Salvation-Holy Spirit Baptism-Speaking in Tongues:
DENOMINATIONAL BELIEFS & PRACTICES
"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
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.
Various interpretations of two key passages in 1 Corinthians:
|1 Corinthians 12:4-11: In the King James Version (KJV)
of the Christian Scriptures, this passage is
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
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":
|The 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.|
|The 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
|In 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.
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.
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:
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:
|Is helped to lead a holy life.|
|Becomes more attached to Jesus Christ.|
|Becomes a more effective witness.|
|Experiences greater joy in spiritual service.|
|Becomes more aware of their mission to the world. 5|
|Receives a "flow of spiritual gifts." 6|
|One 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
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
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
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
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."
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.
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
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
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.
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
"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
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.
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
They generally interpret modern-day speaking in tongues to be a byproduct of
a state of religious ecstasy, without any informational content.
Atheists, Humanists, and other Secularists would probably agree.
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:
|Both groups of conservative Christians hold very similar beliefs
about theology, personal behavior, sin, etc.|
|Both agree that the unsaved will go to Hell for eternal punishment, while those who are
saved will go to Heaven.|
|Both groups believe that salvation requires a person to repent of
their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. |
|The vast majority of the members of both denominations believe that
they have trusted Jesus and have been saved -- most as children or
|The Southern Baptist Convention does not teach "tongues."
Most congregations probably frown on it. Some consider it evidence of
demonic possession. |
|Pentecostals 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.|
|Speaking in tongues is almost never found among Southern Baptists.
Speaking in tongues is almost universally found among Pentecostals. |
|Sociologists 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.|
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
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
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:
|Pentecostals 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.|
|Most non-Pentecostals believe that the various gifts of the spirit,
including the gift of tongues, ended with the death of the last apostle.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- 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."
- C.M. Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible,"
Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, (1971), Page 807.
- Tom Brown, "Speaking in Tongues," at: http://tbm.org/tongues.htm
- "Holy Spirit Baptised with Bible Evidence," at:
- "Assemblies of God Beliefs," at:
- "Assemblies of God Beliefs," at:
- 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
- "Assemblies of God Beliefs," at:
- "The Gift of the Holy Ghost," at:
- Word Aflame Tract "Why did God Chose Tongues?" tract #6108 by World
Aflame Press. Available at: http://www.upci.org/tracts/tongues.htm
- The United Pentecostal Church International denominational home page is at: http://www.upci.org/
- Campbelltown Salvation Army, "Guidelines for Salvationists: Speaking in
Tongues," at: http://www.pastornet.net.au/salvcamp/tounge1.htm
- "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
- Fr. George Nicozisin, "Speaking In Tongues: An Orthodox Perspective,"
- "Why Did God Choose Tongues?," UPCI, undated, at:
- "The Official Creed of: United Pentecostal Church International UPCI,"
- "The United Pentecostal Church," at:
- Michael Ediger, "The Church of God of Prophecy," Darkness to
- Declaration of Faith, Church of God, at:
Copyright © 1998, to 2005 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUN-10
Author: B.A. Robinson