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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Speaking in Tongues

Don Stewart :: Must a Person Speak in Tongues to Be Saved?

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Must a Person Speak in Tongues to Be Saved?

The Gift of Speaking in Tongues – Question 8

Some people actually believe that all genuine Christians must speak in tongues. The reality of their faith is linked to the ability to exercise the sign of speaking in tongues. Those who advocate this position usually refer to a statement by the Apostle Paul:

Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5 NRSV).

They take this as a requirement for salvation in Christ.

Also cited are examples in the Book of Acts. The sign of speaking in tongues convinced Peter that the Gentiles had believed in Jesus. We read the following.

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said (Acts 10:44-46 NRSV).

The sign that these people believed in Christ was their ability to speak in tongues.

There is another example found in Paul’s experience with certain disciples in Ephesus. The Bible records what happened as follows.

On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all (Acts 19:5-7 ESV).

Again, we find the sign that these people believed in Jesus was speaking in tongues.

The examples have caused some to argue that the “sign” of tongues accompanies belief in Jesus. Is this the sign we should expect from everyone who believes in Jesus?

Salvation Is Not Accompanied by Outward Signs

It is clear that the Bible nowhere equates the sign of tongues with salvation. In fact, there is no outward sign to be expected when a person becomes a Christian.

For example, on the Day of Pentecost three thousand people trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Yet there is no indication that any of them spoke in tongues or exhibited any other outward sign of belief. This is true with every conversion recorded in the Book of Acts. There are only two exceptions to this – the Gentiles (Acts 10) and certain disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19). It was only on these two occasions that speaking in tongues came at the same time they believed in Jesus. Otherwise there was no such thing as “speaking in tongues” upon belief.

Salvation Is a Free Gift

The Bible teaches that salvation is a free gift from God. It is accepted by faith, and no visible sign must accompany it. Paul made this clear in his letter to the Ephesians.

You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn’t something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about (Ephesians 2:8, 9 CEV).

Our salvation is not based upon anything that we do. Jesus Christ has done everything on our behalf. Our only responsibility is to believe.

Not Everyone Speaks in Tongues

The Apostle Paul asked the following question to the Corinthians about the gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, or languages never learned, and the gift of interpretation of tongues.

Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in languages? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:30 HCSB).

This sentence is structured in Greek in such a way that it demands that the answer be” no.” All believers do not speak in tongues. This settles the issue as to whether tongues must accompany belief in Jesus Christ.

He Wanted Them All to Prophesy, Not Speak with Tongues

When the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians that he wished all of them spoke in tongues, he was not advocating that they do this. The remainder of the verse reads as follows.

Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up (1 Corinthians 14:5 NRSV).

The thrust of what he is saying is that he would prefer that they all prophesy.

Furthermore, he wrote that speaking in tongues is not a sign to the believer, but rather it is to the unbeliever. He put it this way.

It follows that speaking in other languages is intended as a sign, not to believers but to unbelievers. But prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers (1 Corinthians 14:22 HCSB).

Consequently, we find nothing in Scripture that indicates any outward sign accompanies belief in Jesus; certainly not speaking in tongues!

Summary – Question 8
Must a Person Speak in Tongues to Be Saved?

There are some who argue that belief in Jesus Christ is accompanied by the outward sign of speaking in tongues. A number of examples are given. First they point out that Paul said to the Corinthians that he wanted everyone to speak in tongues.

In addition, when the Gentiles first believed in Jesus Christ we find them speaking in tongues.

There is also the example of certain men which Paul met in Ephesus. When they believed on Jesus Christ they immediately spoke in tongues. Consequently some see speaking in tongues as a sign of receiving Christ as Savior.

However, this is not what the Scripture teaches. Indeed, there is no visible sign that accompanies salvation. This includes the gift of tongues.

Furthermore, only twice in the Book of Acts do we find the sign of speaking in tongues accompanying belief in Jesus. On every other occasion, there was no outward sign that came with belief.

Moreover, when Paul asked the question to the Corinthians, “Do all speak in tongues?” the question is structured in such a way as to demand an answer of no. It is thus clear that there is no such thing as the “sign” of tongues that always accompanies belief in Jesus. Thus, nobody should insist that a person must speak in tongues to give evidence that they have genuinely trusted Jesus Christ as Savior.

In What Sense Is Speaking in Tongues a Sign to Those Who Do Not Believe? ← Prior Section
Should a Person Seek to Speak in Tongues? Next Section →
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