Many solid Christians are divided on this issue. The debate can become quite complicated. So I will keep this as simple and as brief as I can.

Basically there are two general camps: 1) Cessationists and 2) Continuationists. The former asserts that the baptism in the Holy Spirit along with the gifts ceased after the original apostles died. The latter believes that this experience has been offered to all believers since Pentecost. Another position is that the gifts died out but made a comeback and are in operation today. My question is: Are they validly operating today?

The main reason for rejecting this experience is the belief that it was no longer needed once all the books of the Bible were canonized. In other words, the completion of God’s word to this world is all the church needs for inspiration and guidance. Cessationists also claim that historical records from early church leaders such as Irenaeus (202 A.D.) who was a pupil of Polycarp who learned directly from the Apostle John, Origen (253 A.D.), Chrysostom (407 A.D.), and Augustine (430 A.D.) did not record any such activity that indicated the presence of supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit that is found in Scripture.

Cessationists also assert that 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 supports their position: “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” They believe that “the perfect” is the formation of the final Bible Books.

Many cessationists still believe in miracles, including healing, but not that the power comes from a person who claims to have that gift.

The most revealing piece of Scripture shedding light on this issue is found in Acts 2:38-39 when Peter’s sermon to many Jews immediately following the Pentecost experience: “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you AND YOUR CHILDREN and for all who are far of , AS MANY AS THE LORD OUR GOD WILL CALL TO HIMSELF.

This clearly says it not only occurred beyond the Apostles, but to all who are called by God, which includes me!

What about the cessationist argument from 1 Corinthians 13 cited above? In my view, the context is speaking of the Second Coming of Christ, not the final formation of the canon. When Jesus puts all His enemies “under His feet” and there is a new heaven and a new earth, then there will no longer be a need for the gifts of the Holy Spirit because everything will then be COMPLETE.

Also Romans 11:29 states, “…for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” In other words, once given, He does not take them back (or make them cease?).

What about the historical argument? Church history may give us a clue. In its earliest time, it spread rapidly. Persecution seemed to help its increase because people took notice of those who were willing to die for their faith. However, within a couple hundred years, Roman persecution stopped as Constantine made Christianity a legal religion by the early 300s. It also became ritualized and many folks did not have the Scriptures as the Roman Catholic Religion emerged as a world power.  Ritualism and fear of judgment replaced loving relationship with God and neighbors. So those who had the gifts of the Holy Spirit had to go “underground” because they did not believe in the office of the papacy. Their lives were in danger for over 1,000 years until Napoleon’s army stripped Pope Pius VI of his power in 1798 A.D. Consequently, it may be difficult to find a lot of historical evidence due to Papal suppression of Scripture reading and individual Bible possession.

The increasingly powerful Roman Catholic Church opposed Tertullian (c.155 – c.240 A.D.) whose Montanist group was condemned by what he called power hungry religious leaders. The is no doubt that history does show that many bishops of Rome craved the papacy power. But to my main point, Tertullian’s group moved in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. D.A. Carson’s research concluded that “there is enough evidence that some form of ‘charismatic’ gifts continued sporadically across the centuries of church history that it is futile to insist on doctrinaire grounds that every report is spurious or the fruit of demonic activity or psychological aberration” (p. 166). Finally, Sam Storms states, “It is terribly presumptuous to conclude that the gifts of the Spirit were absent from the lives of people about whom we know virtually nothing. In other words, the absence of evidence is not necessarily the evidence of absence!” (SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN CHURCH HISTORY (1) May 22, 2013).

An off-shoot issue asks: “When does one receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?” Some Christians think that it is an automatic result at water baptism, or whenever one becomes born-again (saved). While I cannot put God into a box concerning what and when he does something, I would say from reading Scripture that this most often is a separate experience. Support comes from Acts 8:14-17 and Acts 19:1-7. It was a separate experience for me and millions of others around the world.

Another argument against tongues is that tongues were ONLY a demonstration of known world languages as in Acts 2. However, many other times when new converts suddenly spoke in tongues there was no hint of foreigners present. In Acts 10 and 19 there were only believers there. So the purpose is not always to give witness to unbelievers as it was at Pentecost.

Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 14:2 describes a kind of tongues that spoke only to God and no one understands them, so why would it have to be an earthly language which would be understood by someone? And if tongues were always an earthly language, why the need for the gift of interpretation? Corinth was a busy town usually full of travelers that spoke different languages and dialects. Also in 1 Corinthians 12:10 it is revealed that there are “various kinds of tongues,” even “tongues of angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

The genesis of tongues on earth was not only to witness about Jesus Christ and the New Covenant to unbelievers of that day, it also builds the private prayer life of any believer throughout the Church Age. To allow the Holy Spirit to pray through and for us is a more powerful way to pray. Finally in 1 Corinthians 14:18-19 Paul reveals he had a “private prayer language” that he did not use in the church. So the Bible teaches that tongues can be an earthly language meant to witness to unbelievers, or a prophetic message to a church needing interpretation, or a private prayer language for edification and a power boost. Nothing tells me that this gift is NOT needed for today since it was needed in the beginning of the church.

Can there be abuses and off-the-wall behavior with some believers demonstrating the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Sure, unfortunately. But if Satan is counterfeiting something, we know there must the real thing! I’ve never seen a counterfeit $3 bill! So let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here.

To be honest, when I first got saved (late 1970), many of my new Christian friends spoke in tongues…and it really turned me off. I also felt awkward even praying aloud with them (maybe my dead protestant church upbringing and intellect was working against the Spirit at this point). Over time, however, I noticed that these “tongues-speakers” had fruitful lives and love for Jesus.

Finally, for those who may want this experience: seek it for the Kingdom’s sake, not yours. Be encouraged by Luke 11:13: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!