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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, May 25 2023

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Some churches believe baptism with the Holy Spirit enables you to speak in tongues, and emphasize the practice, while others do not, and even forbid it.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all mention that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16). This is a symbolic way to represent Christ's giving the Holy Spirit to Christians.

Pentecostal religions teach that the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" enables recipients to "speak in tongues," because of the unique events on the Day of Pentecost of Acts 2. But what many churches call "speaking in tongues" today is nothing like what the Bible records in the books of Acts and Corinthians. The miracle that occurred on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 31 (Acts 2:4-8) was one of communication—apparently, in this case, not so much in the speaking, as in the hearing. The Greek word translated "tongues" is glossa and means "languages." The miracle of "speaking in tongues" simply meant that every member of the audience could hear in his or her native tongue (language), regardless of what language the apostles spoke.

Also, some in the early Church, particularly in Corinth, had the supernatural ability to speak in different languages. In that case, speakers were able to use a language that their audience could understand. It would be like speaking Spanish to a Spanish-speaking audience or French to a French-speaking audience. Some members in Corinth were proud of their ability to "speak in tongues," having lost sight of the fact that they should always use their spiritual gifts to serve others. Paul wrote chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians specifically to deal with this problem.

Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth that speaking different languages was of no real value if an audience could not understand the words. He admonished them to concentrate more on understandable communication than on their linguistic abilities.

All biblical examples stand in stark contrast to the type of "speaking in tongues" done today, in which the speaker utters unintelligible speech. Paul and John warn Christians not be taken in by spiritual-appearing phenomena, indicating that demon spirits sometimes imitate spiritual gifts in an attempt to confuse people (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 John 4:1).