Is Speaking in tongues THE (or only) evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost?

One of the most controversial topics I have come across lately is the gift of tongues. Let me state right away that I believe in the gift of tongues, I do not believe it is a “dead” gift, and that there is a purpose for tongues. The facts and evidence of the truth of the gift of tongues, can be found throughout the Bible. In regards to the facts and evidence of the truth of it being a dead gift or not, we would have to examine the scriptures in 1 Cor 13 to determine that. I don’t really want to debate whether it is dead or not dead. If you believe it is dead, then it will be to you, so the truth to you would be, it is dead. If I believe it isn’t dead, then it won’t be dead to me, so the truth to me would be that it isn’t dead.

The “new truth” that I was presented was that speaking in tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. First, lets lay out all the scripture that talks about baptism of the Holy Ghost. There three verses that talk about baptizing in the Spirit and all three are speaking about the same event.

Mat 3:11, Mark 1:8, and Luk 3:16 which reads:

(ALT)  John answered, saying to all, “_I_ indeed baptize you* in water [or, with water, and throughout book], but [One] mightier than I is coming, of whom I am not worthy to loose the strap of His sandals, _He_ will baptize you* in [or, with] [the] Holy Spirit and fire;

(ESV)  John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

(YLT)  John answered, saying to all, `I indeed with water do baptise you, but he cometh who is mightier than I, of whom I am not worthy to loose the latchet of his sandals–he shall baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire;

The word “baptise” was translated from the Greek word, “baptizō (bap-tid’-zo) – according to Strongs, it is From a derivative of G911; to make whelmed (that is, fully wet); used only (in the New Testament) of ceremonial ablution, especially (technically) of the ordinance of Christian baptism: – baptist, baptize, wash. (G911 is baptō (bap’-to) A primary verb; to whelm, that is, cover wholly with a fluid; in the New Testament only in a qualified or specific sense, that is, (literally) to moisten (a part of one’s person), or (by implication) to stain (as with dye): – dip.)

I love the illustration cited at It states: to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk); to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe; to overwhelm

Not to be confused with 911, bapto. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g. Mark 16:16. ‘He that believes and is baptised shall be saved’. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle! Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989.

These are the only three scriptures with the translated as baptized by the Holy Spirit. Let me point out at this point that no where in any of these accounts does it state any outward sign of that baptism. There are other things that could be discussed in regards to these verses, but I am attempting to stay on track and discuss specifically “speaking in tongues as the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” These particular versus do not support this “new truth.”

When those who speak of this truth are asked where the scripture is that supports this truth, they almost always refer to the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. They also reference at least 3 other verses that talk about filling of the Spirit and speaking in tongues, so lets see what we can find in the way of facts and evidence to support that “speaking in tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” I’m not going to reprint all the verses in Acts 2, but take a look at them. However in Verse 4, the scripture reads:

Act 2:4

(ALT)  And they were all filled of [or, with] [the] Holy Spirit, and they began to be speaking with different tongues [fig., foreign languages], just as the Spirit was giving them to be declaring boldly.

(ESV)  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

(YLT)  and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, according as the Spirit was giving them to declare.

So the translation here is not baptized, it is filled. The word translated is the Greek word, plēthō (play’-tho, pleh’-o) and according to Strong’s it means: A prolonged form of a primary word πλέω pleō (which appears only as an alternate in certain tenses and in the reduplicated form of πίμπλημι pimplēmi to “fill” (literally or figuratively [imbue, influence, supply]); specifically to fulfil (time): – accomplish, full (. . . come), furnish. This word is also used in the King James version in the following scriptures which you can check out: Matt 22:10, 27:48; Luke 1:15, 23, 41, 57, 67; Luke 2:6, 21, 22; Luke 4:28; Luke 5:7, 26, 11; John 19:29; Acts 2:4, 3:10, 4:8, 4:31, 5:17, 9:17, 13:9, 13:49, 19:29. We will take a look at a few of these in a minute.

I am not sure how it got changed to the word baptized, possibly because John said that the one to come would baptize you with the Holy Ghost – and so to many this is the fulfillment of that statement.

So this scripture could be evidence that “speaking in tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” However, most of those who claim this truth also state that this ‘tongue’ is a heavenly or prayer language. So, let’s find out what ‘tongues’ means in Acts 2:4:

The word translated as tongues is the Greek word glōssa (gloce’-sah) which Strongs indicates means Of uncertain affinity; the tongue; by implication a language (specifically one naturally unacquired): – tongue.

This really doesn’t help us much. This word is used several times in the Bible. If you would like to check them out: Mark 7:33, 35, 16:17; Luke 1:64, 16:24; Acts 2:3-4, 11, 26, 10:46, 19:6; Romans 3:13, 14:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, 30, 13:1, 8, and throughout chapter 14; Php 2:11; James 1:26, 3:5, 6, 8; 1 Peter 3:10; 1 John 3:18; Rev 5:9, 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 13:7, 14:6, 16:10, 17:15. But if you take verse 4 of Acts 2 in context and read further, we are told what this word tongues means.

Act 2:6-12  Now this sound having occurred, the crowd came together and was bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speaking in his own language.  (7)  Then they themselves were all being amazed and were marveling, saying to one another, “Listen! All these [who] are speaking are Galileans, are they not?  (8)  “And how [is it that] we each hear in our own language in which we were born?  (9)  “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the ones dwelling in Mesopotamia, also in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  (10)  also Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya, the [one] along Cyrene, and the visiting Romans, both Jews and proselytes [i.e. converts to Judaism],  (11)  Cretes and Arabians, we are hearing them speaking in our tongues [fig., languages] the marvelous [deeds] of God!”  (12)  So they themselves were all amazed and thoroughly perplexed, saying to another one, “What might this want to be [fig., What does this mean]?”

So, this is very specific on what tongues were spoken that day, and they were all languages known to man at that time. It would be kind of like being in a church and those who spoke English hear English and those who speak Spanish hear Spanish and those who speak French hear French, etc. Am I misinterpreting this?

So I would have to say that the verse in Acts 2 can not support the statement that “speaking in tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost” is a truth if it is considered a heavenly or prayer language. It could support the truth that speaking in a language not previously known by the speaker could be evidence of being filled with the Holy Ghost. But, if you have been in a church where tongues has been spoken, I am sure that you would understand that this is not what is being done.

So far, we have rung out the false hood that speaking in tongues is THE (one and only) evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost based on the scriptures of Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8, and Luke 3:16 when Jesus was baptized by the Holy Ghost because they did not recount that he spoke in tongues at that point.

We have rung out the false hood that speaking in tongues otherwise referred to as a heavenly or prayer language is evidence of being FILLED with the Holy Ghost based on the scriptures in Acts 2 which clearly defines the tongues spoken at that time.

But could speaking in tongues otherwise referred to as a previously unknown language to the speaker be evidence of being filled or baptized with the Holy Ghost be a truth? Let’s find out.

In order to prove this truth, we would have to find the other verses in the Bible that refer to being filled or baptized by the Holy Spirit and see what signs came with that. We could also look up other references to speaking in tongues. We already know that the only verses that speak of “baptism of the Holy Spirit” were the ones references above. So know we just have to look up those referencing being “filled” with the Spirit. Let’s take a look and see what we find. We are going to look up ever scripture where the Greek word, plēthō (play’-tho, pleh’-o) is used, I referenced them above. I am going to narrow it down to the ones that refer to being filled by the Spirit.

Luke 1:15 – “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” This talks about a filling at a later time. It is talking about John the Baptist. No where in the Bible does it talk about John speaking in tongues.

Luke 1:41 – “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:” If we read on, we can see what the result was of Elizabeth being filled with the Holy Ghost. Let’s read verses 42-45 (ALT): “And she exclaimed with a loud voice, and said, “_You_ have been blessed among women, and the fruit of your womb has been blessed!  (43)  “And why [has] this [happened] to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  (44)  “For listen! When the voice of your greeting came into my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy with great happiness!  (45)  “And happy [or, blessed, and throughout book] [is] the one having believed, for [there] will be a fulfillment to the [things] having been spoken to her from the Lord.”” So the result of her being filled with the Holy Ghost was that she ‘exclaimed’ or ‘spoke-out’. It doesn’t state that it was in any specific language other than the one the Elizabeth and Mary naturally spoke. So this does not support that tongues would be the only evidence of being filled with the Holy Ghost. But let’s look further.

Luke 1:67 – “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,” Here it says that Zacharis prophesied as a result of being filled with the Holy Ghost.

Acts 4:8,  – “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,” The true result of this filling could be lost if you don’t know what had happened prior to this. Peter had denied Jesus because he was scared and now, here he stands in front of the Jewish Sanhedrin speaking out. So we could categorize this as boldness or speaking out as a result of the filling.

Acts 4:31 – “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” We can see that again, the result of being filled with the Holy Ghost was speaking out and boldness.

Acts 9:17 – “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” We have to read further to see what the result was of Saul/Paul being filled with the Holy Ghost. Let’s look at verses 18-19 (ALT) “22  And immediately [there] fell off from his eyes [something] like scales, and {at once} he regained [his] sight! And having gotten up, he was baptized.  (19)  And having received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul was with the disciples in Damascus several days.  (20)  And immediately in the synagogues he began preaching the Christ, that this One is the Son of God.  (21)  But all the ones hearing were amazed and said, “This is the one having destroyed the ones calling on this name in Jerusalem and has come here for this [purpose], so that having been bound, he should bring them to the chief priests, is it not?”  (22)  But Saul all the more was being empowered, and he was confounding the Jews, the ones dwelling in Damascus, proving that this [Jesus] is the Christ.” So we can see that as a result of being filled with the Holy Ghost, he regained his sight, began preaching the Christ which was a total change of his beliefs, and he was strengthened. I will note here that many say that Paul did speak in tongues because he wrote about it later. However, it does not specifically say that this happened at the time or as evidence of his being filled with the Holy Ghost.

Acts 13:9 – “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,” If we read further, we can see that basically Paul spoke out.

Well, that is it. That is every instance where the same word used in Acts 2 is used elsewhere. I could continue on and on with this because you can also look up every instance where the Holy Spirit came upon or people were “full of”, or the Spirit was “poured out” or the Holy Ghost “fell upon.” Which honestly, I have done. And what we would find is that all together, prophesy resulted 6 times; boldness 5 times; tongues 4 times; love 4 times; praying 4 times; healing 3 times; praise 3 times; believing 3 times; miracles 2 times; wonders 2 times; and wisdom 1 time. So as you can see, tongues would rank number 3 in the signs that accompanied being filled with the Holy Ghost.

So the “new truth that “speaking in tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost” has been rung out. In order for this to be a truth to ring in, it would have to state that speaking in tongues CAN BE ONE of the evidences of the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Another “new truth” that I encountered is speaking in tongues from the pulpit or loud enough that others can hear. Yet, Paul specifically states in 1 Corinthians 14:27 -28 – 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.” So someone MUST interpret or else the speaker should keep quiet. I find it interesting that the people who believe the untruth of speaking in tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost are the very ones who also ignore this scripture.

John Piper address the question: What Does It Mean to Receive the Holy Spirit?; You Will Be Baptized with the Holy Spirit

I have three other documents that you may want to look at in regards to tongues.

I have a document that takes the main verses used to support the believe that tongues is THE evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This has at the end of it my beliefs based on what I found during this study. It can be viewed as a sort of summary document. I’ll also post them under this topic here.

I have a document that has almost every verse pertaining to the Holy Spirit, tongues, speaking, and language in the New Testament. You can use this document to start a study of this topic on your own if you’d like.

I have what I would call a working document based on the document above with almost every scripture need to study this subject. This particular one has my observations, thoughts, and questions in it. I’ll also post them under this topic here.

I also have what I call ‘Word Flow Charts‘ that are great for working through topics like this one. As well as ‘Study Sheets’ which you can see the list over in the right column near the bottom of the section titled “My Other Pages”. These are just a collection of some studies I’ve worked on. Some may even be incomplete. You won’t find “answers” in them, just some notes or observations I’ve made on various words I’ve decided to look up. There are very few conclusions stated on these sheets. I’ve only posted them to aid in someone else’s studies. They may be able to give a starting point when knowing where to start is difficult. There is no particular order. I am trying to gather my study information and put it into some kind of uniform format, so it may take some time. Just check back from time to time and see what’s been added.

Just for those who are curious. What are the other places that the Holy Ghost and tongues (glossa) are referenced together?

Acts 10:44-46 – 44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues[a] and praising God. — Praising God

Acts 19:4-7 – 4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized into[b] the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[c] and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all.  — Tongues and Prophesying

In I Corinthians tongues is referred to as one of the Spiritual Gifts. It does not specifically say anything in reference to being filled by the Holy Ghost, but I included it because these are referred to as the Gifts of the Spirit. Be sure to read 1 Corinthians 14 to find out more about the gift of tongues.

Ring out the old, Ring in the new
Ring out the false, Ring in the true
Ring out sorrow, pain and care
Ring in happiness everywhere.

John Piper’s view: How to receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit


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