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Garry continued his series on the characteristics of a Pentecostal church, looking further at the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Many dispute that this is needed nowadays, saying that this only happened in the early church to ‘get it started’ and that we now have completeness (e.g. the completed canon of Scripture) and therefore signs and wonders are no longer needed. It is difficult to conclude how this can be the case when so many across different denominations claim to have experienced this baptism and theologically, 1 Cor 13:8-10 (often cited as a proof that prophecies and tongues will cease) seems to be referring to a time in the future when Jesus has returned and we are with God permanentl, something which has not yet happened.

In the book of Acts, we have many signs of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the first occurring on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Tongues of fire were seen and a rushing wind was felt; the disciples subsequently spoke in tongues. There is clearly a visible element to this experience (see Acts 8:14-19 when we read that Simon saw the Holy Spirit was being given at the laying on of hands) and the most obvious sign of this is speaking in tongues (or other languages) (see Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:1-6).

Speaking in tongues can sound very strange. It is not gobbledygook, but an ability to speak in real languages that have not previously been learned. The purpose of this is in some ways to restore the confusion of languages which occurred at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11) and is a means of edification (1 Cor 14:4), something which promotes growth and gives a close connection to God. It is a method of praying (1 Cor 14:2). In some ways, this method of prayer bypasses the mind (1 Cor 14:14-15), enabling us to connect directly with God.

We need to ask God for this gift and when we have received it we must use it. Speaking in tongues is not something to be displayed like the best china in a glass cabinet, something we possess but never use for fear of spoiling it or because we’re waiting for a ‘special occasion.’ We need to speak in tongues, to use this gift and to grow in faith and closeness to God as a result.