Just for Catholics

Spirit Baptism and Speaking in Tongues

Question: Someone told me that if I have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues, I don't have the Holy Spirit in me and I cannot be led by the Lord. I would love to hear your understanding on this subject.

Answer: If you are a Christian, rest assured that you already possess the Spirit and that the Lord is already guiding you by his holy Word.

The idea that Christians need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit some time after their conversion to Christ is mistaken. All believers are already baptized with the Holy Spirit. The Bible says: ‘But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified’ (John 7:39).

During his earthly ministry, Jesus promised the disciples that he would give them the Holy Spirit - but only after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven. This promise was first fulfilled at Pentecost. Since that time those who believe on Jesus also receive the Spirit, as the Lord had promised and foretold. If you believe in Jesus, you have the Spirit.

In fact you cannot be a Christian unless you have the Spirit. The Bible says: ‘But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His’ (Romans 8:9). Those who are telling you that you need to be baptized with the Spirit are really saying that you don't believe in Jesus, that you are ‘none of His’ – that you are not even saved! Brother, do not let anyone intimidate you.

Moreover, the apostle Paul says this about all Christians: ‘For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles’ (1 Corinthians 12:13). We are members of ‘one body’ - that is the church of Christ, and Christ is the head of the body. How is it that we're members of the church? Well, that is the Spirit's work: ‘by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.’ Again, notice, that those who are telling you that you need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit are in effect saying that you're not a member of the church, that you're not a Christian! That teaching, so common in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, is plainly wrong!

Let me say a word about speaking in tongues. In the apostolic church, the gift of tongues was given to some (but not all) Christians at or after conversion by the Holy Spirit as a sign that the apostles were the true messengers of God.

We know that even back then, not all had this gift because the apostle Paul asks the rhetoric question, ‘Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?’ (1 Corinthians 12:29). The obvious answer is, No! All Christians have the Spirit, but not all were given the gift of tongues, not even in the apostolic era when the authentic gift of tongues was given to the church.

We know that the purpose of languages was to confirm the apostles because the Bible explains: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him (i.e. the apostles); God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4).

The signs and wonders (including speaking in tongues) were the witness of God that ‘them that heard him’--the apostles--were speaking and revealing the great salvation plan of God. The purpose of these signs and wonders has been fulfilled. We do not doubt that the apostle's message, which is now written in the New Testament, is of God. We believe with all our heart that it is God's truth. There is therefore no need for more signs and wonders. Historically, tongue speaking ceased with the passing away of the apostles. Those who insist that we must be speaking in tongues imply that the New Testament message is the incomplete and uncertain.

Moreover, the “tongues” in modern charismatic circles is not the genuine gift of the Holy Spirit. Back then those who received the gift spoke in languages they never learned and were understood by those who heard them (as in Acts 2). During church meetings, two or three were allowed to speak in tongues, one after the other, and the message had to be translated so that the rest of the church could understand. How different from what we see today. Instead of real languages, we hear mumbo jumbo – mere meaningless sounds – and often, in the confusion of many people babbling away all at the same time. That is chaos, not the Spirit of Christ. Please do not let anyone deceive you about this.

But you speak boldly in an intelligible language to communicate the gospel message, speak the truth in love to build up and help others, and joyfully give thanks and praise God for his glorious grace in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A