The Assemblies of God denomination is one of the fastest-growing movements in the history of Protestant Christianity. Since its establishment in the early 20th century in the American south, the Assemblies of God has preached the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. Theologically, the denomination is Pentecostal.
The Assemblies of God denomination has always believed in and emphasized speaking in tongues as the sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Unlike non-Pentecostal Christian denominations, Assemblies of God believes that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs after a person’s conversion and not simultaneously to it.
What exactly is baptism in the Holy Spirit? What exactly is speaking in tongues? What do they have to do with each other? Keep reading to learn more.
What is baptism in the Holy Spirit?
The Assemblies of God denomination has unique beliefs about baptism in the Holy Spirit compared to other Christian denominations. The Assemblies of God agrees with other Christian traditions on the fact that the Bible teaches baptism in the Spirit even though there isn’t agreement about every aspect of it, especially the evidence of it. (Also see Assemblies of God vs Foursquare: What’s the Difference?)
Bible verses commonly cited to support baptism of the Holy Spirit include,
- 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (ESV)
- Acts 1:5, “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (ESV)
- Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (ESV)
- Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (ESV)
- Matthew 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (ESV)
When does baptism in the Holy Spirit occur? The Assemblies of God believes that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs after conversion. Most Christians denominations teach that the baptism occurs at the time of conversion.
How long until the baptism occurs varies, but Christians should expect it and seek it according to the denomination’s teaching. (Also see Assemblies of God vs Pentecostal: What’s the Difference?)
What does speaking in tongues have to do with baptism in the Holy Spirit?
What is the initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit, according to Assemblies of God teaching? Speaking in tongues isn’t merely a sign of Spirit baptism, it is the sign that one has been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Even though speaking in tongues is the initial sign, it’s not the only effect that the baptism has on a person (see below).
According to the denomination’s doctrinal statement, called The 16 Fundamental Truths, speaking in tongues is the normal experience for anyone who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit. The #7 truth in the statement is titled, “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” and it reads,
All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry.emphasis added
This experience is distinct from, and subsequent to, conversion. The #8 truth in the statement is titled, “The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” and it reads,
The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.emphasis added
What happens when a person speaks in tongues?
What exactly is speaking in tongues? The term “speaking in tongues” describes when someone vocalizes speech in languages that are unknown to them. The speech may sound like nonsense words or “gibberish” to other people. Speaking in tongues may occur during private prayer. 1 Corinthians 14:13-17 reads,
Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.
Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified.
I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue. (ESV)
Speaking in tongues also has a narrow application for the church body unless it’s interpreted (1 Cor. 14:5).
Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. (ESV)
Besides speaking in tongues, what are the effects of the baptism on a person? According to Assemblies of God teaching baptism in the Holy Spirit results in other experiences, such as:
- An overflowing fullness of the Spirit. Example verse: Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders…”
- A deepened reverence for God. Example verse: Acts 2:43, “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” (ESV)
- An intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work. Example verse: Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
- A more active love for Christ, for His Word and for the lost. Example verse: Mark 16:20, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” (ESV)
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