A powerful argument against the idea that tongues are the main evidence of the Holy Spirit is found in the writings of John where he talks about the moment a person passes from death to life – this would be the moment a person receives the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit of God which gives life. John spelled it out for us so that there should be NO confusion about how we can know if a person has the Holy Spirit. He told us that LOVE is the evidence we should look for. And this teaching is supported by Jesus’ statement that all men will know we are with Him if we have love for one another.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we LOVE our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. ~1John 3:14 NIV
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you LOVE one another. ~John 13:35 NIV
Lifestyle Evidences Of The Holy Spirit
Jesus taught His disciples that it is important to pay attention to the fruit of a man’s life because our fruit gives evidence of what is inside us. He explained that this evidence is how we will know who is being lead by His Spirit and who isn’t.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. ~Mat 7:15-20
To help us better understand Jesus’ teaching about fruit, or evidence, of the Holy Spirit, we can look at Paul’s letter to the believers in Galatia. When he wrote his dear friends there, he included a brief list of the kind of fruit which gives evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit and a second list of the kind of fruit which gives evidence that the Holy Spirit is not in power.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. ~Gal 5:22-23a
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ~Gal 5:19-21
As you can see, all these evidences of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc) have to do with our new lifestyle, and the reason is that when we are born again we receive the Holy Spirit as a teacher, or counselor. When the Holy Spirit is given to us, He immediately begins His work of guiding us away from anything that is impure and offensive to God. The purifying work of the Holy Spirit is a progressive work and it is a maturing work. Step-by-step, bit-by-bit, we shed the ways of the flesh and “put on” the ways of the Lord. If our lifestyle does not give evidence of the Holy Spirit (the fruit of the Spirit), our “salvation experience” is questionable and perhaps even worthless.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. ~Rom 13:14
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. ~Col 3:5-10 NIV
Supernatural Evidences Of The Holy Spirit
There are also supernatural evidences of the Holy Spirit which show up in our life at specific times and for specific purposes. Some people show favoritism toward one of these supernatural evidences by teaching that speaking in tongues is THE evidence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a born again believer. But Scripture teaches that God gives supernatural evidence of His Spirit in MANY different ways.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit,
to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
to another faith by the same Spirit,
to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
to another the working of miracles,
to another prophecy,
to another discerning of spirits,
to another different kinds of tongues,
to another the interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
Did you notice how Paul explained that one person will have one evidence of the Holy Spirit while another person will have another evidence? He did not say that all people will have the evidence of tongues, nor did he in any way, indicate that speaking in tongues took priority over all of the other evidences. It is simply listed as “another” evidence which the Holy Spirit might express at some point in a believer’s life.
God can show His power through a believer in any of these ways any time He finds it necessary or desirable. In fact, He might express Himself in several of these ways at once through one single believer. For example, He may allow the same believer to speak in tongues and interpret the message. Or He may allow one believer to discern spirits and speak a word of knowledge. All of these evidences are tools God uses in order to make His presence and His power recognizable to those who are watching us, and they are also meant to strengthen or instruct us as we participate in His kingdom work.
More Evidence Of The Holy Spirit
Scripture also talks about spiritual gifts which are sort of like personality traits because they are consistently expressed throughout our entire lifetime. In His letter to the Romans, Paul identified seven of these giftings which God might give a person in order to enable him to accomplish his part of the kingdom work.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:
If prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
Or ministry, let us use it in our ministering;
He who teaches, in teaching;
He who exhorts, in exhortation;
He who gives, with liberality;
He who leads, with diligence;
He who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Paul knew that some people would be tempted to lord their gift over others who don’t have the same gift, so he warned that God never intended for one believer to think himself better than another believer because ALL the gifts come from God and they ALL to be used together to accomplish one purpose – the work of God’s kingdom.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. ~Rom 12:3-5
Peter agreed that ALL giftings and manifestations of the Spirit are intended to be used together in ministry, and he instructed us not to grumble and complain about who has what gifting or manifestation of the Spirit.
Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. ~1Peter 4:9-11
Different Gifts For Different People
Paul explained that God intended for these giftings to be used as a way of life among believers so that we would edify each other with them and strengthen the church – and he says we should “earnestly desire” to have these gifts from God.
And God has appointed these in the church:
After that miracles,
Then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles?
Are all prophets?
Are all teachers?
Are all workers of miracles?
Do all have gifts of healings?
Do all speak with tongues?
Do all interpret?
But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
The obvious answer to Paul’s list of questions is, “No.” For example:
Are all workers of miracles? No!
Do all have gifts of healings? No!
Do all speak with tongues? No!
Paul was making the point that God gives DIFFERENT gifts to each believer in order to edify each other and strengthen the church. Did you notice that, once again, Paul did not indicate that all believers would speak in tongues? He did not place a priority on that evidence in any way. In fact, he consistently leveled the playing field when he referred to tongues and the other supernatural evidences of the Holy Spirit. But did you notice what Paul did at the end of this list? He directed our attention to one evidence of the Holy Spirit which he says DOES takes priority over all other gifts and evidences – and that is LOVE!
Love Is A More Excellent Way
Paul declared LOVE, not tongues, to be a “more excellent way” than any of the other giftings or evidences – and to avoid all confusion, he immediately launched into a comparison of the gifts and evidences of the Holy Spirit, and as we will see, in each comparison LOVE is shown to be more excellent.
Love is greater than speaking in tongues:
Though I speak with the TONGUES of men and of angels, but have not LOVE, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. ~1Cor 13:1
Love is greater than prophecy, words of knowledge, and faith:
And though I have the gift of PROPHECY, and understand all mysteries and all KNOWLEDGE, and though I have all FAITH, so that I could remove mountains, but have not LOVE, I am nothing. ~1Cor 13:2
Love is greater than the gift of giving and the gift of helping:
And though I BESTOW ALL MY GOODS to feed the poor, and though I GIVE MY BODY to be burned, but have not LOVE, it profits me nothing. ~1Cor 13:3
The Signature Of The Holy Spirit
So we see that in many different places and with many different explanations, God’s Word declares love, not tongues, to be the best way to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Article Written: June 21, 2010
Last Edited: Oct 15, 2013