What happened on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4 is not only possible for the church to experience today, but will experience today as we seek God for this blessed gift of the Holy Spirit. We must desire a “Pentecost” like experience such as described in Acts 2:1-4 for today, as well as a continual filling of the Holy Spirit. It is important that we realize that the term “filled” here in Acts 2:1-4 is also called a “baptizing” (Acts 1:5; 11:16), “a pouring out” (Acts 2:17; 10:45), and “a receiving” (Acts 10:47). So the terms “filling of the Holy Spirit,” the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” the “Holy Spirit being poured out”, the “Holy Spirit falling,” etc. all point to a single experience and the gift of the Holy Spirit (for the sake of simplicity, in this article we are going to use the term “baptism in the Holy Spirit” to describe this gift unless otherwise indicated). Therefore the basic act of receiving the Spirit can be described as being baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit, but the verb “baptize” is not used for subsequent experiences anywhere in the New Testament. Therefore, it is probably best to see the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a one-time experience, whereas a believer in Jesus Christ needs a continual filling of the Holy Spirit as the need for service arises (one baptism and many fillings, although we cannot be dogmatic on this point because it is an argument from silence). This is made clear in Ephesians 5:18 and in the book of Acts (this will be discussed further down below). We do not believe that the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a one-time historical event for only the early church to experience, nor do we believe that it happens at the initiation of conversion, but rather is an experience for the whole church to experience and receive after one is saved and born again (thus distinct and subsequent to salvation).
Now many believers at this point would debate and argue that the baptism in the Holy Spirit happens for all believers at the point of conversion due to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:13. At first glance this does seem to suggest that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit happens at conversion for all believers, but a closer examination of the passage reveals otherwise. The Baptism IN the Holy Spirit described by the author Luke in the book of Acts and Luke is completely different from the baptism BY the Holy Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12:13 by Paul (the author of 1 Corinthians). Paul and Luke are not disagreeing with one another, but looking at the Holy Spirit from two different angels and thus complementing one another. The baptism of (or in/with) the Holy Spirit has Jesus as the baptizer and He gives this gift to people as a subsequent experience after salvation for power unto service to God. The baptism by the Holy Spirit has the Holy Spirit as the baptizer and is a baptism that the Holy Spirit baptizes all Christians to incorporate them into the body of Christ. This is also called the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” which all believers in Jesus Christ receive at the moment they are born again (Romans 8:9 and 1 John 4:13). Therefore, every believer in Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit living within them at the moment they initially get saved. However, there is another gift of the Holy Spirit that God wants His people to continue to receive for power unto service to God called several different names such as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the filling of the Holy Spirit, etc. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate and ubsequent experience from salvation, although it sometimes happens right at the same time a person is born again (Acts 10:44-46). This is seen clearly throughout the book of Acts. The disciples had been with Jesus for three years and had the best “seminary” experience anyone could have ever dreamed of for they had lived with the best teacher of all – Jesus Christ. One would think that the disciples were prepared thoroughly to do ministry unto the Lord. But Jesus said that they were not yet fully prepared, for they had not yet received the “promise,” which is the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit. They were to wait until they received this gift before they moved out to minister (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5). The same was true of Jesus who was God in human flesh. When He was baptized in water the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove came to rest upon Him and thus Jesus was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Only after Jesus received the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit did He step out unto the fullness of his ministry (Luke 3:21-22). If Jesus and the disciples needed this gift and promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, how much more do we? The disciples already had the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), but yet there was more of a fullness of the Holy Spirit for them that they were to receive under the new covenant. Just because we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not mean we don’t need any more of the Holy Spirit. Peter already had the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) and he had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). However, we read in Acts 4:8 that Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit…” stating that Peter again was filled with the Holy Spirit a second time and than a third time in Acts 4:31 where Peter and the rest of the believers were, “all filled with the Holy Spirit…” We need these separate and subsequent experiences as each new service and need arises to the glory of God! We also see the subsequent/separate experiences of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in several passages throughout the book of Acts. In Acts 8:12-17 we see that people in Samaria had “received the word” and thus became believers in Jesus Christ. However, they had not yet had the Holy Spirit “fall” on them (another way of saying they had not received the baptism with the Holy Spirit). But when the apostles laid their hands on these believers and prayed for them, the Holy Spirit fell on them! In Acts 9:3-6 we see that Paul experienced the presence of Jesus and was forever changed! He now became a chosen instrument of God (Acts 9:15) and thus saved. However, he was not yet filled with the Holy Spirit until after he was converted when Ananias laid his hands on Paul (Acts 9:17). We also see another situation in Acts 19:1-6 when Paul came to Ephesus and found some disciples (i.e. followers of Jesus Christ) who had not yet had the Holy Spirit come upon them. They were clearly saved and were already baptized in water by John the Baptist, but they were not baptized in the Holy Spirit. Then Paul laid his hands on these believers and the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied!
Another question must be answered and that is, what is the primary purpose of the gift of the baptism in the Holy Spirit? The primarily purpose of this gift is to give a believer power unto service to the Lord so that he will be a witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those in his local community and ultimately to all the nations of the earth (Acts 1:4-8; 2:1-4; 8:14-17; 9:17-18; 10:44-46; 19:1-7). It also empowers us to live for God and to do His will, to be used in spiritual gifts such as the gift of tongues and prophecy, to display the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, to exhort and speak the truth to people, to fills us with praise and worship to God, to do the works of Jesus as evidenced in extraordinary miracles such as healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead, and helps us to live sanctified and holy lives unto God. This baptism of the Spirit is an immersion and saturation of God’s Spirit within a Christian. When one gets saved he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but as he seeks after God and fully surrenders everything to Him and asks by faith for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, God in His perfect timing will bless him with this gift (Luke 11:13). Although Jesus’ disciples had already received the Holy Spirit, they still needed the baptism in the Holy Spirit for additional power and service unto God (John 20:22).
There are various evidences to verify and confirm the reception of the gift of the the Holy Spirit from the Lord. The primary activity and normal evidence of one receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in other tongues as is clear in several Scripture passages (Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46; 19:1-7). For instance on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4, the text states, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Again in Acts 10:45-46 it states, “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God…” And then finally in Acts 19:6 it states, “…the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.” The word primary and normal is used, because although other evidences were mentioned as a result of the reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit (prophecy and extolling God – Acts 10:46; 19:6), speaking in tongues was the first and most common evidence. Two other passages in the book of Acts could also imply, but do not explicitly state, that those who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit spoke in other tongues. The first passage is found in Acts 8:17-19. After the statement, “they received the Holy Spirit” (8:17), the Scripture reads,”Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (vs. 18-19). Since it was outwardly evident to Simon and no doubt to others as well, there must have been some sort of outward manifestation of the Spirit. It may have been speaking in tongues, extolling God, or prophesying, or all three (see, Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6), but whatever the visible sign and evidence was, it was clear to the apostles that the Holy Spirit had fallen on the Samaritans in a similar way to that of what happened to them and others on the day of Pentecost (see, Acts 2:1-4). So both the word structure and the context suggest and imply that what Simon saw, in all likelihood, could have been the Samaritans speaking in tongues just like the apostles and others had on the day of Pentecost. The second passage is found in Acts 9:17-18 when Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. Concerning whether or not Paul received the normal evidence of speaking in tongues as a result of being filled and baptized with the Spirit, the book of Acts is silent. However, by Paul’s own later testimony he spoke of his personal practice. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all.” Although it is not stated specifically in the book of Acts, Paul could have first spoken in tongues when he was filled with the Holy Spirit (but this is merely speculation). We do not know for sure but the author of the book of Acts, Luke, might be asking the reader to supply the evidence of speaking in tongues with the filling of the Holy Spirit in this passage, for that was the normal pattern throughout the book of Acts. The same can be true of belief in Jesus Christ and water baptism. Often Luke specifically mentions water baptism in connection with belief in Jesus Christ (see, Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5); but on other occasions he describes people coming to faith in Jesus Christ without any reference to water baptism (see, Acts 9:32; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34). In summary, the record in Acts clearly states that in the majority of the cases – three out of five – those who received the gift of the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues (Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46; 19:1-7). In the other passage of Acts 8:17-19 it is implied that the Samaritans spoke in tongues and in the last passage examined, Acts 9:17-19, it is possible that Paul spoke in tongues when he received the fullness of the Holy Spirit (although we do not know for sure). So with that said, it is possible that in all five of these passages, the people could have spoken in tongues as a result of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. But due to the evidence in the book of Acts not explicitly stating that in all five cases they spoke in tongues, we can not draw an absolute or dogmatic conclusion that speaking in tongues will invariably follow the reception of the Spirit all the time. We can, however, safely conclude that tongues is a common and normal evidence of those who receive the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit.
Now that we discussed that speaking in tongues is a common and normal evidence of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The next question is, “what is speaking in tongues?” According to Mark 16:17-18, it is to be a normal occurrence and manifestation in the life of the believer, “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.” According to this text, speaking in new tongues was to be a normal occurance in the life of believers. But what exactly is speaking in tongues? Don Basham defines it in his book, “A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism,” “Speaking or praying in tongues is a form of prayer in which the Christian yields himself to the Holy Spirit and receives from the Spirit a supernatural language with which to praise God. It is a miraculous manifestation of God’s power, but one which combines both human and divine elements and which expresses both human and divine initiative. It is truly a cooperation between the Christian and the Holy Spirit” (65). Although God sovereignly gives a person the gift of tongues through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11), the person must choose with his will to make his tongue and lips available to the Holy Spirit for Him to give the utterance. Man does the speaking, but the Holy Spirit furnishes the words (notice in Acts 2:4 that they, the people, had to choose to speak in order for the Spirit to do it through them). The purpose of this wonderful gift is to be a blessing both to the church and the individual believer. It is a sign of the believer and a sign to the unbeliever (1 Corinthians 14:22). It can be a means of preaching to men of other languages (Acts 2:4), it is self-edifying (1 Corinthians 14:4), for the edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:5), for personal prayer to God (1 Corinthians 14:2,14,18-19), for “singing in the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:15), and for praise unto God (Acts 2:11; 10:46; Eph. 5:18-19). But not only that, he or she must according to 1 Corinthians 14:1, “desire earnestly spiritual gifts,” which includes the gift of speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues, as with the other spiritual gifts, is a distribution of the Spirit, “individually just as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Therefore this is a gift that God sovereignly gives to believers as He wills (while the human cooperates with God with his will and seeks after the gift – 1 Corinthians 14:1). The gift of tongues is “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7) and thus edification of the church. It is a distinct gift that operates above and beyond the mind (supramental gift) as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:14, “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:10 that there are, “various kinds of tongues,” and hence there may be a variety of tongues supernaturally uttered. It is important to recognize, however, that there is an important difference between tongues as an accompaniment of the coming of the Holy Spirit (for personal praise and prayer unto God), and tongues as an individual gift of the Spirit for the church congregation (for the building up and edification of the church).
Even though they are both the same gift, there are two distinct purposes on how the gift is used. The first is a sign which accompanies the filling and baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:45-46; 19:6), and the second is a gift for the church body that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. This distinction is vitally important and urgent for the church to understand. Much confusion on the topic of tongues could be done away with if the church understood this distinction! In the book of Acts when it was recorded that people spoke in tongues as a result of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, all persons present spoke in tongues and it was not limited to just one or a few people. Nor is there any attempt to teach or instruct the recipients in the proper use and order of tongues. It is also important to note that not all those who speak in their “devotional tongues” (or private prayer language) will speak in the gift of tongues corporately for the church body. As J. Rodman Williams states in “Renewal Theology,” “The difference is apparent: Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:10, 30 is dealing with speaking in tongues as a particular gift for ministry; in 1 Corinthians 14:5, 23 Paul is referring to the general practice of tongues in the devotional life of all in the community” (398). Therefore, it is correct to say “I do not speak in tongues because it is not my gift” (which not all have the gift of tongues for ministry to the cooperate church as 1 Corinthians 12:30 states in asking the rhetorical question, “Do all speak in tongues?” with the implied answer no) in reference to church ministry, but it is incorrect to add, “Therefore God does not want me to speak in tongues at all.” This attitude can keep people from experiencing tongues that results from being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, as well as the continuation of prayer and praise in an awesome and full dimension (one of the purposes of devotional tongues is to edify oneself – 1 Corinthians 14:4).
Devotional tongues is a common and normal accompaniment of the Spirit-filled life and is what a believer possesses and can use at will in his personal prayer and praise time with God. But ministry tongues is sovereignly given by the Holy Spirit for the church body and is never possessed, but is practiced only when the church body comes together as the Spirit leads a person to exercise it. In the book of Acts people received devotional tongues, but in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Paul treats speaking in tongues, not in terms of receiving, but in terms of exercising the ability at a given time in the service of worship. If there was a ministry tongue given out loud to the church than there had to be an interpretation in the known tongue of the church body so that the people would be edified (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). But the devotional tongue could also be spoken in the church, but it had to be done in silence and quitely between the person and God (1 Corinthians 14:28). The difference is also seen in 1 Corinthians 14:18-19 when Paul states, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct other also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Paul is implying here that he speaks in devotional tongues outside the church for he makes a contrast with the words “in the church…” in verse 19. Paul is making a distinction between private devotion and public worship. He is saying that outside of church he speaks in his private prayer language of devotional tongues, but in church so that others might be instructed, he would rather speak just five words that could be understood than countless words in a tongue. Thus with devotional tongues an interpretation is unnecessary because it is a private prayer language (or devotional tongues) unto God, but with the spiritual gift of tongues, there must be an interpretation so that the church body is edified. This interpretation is further reinforced in 1 Corinthians 14:14 when Paul states, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” There does not have to be an interpretation when the devotional tongues is in operation with an individual. It is important to note too that there is no ESSENTIAL difference between devotional and ministry tongues. The differentiation is not in essence but in PRACTICE (for it is one and the same gift). For example, a person who speaks in a ministry gift to the church body is one who already speaks in tongues in his personal prayer life. It is essentially the same speaking but now is used to build up the community of believers. But a person who has devotional tongues might not be used sovereingly by the Holy Spirit in ministry tongues (for the Holy Spirit determines that at will). When one truly receives the gift of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit he will not have to be told he received it or constantly question himself and be confused about the matter. Normally he will speak in tongues initially when he receives the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and/or speak with other evidences (such as prophecy or extolling God). But even if he doesn’t speak in tongues (or prophecy or extoll God) immediately after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, God will still make it clear to him for it will totally transform his life! There have been men of God throughout church history who claimed to have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, but never received the gift of speaking in tongues initially upon its reception (or at all) such as D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, A.B. Simpson, and Charles Finney. But they still knew they received this blessed gift because it completely changed their ministry and life! One will not have to question himself due to the life transforming experience he receives! Jesus specifically told his disciples to wait until they had received what the Father promised them. Jesus assumed that his disciples would clearly and un-mistakenly know when they got it because it would give them a power for witness and service unto God that they had never known or even dreamed of before (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4).
It is important that one does not receive the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and stop there, for he needs a continual filling of the Holy Spirit as God and the occasion and circumstance calls for it due to the fact that Christians often become spiritually dry and leak. As stated earlier, the filling of the Holy Spirit is often used interchangeably throughout the book of acts in reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4). They are very close in their meaning to one another, but are different words in the original Greek language of the New Testament. It is clear that there is never any mention of a repeated baptism of the Holy Spirit in any of the believers of the early church, but there were repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit. So it might be argued, therefore, that the Bible is stating by implication that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a one-time experience subsequent (or right at salvation as in Acts 10:44-46) to salvation. However, we can not be dogmatic on this point due to it being an argument from silence and due to the fact that the same experience called the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:5 is said to be also the filling of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-4. Therefore, it is probably best to see the filling of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a continual experience for the church, although we can only be dogmatic on the clear unction of the continual filling of the Spirit as is specifically mentioned in Eph. 5:18 (and in regards to the baptism of the Spirit being a one time experience verses a continual experience, there is room for differences of opinion and therefore to agree to disagree in love amongst different denominations and traditions). This is where the Scripture is explicit and clear, in that the filling of the Holy Spirit is a continual experience in the lives of the believers and should be sought after. We all need and should desire more of the Holy Spirit and completely surrender ourselves daily to the leading and control of the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives and hearts. Just because we have the Holy Spirit inside of us as Christians, does not mean we are continually walking by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16). Paul explicitly commanded the New Testament church to be filled (Greek – present passive imperative, literally “be being filled”) continually with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). If Jesus the Son of God needed to continually be filled with the Holy Spirit as well as Peter and Paul and the early church, how much more do we today (Luke 4:1,14,18; Acts 4:8; 31)!?