Is it acceptable for an Adventist to speak in tongues?

Questions & Answers September 8, 2017

Q: I’ve read about the Seventh-day Adventist Church but can’t pinpoint the Adventist “moment of salvation.” Very simply, when is someone saved according to Adventist doctrine? What takes place? — Brice, from the United States 

A: Brice, thank you for your interest in learning about Seventh-day Adventists. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith and that even faith itself is a gift (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Notice how Paul explains this in Titus 3:5-7: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Adventist Fundamental Belief No. 10, “The Experience of Salvation,” describes it this way: “In infinite love and mercy God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might be made the righteousness of God. Led by the Holy Spirit we sense our need, acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of our transgressions, and exercise faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, Substitute and Example. This saving faith comes through the divine power of the Word and is the gift of God’s grace. Through Christ we are justified, adopted as God’s sons and daughters, and delivered from the lordship of sin. Through the Spirit we are born again and sanctified; the Spirit renews our minds, writes God’s law of love in our hearts, and we are given the power to live a holy life. Abiding in Him we become partakers of the divine nature and have the assurance of salvation now and in the judgment.”

As you can see, sensing our need, acknowledging our sinfulness, repenting of our transgressions, and exercising faith in Jesus may take time. Sometimes this is more of a process than a single event. That’s why it is sometimes difficult for someone to pinpoint the exact “moment of salvation.”

In one of my favorite books, “Steps to Christ,” page 57, it says this: “A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or trace all the chain of circumstances in the process of conversion; but this does not prove him to be unconverted. … [John 3:8 quoted] Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart. That regenerating power, which no human eye can see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new being in the image of God.”

Seventh-day Adventists have no creed but the Bible, which is the basis of all our beliefs and practices as a church. The principal teachings of the Bible are summarized in our statement of 28 Fundamental Beliefs, which may be found at the link given above.

If you would like to know more about what Seventh-day Adventist believe, I encourage you to visit a Seventh-day Adventist service and talk with a pastor or elder of the church who would be happy to tell you more.

Q: Is speaking in tongues one of the spiritual gifts and is it valid to speak in tongues as a Seventh-day Adventist? I need you to explain these Bible texts: 1 Corinthians 1:5, 13:13, 14:1-28, Acts 2:4, 19:6, and Mark 16:17. — Mung San, from Thailand

A: Mung San, yes, speaking in tongues is one of the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, and yes, it is possible for a Seventh-day Adventist to speak in tongues — as long as it is the true gift of tongues described in the Bible, given to him or her by the Holy Spirit.

The word “tongue” in Greek is glōssa, which can refer to the organ of the body by which we speak (Mark 7:33, 35; Luke 1:64) or to what is spoken — a language (Acts 2:11). The context of Acts 2 is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost which appeared like tongues of fire being placed on each of the apostles, who were enabled to speak in languages other than their mother tongue (verses 3, 4) so that people from many different nations were able to understand the preaching of the gospel in their own native language (verses 8, 11).

This marvelous gift of the Spirit enabled the gospel to spread very rapidly to many different people groups throughout the Roman Empire. Clearly, something similar is described in Acts 19:6 because those who spoke in tongues also “prophesied.” These are the “new tongues” mentioned by Jesus in Mark 16:17 as a sign that would follow the believers. The book of Acts records the fulfillment of this and other signs, including miracles of healing, casting out demons, and Paul’s handling and being bitten by a snake without any harm (Acts 5:12-16; Acts 28:3-5).

In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, Paul lists a number of spiritual gifts, including wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, and miracles. “Different kinds of tongues” is also listed as one of the spiritual gifts, together with “the interpretation of tongues.” Since interpretation is mentioned, the gift of tongues described in 1 Corinthians 14:1-28 must be a translatable human language rather than merely ecstatic speech or some unintelligible angelic language.

In fact, Paul insists that what is said must also be translated — each was to speak in turn and then wait for someone to interpret what was said so that the whole church could be edified and blessed (verses 27, 28). This is important because all of the gifts are for the edification of the church as a whole, not just a few individuals (1 Corinthians 12:7).

As we know from the rest of the epistle, a number of problems existed within the church in Corinth (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 1:11; 5:1; 6:1; 11:17-22). This apparently included speaking in tongues because Paul initially indicates that nobody was understanding what was being said (verse 2). This is why he indicates that prophecy is better than speaking in tongues (verse 5) and why, to correct the problem, he gives rules for the church in this situation: each was to speak in turn and then wait for someone to interpret what was said so that the whole church could be edified and blessed (verses 27, 28). Genuine gifts of the Spirit will produce good fruit (Matthew 7:15-19). In fact, love itself, which Paul identifies as the “greatest” gift (1 Corinthians 13:13) is a listed as a “fruit” of the Spirit (Galations 5:22).

To learn more about the gift of speaking in tongues, I recommend reading a short article, “The Gift of Tongues in 1 Corinthians 14,” which addresses the question, “Is the gift of tongues unintelligible utterances or foreign languages?” on the Biblical Research Institute’s website.

For a more in-depth study on the subject (that specifically addresses many of the texts you listed), you may want to read the paper, “Speaking in Tongues,” by Harry W. Lowe, on the Biblical Research Institute’s website.