The Study of the Holy Spirit

by James T. Bartsch

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance."  Acts 2:4

Speaking in Tongues in the Book of Acts


Speaking in Tongues in the Book of Acts

Passage in Acts


Audience [a]

Related to Salvation, Water Baptism, Laying on of Hands, Prophesying

Purpose [b]

Acts 2:1-21, 36-41

Jewish converts to Jesus

Unsaved Jewish populace

After salvation. No water baptism of tongues-speakers mentioned, nor any laying on of hands, nor any prophesying, though Peter did preach.

To convince unsaved Jewish people that believing in Jesus was necessary to receive the gift of the Spirit.

Acts 10:43-48

Gentile converts to Jesus

Christian Jews from Joppa

At the moment of salvation and before water baptism.  No laying on of hands or prophesying mentioned.

To convince Jewish Christians that Gentile believers in Jesus could also receive the gift of the Spirit.

Acts 19:1-7

Jewish converts to John’s baptism[c]


Moments after salvation; after water baptism; after laying on of hands.  These new converts also prophesied.

To convince Jewish believers (Paul and the converts) that faith in Jesus qualified for the gift of God’s Spirit[d]

Go to A Linked Summary of the Significance of Speaking in Tongues 

a Audience:  In each case, of course, those who spoke in tongues also heard the tongues.

b Purpose:  The primary impact of the tongues-speaking was directed toward the audience.  The significance, of course, would not be lost on those who actually spoke in tongues.

c Converts: My guess is that this congregation was entirely or at least largely Jewish.  They had subscribed to John’s baptism but found themselves outside the mainstream Jewish beliefs.  They had left their orthodox Jewish synagogue (Acts 19:8) and set up their own independent synagogue, which required a minimum of ten male adherents (Acts 19:7).

d Confirmation: Paul’s initial question was whether the disciples had received the Holy Spirit when they had believed (Acts 19:2).  Their response convinced him they were not even believers in Jesus, but had only heard and appropriated a fragmented message from John the Baptist.  Once they had trusted in Jesus, they then spoke in tongues, which confirmed to Paul, primarily, but also, of course to the new converts, that they were truly believers in Jesus.  For Paul there was no such thing as being a Christian and not having the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13).


Speaking in Tongues in the Book of Acts

Prepared initially by James T. Bartsch

January, 2009


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This study is based on, and the links reference the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE , Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. (

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.  Used by Permission.)

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Updated February 2, 2022