From the book, What People Ask About The Church, by Dale A. Robbins
Pentecostals and Charismatics make up the main body of churches who
embrace speaking in tongues as a part of their official doctrine. They represent about 10%
of all American congregations.
Speaking in tongues has long been considered a controversial issue
among many churches. Often blamed for creating division, or attributed to heresy or
fanaticism, the practice has been banned entirely by many churches. This seems somewhat
ironic since the primary author of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul, possessed an
abundant gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14:18), encouraged all believers to have the same
experience (1 Cor. 14:5), and warned the church to not forbid persons from speaking with
tongues (1 Cor. 14:39).
Some have sought to discredit the modern day validity of speaking in
tongues, claiming that it vanished with the other Charismatic gifts at the close of the
apostolic era. However, any good student of church history realizes this theory is
baseless, as numerous references to tongues and other gifts are consistently seen in the
writings of church leaders for twenty centuries. The History of the Christian Church, by
Philip Schaff records that speaking in tongues occurred among the Camisards, the Cevennes
in France, among the early Quakers and Methodists in the Irish revival of 1859, and among
the Irvingites in 1831. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that glossolalia (speaking in
tongues) has recurred in Christian revivals of every age among the mendicant friars
of the thirteenth century, among the Jasenists and early Quakers, the persecuted
Protestants of the Cevennes, and the Irvingites.
The idea of speaking in tongues originates in the New Testament book
of Acts. At the height of the Jewish festival, Pentecost, the post ascension disciples of
Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit and manifested this unique phenomena of speaking in
other languages (glossolalia).
Acts 2:1 "Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come,
they were all with one accord in one place.
Prior to His departure to Heaven, Jesus had instructed his followers
to wait in Jerusalem until they received this promised blessing (Acts 1:4). The baptism
with the Holy Spirit, as He described it (Acts 1:5), would give them special power (Greek,
DUNAMIS, miraculous, dynamic power), enabling them to proclaim the Gospel everywhere.
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be
witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the
earth" (Acts 1:8).
The day of Pentecost marked the beginning of the Holy Spirit's
outpouring upon the church, but it was not the conclusion. Other followers also
experienced this infilling of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by the same manifestation of
speaking in other tongues. In fact, it appears that speaking in tongues became viewed as
the initial, physical evidence which proved the infilling of the Holy Spirit. This was
first seen by the events which occurred at the house of Cornelius, a gentile, to whom God
sent Peter to minister. Until this time, most believers (who were mainly Jewish) thought
the baptism with the Holy Spirit was exclusive to the Jews. However, Peter was amazed to
see Holy Spirit given to Cornelius and his family. How was he able to recognize this? He
cited, "For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God..." (Acts 10:46).
This pattern was repeated again when Paul ministered at Ephesus.
Once more tongues accompanied the gift of the Holy Spirit. "And when Paul had laid
hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and
prophesied" (Acts 19:6). However, when Peter and John ministered at Samaria, the Holy
Spirit was given again, but this time nothing is mentioned about tongues. "Then they
laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:17). Verses 18 and 19
say that an observer, Simon the Sorcerer, "saw" the reception of the Spirit by
the Samaritans, and whatever he witnessed motivated him to offer money to purchase the
same ability to bestow the Spirit. It's speculated that he probably saw them speaking in
The fifth century church father, Augustine of Hippo, was very
insightful about the beliefs held by the early church regarding speaking in tongues and
supported this view. From his comments about Acts 8:17-19, it was his assumption, due to
his own experience in such matters, that Simon must have seen the Samaritans speaking in
tongues. Augustine wrote, "We still do what the apostles did when they laid hands on
the Samaritans and called down the Holy Spirit on them by laying on of hands. It is
expected that new converts should speak with new tongues."¹
Most Pentecostals and Charismatics generally agree that the baptism
with the Holy Spirit is evidenced by speaking in tongues, and is separate and distinct
from the birth of the Spirit (John 3:7), which occurs when faith is placed in Christ for
Furthermore, they believe that speaking in tongues is involved in
three distinct functions: (1) As the initial, physical evidence of the baptism with the
Holy Spirit (Acts 10:46), (2) as a spiritual prayer language which is used for personal
edification (1 Cor. 14:4, Rom. 8:26-27), and (3) as a special utterance gift to the
church, which when interpreted, serves to edify the body (1 Cor. 12:10, 14:6). Paul
indicated that not all persons would have the latter "gift of tongues" used to
edify the church (1 Cor. 12:30), but desired for all believers to be able to speak in
tongues for personal edification. "I wish you all spoke with tongues..." (1 Cor.
¹ Augustine, Vol. 4
This article is copyrighted © by Dale A. Robbins, 1995, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA 95949. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.You may download for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain published quantities of this title, .
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