More about Speaking in Tongues

Straight Talk

The Question:

Some people say that you are not really saved unless you speak in tongues. Do you believe this to be true? I know that it is a popular to speak in tongues these days. However, I also know that Billy Graham is a great man of God who has led many people to Christ, yet I have never heard him speak in tongues. Also, there are scriptures that say not to speak in tongues unless there is interpretation. This would mean that most of what you see today is not biblical.

– LEC from Christiansburg, VA.

The Answer
Part 1: Tongues clarification
Part 2: Gift “Popularity”

Tongues clarification (Part 1)

It is absolutely NOT true that you must speak in tongues to be saved. In your question you mentioned a particular denomination which you said believes that way. I’m not sure if there is any Christian group out there that ties salvation with speaking in tongues, but I can tell you that the one you mentioned does not hold that view.

After your question came in I did some research at the website of the particular denomination you cited. I read their doctrinal statement thoroughly. They do not believe you need to speak in tongues to be saved, but they do believe that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Maybe that is where your confusion comes from.

This doctrine is common among Pentecostal denominations, especially if they find their roots in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles about 1906. Why? Because that is what happened in their experience. As they tarried at the altar, and asked God to pour out His spirit, they saw the gift of tongues bestowed time after time. Eventually they came to “require” it. Their scriptural backup is this: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

Today, you will find many believers and churches that accept tongues as a Holy Spirit gift, but do not believe that it “proves” you are baptized with the Spirit. Scriptural backup for this position could be taken from 1 Corinthians 12:30; “Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” The anticipated answer is “no”.

Also, Paul mentions the giving of various gifts to each believer in verses 4 through 10 and then says; “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (Verse 11). That seems to indicate that not everyone receives the gift of tongues.

Next: Is tongues the gift “du jour”?

Gift Popularity (Part 2)

You mentioned in your question that it is popular to speak in tongues today. That makes it sound like Holy Spirit gifts kind of go in and out of fad. The gift of tongues is either a genuine gift from God or is it not. If it is genuine it should be accepted, honored, used, and sought after by God’s people.

Paul the apostle spoke in tongues and said; “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). He was not bragging, but he was grateful to God for this great gift. No matter which gifts the Holy Spirit gives us we need to use them to the fullest extent because we will give an accounting of every gift God entrust us with.

Unfortunately there has been some immaturity within the body of Christ, particularly regarding the gift of tongues. Those with the gift sometimes parade it as if they have some special holiness badge, and others without it are either defensive or jealous. Both positions are wrong. When Jesus comes back for his bride, we should all be functioning in a spirit of unity with no petty bickering.

You also mentioned the necessity of interpretation accompanying tongues. 1 Corinthians 14:27 says; “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.”

There are two types of tongues; public for the whole church and private. This scripture speaks of both. The public use of the gift of tongues does need someone with a gift of interpretation to tell the church what is being said. Otherwise the person needs to remain silent. However, there is also a private use for tongues (“let him speak to himself and to God”) and no interpretation is necessary.

Praying in tongues privately enables the Holy Spirit to pray God’s will through us especially when we do not know exactly how to pray. “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14).

I agree with you that God’s pleasure in us is not dependent upon whether we speak in tongues. This is true for the famous, and not so famous saints. What is the Lord looking for in us? “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

1 Comment

  1. Cheryl

    This was interesting. I grew up in a Pentecostal church that taught speaking in tongues was the needed proof that you had received the Holy Ghost. If you didn’t speak in tongues, then you didn’t have the Holy Ghost living inside you.
    I thank God that my eyes were opened to the truth.
    And the truth has set me free.