Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is it necessary to speak in tongues in order to be a Christian?

I recently received another social media question via Facebook from Donica. She writes, “I was recently part of a Word of Faith church in Houston and speaking in tongues were a must in order to have the Holy Spirit. My question is this, is it necessary to speak in tongues in order to be a Christian?”

I address this at length in The Complete Bible Answer Book; here’s a portion of that answer.

It has become increasingly common for Christians to suppose that the full gospel includes the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues but that is not what the Bible teaches. The apostle Paul makes this plain, believers are “all baptized by one Spirit in one body (1 Cor. 12:13) yet not all who believe speak in tongues (vv. 10, 30). I don’t know if you can get any clearer. So tongues can be a manifestation it can’t be the only manifestation.

Furthermore, even if one does speak in tongues it is not a guarantee that they been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging symbol.”

Also, Scripture makes this point clear, the normative sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit isn’t speaking in tongues, it’s the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord, repentance from sin, and obedience to God. (Rom. 8:1-17; 1 John 4:12-16; cf. Eph 1:13-15). In sum righteousness, not tongues, is the core of Christianity compressed in a single word.


Anonymous said...

I want to beat Boris to the punch here lol. Any reputable WOF church does not require speaking in toungues to be baptized by the spirit. It is a gift that we all have, but it is not a requirement. Just my oppinion.

Stewart said...

dear is a very small step from "it is a gift that we all have" to "it's a requirement". Better to agree with Scripture than have experience as your final authority. Hank's got it right.

Anonymous said...


I found this paragraph at It was written by Lehman Strauss , Litt.D., F.R.G.S. and can be found here:

"Now what about tongues? 'Whether there be tongues, they shall cease' (13:8). Tongues shall cease (Gr. patio), that is, they shall come to a complete halt. Who needs tongues? Only the untaught, carnal babes in Christ, for Paul added, 'When I was a child, I spake as a child . . . but when I became a man, I put away childish things' (13:11). The word 'spake' in context can only refer to speaking in tongues. So that Paul himself came to the place of Christian maturity, through God’s revelation to him, where tongues were no longer necessary. And so in the same tongues context he admonishes the Corinthians, 'Brethren, be not children in understanding . . . but in understanding be men' (14:20). Experientially, tongues cease when the Christian matures on a diet of the meat of God’s Word. Actually tongues is baby talk."

Now this is new "cessationist" theory I hadn't heard before. I have heard the version of (full, partial, et al.) cessationist thought that believes some or all of the Spiritual gifts that are spoken of in the Bible ceased when the "Apostolic age" "ended" around 400 A.D. That is sort of mainstream cessationist thought (incorrect thought all the same but more theologically based than the above quoted paragraph). But the above paragraph is so much more logically and theologically unsound, that it is VERY easy to dismantle.

It's really as simple as the last sentence. "Experientially, tongues cease when the Christian matures on a diet of the meat of God's Word. Actually, tongues is baby talk." Really? Tell that to Paul who said, "I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification." (1 Cor. 14:5). Now why would Paul wish Christian immaturity on his readers? Doesn't he say in 1 Cor. 3 that he desires us to grow in Spiritual maturity? So why then would he later tell us he wishes for us to speak in tongues?

Then Paul says, "I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; . . ." (1 Cor. 14:18). Is he really thanking God for his immaturity? Doubtful.

I think it's clear that Paul, in 1 Cor. 13:11-12, means that when he is in eternity with his Father, he will understand much more than he ever could on earth. He is saying the gifts of the Spirit he needs to live in power and authority on earth will no longer be needed in Heaven.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known."

As for other cessationist theology, they have sought to interpret 1 Cor. 13:8-10 to mean the gifts have ended. "8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away." They believe "that which is perfect" refers to the Bible. I agree that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, but the summation of the Word has not left this world "perfect." Far from it. I believe that the "perfect" mentioned here can only refer to Heaven, where all things: knowledge, love, faith, fellowship, authority, peace, prosperity . . . will be PERFECT.

Thus, when Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus Christ (and I believe his co-equal Spirit He gave us as our comforter, helper, and standby and the accompanying gifts the Spirit poured out at Pentecost) is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I am inclined to believe His unchanging Spirit is available to us now, tomorrow, and until we join Him in the clouds.

Anonymous said...


1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It says the spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. It doesn't say it was mandatory or that it was only for the apostolic age. I have become largely skeptical of Hank's "witnesses" of the Word-Faith teachings, so I doubt this person was either being truthful about the teaching or paying attention.

I have spent the last 2 hours searching through many descriptions of the gift of Toungues written by Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, and others. NONE of them say speaking in toungues is mandatory for a Christian or to be filled with the Holy Ghost. It is a gift, that many even in Paul's day didn't have. But many did, and Paul CLEARLY saw that as a gift of the Spirit. Further, the gift of speaking in tongues WITH an interpretation edified the Church.
It's too bad many Churches have gotten away from that edification.

So my question Hank: Is the Spirit the same yesterday, today, and forever?

Anonymous said...

P.S. it appears (from re-reading Acts) that the primary evidence of being filled with the Spirit, was speaking in tongues.

Boris said...

I wasn’t going to comment but I saw my name so I thought I bring the conversation back to Earth. All claims of xenoglossia (speaking in tongues) are hoaxes. It is observed in some tribal religions and within some fringe Christian denominations, notably Charismatics, Latter-day Saints, and Pentecostals. It does not correspond to any human language. Xenoglossia was supposedly seen and heard frequently in the church at Corinth during the 1st century CE but it all but disappeared after that. It was experienced rarely during the history of Christianity until the 20th century when it became quite common after a preacher named Charles Parham and a small Bible study group in Kansas began to study Bible passages about the gift of tongues. Naturally they began to speak in tongues. Parham went to Los Angeles in 1906 and preached at the Azusa Street Mission Revival. The movement expanded quickly from there.

It’s funny how atheists view the “gift of tongues” as compared to Bible believers. It’s just more proof of just how phony Christianity really is. This “gift” is just as non-existent as being able to cast out demons to cure crippling diseases or any other supposed gifts Christians think they get including their goofy one-way ticket to a magic happy land upon death. To a Christian though tongues is just more evidence for the “historic” Christian faith! “While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.” Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian, No. 3.

Anonymous said...

The answer to the question is the same as if it were rephrased:

"Is is necessary to be a Christian in order to speak in tongues?"

Mormons by their speaking in tongues, have proved this to be false. Therefore speaking in tongues is no evidence of anything particularly godly.

Anonymous said...

Tell that to the Apostle Paul!

I'm not sure what Mormonism has to do with the OP.

Anonymous said...

Mormons speak in tongues as well.

Stewart said...

The original speaking in tongues at Pentecost was not an unknown tongue to those who heard was a message from God to those assembled there in their own dialect/language. This is different than what some believe is a second type of tongues ("tongues of Angels"?) is also different than babbling. It seems that the original one is the more legitimate one but is expressed in rare situations today. The other, if indeed it is genuine, can be counterfeited in many ways and as such is open to scrutiny. God never meant for any of His gifts to be abused, misused, over emphasized, or even ignored. The point of the gifts is not to draw attention to the one expressing them but rather to draw attention to a gracious God who has provided so many good things to empower His people to live.

Anonymous said...

Actually Stewart, tongues (what you call babbling) with a Holy Ghost interpretation was discussed by Paul as being for the edification of the Church (teaching with revelation).

Stewart said...

anonymous...if it's babbling accompanyed by "Holy Ghost interpretation" then it's not babbling but genuine and as such will edify the church.

Deak said...

I've witnessed supposed speaking in tongues and have heard what people have to say about it. They say that everyone has the gift of tongues. It's just a matter of being filled enough with the Holy Spirit in order for you to use the gift. They have also told me that its a way to talk to God without Satan being able to understand it. (The irony is that Satan can't hear your thoughts so why not just think it?) And from what I had seen and have been told, there is no interpreter.

From what I have come to understand, the Holy Spirit gives gifts as he sees fit to born again Christians. So not everybody has the gift of tongues, in fact it is extremely rare. As for speaking in tongues as a sign that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, there is no scriptural basis. It does say that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues but it never says it was a sign they were filled with the Spirit. All its really saying is that upon being filled with the Spirit, they were able to use their gift which happen to be tongues. And the gift of tongues was a sign for the unbelievers not for the persons own use. And the one thing that ALL spiritual gifts have in common is that they are for the purpose of edifying the Church. From what I saw and heard, the way they are doing it today is not to edify the Church but for selfish intents of thinking it means you are filled with the Spirit. There are a around a dozen different spiritual gifts yet they believe that only tongues is the gift everyone has even though the scripture lists it with the others and there are no other indications of it being unique other than when the apostles used it, and no mention that everyone possess the gift.

I actually think that any church that teaches tongues as a sign of being filled with the spirit is wrong. These are often the same churches that are 'drunk in the spirit', 'slain in the spirit', and act like a bunch of animals while insulting the Holy Spirit by saying it's all because He has filled them. These churches seem to have a very wrong idea about how the Holy Spirit works.

Just my thoughts.

Stewart said...

deak...yes it is ironic isn't it...those churches which claim to know and experience more of the Holy Spirit do very little in terms of discernment and as such are open to legitimate questions regarding the authenticity of those experiences. The Holy Spirit always brings glory to God and edifies the church. Let "all things be done decently and in order".