This is a guest blog by my dear Australian friend Andrew Meakins, whom I share Facebook page with.
1) The Pentecostal view of tongues: Speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a once only experience. Tongues is for every believer.
2) The Charismatic view of tongues: Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Spirit which usually accompanies the baptism in the Holy Spirit but not always. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a once only experience but a continual infilling that can manifest itself in different ways. Tongues are for every believer who desires the gift.
3) The Third Wave view of tongues: Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Spirit which sometimes accompanies the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a once only experience but a continual infilling that can manifest itself in different ways. Tongues may not be for every believer but every believer is free to ask for it.
I’m inclined to go with the third wave view, because it’s more inclusive of all believers. There are some Christians who seemed to obviously be empowered by the Holy Spirit but never spoke in tongues (as far as we know). John Wesley is an example. The other benefit of the Third Wave view is it doesn’t put tongues as a measure of spirituality or maturity but simply as another gift that can edify us. On the other hand, I’m very grateful I was taught in the Pentecostal church initially because I was encouraged to earnestly desire to speak in tongues. Without that extra encouragement, I don’t think I would have pursued the gift. From my personal experience, the gift of tongues revolutionized my prayer life but having this gift doesn’t make me better than any other Christian.
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” – 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
The whole context of 1 Corinthians, chapter 12 is community and body. The point is a foot can’t do what a hand can do etc. There are many different functions but one body. So when Paul says “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” the clear implication is that not everyone has those functions; and when he says “Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret” the clear implication is not all have those gifts. We are to earnestly desire the greater gifts but no one individual will perfectly manifest all the gifts. We need the whole body of Christ in order to accomplish the great commission. When I used to read 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 from Pentecostal perspective, I just didn’t get it. It was one of those verses that made me uncomfortable because it challenged what I believed.
I think there are two different types of tongues; tongues as a gift of personal edification that Paul talks about and tongues as a ministry to others. If ministering to others in tongues, someone with a gift of interpretation of tongues should be present to translate what is being said. It could be a tongue of another language or a language of angels. The example in Acts 2 of people praising God in languages they didn’t know; is actually not repeated in the rest of scripture and I don’t believe it’s a normative experience in the early church or today.
Having said that, on four separate occasions, I’ve personally witnessed people praying in tongues, having no idea what they were saying and people around them realized that they were actually saying something of meaning in another language. One example was a Brazilian friend who was a little skeptical about whether tongues was really from God, suddenly realized that the person behind them, praying in tongues, was in fact saying “believe, believe, believe” repeatedly in Portuguese. The person speaking in tongues had no knowledge of the Portuguese language.
All believers receive the Holy Spirit at conversion. (John 20:21-22.) It’s impossible to proclaim Jesus as Lord without the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). Even Pentecostals agree with this although they sometimes confuse people by saying things like “are you Spirit-filled?” which means “do you speak in tongues?” Terms like that are unhelpful for ecumenical discussion. However it’s the responsibility of every believer to seek the baptism or immersion in The Holy Spirit which is empowerment for Christian living and ministry.
I have personally had three distinct encounters with the Holy Spirit but which one was the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I couldn’t tell you. That is why I’m more inclined to believe the Charismatic or Third Wave views about a continual infilling. The first one after my conversion was an outpouring of holiness. For about a month I walked around in a state of purity that I could not have imagined before and haven’t experienced since. The second encounter was when I received the gift of speaking in tongues .The third was an outpouring of joy which was accompanied by belly laughter. All of these encounters brought spiritual renewal into my life. The first manifestation passed away, the second exists to this day and the third comes from time to time.