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How do I respond to the critics of the sign of tongues?

Submitted: 1/26/2006
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Question: Hello my brothers in Christ, I'm witnessing to a friend at school and she has been studying and praying about the Bible alot. She is a Baptist and she now believes in the Oneness of God and repentance, baptism (I have not touched too much on names yet other than mentioned it a little so far), and infilling of the Holy Ghost is necesary for salvation. She recently talked to her youth pastor about speaking in tongues in the early church and he told here that it was only used (that is the tongues in Acts) for reaching other nations that didn't speak that language and that this gift died out with the apostles, which has NO scriptural backing as far as I can tell. Please, could you elaborate on tongues as the sign of receiving the Holy Ghost and scripture that shows tongues being used as spreading the gospel or where her youth pastor gets that? Where can I really convince her that tongues is the gift. I'm sure that it is, but I really need help to get it through to her, since I'm pretty hard to understand sometimes. God bless you all.

Answer: Let us first clarify that speaking in tongues is not the gift we read of in the book of Acts; the Holy Spirit is the gift (see Acts 2:38; also compare Acts 10:47 and 11:17). Speaking in tongues is the sign that the gift has been received.

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, speaking in different kinds of tongues is included on the list of spiritual gifts. This is a different function of the Spirit. In fact, the word translated 'gift' in Act 2:38 is a different word than the word translated 'gift' in 1 Corinthians 12. For more on this subject, please read our paper titled 'Speaking in Tongues in the Church' on the Doctrine shelf of the Apostolic Free Library.

Most Baptists believe the way your friend's youth leader does, even though there is no Scripture for this view. It is really just a convenient way to explain away the fact that they never have this experience. All you can do is show your friend the passages in Acts 2, 10, and 19 that describe what happened when people received the Spirit in Bible days and share your own testimony. We suggest that you focus on getting her to agree to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. God has promised that everyone who repents and is baptized this way 'shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:38).

We hope you are successful in bringing your friend to a saving relationship with Jesus.