November 17, 2022

Is Speaking in Tongues Evidence of Having the Holy Spirit?

Nathan W. Bingham & John Tweeddale
Is Speaking in Tongues Evidence of Having the Holy Spirit?

At what point does the Holy Spirit enter into a Christian’s life? Today on the Ask Ligonier podcast, John Tweeddale explains how the Bible’s answer to this question directly relates to our view of Christ and His redemptive work.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Joining me this week is Dr. John Tweeddale, vice president of academics and professor of theology at Reformation Bible College. Dr. Tweeddale, is speaking in tongues evidence for a Christian having the Holy Spirit?

DR. JOHN TWEEDDALE: Thank you, Nathan. I really appreciate this question. On the one hand, I want to simply say no, it’s not evidence for having the Holy Spirit. Paul is clear, for example, in Ephesians 1 that all who have Christ have the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee of our future inheritance that is kept for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. And so if you have Christ, you have the Holy Spirit. If there’s anyone listening today who’s wondering that, I hope you’ll be encouraged to pick up God’s Word and read through Ephesians 1. And I hope you understand that if your faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can be absolutely assured that the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and He is actively making you more and more into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, I think on the one hand, I simply want to say no, that’s not evidence of having the Holy Spirit. If you have Christ, the Spirit is yours today.

But on the other hand, it’s important for us to think about tongues more generally, and to think about it biblically and theologically. When we understand the place of tongues in redemptive history, or the history of the Bible, it makes a little bit more sense. Throughout Scripture, every time God redeems His people in a magnificent way, He gives His word to explain the significance of that redemption. But with that, there comes signs and wonders that demonstrate the power of God in redemption and underscore the truth of God in revelation. And let me give one example. In the Old Testament, you have the exodus, which is the great moment of redemption in the Old Testament. So, when God redeems His people, He gives them His word in the Ten Commandments, and then He has Moses, who displays the power of God in the crossing of the Red Sea. And so, there are signs and wonders that help verify the power of God in redemption and underscore the truth of God in revelation.

So every time God redeems, He reveals, and that redemption in revelation is illustrated or verified through signs and wonders. The book of Hebrews, actually Hebrews 2:4, says this: that God “bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Now, the most significant work of redemption in human history is the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ. And when Christ came, we see these spectacular signs and wonders that verify His work of redemption. We see that in His life, and we also see that in the Apostles. And we also see that with this evidence of tongues. And when you read the book of Acts, and when you read the book of 1 Corinthians, it appears that tongue-speaking is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the gospel to gentile people. So you can read the book of Acts and see the gospel go from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. And as the gospel is taken out to the ends of the earth, every time the gospel goes to a gentile community, you have tongues as a visible manifestation of the power of God working through His word by His Spirit, bringing many gentiles to the Lord Jesus Christ. So, all of this is a way of illustrating God’s final work of redemption in Christ.

So, Hebrews 1 says this, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” So with Christ, we have final redemption, and therefore we have God’s final revelation in His Word. There’s no more need for additional signs and wonders. There’s no more need for tongues because God has spoken finally, in His Son, about the work of redemption that Christ has wrought. To look for signs and wonders, to look for tongues, is to undermine the truth of God’s Word and is to really undermine the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, is speaking in tongues evidence for having the Holy Spirit? No, because if you trust in Christ, you have the Spirit of God today. And then secondly, and a little bit more complicated here, we understand that tongues served a certain purpose to validate the work of the Lord Jesus Christ going to the gentiles, and now that we have God’s Word and God’s final act of redemption, there’s no more need for signs and wonders such as tongues.