Bible Answer

Did Paul experience tongues at his conversion?

In the study of Acts, you taught Paul was converted without any miracles or signs of the Spirit, but didn't Paul hear Christ speaking in a language the other men didn't understand (i.e., in tongues)? Also Paul lost his sight and regained it with prayer. Aren't those miracle and signs of the Spirit? 

In our Acts study we taught that Paul’s own conversion was not accompanied by Paul manifesting miraculous signs, like speaking in tongues. As we made this observation, we emphasized that such an example proves that not every conversion is accompanied by speaking in a foreign language (and in fact, almost none are). Since Paul did not experience this event, then clearly it is not a requirement for salvation. 

A careful examination of the text shows confirms that Paul did not speak in a foreign language when he was saved. Paul's salvation experience is recorded three times in Acts, so let's compare them:

Acts 9:3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;
Acts 9:4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Acts 9:5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
Acts 9:6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
Acts 9:7 The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
Acts 22:6  “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me,
Acts 22:7 and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’
Acts 22:8 “And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’
Acts 22:9 “And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me.
Acts 22:10 “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’
Acts 26:12  “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests,
Acts 26:13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.
Acts 26:14 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
Acts 26:15 “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

Notice what we learn by comparing these three passages: 

1. Paul heard a voice and responded in his normal speech.
2. The other men with Paul also heard a voice but saw nothing and could not understand the speech.
3. Yet Scripture says explicitly that the voice speaking to Paul spoke in Hebrew, not a foreign tongue (Acts 26:14).
4. Therefore, we must conclude the Lord prevented the other men from understanding the speech since they would have known knew Hebrew.

Therefore, there was no mysterious or unknown tongue spoken in the moment of Paul’s conversion, either by Paul himself nor by anyone else. Even God Himself spoke in Paul’s natural language. Clearly, speaking in foreign languages is not an expected outcome of salvation. 

Secondly, our Acts study did not claim there were no miraculous events surrounding Paul’s conversion. Rather, we taught that Paul's experience does not suggest that all believers must expect miraculous signs at their conversion, as some claim. While miracles certainly happened in the course of Paul's conversion, we can see by the context they were not intended to serve as public evidence of Paul's salvation. Rather, they occurred for Paul's sake, to ensure he would follow Jesus' commands obediently, thereby allowing time for Paul's heart to appreciate the meaning of his encounter with Christ.