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Why Is Modern Era Speaking in Tongues Not Evidence of True Christianity?


The practice of speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, has been a subject of significant debate and interpretation within Christian circles. To determine whether speaking in tongues is a true mark of Christianity, we must examine the scriptural basis, historical context, and modern practices of this phenomenon.

The Scriptural Basis for Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in tongues is first mentioned in the New Testament during the Pentecost, as described in Acts 2:1-4. Here, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, enabling them to communicate the gospel to diverse groups gathered in Jerusalem. This miraculous event was a fulfillment of Jesus' promise in Acts 1:8, where He assured His disciples that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses.

Acts 2:5-11 (UASV): "Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Behold, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each one of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.'"

This passage highlights two key aspects of biblical speaking in tongues: the clarity of the language spoken and the purpose of glorifying God and spreading the gospel.

The Purpose of Speaking in Tongues

The primary purpose of speaking in tongues in the New Testament was to serve as a sign for unbelievers and to edify the church. The apostle Paul elaborates on this in 1 Corinthians 14, emphasizing that tongues should be used in a way that builds up the church.

1 Corinthians 14:22-23 (UASV): "Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If therefore the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?"

Paul stresses that tongues should be interpreted to benefit the congregation. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should remain silent in the church and speak to themselves and God (1 Corinthians 14:27-28).

Historical Context and Ceasing of Tongues

The miraculous gift of tongues was particularly significant during the early days of the church, as it facilitated the rapid spread of the gospel across linguistic and cultural barriers. However, Paul also indicated that such gifts were temporary.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (UASV): "Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away."

The term "cease" (Greek: pausontai) implies that tongues would gradually fade away as their purpose was fulfilled. Historical records suggest that by the end of the first century, the practice of speaking in tongues had largely disappeared from the Christian church.

Modern-Day Speaking in Tongues

Today, speaking in tongues is most commonly associated with Pentecostal and charismatic movements. These groups claim that the practice is a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit. However, modern glossolalia often differs significantly from the biblical accounts.

Acts 2:12-13 (UASV): "And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'What does this mean?' But others mocking said, 'They are filled with new wine.'"

Modern practices often involve ecstatic utterances that are not intelligible languages, contrasting with the clear, intelligible languages spoken at Pentecost. Additionally, there is often no interpretation, which contradicts Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 14.

Theological Implications

The continuation of speaking in tongues as a necessary evidence of true Christianity raises several theological concerns:

  1. Unity of the Church: If speaking in tongues were essential for true Christianity, it would imply that vast segments of the Christian population, including many historical denominations, are not true Christians. This is contrary to the unity of the body of Christ described in Ephesians 4:4-6.

  2. Fruit of the Spirit: Jesus emphasized that love, rather than miraculous signs, is the true mark of His disciples (John 13:35). Paul reiterates this by prioritizing love over all spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 13.

  3. Biblical Sufficiency: With the completion of the New Testament canon, the need for miraculous signs to authenticate the message has diminished. The Bible provides all the revelation necessary for faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


While speaking in tongues was a significant sign gift in the early church, its primary purpose was to authenticate the apostles' message and facilitate the spread of the gospel. The biblical evidence, combined with historical records, suggests that this gift was intended to cease after the foundational period of the church. Modern practices of glossolalia often lack the clarity and purpose described in the New Testament and should be approached with discernment.

The true evidence of Christianity lies in the adherence to the teachings of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, and the love demonstrated among believers. The focus should be on living out the gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission rather than seeking miraculous signs.

About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).



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