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Salvation-Holy Spirit Baptism-Speaking in Tongues:

DENOMINATIONAL BELIEFS & PRACTICES

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Sponsored link.

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Overview:

"Speaking in tongues" forms a major part of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christian life.

There is a common belief among Pentecostals, Charismatics, and some other Christians the Holy Spirit, within the believer, uses glossolalia 1,2 (speaking in tongues) as a method of talking to God the Father in heaven. i.e. two Persons of the Trinity communicate through the believer. Some support this concept with the text of Romans 8:26 which says that the Holy Spirit makes intercessions for us with God with groanings that words cannot express. The "groanings" phrase may mean that these intercessions cannot be spoken in the words of a human language, but only when the individual is in a state of religious ecstasy and speaking in the language of God.

Conservative Christian groups generally teach that believers are "saved" or "born again" when they repent of their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. Some denominations teach that, at the time that they area saved, or slightly later, the believer will be "baptized of the Holy Spirit." One manifestation of this baptism is the gift of speaking in tongues (aka glossolalia).

Author Tom Brown writes: "Theologians often confuse the baptism in the Holy Spirit with salvation. They often regard these two experiences as being the same...The Bible does not teach this. The Bible clearly teaches that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from salvation and comes after a person is saved, although it can occur at the time of salvation." 3

For example: The "SALVATION: Heaven on Earth" web site says: "Anyone who is saved is ready to receive [the Holy Spirit]...[Later] when you are Baptised in the Holy Spirit, you too will speak in tongues." 4 This gift of "tongues" is considered proof they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. And since only saved believers can be so baptized, speaking in tongues is proof that their religious conversion is a valid one, and that the Holy Spirit is dwelling within them.

Other denominations have different views about "tongues." Some take a neutral view. Some consider it evidence of demon possession, and conclude that the believer needs to be exorcised. Although this phenomenon plays a large role in the lives of many tens of millions of conservative Christians, little attention has been paid to it by the scientific community.

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Various interpretations of two key passages in 1 Corinthians:

bullet1 Corinthians 12:4-11: In the King James Version (KJV) of the Christian Scriptures, this passage is translated:

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 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.

Conservative Christians who are not Pentecostals often interpret verses 7 to 10 as stating that the Holy Spirit gave different gifts to various Christians, and that no one gift (such as tongues) is given to all believers. Some Pentecostals, particularly those from the United Pentecostal Church, have an alternative interpretation. They believe that there are two distinct types of the "gift of tongues":

bulletThe first type is experienced by everyone who has been truly saved. They will speak "in a language that no man understands or interprets." 3 This is normally spoken in private, not in church.
bulletThe second type is seen in public meetings. These are the "different kinds" of tongues that St. Paul cites in verse 10. Here, the speaker and/or an interpreter are able to decipher the meaning of the glossolalia to the congregation. Not everyone has received this second gift. It is an additional, special gift, which is only given to some Christians.
bulletIn 1 Corinthians 14:22-28:

22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
(KJV)

In verse 23, St. Paul refers to the entire church coming together and speaking in tongues. Many Pentecostals interpret this verse literally: that every member of the congregation at Corinth spoke in tongues. Other Christians might consider this as an exaggeration that Paul used for literary effect. He might have meant that too many members speaking in tongues simultaneously would reduce the meeting to chaos. Any non-believers who passed by might think that the congregation was insane. He put an upper limit of three persons speaking in tongues. But if no person with the gift of interpreting was present, then there should be no speaking in tongues.

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Beliefs of various Christian denominations:

Various conservative Christian denominations teach different beliefs about the connections among Salvation, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and Speaking in Tongues. See below:

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Assemblies of God:

The Assemblies of God is the second largest Pentecostal denomination, with a population of about 2.5 million in the U.S. They teach that when a person trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit indwells their body. At this instant, they are saved. They are then guaranteed that upon their death, they will attain Heaven. At this time, the Holy Spirit "...convicts them of sin, [and] convinces them of righteousness..." 5

God has promised that every believer will receive a second "ministry of the Holy Spirit called the baptism in the Holy Spirit." The results of this baptism is that the believer:

bulletIs helped to lead a holy life.
bulletBecomes more attached to Jesus Christ.
bulletBecomes a more effective witness.
bulletExperiences greater joy in spiritual service.
bulletBecomes more aware of their mission to the world. 5
bulletReceives a "flow of spiritual gifts." 6
bulletOne automatic gift at the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the ability to speak in tongues. "The baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance..." 7

This is not necessarily a one-shot event. As believers serve the Lord, there is an consumption of their spiritual power. They interpret Ephesians 5:17-18 "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." as instructing believers to seek refilling as needed with the Holy Spirit.

They acknowledge that some saved believers have a "dynamic and life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit." 8 Yet, their baptism in the spirit, and the flow of spiritual gifts are delayed. However, they have still been saved from eternity in Hell; they will go to Heaven. The denomination rejects the assertion by some Pentecostals that "Unless you have spoken in tongues you will not go to heaven." 6

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United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI):

The United Pentecostal Church was founded in 1945 by the merger of the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ. They have a worldwide membership of about 4 million people. They interprets the "birth of the Spirit" and the "baptism of the Spirit" as synonymous terms. It is an emotionally overwhelming experience.

They teach that if a person sincerely repents of sin, and trusts in Jesus as Lord and Savior, that they are saved. At that time, or more likely at some later date, they will be "baptized of the Holy Spirit," and will automatically receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of speaking "in tongues." A main reason why "God chose speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of this spiritual baptism [is that tongues are]...an objective, external evidence that recipients and onlookers can both identify with certainty." 9

In a World Aflame Press tract 10 on its home page, 11 They state that: "One vital reason why God chose other tongues as the initial sign of receiving the Holy Ghost is that speaking in tongues is an immediate, external evidence. There are many other evidences of the operation of the Spirit of God in a person's life, but it is a matter of time before they are manifest...Another reason why God chose other tongues as the initial sign of receiving the Spirit is that speaking in tongues is a uniform evidence. It applies to everyone, regardless of race, culture, or language."

The UPCI web site states that speaking in tongues is "a uniform evidence" that separates the saved from the unsaved: "At Caesarea all who heard the Word were filled, and all who heard the Word spoke in tongues. If some of them had not spoken in tongues, would the Jewish Christians have accepted their experiences? Clearly not. All twelve men mentioned in Acts 19:6 had a uniform experience. If ten of the twelve had spoken in tongues and the other two had not, would Paul have believed that the two had received the Holy Ghost just as the ten? Certainly not. Paul would not have accepted their experience if they have failed to exhibit the uniform evidence." 16

The UPCI's official creed states that: "John the Baptist, in Matthew 3:11, said, '...He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.' Jesus, in Acts 1:5, said, '...ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.' Luke tells us in Acts 2:4, they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues (languages), as the Spirit gave them utterance. The terms 'baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire,' 'filled with the Holy Spirit,' and the 'gift of the Holy Ghost' are synonymous terms used interchangeably in the Bible. It is scriptural to expect all who receive the gift, filling, or baptism of the Holy Spirit to receive the same physical, initial sign of speaking with other tongues." 17 (emphasis ours)

Doug Beaumont, a professor of apologetics, comments: "The UPCI teaches that there are two major evidences of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: speaking with tongues and the fruit of the Spirit. This Spirit Baptism is not considered optional for a believer: '...the new birth, consisting of water and Spirit, was never set forth as being optional or unessential. "Ye must be born again" are the words of Jesus in John 3:7. Until a person is born of the Spirit, he cannot be called a "son" of God.' Thus, speaking in tongues is a gift that all true believers have....the UPCI...make tongue-speaking an essential ingredient in salvation and deny the baptismal formula set out by Jesus Himself." 18

The gift of tongues is considered proof a person has been saved - i.e. that their religious conversion is a valid one, and that the Holy Spirit is dwelling within them. They conclude that if a person does not speak in tongues, then they have not been saved. Perhaps the person had not been truly repentant of their sins, or did not fully trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. For whatever reason, salvation was not achieved. At death, they would go to eternal punishment in Hell with the other 90% or more of the human race who are not saved. This implies that, in the opinion of the UPCI, the vast majority of Christians, and the vast majority of saved Christians will spend eternity in Hell.

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Church of God of Prophecy (CGP):

This is a smaller Pentecostal denomination with a membership of about 75,000 in the U.S.

According to author Michael J. Ediger, the founder of the CGP, A.J. Tomlinson, "declare[s] emphatically that no one ever has or ever will receive the baptism with the Holy Ghost without the speaking in tongues accompanying as the evidence." 19

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Church of God (Cleveland):

The "Declaration of Faith" of the Church of God (headquartered in Cleveland TN) contains the following statement:

"We believe...In speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost." 20

Although this appears to indicate that a person who does not speak in tongues is not saved, the denomination does not consider that speaking in tongues is a requirement for salvation. Also, it is not a requirement for membership in the church.

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Sponsored link:

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The Salvation army:

At least one congregation of the The Salvation Army recommends that glossolalia is not appropriate during public religious services, but is to be encouraged privately. 12

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Orthodox Christians

"The Greek Orthodox Church does not preclude the use of Glossolalia, but regards it as one of the minor gifts of the Holy Spirit...it is a private and personal gift, a lower form of prayer. The Orthodox Church differs with those Pentecostal and Charismatic groups which regard Glossolalia as a pre requisite to being a Christian and to having received the Holy Spirit." 14

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Other conservative Christian denominations:

Most other conservative Christian denominations teach that speaking in tongues and other gifts of the Holy Spirit were only given to Christians during the time that the apostles were alive. They ceased permanently in the second century CE. They are not given today. They recognize the same criteria for salvation (repentance and trust in Jesus) as do the Pentecostals. But baptism of the Holy Spirit or speaking in tongues is not expected. In practice, the latter is rarely seen within their churches. Some consider speaking in tongues as evidence of demonic possession.

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Liberal Christian denominations:

Many liberal churches doubt the occurrences of many of the miracles discussed in the Christian Scriptures. Some might interpret the 1st century CE experience with tongues to be simple religious myths. Others might interpret the event symbolically.

They generally interpret modern-day speaking in tongues to be a byproduct of a state of religious ecstasy, without any informational content.

Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, and other Secularists would probably agree.

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Inter-Denominational Friction over Tongues

As noted above, most conservative Christians believe that the gift of tongues was not given to all believers during the lifetimes of the apostles. They believe that some received the gift of tongues, while others received a gift of administrative competence, the ability to translate tongues, etc. No one gift was given to all believers. No one believer received all of the gifts. They also believe that these gifts were phased out after the time of the Apostles. Some even suspect that people who speak in tongues today may be demon possessed.

But Pentecostals generally feel that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given today to Christians just as they were in the 1st century CE. Further, some Pentecostals say that if a person does not speak in tongues, that they have not been truly saved. Other Pentecostals say that some individuals are saved, but never receive the gift of tongues; the decision is up to God.

Needless to say, these conflicting beliefs about tongues generates much inter-denominational ill will. Members of a Southern Baptist congregation might view members of a neighboring congregation of United Pentecostal Church International speaking in tongues. The Baptists might believe that most believers in that congregation may be demon-possessed. Meanwhile the Pentecostals, noticing that few if any of the Southern Baptists speak in tongues, might conclude that almost none of the Baptists have been truly saved; the vast majority will spend eternity being tortured in Hell without hope of relief.

A sociologist studying the phenomenon of "tongues" might compare Southern Baptists with the UPCI and conclude:

bulletBoth groups of conservative Christians hold very similar beliefs about theology, personal behavior, sin, etc.
bulletBoth agree that the unsaved will go to Hell for eternal punishment, while those who are saved will go to Heaven.
bulletBoth groups believe that salvation requires a person to repent of their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior.
bulletThe vast majority of the members of both denominations believe that they have trusted Jesus and have been saved -- most as children or youths.
bulletThe Southern Baptist Convention does not teach "tongues." Most congregations probably frown on it. Some consider it evidence of demonic possession.
bulletPentecostals teach that "tongues" is a gift from God to most people -- or all person -- who is truly saved. Some consider a person who has not spoken in tongues to be unsaved. By this reasoning, almost all Southern Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, United Church members etc are unsaved and destined for Hell.
bulletSpeaking in tongues is almost never found among Southern Baptists. Speaking in tongues is almost universally found among Pentecostals.
bulletSociologists might conclude that Pentecostals speak in tongues during periods of religious ecstasy because it is expected of them. However, the individuals might well be unaware of this cause.

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When Will/Did Speaking in Tongues Cease?

Circa 55 CE, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:7-10:

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

He appeared to predict, in about the middle of the 1st century CE, that at some time in his future, people will no longer prophecy or speak in tongues. There appears to be no consensus on when this will (or had) happened:

bulletPentecostals and Charismatics generally believe that speaking in tongues today is as much a gift of the Holy Spirit as it was during the time of the apostles.
bulletMost non-Pentecostals believe that the various gifts of the spirit, including the gift of tongues, ended with the death of the last apostle. 13

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Glossolalia: The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible defines glossolalia as: "the ecstatic utterance of emotionally agitated religious persons, consisting of a jumble of disjointed and largely unintelligible sounds. Those who speak in this way believe that they are moved directly by a divine spirit and their utterance is therefore quite spontaneous and unpremeditated."
  2. C.M. Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, (1971), Page 807.
  3. Tom Brown, "Speaking in Tongues," at: http://tbm.org/tongues.htm
  4. "Holy Spirit Baptised with Bible Evidence," at: http://bornagain.port5.com/tongues.htm
  5. "Assemblies of God Beliefs," at: http://www.ag.org/top/beliefs/
  6. "Assemblies of God Beliefs," at: http://www.ag.org/top/beliefs/
  7. The Assemblies of God denominational home page is at: http://www.ag.org/ They have a position paper which deals with the gift of tongues at: http://www.ag.org/info/position/34-4185.htm
  8. "Assemblies of God Beliefs," at: http://www.ag.org/top/beliefs/
  9. "The Gift of the Holy Ghost," at: http://www.upci.org/doctrine/
  10. Word Aflame Tract "Why did God Chose Tongues?" tract #6108 by World Aflame Press. Available at: http://www.upci.org/tracts/tongues.htm
  11. The United Pentecostal Church International denominational home page is at: http://www.upci.org/
  12. Campbelltown Salvation Army, "Guidelines for Salvationists: Speaking in Tongues," at: http://www.pastornet.net.au/salvcamp/tounge1.htm
  13. "Ellery," "Speaking in Tongues Today-From God?" a contribution to the discussion group "Watchtower Review", posted on 1997-OCT-1 at: http://www.serve.com/larryi/messages/4791.html
  14. Fr. George Nicozisin, "Speaking In Tongues: An Orthodox Perspective," at: http://www.goarch.org/access/orthodoxy/
  15. http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Woods/8255/spirit.html
  16. "Why Did God Choose Tongues?," UPCI, undated, at: http://www.upci.org/
  17. "The Official Creed of: United Pentecostal Church International UPCI," at: http://www.bible.ca/
  18. "The United Pentecostal Church," at: http://www.souldevice.org/
  19. Michael Ediger, "The Church of God of Prophecy," Darkness to Light, at: http://www.dtl.org/
  20. Declaration of Faith, Church of God, at: http://www.churchofgod.cc/

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Copyright © 1998, to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUN-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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