This article by Nick Greer has been restored from the cults.org archive.
Many Revival Centre people are surprised to learn that virtually no one else teaches that ‘you must speak in tongues to be saved’. Another major problem is that the teaching has no historical precedent. No one taught it before Lloyd Longfield (there is a small US based denomination, the United Pentecostal Church, and various splinter groups which also have the teaching).
What did the early Christians teach about salvation? Go through these quotes (from all the major early Christian writers), and see what was taught throughout the ages:
A.D. 55 – PAUL AT EPHESUS: “you are saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day” (1Corinthains 15:1-4)
A.D. 56 – PAUL AT CORINTH: “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9)
A.D. 98 – JOHN AT EPHESUS: “God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.” (1John 4:15)
A.D. 98 – JOHN AT EPHESUS: “Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1John 5:5)
A.D. 100 – CLEMENT OF ROME: “we, too, being called by his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever” (First Epistle to the Corinthians, XXXII, 15)
* Note – Clement doesn’t even mention tongues in any of his letters
A.D. c.120 – POLYCARP OF SMYRNA: “‘we shall also reign together with Him, ‘provided only we believe.'” (Epistle to the Philippians, V, 10-11)
* Polycarp doesn’t even mention tongues in any of his letters
EARLY 2ND C. – IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH: “For, since you are subject to your overseer as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in his death, you may escape from death.” (Epistle to the Trallians, II, 1)
* Ignatius doesn’t even mention tongues in any of his epistles
BEFORE 165AD – JUSTIN MARTYR OF SAMARIA: “He was crucified, that the rest of the prophecy might be fulfilled. For this ‘washing his robe in the blood of the grape’ was predictive of the passion he was to endure, cleansing by his blood those who believe on him.” (First Apology, XXXII, 2) “And it is written, that on the day of the Passover you seized him, and that also during the Passover you crucified him. And as the blood of the Passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also the blood of Christ will deliver from death those who have believed. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that he announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ.” (Second Apology, CXI)
* Justin Martyr doesn’t even mention tongues in any of his letters
LATE 2ND C. – IRENAEUS OF SMYRNA: “‘And daily,’ it is said, ‘in the temple, and from house to house, they ceased not to teach and preach Christ Jesus,’ the Son of God. For this was the knowledge of salvation, which renders those who acknowledge his Son’s advent perfect towards God.” (Against Heresies III, XII:12ff)
* Irenaeus is the first post-apostolic Christian writer to mention tongues. He briefly mentions Christians who by “the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God” (Against Heresies V,VI)
You will have noted how early Christians were associating salvation with faith in Jesus, not tongues. None of the early Christian writers ever discussed the need for people to speak in tongues. In fact, no one ever taught that speaking in tongues were necessary for salvation until the twentieth century.
Even basic discussion about the gifts, especially of tongues, by the earliest writers is rare. John MacArthur even writes in Charismatic Chaos, “In the Post Apostolic age there is no mention of tongues”. I don’t believe that’s exactly correct. Lets be specific here – I think tongues were around in the first and second centuries. If you look around, you can find references to tongues in some of the early church writings.
However, an interesting fact is that there is no discussion of tongues in the early church writings until the writer Irenaeus, a gap of about a century from 1 Corinthians, and 600 pages of Christian writing afterwards. So in the earliest church writings after the inspired books, it would take us a few days of reading before we came across the first reference to tongues.
What is evident is that the early church COULD NOT have been PRE-OCCUPIED with tongues. The Anchor Bible Dictionary explains (Vol.6, p.598, square brackets mine, round brackets are the writers’s own comments),
“there is no hint of the practice of glossolalia [tongues] in any [post-Biblical] Christian writing before the middle of the 2d century. Even for the earliest period of Christianity, therefore, glossolalia appears to be at best a sporadic and ambiguous occurence … therefore [it is] inadequately supported by the data [that] tongues was a normal and expected accompaniment of the Spirit (and therefore, by implication, an essential component of authentic Christianity)”
So, while I believe that tongues probably had a place in the early Church, they couldn’t have been of ‘first importance’, or the pre-occupation of early believers. Their focus was on Christ alone (1Cor.15:1-4). Remember that in the earliest Church writings, we have only one mention of tongues in 600 pages. If we’re really honest, we’d have to say that the early Christian emphasis was a lot different to the Revival Centre emphasis (think of the standard Revival Centre ‘salvation’ talk or pamphlet – where the word ‘tongues’ can be found 30 times in one small pamphlet).
There is a library of early church writings (c.100-1100 AD) here. You might want to visit there to get a feel about what believers have always said about salvation. It’s Jesus – not tongues.
The old cults.org challenge
The following challenge appeared on cults.org:
Finally, you should also note that this site has a longstanding offer to shut itself down if anyone can find one reference to anyone in the period 100 AD to 1900 AD, ever teaching “you must speak in tongues to be saved”. I have let people know quite often of this offer, and from time to time I’ve had someone suggesting either a vague reference or quoting from a Revival Centre pamphlet. What we would need is the original source document (not a Revival Centre ‘quote’), scanned and posted on the discussion board. It would have to say quite clearly that a person must speak in tongues to be saved (not that people can speak in tongues when they are filled with the Spirit, or that people must be baptised into the Spirit). It can be from anyone, a pope, a heretic, an early desert dwelling monk – anyone. And it can be from any recognised post-apostolic document in existance written before 1900 AD (you would even get high research brownie points for finding a reference from before 1950 AD, but I believe there may be some United Pentecostal Church documents discussing it as a theory before then). Please don’t quote the 2000 Years of Tongues Revival Centre pamphlet, as Dean has already written a detailed response to the quotes in that pamphlet (see articles section of this site, where he shows how quotes in that pamphlet are unreliable and misleading). I am also not accepting a reference you will find from Irenaeus, which has been quoted before – but the whole context of the quote doesn’t really say what the Revival Centres want it to. The point of the exercise is to simply prove to you that there are no references to “you must speak in tongues” before our modern era, and that Longfield’s teaching is a new teaching, a different gospel (compared with what we are told in Jude 3). Longfield has said “we are not the only true Church, but our Gospel is the only true gospel”. Well, I’m asking him to prove it. You won’t find any references to any Revival Centre thinkers, or the Revival Centre gospel before 1900. Does this mean no one was saved before the Revival Centres? That can’t be! Prove me wrong by finding one reference, and I will remove this website from Internet. All I ask from you in return is that you consider what it means, when you’re not able to find one earlier reference to Longfield’s teaching throughout history.
1. In Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church, Ronald Kydd even concludes: “We have heard from bishops and heretics, philospohers and poets, storytellers and theologians. Generally speaking, and of course there must have been exceptions at specific times and places, the Church prior to A.D. 200 was charismatic”.
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