When I was growing up, it was commonly said that there is ‘praying in tongues’ and then there is ‘praying in the Spirit’ such that praying in tongues is the gift of tongues which is not for everybody, but praying in the Spirit is what we get with the baptism of the Spirit and which everyone should pursue. I don’t think this is correct because we must have textual evidence and there is one place in the Bible where we see something about ‘praying in the Spirit’, it’s in 1 Corinthians 14:14 which says,
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So, what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding”
Did you notice that praying in tongues is basically the praying in the Spirit? They are essentially the same thing. Now, 1 Corinthians 14 is in a block with some other Bible passages, which are 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 13.
1 Corinthians 12 starts by saying “Now about the gifts of the Spirit brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed”, so it’s the gifts of the Spirit that are being addressed in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14. Then later, in 1 Corinthians 12:28, it says “And God has placed in the church first of all Apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues“ then in verse 29, it asks, “Are all apostles?”, the answer is “No”. It goes on asking, “Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?”
Now, in the same 1 Corinthians 12 from which people say praying in the Spirit is baptism of the Holy Spirit, we see 1 Corinthians 12:13, which says, “By one Spirit have we all been baptized into one body” We can see that separating ‘praying in the Spirit’ from ‘praying in tongues’ does not come if we just read the text as it is.
So, what is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? It’s like this: Jesus died, he was resurrected by the spirit, he was enthroned and in the plan of redemption, he poured out the Spirit because the Spirit is going to bring about the new humanity just like Jesus. How? The first way is to make people born again when the Spirit has been given to them, so when you believe in Jesus, you receive the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-6) and in receiving the Holy Spirit, you have new life. Now, when the Holy Spirit gives you new life, the Spirit that lives in you puts you in the church, “By one Spirit have we all been baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13), so the Spirit puts you into the community of the Spirit where we are bound together by love, and the way we express that love is by the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us, but he doesn’t give us all the same gifts because he wants there to be a diversity of gifts because of the diversity of people. So if I have a gift such as the gift of teaching and preaching and you don’t have such, but you have the gift of helping, I can serve you in love with the gift of teaching and you can serve me in love with the gift of helping, and so when I speak in tongues and there is also the gift of the interpretation of tongues, the body is edified. So, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is given to everyone who believes in Jesus, but he does not give us all the same gifts.
Finally, there is the filling of the Spirit which is different from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit once, but the filling of the Spirit is something you can receive multiple times because when we sin, we’re quenching the Spirit and when we are not filling up our tanks so we can be filled again with the Spirit, so the baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit are not the same thing. When you’re baptized in the Spirit, he puts you in the church and he gives you gifts so that you can serve and one of those gifts is tongues.
Answered by Femi Osunnuyi lead pastor of City Church, a gospel-centred urban church in the city of Lagos. Because of his passion for church planting and leadership development, he also serves on the Lead Team of Acts29 and the Advisory Team of City to City Africa. He is happily married to Tosin and is father to Tofunmi and Timilehin.