No, speaking in tongues is not a necessary sign of salvation. The Oneness Pentecostal people teach that speaking in tongues is a necessary manifestation of the Holy Spirit and without it, a person is not truly saved.1 It is so important to them that one ex-Oneness person told me that her church had altar calls for people to come up and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so they could speak in tongues. She said she never saw an altar call for people to come up and receive Jesus as savior. But, this is only one example and may not be typical.
We see in Acts that many people who became Christians immediately spoke in tongues (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6). But is it a necessary sign of salvation? No. It isn't. Consider the following verses in 1 Cor. 12.
- 1 Cor. 12:7-11, "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
- 1 Cor. 12:29-30, "Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?"
We can see that the Holy Spirit gives gifts as He desires. He distributes them upon His people in the church as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11). It states in 1 Cor. 12:7-11 that different people have different gifts, and we see in verses 29-31 that not all speak in tongues. Now, the Oneness person will state that all are supposed to speak in tongues, but that not all do. They maintain that speaking in tongues is a necessary sign/gift of true salvation, and that a true believer will speak in tongues. But, that is not what the text says.
Paul asks the questions: Are all apostles? No. Are all prophets? No. Are all teachers? No. In other words, within the body of Christ, different people are called by God to have different gifts. If someone states that all are supposed to speak in tongues but that not all do, then are all supposed to be apostles as well but not all are? Are all called to be prophets? Are all called to be teachers? No. Likewise, not all are called by God to speak in tongues.
It is simple. Not all speak in tongues because God doesn't give the gift to everyone. Speaking in tongues is not the sign of salvation but a sign. If anything, the fruit of the indwelling Spirit of God as listed in Gal. 5:22-23 is the sign of salvation. I would ask the Oneness person if the following fruit are what the true signs of salvation are in his or her life rather than speaking in tongues:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Gal. 5:22-23).
So, again I ask. What is the biblical sign of salvation - tongues or the fruit of the Spirit?
- 1. This paper is not dealing with the issue of whether or not the charismatic gifts are still in operation, but will assume, for this paper that they are.