Why do we need the Spirit Baptism?

When it comes to understanding why we need the Spirit baptism, I believe that a major roadblock is built out of obsessively focusing on tongues-speaking rather than the true purpose of the gift. Why, actually, do we need to be Spirit baptized? Is the centerpiece really tongues?

I frequently ask leaders, “Why would someone want to receive the Spirit baptism?” The typical answer is, “So they can speak in tongues and have a prayer language.” Somehow we have lost the simple purity of Pentecost. Suddenly the focus is an argument that we have to win rather than it being a gateway to Spirit empowered ministry. The sad reality is that when many ministers see an inkblot of a dove, the first thing that enters their minds is tongues speaking.

I am firmly convinced that the confirming outward sign (or initial evidence) of the Spirit Baptism is speaking in unlearned languages (or tongues). But the reason I am convinced of this is not because it is Assemblies of God fundamental truth number eight, but rather that it has a specific, obvious, biblical function. Function is the key word, not argument. Our present culture has little tolerance for dogmatic religious types standing on irrelevant soapboxes; people want practical truth that they can personally engage and implement. The good news is that the Spirit baptism is such a truth, easy to understand and utilitarian.

The first two or three years of our ministry saw very few people actually receiving the Spirit baptism. I was so frustrated; after all, that is what our ministry was supposed to target, yet there seemed to be some kind of barrier. After a few days of frustration and prayer, fasting and introspection, the Holy Spirit began to show me that I was approaching this blessing with an argument. I began to re-evaluate my approach alongside the book of Acts, particularly the second chapter. Suddenly, the light bulb turned on! I began to see that the “why” was functional in ways that I had never previously understood.

On the day of Pentecost, they were all filled and began to speak in unlearned languages as the Spirit empowered them; they began to speak out God-inspired words in another language as the Spirit enabled them. Then, some time afterwards, a group of people gathering for the feast heard the ruckus of raw Pentecostalism. They had two basic responses, some were amazed and some thought that this noisy bunch was half-pickled. That’s where verse fourteen comes in. Peter stops speaking to God in his unlearned, spiritual language and begins to address the gathered crowd—probably in Aramaic or Hebrew, preaching a most convincing and well-ordered sermon. His content was obviously outside of his natural ability.

This is where the utilitarian function of tongues helps us understand precisely why we need the Spirit baptism: if you can trust God to order your words in the spiritual language, how much more can you trust Him afterwards to order your words in English to unbelievers? The Spirit baptism is all about saying the right things, the God-inspired things; first in tongues, but most significantly in our known languages as we prophetically minister words from God’s heart.

Since the day I began to understand Acts two, I’ve never had to argue initial evidence with anyone. Biblically, tongues are a prophetic confirmation of a prophetic anointing to be a prophetic witness. That’s why Peter explained the event as the fulfillment of Joel’s oracle where one day everyone could be a prophet.

Suddenly tongues take on a vital, functional role to the believer who wants to be a prophetic witness. Why do we need the Spirit Baptism? It’s all about God affecting what we say, plain and simple.

We don’t need the Spirit baptism so we can speak in tongues; we need the Spirit baptism so we can speak to lost people with prophetic power—and yes, we also get the added benefit of communing with God in a new language of intercession and worship. What a deal!

Posted on July 26, 2007, in Speaking in Tongues/Glossolalia, Spirit Baptism. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Excellent. That is a great understanding of why we need to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said we would receive power to be a witness for Him. Tongues demonstrates the reality that the power has come. We must move far beyond just saying “look, I can speak in tongues,” to the prophetic proclamation of the Gospel that you described.

  2. Great explanation Tim! It’s sad that the ‘means (tongues) to the end (a spirit-empowered life)’ have become the end in itself. I would be interested in hearing how this explanation has been receieved in churches you’ve ministred in. It is a very logical and biblically-based explanation!

  3. Great statement:

    “people want practical truth that they can personally engage and implement. The good news is that the Spirit baptism is such a truth, easy to understand and utilitarian.”

    Isn’t this the very reason why we should defend the doctrine of initial physical evidence? I hear guys saying ‘we should enjoy it as an experience rather than debate it as a doctrine’ and I get what they are trying to say – but if we cease to defend it as a doctrine – generations behind us may not be able to enjoy it as an experience.

    Truth should lead us to an experience – not the other way around.

  4. Thank you so much for this post and the wonderful explanation you have provided.

    After experiencing what I consider spiritual abuse at the hands of well intentioned bible camp ministers/workers, my husband has struggled with the lack of a tougues experience in his life.

    My challenge has been in ministering to him as someone who has experienced this gift, while observing similiar situations like that of my husband.

    I am going to direct him to your blog, Tim. I believe that with your explanation, he could be ministered to in a new way and find a desire again to seek the baptism without fear or humiliation.

    Thank you.

  5. Right on! I really appreciate the ministry that God has given you and your wife. You visited our church in Toledo a while back and I was so impressed with the services you held. Thank you for doing what you are doing! We need more people to make the power of the Holy Spirit plain to us!

  6. I recently heard Crabtree speak these words “are you seeking the baptism OR the baptizer”?
    I had never heard it put so simply.

  7. Well Spoken!

    When can i expect your next article!!!

  8. Well said.
    I am happy to find your blog and will be back as time permits.

  9. I ran across your blog on the Future AG site.

    Thank you for stating the truth about why one should have the baptism of the Spirit. I am firm believer of Acts 1:8….”the power to witness.”

    I run a Bible Study in a coffee shop with 15 non-believers. Some in the group hate the church and even God. Some are into psychics while others are into Buddism. One actually reads Tarah cards. One is homosexual and we even had the Bible Study at her and her partners house before. It is the most diverse small group that I have ever lead. We use the Bible and the Bible only for curriculum. I am praying for their salvation!

    I love Jesus and I love people! It all comes to first and second greatest commandment. It all comes down to Ats 1:8. I cannot even imagine reaching the unchurched, lost, and backslidden without the immersion of The Spirit. Yes, I pray in tongues but more importantly He has given me the power to reach these individuals. I point straight to Him!

    I pray that the church wakes up with this. If we all walk in the Acts 1:8…churhes would look much different. I know that Jesus wants to tear it up here on earth. It is up to us. We need to seek hard after Him!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *