The book of Acts records three times when receiving the Holy Spirit was associated with speaking in tongues. First, Acts 2:4 records, "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." This occurred on the Day of Pentecost when the church first began. The about 120 believers in the upper room experienced the Holy Spirit at work in a unique way that included speaking in other languages that visitors in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish holiday could understand.
Does speaking in tongues show a person has the Holy Spirit?
The second occasion is found in Acts 10:45-46: "And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God." The circumcised Jewish believers in Christ were surprised to see that Gentile believers experienced the Holy Spirit in the same way the first Christians did at Pentecost. This event confirmed God's inclusion of both Jews and Gentiles in His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The third occasion is found in Acts 19:6-7: "And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all." These 12 men experienced the abilities to speak in other languages and prophesy as a confirmation that the Holy Spirit was at work in them.
In total, about 120 people in the Upper Room, a house of believers in Caesarea, and 12 other men are recorded as speaking in tongues in association with the Holy Spirit. This total of less than 200 people stands out as special among the thousands of new people who became Christians during the first decades of the church. These three accounts are likely provided to show the acceptance of Jews, Gentiles, and those beyond Judea and Samaria into God's plan of salvation through Jesus. All three accounts include the same Holy Spirit working in similar ways among all groups.
But is speaking in tongues the only evidence a person has the Holy Spirit? Absolutely not! Paul noted that no one has every spiritual gift, meaning not everyone would speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12). Second, many people came to faith in the New Testament without speaking in tongues. If God intended every believer to show evidence of the Holy Spirit through the speaking of tongues, much more emphasis would have been placed on this practice in Scripture.
Further, speaking in tongues would then not be a spiritual gift, but something available to every believer. Because it is listed as a spiritual gift, not every believer could have that ability, meaning it could and should not be used as a basis to evaluate a person's salvation or whether a person has the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Bible teaches every believer has God's Sprit at work within them from the point of salvation: "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 1:13).
When do we receive the Holy Spirit?
What is the gift of speaking in tongues?
What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and when does someone receive it?
What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
What is the role of the Holy Spirit? How is the Holy Spirit active in our lives today?
Truth about the Holy Spirit