Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Prophecy and Tongues

Updated: Apr 20

There is a big disagreement between Christians whether there is such a thing as a second blessing called the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Those who say that there is also maintain that the gifts of tongues, prophecy and healing are also still current. They base their claim largely on the book of Acts. Is that correct and is there even a second blessing called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? What does God's word really say about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and what is the present status of these particular gifts?

A

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit happens four times in the book of Acts to mark redemptive historical moments according to the missionary program in Acts 1:8, where the Lord told the disciples to bring the gospel to Jerusalem, Judah, Samaria and to the ends of the world.

The first outpouring was in Jerusalem/Judah on the disciples of Christ. No mention of their baptism in water is made, but they were baptised directly by the Lord with the Spirit (2:33).

Acts 2:4 speaks of the disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues as the Spirit enabled them and then the Apostle Peter explains this as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32. The first thing that must strike one is that there is a temporary reversal of the confusion of languages at Babel. In other words the Lord is making sure that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has maximum ability to be understood by a diverse group of people from every language group present. God wants His gospel to go to all peoples. At the same time it is also evidence that God is gathering a new and unified people that will not be separated as this world has been. It will be unified in the true faith and is a people for a new creation where there will be no division of language (cf Zeph 3:9). It sends a beautiful message of a unified world without division united in Christ. In all the focus on tongues which no one can understand the Pentecostal movement is out of tune with this message and has fallen into the trap spoken of in 1 Cor 14:21 where the Apostle Paul says the unknown language was a sign of God's judgement on Israel by invading forces.

Secondly we have to understand that what the disciples were doing when they spoke in tongues was speaking about the wonderful works of God (2:11). They were prophesying as per the prophecy of Joel quoted in Acts 2:17,18 where this gift becomes general. Prophecy can be of various types. The word had various connotation and there is even a history of prophecy visible in the Bible. Prophets used to be called seers probably because they received visions, often in dreams (1 Sam 9:9). However, to prophesy was actually more an ecstatic form of praising God. That can be demonstrated from 1 Sam 10:5-13 and from 1 Chr 25:2,3 and that is what the disciples are doing in Acts 2. This is the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy, which repeats that word twice. This prophecy was intelligible to the hearers and was the praise of God's works. We may be fairly certain that they were speaking especially of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Those converted on that day received the Holy Spirit when they were baptised in the water (2:38,41), but there is no mention of speaking in tongues or other signs recorded.

The second outpouring is when the gospel goes to Samaritans. They had received the gospel and were baptised in water, but they had not received the Holy Spirit. The apostles were sent to them to help them, but when they arrived discovered that the Samaritans had not received the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they prayed for them that they might receive Him and He was given. That He was received must mean that there must have been signs of Him being given although there is no mention of speaking in tongues. The apostles had the authority to extend the Church of God to the Samaritans fully and so did. Samaritans were not to be second rate citizens of God's kingdom. That is what the separation between water and Spirit baptism produces, and that is not God's intention at all. In fact that is anathema to God.

In the case of Cornelius the Roman Gentile we have come to the third group mentioned in Acts 1:8, the nations. It is the beginning of the push to the ends of the earth. There the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentile hearers and they spoke in tongues before they were baptised in water just as at Pentecost. God Himself acts to legitimate the spread of the gospel to the nations, for that was almost incomprehensible to the Jews (cf Ac 11:1-18). Even after that there were many struggles to include them in the Church of God (cf Ac 15 etc), but God clearly showed here that they were His just as Israel was His.

Finally the Holy Spirit was also poured out on a group of about 12 men in Ephesus who had been baptised with the baptism of John the Baptist, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, but who had not received the Holy Spirit (Ac 19:1-8). They were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and then received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. They moved from the OT into the NT era.

This outpouring is different in intention, for it marks a turning point in Acts, when God begins mightily to build His Church in Ephesus, among the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews as a nation begins. We can see this from the rest of the chapter for there are about 12 disciples baptised as an echo of the twelve tribes of Israel. Next the Jewish priest's seven priestly sons are not recognized as authorities by the demon. Then we see mass conversion and a turning away from magic and paganism on a grand scale and, finally, in 19:21 the apostle Paul decided to go to Jerusalem where he, like the Lord Jesus Christ, would be rejected, imprisoned and sent to Rome. The Jews would reject the gospel one last time in Jerusalem (22:22) and that rejection by the Jews was completed in Rome in the last chapter of Acts (28:25-29). The gospel had been preached to the Jews in their own land and in the diaspora and had been largely rejected. God had fulfilled His promise to them and now turned to the nations almost exclusively.

If we look at this redemptive history, the separation of water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit is no justification for believing that there are two different baptisms available to Christians. The separation of the two was a redemptive historical marking of the transitions of the gospel from Israel to the Samaritans to the nations in general and is not to be made into a theological rule producing a two level Christianity, which is abhorrent to the Lord.

B

This can also be shown from a typological perspective. Baptism has a long prehistory in Scripture. It begins at creation where the world was born from water by the Spirit (Gen 1:2; cf 2 Pet 3:5,6,7). The flood continues this imagery, for the world had to be reborn purified of all the evil that was on it and the human race had to continue. There was a new beginning via Noah and the ark through whom and through which the human race was saved. Both of these point forward to Christ. When the earth was drying Noah sent out a dove which returned to him with a sign of new life in its beak (8:11).

We see it again in the Red Sea crossing at the exodus. There the people of God were baptised into Moses in the cloud, which symbolised the Holy Spirit and in the sea, which was the water of judgement (1 Cor 10:2). They were brought through the sea on dry ground by God through their saviour, Moses, and the Egyptians were judged and drowned.

We see it in the various washings of the law and in the baptism of John the Baptist, but most of all we see it in the baptism of Christ where the water symbolised His death and the Spirit His resurrection, new life and empowerment for His task (Mat 3:16). Therefore, when the Bible speaks of the baptism into the name of Jesus Christ it is a union with Christ in His death, resurrection and new life (Rom 6:1-4). Through Him we pass through the judgement of God on sin to a new life and receive the Holy Spirit, through Him we are born again from water and the Spirit (Jh 3:5; Ac 2:38; Tit 3:5; cf Gal 3:2) and this is symbolised in baptism. There is no separation possible between these two. The water is the cleansing element and the Spirit is the Life Giver. He has born us anew out of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is, therefore, no separable baptism of the Holy Spirit. If there was the symbolism would leave those who were only baptised in the water in death. The separation between baptism in water and in the Holy Spirit in redemptive history is there for a reason, but the two ought always to be united for only with the latter is there resurrection to life.

C

That raises the question whether the signs which accompanied the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ought to continue as well. I have seen no evidence that the gifts of healing, of speaking in tongues and 'prophecy' are still given, but instead I have seen deception and emotional manipulation.

As far as can be ascertained in the book of Acts all the tongues that are spoken are human tongues/languages. The 'tongues' spoken today are no known languages and we know them all. We learn in the letter to the Corinthians that not many people could understand when people spoke in tongues, which is fairly logical, but if that was the case, then also the reason for the gift would disappear. The argument that these languages might be the language of angels is drawn from 1 Cor 13:1. In that verse it is presented as a possibility, but the apostle is exaggerating to make a point against the misuse of tongues. He is not saying that the tongues spoken are angelic language, but he is saying that even if he could speak in such a lofty language, but did not have love, he would be nothing. Consequently we already have evidence in Scripture of the reduction of the value of the gift. It was of less value than prophecy because it was not generally understood. When it was prophecy, and could be understood, it had its value for all, but now it only had subjective value for the individual and even they did not understand it (1 Cor 14:14,19).

Do we need the gift of tongues anymore? No! The gospel has gone out to the ends of the earth. The true people of God are united in the one true faith, whether they can speak to each other or not. Babel has been overcome spiritually in Christ and the promise of the tongues is that one language will be restored in the world to come. God's people of all races will all be one again.

We still have prophecy in the sense of speaking forth the great acts of God. We can praise God in the ecstasy of joy in our own languages and in that sense prophesy for the good of all. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on us and we can rejoice in the goodness of our God and in His love for us, for He has come to dwell with us and in us as churches and as individuals, building us up into living stones in His temple to praise and glorify Him with our thoughts, words and deeds.

True Christians can rejoice in being baptised in the Holy Spirit. God has drawn us into an intimate communion with Him in the Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Father and the Son is an essential element of the union of the Father and the Son for they share one and the same Spirit. This Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son to us and unites us to our God and draws us into the embrace of His love as well. We can come to God through Christ by one Spirit (Eph 2:18) and that can only lead to prophesying, to praising God in our love. The closer we draw the more intense the joy and the more intense the praise and the desire to speak of God's wonderful works. May the Holy Spirit so fill us with the knowledge of God and fill us with all the fullness of God (Eph 1:17; 3:19) that we might overflow with the praise of the glory of His grace in Christ (Eph 2:7).

All true Christians have been baptised with the Holy Spirit and that gift will be even be enriched together with the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23) when we will praise God with one unified language forever for His mercy toward us. May that day come soon!


Rev JGR Kroeze

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