Tongues | Introduction and Defining Terms

The following belongs to a series on the continuation or cessation of the miraculous phenomena of tongues-speaking. Read the previous post here.



In a world of Christianity that is becoming more and more accepting of tongues-speaking, the importance of determining whether tongues still exists and whether or not believers should practice tongues-speaking seems to go without saying. If scripture is the believer’s authority of faith and practice, which it is, then believers ought to observe what the Bible teaches. So, since those churches which practice tongues and those which do not cannot both be right, one must ask, what does the Bible have to say about the existence of tongues today? It is the goal of this series to answer that very question. This series will show that a broad analysis of scripture evidences the cessation of the miraculous phenomena of tongues-speaking with the closing of the canon.

Defining Terms

Throughout the course of this series, various terms are used and assumed. Therefore, initially defining them here is beneficial. First, in this series, “tongues” is used as a term (singular) for the miraculous phenomena of tongues-speaking (plural). And secondly, although other positions may exist, this series directly addresses those two views held by practically all scholars—the continuationist position (continuationism) and the cessationist position (cessationism). Although these terms are typically used in conjunction with all miraculous gifts, in this series their use is limited to tongues. Continuationism holds to the belief that tongues continues throughout the church age while cessationism argues it has ceased at some point.

3 thoughts on “Tongues | Introduction and Defining Terms

  1. I have been in and (mostly out) of pentecostal churches/groups that say that tongues is the evidence of being Christian…or in other words you are a Christian IF you speak in tongues as the “initial evidence” of your saving experience. Anyone who has studied Pentecostalism will find that these guys hinge many of their living in the spirit beliefs based on their physical/experiential moments with God. (whether contrived or not). Glossolalia, in the Assembly of God’s 16 Fundamental Truths is found on the list at #8, I believe, where it states that Tongues is the initial evidence of a new believer. I do believe this is false because it seems widely defeated by the plentiful refutations in Paul’s regulatory writings on tongues. I never understood why in every Pentecostal theology class I was the odd man out for disagreeing with the professor on this seemingly obvious point.

    “But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” Could this mean that the gift of tongues (and other gifts) will not end until Christ’s return to earth?

    There was a guy I heard sat next to a stranger on an oceanic flight and they had a good talk. In the end the stranger accepted Christ and prayed a prayer of belief in God. He was formerly a Muslim. When they landed, it occurred to the man that the entire time he had been speaking English and his words were being understood by the only-Arabic speaking gentleman. This is a miracle and perfectly describes this gift of tongues (and how he used an unknown language to carry out God’s plans). To say that his gift would be invalid due to a perceived nullification of tongues because its cessation ended and a new one, free of tongue-speaking giftings, began, is a bit strange, right?


    • 1st paragraph – Well, Zach, not every pentecostal believers that tongues-speaking is a necessary evidence of salvation. I believe that idea belongs to the Oneness Pentecostals, but not your mainline Pentecostals. In fact, a distinctive doctrine to pentecostalism, which I feel is terribly misguided, is the doctrine of subsequence (Spirit-Baptism occurs subsequent to salvation). Looking that idea up and studying it out my help you understand where some of these bizarre ideas come from.

      2nd paragraph – I will be posting something on that text soon.

      3rd paragraph – Interesting story. I am not sure I understand your question at the end. But, either way, let me through out some thoughts that might be relevant to what you were saying.
      ~ First, I believe tongues have ceased, but that does not mean that I do not believe miracles can happen today.
      ~ And second, a common misconception is the idea that tongues had an evangelistic function. I will be publishing a post on the function and purpose of tongues and no where in that post will I say that had an evangelistic function, because you can’t find that function anywhere in scripture.
      ~ Thirdly, and most importantly, I rest all of my conclusions and the authority of scripture and not my own or anyone else’ experience(s) or lack there of.

      Thanks for reading, Zach!


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