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Acts 9: The Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit and a Question

If Paul demonstrated spirituality through glossolalia, why did Barnabas have to vouch for him?

The Assemblies of God position paper entitled "The initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit" (1) explains that the following "circumstances seem to indicate" the use of tongues in Acts 9 as evidence that the Apostle Paul was baptized in the Holy Spirit:

After Saul's conversion on the Damascus Road, a disciple named Ananias was sent that Saul might receive his sight and "be filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 9:17). The restoration of sight is described, but nothing further is said in Acts 9 about Saul's being filled with the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 14:18, however, Paul testified, "I speak with tongues more than ye all." Since Paul began speaking with tongues at some time, it is logical to assume he began when he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. This would be in perfect harmony with those events in which the details of the baptism in the Spirit are given.

Once again, as in Acts 8, it may be logical to assume that Saul first spoke in tongues when Ananias laid hands on him and he was filled with the Holy Spirit, but, as long as it is only an assumption, any proof which includes it will be circular. Moreover, there are some fairly cogent circumstances in Saul's case which seem to indicate that he did not immediately exhibit tongues as evidence of his filling.

First of all, there was no need for such evidence. Saul had already conversed with the resurrected Jesus in all of his glory, and had been blinded by the experience. Acts 9:1-9. Then, God showed Saul a vision of a man named Ananias coming to him and laying hands on him so that he might receive his sight. Acts 9:12. After that, Ananias laid hands on him and told him he would recover his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit, he recovered his sight, just as he had been told in his vision. Acts 9:17. Saul, therefore, had ample evidence that he could believe what Ananias said, both about his sight and about the Holy Spirit. He does not appear to have needed tongues as additional evidence. Neither did Ananias need Saul to speak in tongues as evidence of the Holy Spirit in his life, because the Spirit had told Ananias clearly and explicitly both what he was to do and what results he should expect. Acts 9:10-16. For Ananias, going to lay hands on Saul at all was an act of very reluctant obedience, and his need for proof of God's work arose and was met before he went. Nor, for that matter, did the disciples in Damascus need, or, apparently, observe, tongues as evidence of Saul's filling. There is little evidence that the disciples who resided in Damascus prior to Saul's conversion had anything to do with him afterward. It was Saul's own disciples, those who had been won by his preaching in Damascus, who helped him escape from that city. Acts 9:25.

However, the most telling circumstance weighing against the assumption that Saul received the baptism in the Holy Spirit "with evidence of speaking in tongues" in Acts 9:17 is the response he received from the disciples in Jerusalem when he returned there. The disciples shunned him, "not believing he was a disciple." Acts 9:26. The church only accepted him after Barnabas took him before the Apostles and vouched for him. Acts 9:27. However, it would seem that, if speaking in tongues is always the initial evidence of Spirit baptism and Saul had come to Jerusalem already speaking in tongues, that would have been adequate proof of his salvation just as it was for the Gentile household of Cornelius in the next chapter. There would have been no need for Barnabas to vouch for Saul, because the Holy Spirit would already have vouched for him through the unknown tongues flowing from his lips.

Yes, Paul clearly experienced speaking in tongues at some later stage of his life, but I Corinthians 14:18 does not say when this started. Indeed, no scripture indicates when this happened. It may have been when Ananias laid hands on him, but it also may have been later.

NEXT PAGE: Has God Caused Some Gifts to Cease?

End notes

(1) This position paper may be found posted on the Assemblies' web site. The position paper itself is dated 1981, and the web version of it is copyright 1999 by the General Council of the Assemblies of God. I use brief quotations from it by permission. I chose it over some other Pentecostal doctrinal statements in part because it is so easily accessible on the Web. [Ed. note: this can now be found right here].

Ian Johnson
Please do email me!
ian4christ41@yahoo.com

All except the quotation from the Assemblies of God position paper, © 2000 by Ian Johnson. The quotation is copyrighted by the Assemblies of God and is used by permission.

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