Pentellectualism, A Look At Pentecost From The Inside, Part 2: Speaking In Tongues

Where the Azusa Street "revival" began

When Charles Fox Parham set an assignment for his Bible College students to explore what the Bible said about the availability of the Holy Spirit and His gifts for today, his students all returned from their studies concurring that the “baptism in the Spirit” was subsequent to salvation (regeneration by the Spirit) and in every New Testament example was evidenced with ‘speaking in tongues’. Around December 31st, 1899, the college of students then sought God for this gift of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Coincidentally (or perhaps legendarily) around midnight they experienced what they described as a Day of Pentecost experience.

William Seymour, pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, Los Angeles

One of C.F. Parham’s students was William Seymour. It was William Seymour who founded the Apostolic Faith Mission (in Azusa Street) a few years later and similarly reported numerous examples of “Pentecostal outpourings”. In the year 1907, ‘Azusa Street’ (as it has become known) had become the seed-bed of the emerging American Pentecostal church. William Seymour emphasized speaking in tongues as the hallmark of a Pentecostal experience. Speaking in tongues became known as the “initial evidence” of the Baptism in the Spirit and the Pentecostal distinctive.

Over the decades, Theologians from Mainline (Non-Pentecostal) Denominations have argued over particular Greek words regarding the believer’s experience with the Holy Spirit (“in”? “with”? “by”?) and whether the Pentecostal understanding of what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is Biblically supported. Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit synonymous with the Spirit’s work of regeneration (baptism into Christ)? Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit the doorway to the ‘Charismatic’ gifts described in First Corinthians 12? These theological debates rage while millions and millions of ordinary believers around the world testify to receiving an experience with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their salvation experience in which they now claim to be able to ‘pray in tongues’  (including the author).

Pentecostals regard speaking (praying) in tongues as “the initial evidence” of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. But is it more Biblically correct to consider that speaking or praying in tongues (as described in First Corinthians 12) may be “an” evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, but necessarily “the” evidence of it? Is this Pentecostal doctrine based upon Biblical inference or Biblical instruction? Can we strive to be Spirit-Baptised without ever speaking in tongues?


About Dr Andrew Corbett

Pastor, Teacher, Theologian, Writer, Speaker, Coach.
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One Response to Tongues

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