Speaking in Tongues: Is it Essential to Salvation?
This page will be treated in like manner to the pages involving the Oneness/Trinity debates and water baptism. It is provided to supply links to both United Pentecostal Church (UPC) writings and those of similar or differing beliefs.
Tongues in the Bible simply means languages. It should be noted that most churches that call themselves 'apostolic' hold the same main beliefs on salvation as the UPC. However, there are apostolic churches which teach one is saved when they repent, but they should go on to the rest of what is often termed the three steps (repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus, receiving of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues).
According to the UPC, those who manifest this spiritual gift of tongues are confirmed as having received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They take this view because you cannot be saved without the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9) and they believe speaking in tongues now verifies that the Spirit of God has come to abide in a believer. They surmise that tongues are the initial evidence of having been filled with God's Spirit because tongues are mentioned in three places in Acts when people received God's Spirit. Acts 2 shows about 120 people speaking in tongues, Acts 19 shows about twelve men speaking in tongues and Acts 10 shows an undetermined number of Gentiles speaking in tongues, though all present fit into the house. It is assumed that in Acts 8 the people spoke in tongues, even though Scripture is silent concerning it.
United Pentecostals and other apostolics believe that when a person is baptized in the name of Jesus that the Holy Spirit will come because it is a promise to you, your children, and other people that the Lord shall call (Acts 2:38, 39). Until a believer has spoken in tongues, they teach that the person is not yet saved. In fact, most apostolics would consider trinitarian believers who spoke in tongues to also be unsaved because they had not been properly water baptized and/or did not believe in the oneness of God. There are a few who will question the validity of a person's tongues experience if it is received outside an apostolic church setting.
In contrast, most mainstream Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is not a matter of salvation. The Assemblies of God, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, and Fire Baptized Holiness Church are some major denominations that reject the teaching that they pertain to salvation. These denominations teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a different experience from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is received upon repentance. They do, however, teach that believers should want and seek this extra baptism of the Spirit, which is evidenced by speaking in tongues.
In addition to this, some Christians believe tongues are a sign of demonic possession as many thought during the original Pentecostal revival in the early 1900s. Other Christians believe that tongues are simply one of many gifts a believer may receive from the Holy Spirit, and are neither initial evidence nor a sign of a separate Spirit baptism. While even yet, some Christians from the Reformed Camp believe tongues have ceased with the New Testament being completed and they point to 1 Corinthians 13 as proof. There are some who believe tongues exist today but question whether many tongues they hear now line up with what biblical examples, in that they should be actual human languages which can be verified and understood, as compared to repeated brief sounds or phrases. In addition, some believe that speaking in tongues did not happen, but rather that the people heard in their own language what the others spoke in their native tongue. In other words, it was in the hearing and not the speaking.
As you can see, beliefs on the subject of speaking in tongues are quite diverse. Everyone cannot be correct on this subject. Must a believer speak in tongues to be saved? Are tongues that important for today? Is there an unbiblical overemphasis of tongues in Pentecostal churches? Have tongues ceased? Are all tongues of the devil? Is it just one of the many gifts of the Holy Spirit that you may receive? Do believers speak with angelic tongues?
Below is an example of speaking in tongues at a United Pentecostal Church camp meeting that appeared in the movie, Borat. (Be patient as the film doesn't start till about the 23 second mark. This is in Spanish. A short clip in English may be found here.) To the right is an example of someone trying to speak in tongues at a United Pentecostal Church. In it, you will see the normal gathering of people around the person. Sometimes they hold up their arms and place their hands on them. This person did not speak in tongues despite all the praying.
Below is another example of all the things one might see when someone is trying to "pray through" to receive the Spirit. You will witness people talking to him, some yelling, "Come on!" They get by his ear or right in his face and either talk or yell at him. Some pound the floor or stomp their feet near him. They wail and have concerned looks on their faces, even after he says he has the Spirit. Most everyone is making noise at the same time while he lies on the floor and periodically thrashes around. Pay attention to all the hands on him. They grab his arms, sometimes moving them around. They touch his legs, head, chest- even hitting on his chest. It is intense and there is no way to know how long this transpired as it is only a portion of what occurred. (They made the video private after we linked to it.)
Here is another of a very young girl, with people all gathered around her, touching her, speaking loudly, etc. Next is an ABC Primetime Thursday News report on speaking in tongues that shows much of what is seen in Pentecostal churches.
Below are links to various writings on the subject, stating several perspectives. Included under the UPC view are writings from other groups that believe likewise, at least in part. Therefore all are not fully representative of their views. Also included may be some links to apostolics who believe that tongues are one of the many gifts of the Holy Spirit that one may or may not receive.
* Denotes the article is posted directly on this site, with all others being links to other sites.
Below are some debates on this subject.
Debate between David Bernard and James White; Pastor Dowell and Stanley Sylvain (debate starts about the 11:45 mark)
Debate between Michael Brown and Sam Waldron
Page added October 22, 2004 & updated February 7, 2015 (plus all links checked & fixed)
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August 23, 1997
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