The early Church was birthed on the day of Pentecost when those gathered together were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). In Samaria (Acts 8) Philip brings people into the born again experience and then a few days later apostles from Jerusalem travel to Samaria and we see the Holy Spirit decent upon the new believers and they are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The same experience is noted in Acts 10 with Peter while he was preaching to Cornelius and his household.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit was a powerful part of the life of the early Church. An essential part. Today, it is given lip service, people pray in tongues, and we call ourselves Spirit-filled believers. Well, not really. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is much more than the gift of a private prayer language.
First is a fulfillment of a promise that our heavenly Father made to His people (the gathered ones) many centuries before. Jesus told His disciples:
Luke 24:49 “And I will send the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to you. So stay here in the city until the mighty power of heaven falls upon you and wraps around you.”
(The Passion Translation)
The word “promise” here – the Aramaic reads “the kingdom” or “rule.” In other words, the Father’s promise would be the coming of the Holy Spirit to live in them and empower them (come upon them) as a sign that the Kingdom is now established upon the earth and that His rule is now active in the lives of the believers. So much more than speaking in tongues.
Jesus comments again about the importance of the experience and encounter.
Acts 1:5 “John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.” (The Passion Translation)
Again, in the Aramaic, it implies that the disciples would be the ones who would do the baptizing: “John baptized you in water, but you will baptize [others] in the Holy Spirit.”
And, as we are aware, the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not that we could speak in tongues and have a private prayer language – as important as that might be. The purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to empower the believer to move in the supernatural power that raised Jesus from the dead and, in so doing, to give witness to non-believers that Jesus is alive and the Saviour.
Acts 1:8 “But I promise you this – the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be seized with power. And you will be my messengers…” (The Passion Translation)
Again, in Aramaic the phrase “seized with power” could be translated “you will seize power. This, of course, changes the whole picture giving us the task of seizing and not just passively receiving. We have to desire it, reach for it, receive it, and then use it.
The early Church seized this power and were seized by it. Their emphasis was not speaking in or praying in tongues. In fact, the only main reference to tongues being a private prayer language is in 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul the apostle mentions it. Tongues as a way for God to communicate with us (connected to the interpretation of tongues) is mentioned more often than a private prayer language.
Regretfully today we have majored on the ‘speaking in tongues’ both as a sign that you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and as a major benefit of the baptism. I believe that the main focus of the Baptism is to empower us to witness – not to empower us the talk to the heavenly Father as we can do that, in His presence, in our own natural language any time we want to. It is time to emphasize the biblical reason for the Baptism – not tongues, but witnessing and fully proclaiming the Gospel. It is time to walk in the power and see miracles, signs, and wonders backing up the sharing of the gospel.
Romans 15:18-19 “And I will not be presumptuous to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. For many non-Jewish people are coming into faith’s obedience by the power of the Spirit of God, which is displayed through mighty signs and amazing wonders, both in word and deed. Starting from Jerusalem I went from place to place as far as the distant Roman province of Illyricum, fully preaching the wonderful message of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)