Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. Liturgical churches around the world have for centuries used lectionaries, or prayer books, in commemorating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2. Numerous Pentecostal churches use this historic day to draw particular attention to scriptural teachings related to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals often say that in the same way the Spirit was poured out as Luke recorded in Acts 2, the Lord continues to pour out his Spirit today. Traditionally, Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12 are staple Pentecostal texts.
I appreciate and preach these texts myself. In more recent years, I have been challenged on the ideas of the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Spirit and the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit. I myself have had questions regarding both of the issues. The remainder of this blog offers a response to the first issue; I will post a later blog to respond to the second.
So why do I believe speaking in tongues is THE initial physical evidence (IPE) of the baptism in the Holy Spirit when it is mentioned only three out of five times in the book of Acts?
We often present the doctrine of IPE by what we understand from the book of Acts, which explicitly mentions tongues being spoken in three instances of the Spirit’s outpouring (Acts 2, 10, 19). If indeed there are five occurrences of the outpouring of the Spirit recorded in Acts (the other accounts appear in Acts 8 and 9), some may argue that tongues as IPE is normal, but not normative. Though this has traditionally been the approach taken in discussions of IPE, more and more people are explaining that the development of a doctrine based on probability is not sound. Admittedly, this is a fair assessment that deserves a response. Without abandoning Luke-Acts, I ask, is there another way?
In wrestling with my own questions, I discovered that IPE isn’t just a Luke-Acts or Pentecostal doctrine; I discovered that IPE is found in the Old Testament as well. Numbers 11 reveals that those upon whom the Spirit came began to prophesy–a desire Moses had for all of God’s people. The prophet Samuel tells Saul that he will know he has been transformed into into another person because the Spirit of the Lord would come upon him and he would begin to prophesy (1 Samuel 10). Later, we see that Joel prophesies regarding Moses’s desire that all of the Lord’s people would prophesy (Joel 2). What I find most fascinating is that Peter refers to Joel’s prophecy when he explains in Acts 2 the occurrence of tongues at Pentecost. There is a steady testimony of IPE throughout Scripture.
So when someone asks me about probability, I don’t refer exclusively to the number of times tongues is mentioned throughout Acts, but I refer to the testimony provided throughout Scripture.
The power and purpose of Pentecost also provides some answers to the second question, drawn from 1 Corinthians 12, which I will discuss in part 2 of this post.