Oneness Pentecostals and some hyper Charismatic groups believe that if you do not speak in tongues, you’re not saved. Are Tongues necessary for salvation? Must the gift of tongues accompany all believers? This article will not address the question of whether tongues are for today. Look for that series in the near future.
What Are Tongues?
One thing is for sure. Tongues are real languages. Whether they are tongues of men or angels, they are still real languages. In Acts 2:5-8 we see an example of the disciples being given the ability to speak in other languages that they do not know.
Acts 2:5-8 “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. (6) Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. (7) And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? (8) And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?”
These tongues were not the vain repetition of syllables and sounds (gibberish) that is often heard in hyper Charismatic circles. So often I have witnessed believers who claim to speak in tongues who only repeat the same 10-20 syllables over and over for years on end. In other words, they will repeat the same phrase or sentence in their own personal tongue (not biblical) over and over. Even though they are repeating the same phrase or sentence, they will claim countless different interpretations for the same sentence or phrase. The point I’m trying to make here is that the gift of tongues is the ability to speak in a real language that can be understood by those who speak that language.
Tongues of Angels?
1Co 13:1 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
Many times the one speaking in the tongue won’t be aware of what they are saying.
1 Corinthians 14:14-15 “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. (15) What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”
Tongues can be a language that only God understands.
1 Corinthians 14:1-4 “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. (2) For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. (3) But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. (4) He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.”
Are tongues a necessary sign of Salvation?
No. Paul clearly says that not all believers have the gift of tongues. Nowhere in the Bible is it claimed that tongues are a necessary sign of salvation. Additionally Paul does give us a way to identify believers and that is by inspecting their fruit.
Not all believers have the gift of tongues
Whether you believe that tongues are for today, Paul is clear that not all believers have the gift of tongues. In 1 Cor 14:5 we see that Paul wishes all the Corinthians spoke in tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:5 “I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”
In 1 Cor 12:7 Paul againg makes it abundantly clear that tongues are not given to all believers.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11 “ But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (8) For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; (9) To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; (10) To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: (11) But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”
I don’t see how much clearer it can get. Paul starts by saying “to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom”. Do all have the word of wisdom? No. He then goes on by saying “to another” gifts of healing. Are all given gifts of healing? Absolutely not. Paul works his way through many different gifts given only to some believers and ends with tongues. Are we to conclude that even though Paul is clearly saying that these gifts are not given to all believers, tongues somehow is the exception? This passage is plain and clear. Not all believers are given the gift of tongues.
Just in case we still don’t get it…
1 Corinthians 12:27-30 “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (28) And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (29) Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? (30) Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?”
In the above passage Paul is illustrating how the church resembles a body. Each part of the body has its own unique purpose. He then starts asking questions like “are all apostles?” and the unspoken answer is no. “Are all prophets”? Again, no. As paul works through this illustration of the body of Christ, he is making it clear that each believer has their place and function in the body of Christ. Each believer is not the same, nor are they given the same gifts.
Paul downplays the importance of speaking in tongues
1 Corinthians 14:19-20 “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. (20) Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.”
No scriptural support for the necessity of tongues
The closest proof text for the necessity of tongues in a believer’s life is Acts 10:44-48. This passage is often used by Oneness Pentecostals to support the belief that tongues are a necessary sign of salvation. The interesting part about this passage is that the believers receive the gift of tongues before they are baptized. This completely goes against the Oneness belief in Baptismal Regeneration.
Acts 10:44-48 “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. (45) And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. (46) For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, (47) Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (48) And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”
Nowhere in the above passage does it say that all believers will speak in tongues.
How do we know if someone is saved?
If tongues are not the indicator of one’s salvation, how can we know who is saved? We can’t know for sure. All we can do is judge them by their fruit. That’s right. I said judge them.
Matthew 7:16-20 “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (17) Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Mat 12:33 “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.”
Matthew 13:23 “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Examples of fruit
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Ephesians 5:9-10 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) (10) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
The Bible is clear. Tongues are not a necessary sign of salvation. All believers do not speak in tongues. Again, I am not addressing the issue of whether tongues are for today or not. How do we know the saved from the unsaved? Only God knows the heart. Nonetheless, we can judge them by their fruit.