|Someone recently asked me about the authenticity of Spirit-baptism. They wanted to know if it’s a practice that’s genuinely reflected in the pages of scripture. They asked, “Is there a real biblical foundation to this idea of people uttering mysteries and proclaiming inspired speech?”
Posted: 08 Nov 2017 01:49 PM PST
I assured them that this practice was affirmed in the biblical narrative. Spirit-baptism is genuine encounter. Please allow me to take you through some of the things that I shared with them. Let’s take a quick look at the biblical foundations of Spirit-baptism.
God Creates and Sustains By Speech
First of all, we observe that God creates and sustains creation through His words. Under divine inspiration, Moses declared, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said…” (Genesis 1:1-3)
Similarly, the Apostle Peter declared, “By God’s word the heavens existed, and the earth was formed out of water and by water” (2 Peter 3:5).
Reflecting on this undeniable truth, some rabbis declared, “God … created the world from a plan and for a purpose. His plan was the Torah which preceded the world, and his purpose was that human beings find the meaning and goal of creation in the Torah. ‘He looked into the Torah and created the world, and he designed the universe to make it possible for human beings to carry out the commandments … Torah is the essence of the universe.”
Turning From God’s Declarations
Adam and Eve were initially “clothed with the Spirit” and readily embraced Kingdom purposes. They spoke God words and accomplished God’s mission. Yet, they ultimately turned from what is true and disobeyed the righteous decrees.
Their sons and daughters followed in their footsteps. “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever'”(Genesis 6:3).
Speech, a Symbol of Righteousness or Judgment
What you and what you are encountering by God’s Spirit have a direct relationship. In many ways, speech is a visceral symbol. It is a tangible reflection of what is going on in someone’s life.
Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34b)
When one is dishonorable, it will be reflected in their speech. For example, as 70 nations turned against God and built the Tower of Babel, God divided their languages. “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (Genesis 11:7).
This principle is also evident in the story of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-20). The angel of the Lord said, “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.’” (Luke 1:20)
Solomon reminds us that “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his lips” (Ecclesiastes 10:12). How you speak reflects who you are.
Some in Israel Experienced the Spirit and Spoke God’s Words
A number of times, in the Old Testament, the Spirit of God came down, and individuals were positioned to speak the heart of God.
In one instance, a holy fervor came upon a priest named Zachariah. “Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, the priest. He stood before the people and said, ‘This is what God says…’” (2 Chronicles 24:20).
On another occasion, the reality of the Spirit stirred Micah. He affirmed, “I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare.” (Micah 3:3)
The Longing For The Return of “Prophecy”
There was a longing in Israel for everyone to be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak the words of God. Some began to whisper of a day when the “Spirit of Prophecy” would return. In that season, everyone would proclaim the mysteries of God.
Consider what Moses declared, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29).
The prophet Joel also understood this. Under the weight of the Holy Spirit, he declared, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29)
The Prophet Isaiah also gained insight into this. The Lord revealed the following to him: “‘As for me, this is my covenant with them,’ says the LORD. ‘My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,’ says the LORD.” (Isaiah 59:21)
A later rabbi, Tanuma, reflected the heart of many when he declared, “In this world, only a few individuals have prophesied, but in the World to come all Israel will be made prophets.”
Even Gentiles would speak the Mysteries of God
While it was understood that the covenant people of God would speak, some of the prophets began to suggest that even the Gentiles would declare the wonders of the Kingdom.
One of the Psalmists announced, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name” (Psalm 86:9).
Similarly, Zechariah affirmed, “The nations on every shore will worship him, everyone in its own land” (Zephaniah 2:11).
What was anticipated during the time of the patriarchs and prophets began to be fulfilled in the first century. The Spirit of prophecy returned to Israel.
This is evidenced in the infancy narratives in the Gospel of Luke. When John the Baptist’s mother encountered Mary—who was carrying Jesus in her womb—she began to speak. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice, she exclaimed” (Luke 1:41).
While encountering the strength and wonder of the Lord, Mary also began to prophesy. “Then Mary proclaimed, ’My soul praises the greatness of the Lord! My spirit exults in God, my Savior…” (Luke 1:46-55).
Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, was initially made mute because of his unbelief but was later overcome by the Spirit of God. He could not help but speak. “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied…” (Luke 1:67)
Simeon, an old prophet, was awaiting the conciliation of Israel. While praying at the temple, he came into contact with the infant Jesus. Scripture declares, “Moved by the Spirit…Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying…’” (Luke 2:27-32).
Similarly, an elderly prophetess named Anna was interceding the day that Mary and Joseph came to the Temple to circumcise Jesus. “She never left the Temple but continued to worship there night and day with times of fasting and prayer. Just then she came forward and began to thank God and to speak about Jesus[a] to everyone who was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:37-38)
As the Spirit returned to Israel, many were beginning to utter the mysteries of God. The Spirit of prophecy was returning.
The Coming of Jesus
Jesus begins His ministry; demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit. With Him comes a new age of the Spirit. God’s words are once again being decreed.
“Jesus stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
Jesus models a life that is anointed and empowered. He is powerful, not in just what He speaks, but also in what He does.
He not only functions as a prophet, inspired by the Holy Spirit, but He also invites others to follow His example. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The Day Of Pentecost Brings All of This To Fruition
At the Festival of Pentecost, shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection, all of the ancient prophecies would finally find their fulfillment. It is fitting that the age of the Spirit would be inaugurated at Pentecost.
In the First Century, Pentecost was celebrated as a “feast of covenant renewal.” This is evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other records. Throughout the nation, people were returning to God their commitment to following His ways. In the midst of a great harvest, the people were responding to God.
Besides its agricultural significance, Pentecost was also closely associated with the receiving the Word of God. Some of the rabbis believed that at the original Pentecost (Exodus 19-20), the Hebrews were hesitant to go up on the mountain because of hearing “confused languages.” The Jewish Midrash, Tanchuma 25, says that at Sinai the people were confused when they heard God’s “voices” coming from every direction.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. ” (Acts 2:1-4)
Just as the covenant people received the Law on Mount Sinai, believers emerging out of the fullness of Jesus’ work were now receiving the “Law” on their “hearts” and in the “mouths.”
Along with many other things, this incredible outpouring of the Spirit reversed the judgment at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 10-11). The list of “nations” gathered in Jerusalem in Acts 2, has similarities to the “Table of Nations” listed in Genesis 10. As the various nations spoke in tongues, they were showing a new unity and purpose.
What This Means For Us
Believers are being invited to participate in this emerging age of the Spirit. Through Spirit-baptism, we can be a part of a prophetic community that has been desired since the time of Moses. This really isn’t just about tongues—as beautiful and transformative as they are— it is about us exuding the strength and wonder of Jesus.
 Rabbi Tanuma quoted in Max Turner, “Tongues and Experience For All In the Pauline Churches,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies (1998), 246.