“Speaking in tongues” and “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” – then and now

A closer examination


This lesson is not meant to be an exhaustive study of the topic, but is only meant to touch on the main points of this sometimes detailed issue.



There are two main points about this concern:

1.)   What was “speaking in tongues” in the Bible, and

2.)   What is “speaking in tongues” today?



In the same way, there are two main points about the issue of “baptism of the Holy Spirit”:

1.)   What was the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in the Scriptures, and

2.) What is it today?


With both “speaking in tongues” and “baptism of the Holy Spirit” it is clear when looked at closely in the Word of God, that what happened then, is not what is happening now.


A.) “Speaking in tongues”:

Today, in Pentecostal churches around the world, the phenomenon of “speaking in tongues” is an utterance of unintelligible syllables that resembles nothing of the phenomenon of the “speaking in tongues” in the New Testament. In the New Testament, “speaking in tongues” simply meant speaking in other languages. These other languages were known, actual languages, not “mumbo-jumbo”:


Acts 2:6-11

When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own languages!"


Take special notice of the phrase, “IN OUR OWN LANGUAGES” (or “in OUR OWN TONGUES”). The speech of the Apostles was not incomprehensible syllables! It was in actual, spoken languages of the world. Although the Apostles had neither studied nor taken any foreign language courses, they incredibly were given the power of “miraculous, instantaneous translation.” Any missionary knows that the biggest obstacle to taking the gospel to foreign nations is always the language barrier. Perhaps this is what Jesus was referring to when he told the apostles, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) Not even Christ spoke the way in which God now gave ability to the Twelve. The people who heard the Apostles “speaking in tongues” understood them-- unlike when people “speak in tongues” today.


B.) “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”:

The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a fulfillment of prophecy made as proof that the Apostles were God’s chosen instruments-- just as God did miracles in the past (such as with Moses and Pharaoh), to demonstrate that certain people were the bearers of His message and commands. John the Baptist spoke of this and then Christ followed it up in more detail. At Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2 we read about the Holy Spirit coming on the Apostles. Even unbelievers witnessed this phenomenon. Later, in Acts 10 when Peter was having difficulty understanding that the Gospel message was for the Gentiles also, God demonstrated to him that the Gospel message was indeed for all nations and God proved to Peter, by sending the Spirit on the Gentiles, that Peter needed to understand this fact.



Key points:


“Speaking in tongues”



Actual spoken languages? Acts 2:6-11



Incomprehensible syllables?



Understood by listeners?



“Baptism of the Holy Spirit”



















Real thing



The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word “counterfeit” as: to copy or imitate in order to deceive, sham, spurious, forged, pretend, fake, imposture, fraud, deceit, deception


So in conclusion, when we compare both “speaking in tongues” and the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” with the practices of today against the examples in the Word of God---we see two different things!


The Bible speaks of counterfeits, and deceit -- and not in a good light!


2 Thessalonians 2:9

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,


2 Corinthians 11:13-15

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.




For a more in-depth look at the passing away of the miraculous gifts, visit these sites:

Miraculous Gift of Speaking in Tongues was Temporary

When Were the Miraculous Gifts to End?

The Holy Spirit

Cessation of spiritual gifts Part 1

            Part 2

            Part 3





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This page last updated: August 18, 2008