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Is Speaking in Tongues The Evidence You Are Filled With the Holy Spirit?



Recently, a FaceBook friend asked me “Is speaking in tongues the evidence that you are filled with the Holy Spirit?” The short answer is “Yes” and “No.” According to the teaching of the New Testament any or all of the spiritual gifts including tongues would be a sign that you are filled by the Holy Spirit.

I believe that when a person becomes a Christian they are immediately filled with the Holy Spirit. However, there are 3 relationships that a person can have with the Holy Spirit. Those relationships are “In” “With” and “Upon.” In John 14:15-17 Jesus says that He will send a“Helper the Holy Spirit” then He says that the Holy Spirit “is with you and will be in you.” Then in Acts 1:8 Jesus says “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” The idea is that the Holy Spirit is with all people unbelievers and believers alike as He judges the world of sin and righteousness. But He's then “IN” the Christian. Meaning that everyone who becomes a Christian has been filled with the Holy Spirit who leads them and guides and enables them to live the Christian life. But then in Acts 1:8 the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer to empower them to be His witnesses.

As far as the gift of tongues is concerned. When you read 1Corinthians 12-14 you discover that NOT EVERY Christian has the gifts of tongues. Paul asks a rhetorical question saying “not all prophesy do they? Not all speak in tongues do they?” The implied answer is NO. Certainly, if the gift of tongues was THE evidence of being filled by the Holy Spirit, then the Apostle Paul would have clearly stated that we “ALL speak in tongues.” 1Corinthians 12-14, implies that every Christian has a spiritual gift and they probably have more than one but, we do not all have the same spiritual gifts. However, the Apostle Paul also tells us the purpose or the reason why we have each been given spiritual gifts. 1COR 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” This means, the purpose of these gifts is NOT for our own individual edification but rather they are for the sole purpose of building up others in the body of Christ. I believe that's the reason that the Apostle Paul implies that the gift of tongues is a lesser gift. 1Cor 12:31 tells us to “earnestly desire the GREATER gifts.” So, it stands to reason if there are “greater” gifts, there must also be “lesser gifts.” What are the greater gifts? The answer is that the GREATER gifts are those that are for the “common good,” those that build up the body as 1Cor 12:7 told us. Is there a “lesser gift?” Is there a spiritual gift that does NOT build up the body? A gift that is NOT for the common good? The answer is “YES,” the gift of tongues. 1Cor 12:4 says “He who speaks in a tongue only edifies HIMSELF.” It’s lesser because in order for it to edify others and build up the body of Christ it is the only gift that requires someone else with a different gift called the gift of interpretation of tongues to assist it, so that someone else can be blessed and edified. Otherwise, this gift is just intended for your own personal edification as in a prayer language to be used in your private prayer closet if there’s no interpretation. Therefore, I don’t believe that tongues is the ONLY evidence of having the Holy Spirit come upon you. There are somewhere between 19 to 21 spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament depending how you parse the original Greek. Each of these are gifts of the Holy Spirit, therefore any or all of these gifts are an evidence of the Holy Spirit not just tongues. Furthermore, it seems weird to me that the only gift referred to by the Apostle Paul in 1Corinthians 14 as the “lesser” gift would be the one gift that some people insist is the ONLY evidence of the Holy Spirit.

If you are interested in doing a deeper study on all of the spiritual gifts here are the Scriptures the gifts of the Spirit are found in; RO 12, 1Cor 12-14, Eph 4:11-13 and 1Pet 4:10-11.