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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

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Does Everyone Have to Speak in Tongues?

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

The following questions were asked by visitors to The answer is provided by Dr. J. Rodman Williams, theology professor at Regent University's School of Divinity.

Does everyone have to speak in tongues?

On the three occasions when in the book of Acts people were said to speak in tongues-Acts 2:4; 10:46; and 19:6-all of them did so. They so spoke as a result of the Holy Spirit's action upon them, but there is no suggestion of necessity. Rather, tongues are the free expression of praise to God. Such a deed is not required but highly blessed. Accordingly, Paul says, "I wish that you all spoke in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:5). It is not a matter of must but may.

In a recent response to an email you said that the Holy Spirit indwells each believer and that this is different from the baptism in the Holy Spirit. How is it that baptism (immersion) in the spirit means the same thing as filling with the Holy Spirit? If they are the same, why are there such disagreeing English words?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit and filling with the Holy Spirit are expressions that refer to the same event. Jesus told His disciples, "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5). Then several days later "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). These are not "disagreeing words" but refer to two aspects of the same experience. From one perspective, it is a total immersion as in water; from another perspective it is an infilling or total permeation with the Holy Spirit. Other terms used in Acts are "the Spirit's coming upon," "falling upon," and "outpouring on." (For a discussion of all these terms see Renewal Theology 2, pages 190-203.)

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