CLAIM: John the Baptist states, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt. 3:11). Assemblies of God interpreters claim that this passage is referring to believers getting a “second blessing” by the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the early believers received the Holy Spirit with “tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:3-4). Does this make speaking in tongues normative for believers who receive the Holy Spirit?
RESPONSE: While both passages refer to the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt. 3:11; Acts 2:3-4), this is simply word association. However, our first rule of hermeneutics is context—not word association. When we consider the context, we see that this is referring to the baptism of judgment (e.g. fire)—not speaking in tongues (Mal. 4:1). When we consider the very next verse, we read, “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:12). This refers to judgment—not speaking in tongues. This interpretation also parallels the earlier context which states that some were baptized and saved (v.6), while others were unrepentant and were judged (v.7).