elevate glossolalia to the greatest of the gifts.

Paul in these chapters corrects this error and puts the gift in its proper place. The gifts are given, not to everyone, but only to those sovereignly chosen by the Spirit

(1 Cor 12:11 NIV) All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines

(There is an assumption here that the initial tongues is a “gift of the Spirit” like prophesy when in fact this is not so indicated in Scripture. More appropriately a “sign” and continued to be apologetic proof.)

Moreover, in any hierarchical order, tongues is the least of the gifts; the use of “first, second, third” in vs. 28 reflects just such a pattern. In vss. 29-30 it is clear that Paul denies the contention of the enthusiasts that everyone truly spiritual should speak in tongues: “All are not apostles, are they?…All do not speak in tongues, do they?”

Paul could be speaking of the gift of tongues in this extract not the initial sign of tongues which is possibly not the same thing?

Chapter 13 explores the basic problem of this group, the lack of love, and chapter 14 stresses the problematic value of this gift for the church. Without “interpretation” it is incomprehensible and will n
ot “edify” like the gift of prophecy. Moreover, as a “sign” it seems to the outsider to typify madness (vss. 21-23). Paul at the same time recognizes the validity of glossolalia as a spiritual gift (vs. 12) and rejoices that he has been chosen to excel in it (vs. 18). Nevertheless, tongues are often best relegated to private devotions (vs. 28) and must be utilized in corporate worship with dignity and order (vss. 26-33).

Finally, Paul commands that in spite of the problems enumerated above, the church dare not “forbid” glossolalia, so long as it is expressed in a “fitting and orderly manner” (vss. 39-40).

In other NT epistles, there are perhaps references to tongues. Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 speak of “songs and hymns and spiritual songs,” which some take to be charismatic singing. While most remain dubious regarding this, it is a possibility. Also, many interpret Rom. 8:26,which describes the Spirit praying “with groanings too deep for words,” in terms of “Spirit-filled prayer.” While this is growing in popularity, it must remain more conjecture than likelihood, since the context speaks of the Spirit’s intercession rather than the believer’s charismatic prayer.

Finally, Heb. 2:4 asserts that “God bears witness with [the apostles]…by gifts of the Holy Spirit on the basis of his will.” This is a crucial verse for those who wish to see the supernatural charismas as sign gifts meant only for the apostolic age. However, it does not state that the purpose of the gifts was authentication, only that a purpose is to affirm the apostles’ message. Building a doctrine on a single statement from Scripture without recognizing other passages is a misuse of biblical data.