This week we talked about the…
- Belt of Truth
- Body Armor of Righteousness
- Ready Shoes of Gospel Peace
- Shield of Faith
This week we talked about the…
[Here’s a little article by Greg Boyd with which I entirely agreed. I have added some bold font to highlight his main ideas.]
Is speaking in tongues the initial evidence of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
Pentecostals have traditionally taught that speaking in tongues is the evidence that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit. Those who defend this position do so primarily on the basis of a pattern they discern in Acts. They note that when the disciples were first baptized in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, “all of them…began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4). Similarly, when the Gentiles were initially filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter and the other Jewish Christians recognized it, “for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God” (Acts 10:46). And when the disciples of John the Baptist first received this blessing from God after Paul preached to them and prayed with them, they all “spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6). On this basis they argue that everyone should seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and that they will know they are filled when they speak in tongues.
Most evangelicals reject this line of argumentation on a number of grounds. There are five compelling arguments that can be raised against it.
1. First and foremost, detractors of the initial evidence doctrine argue that it is illegitimate hermeneutics to base a doctrine on historical narrative. As a historian, Luke reported what happened; he did not teach what should always happen. His narrative is descriptive, not prescriptive. If we took everything Luke recorded as a prescription for how the church is always supposed to believe and behave, we would have to insist that all congregations be communistic (Acts 2:44–45) and that prayer cloths be sent out to heal people (Acts 19:11–12).
2. Second, the Bible provides a good amount of explicit teaching (not mere historical inference) about the evidence of being filled with the Spirit, and none of it centers on speaking in tongues. As people are filled with the Holy Spirit, they exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, especially love (Gal. 5:22–23; 1 Cor. 13; Rom. 5:5). Their lives are characterized by a zeal for the Lord, a boldness to proclaim truth, and holiness (Acts 1:8; Rom. 8:2–6; 2 Cor. 3:17–18; Gal. 5:16–18). If any charismatic phenomenon is to be associated with being filled with the Spirit, it is prophecy—speaking the word of the Lord with a powerful anointing—and revelatory visions, for Peter taught that these would follow the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:17–18).
3. Third, if speaking in tongues is evidence that one has a unique infilling of the Holy Spirit, we’d expect people who speak in tongues to generally manifest more of the fruits of the Spirit than others. But this is undeniably not the case. It wasn’t even the case in the New Testament. The Corinthians spoke in tongues a great deal, but Paul chastised them for being spiritual babies (1 Cor. 3:1–4).
4. Fourth, it seems clear from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians that he did not assume that all believers would speak in tongues at some point. Paul asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?…Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?” (1 Cor. 12:29–30). The answer, of course, is no. Yet Paul encourages all believers to continually seek to be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). This seems to clearly suggest that Paul didn’t expect all believers to speak in tongues and didn’t identify tongues as a necessary manifestation of being filled with the Spirit.
5. Finally, on a more practical note, as a former Pentecostal minister I can attest to the fact that the “initial evidence doctrine” inevitably sets up a two-class Christianity, distinguishing between those who have spoken in tongues and those who have not. The New Testament knows of no such classification. Those in Pentecostal circles who have not spoken in tongues are encouraged to seek this initial evidence. Yet the New Testament contains no accounts of believers seeking the experience of speaking in tongues. Even in the episodes in Acts that Pentecostals cite in support of their position, the act of speaking in tongues just happens. No one is looking for it.
So, while I think the gift of tongues is a blessing, and while all believers are encouraged to be zealous for spiritual gifts (especially prophecy), I don’t believe speaking in tongues is any sort of “initial evidence” of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to “stand?” Who is your real enemy? What are the devil’s schemes? What is “the evil day?”
Jesus says if we drink from him, we’ll never thirst. But we sing over and over about how thirsty we are for God. Jesus says, “You won’t thirst!” We say, “We’re so thirsty!” What’s going on? We tell people that hunger is currency in the kingdom. Hunger gets results. “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled (Matthew 5:6).” We talk about desperation as essential to a move of God. But Paul told the Galatians that all they did to usher in a move of God was believe (Galatians 3:1-7). What’s going on here? It’s like a tension between “I have you!” and “I want you!”
On the one hand, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that if she would drink the living water that He would give then she would never thirst again (John 4:13). And later at the festival in John 7 he loudly announced that whoever is thirsty, come, and they will receive the living water that would become a spring within them, welling and springing up from their innermost being (John 7:38). Jesus described the Spirit that would indwell them as a spring residing within them, not a mist landing on them from outside, but then dissipating. I don’t believe Jesus was talking about an endless cycle of lack, desperation and eventual divine response. I think he was promising a state of having more than enough permanently indwelling us, and constantly available to us, with the intention that it would flow out as a river of refreshing for others.
On the other hand, after the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, the disciples found themselves in a tough spot with the authorities because of a controversial public miracle, but it was also a great opportunity for the Gospel. So they sought the Lord in prayer and God responded by filling them afresh with the Holy Spirit, empowering them to tell people about the Lord Jesus with invigorated passion and courage (Acts 4:31). If the original church sought God for Holy Spirit empowerment on multiple occasions, this surely gives me permission to do the same.
I resonate with both statements:
In terms of the human body, when you drink your body feels deep pleasure at the refreshing drink. Your body re-hydrates and then it sends the signal to your brain that you have enough. Consequently your desire is abated and you stop drinking. Why do you stop drinking? You can have too much fluid. When you “drink” of God, the receiving of love and mercy is also pleasurable and refreshing, deep in our soul. However, it is more like making love than drinking water. Making love is momentary, but it bonds you to your lover. Or at least, it is meant to. And your desire and attachment actually becomes strengthened, not out of personal need, but out of ecstasy. The desire to possess is so strong it feels like a need. It feels like hunger and thirst. But it is born out of having the object of desire, not lacking the object of desire. Being with your beloved doesn’t diminish or satiate desire. It deepens the bond of connection and seals the attachment. It’s like an addiction, except it is a healthy and good one. It grows when you feed it.
This kind of desire is not borne of lack. Instead, it’s just the natural response of wanting more of the good stuff now that you’ve tasted the good stuff. Knowing that God will never withhold Himself from me makes my enjoyment of Him even sweeter. Enjoyment of God increases one’s desire for God. Not out of lack, but out of abundance. People talk about wanting quality over quantity, but the truth is that once you have tasted the quality, then you want a quantity of the quality. “I like it. I love it. I want some more of it!”
The dictionary definition of “desperation” reveals that we’ve been using the word inaccurately. Webster defines desperation as:
After reading those definitions, would you say that you are “desperate for God?” Would you say that you are without hope and surrendered to despair to the point of making terrible and rash decisions? I think we picked the wrong word to express how much we love and long for more of God. Our passion is born of hope, not despair! Our contending, praying, waiting, and seeking is born of believing the promise and knowing that God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). If we were truly desperate, in the dictionary sense, we’d quit. Desperation is the wrong word to express how much we enjoy, love, and long for more of God. I’m not in a spiritual famine. I’m in Christ. I have everything I need for life and godliness in him (1 Peter 1:3). I believe the gospel and that has ushered me into a feast. And the food both satisfies and keeps me returning to feast more. I want more because I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
Jesus’ victory gives us the high ground from which to fight, and I don’t want to see us grovel as though we are nothing and have nothing and can do nothing. I believe God would say, “What do you mean you are nothing? I’ve made you worthy and adopted you as my children! What do you mean you have nothing? You have my authority and my Spirit and my wisdom and my voice! What do you mean you can do nothing? You can do exactly as I command and exactly as Jesus demonstrated because He lives inside of you! Quit grovelling, get up, and believe my Word! Enough of this unbelief masquerading as humility! Where are my Joshua’s and Caleb’s in this battle hour?”
When you have an awareness of the finished work of Christ, the place you have in the Father’s affections, access to the most holy place, divine empowerment, fellowship with God’s love, the riches of inheritance that are yours in Christ…and you walk in that and enjoy that…and then see the state people are in, that ought to create a deep longing for others to also come into the enjoyment of the Gospel.
What would you call a believer who is content in God but unconcerned about others? To come out of a free all you can eat buffet, see poor starving people sitting around the entrance, and not long for them to all be fed would be crazy! Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Luke 10:2). The orchard is ready and the trees are weighed down, but there are only a few harvesters, and the apples are lying rotten on the ground! So he says to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers. There’s a lot more in that than I’ll say here, but that one statement is a worthy meditation point.
When I say, “I’m hungry for more of God,” I’m not saying that I’m personally desperate and wretched. I’m not! I’m blessed with every spiritual blessing and covenantal faithfulness and that’s my daily bread which I will never be without (Ephesians 1:3, Hebrews 13:5). But I want to see others enter into this fullness. I want more of God’s will done on earth the way it’s happening in heaven. More of God’s worship on earth as in heaven. More of God’s name being honored on earth the way it’s happening in heaven. We long for more of God’s truth believed by more people on earth as in heaven. And I believe that in the going and doing we will experience him more fully and know him better. If we’re spiritually alive and awake, how could we not long for this, pray for this, and take action to see this happen?
A word of warning. Earnest faith, not desperation, is capital in the kingdom. Faith can take the form of intense, burning, eager desire, and an “I will not let you go until you bless me” attitude (Genesis 32:26). But desperation, at least the way the dictionary defines it, is really unbelief and can lead to some very emotionally unhealthy spirituality. Let’s hunger and thirst for righteousness because we see his promises. Not as though he is unwilling to be close to us. Not as though he needs to be convinced to come and fill us. It’s his good pleasure to give us the kingdom! He WANTS to pour out his Spirit on his children! He’s promised to draw near if we draw near! He’s already all in! He gave us His Son, how could he possibly declare himself any more clearly to be IN (Romans 8:32)? So let’s not beg, let’s pursue to receive what he has declared he intends to pour out. The indwelling and empowering Holy Spirit is called “The Promise of the Father.” So the prayer, “Immerse us in your power and love, like you promised,” is a totally legitimate prayer, and we should expect it to be answered. He wants it more than we do.
I believe that science’s task is to tell us the How, but Scripture’s task is to tell us the Who and the Why. I’m not a young-earther. But I am a starry-eyed creationist. I believe that everything was created by Jesus and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16). As I imagine it, around 13.9 billion years ago, like a billion years before God said, “Let there be,” he saw me. He chose me. He knew me. And he saw me in Christ. He saw me in Christ before he saw me any other way. He predestined me to be his son (Ephesians 1:4). He planned my existence, and the time in which I would live (Acts 17:26), and he planned good works for me in Christ (Ephesians 2:10). He marked out a path for me to walk. I’m a part of the, “and God saw that it was good,” of creation (Genesis 1:31). I’m not an accident. I’m the will of God. And so are you.
Knowing that this is destiny, how could I wish to be born and live in any other time instead of this one? We lament and complain as a national pastime. “Things are getting worse and worse.” We wish to go back to some other time, or at least that’s what it sounds like. But hold on a minute. Knowing that God put me here, now, as me — with great intentionality, precision, and care — why would I wish for something else? I wouldn’t, unless I don’t see clearly.
I don’t think we’ve really let the truth of our predestination settle down deep into our spirits and breathe purpose into our mundane daily tasks and lives. The word “destiny” is more associated with the pagan word “fate,” and the in-house Christian word, “predestination,” is more associated with arguments over who is in and who is out: the blessed and all the rest. We’ve missed the point. We’ve lost the wonder of our purpose. Meanwhile our mundane lives are brimming over with glory and possibility, but I wonder if we’ve become desensitized to it. Have we given up on our God-dreams and are we numb to the everyday miracles happening all around us? A bird singing. The seasons changing. A bug we take a moment to watch. The sky. The hug of a friend.
What if our greatest gift to humanity is to be the person we were created and redeemed to be? What if our greatest “missionary activity” is to live our mundane life as a grateful worshiper, like a flower that opens to the sun and simultaneously draws in the pollinating bees, almost by accident, with its color and fragrance? The flower’s color and fragrance aren’t its task. They effortlessly come from its nature. Its task is simply opening to the sun. To paraphrase Irenaeus, “God’s beauty is most clearly seen in a person who is really alive.”
This is destiny; here and now. Be here now.
I think the besetting sin of pastors, maybe especially evangelical pastors, is impatience.
We have a goal. We have a mission. We’re going to save the world. We’re going to evangelize everybody, and we’re going to do all this good stuff and fill our churches.
This is wonderful. All the goals are right. But this is slow, slow work, this soul work, this bringing people into a life of obedience and love and joy before God.
And we get impatient and start taking shortcuts and use any means available.