I've been studying out different religious doctrines for a while. One that I am looking for a stronger answer to is the practice of speaking in tongues. It's evident that the Bible does not declare that tongues is mandatory for salvation, nor was it ever. However, I'm curious as to how and why it died out. I know that one view is taken from 1 Corinthians: "When the perfect comes the imperfect disappears." But can that relate to this topic? How did the gift of tongues die out? -- Brent E. Wake (Fort Wayne)

You are right. According to 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, tongues (true languages) were no more essential for salvation than being an apostle was. The 1 Corinthians 13 argument may be more or less on target, but it is hardly satisfying, since most charismatics interpret it as referring to the end of the world. I would emphasize the parallel passage in Ephesians 4:11ff. There we see that the apostles and prophets were God's gifts to the church until the church reached unity in the faith. When was that? Presumably long ago, otherwise there would be inspired apostles among us today! Keeping in mind that 1 Cor 13 and Eph 4 address a similar topic, perhaps an identical one, it seems highly likely that miraculous languages, like apostleship, vanished long ago.

If you want to see why the biblical gift of languages passed away, please see chapters 22 and 23 of my book, The Spirit (IPI, 2005), available in the Book and Audio section of this website. Note: The Spirit is a book with two purposes. First, it explains how the Spirit works in the lives of disciples. Second, it aims to clear up the misunderstandings that are rampant today because of false teaching on the Spirit.

Tongues would have (naturally) died out with the death of the last person directly connected with the apostles. Without the apostles around to pass on the gift, it is doubtful that tongues lasted into the second century. Of course we must distinguish true languages (biblical tongues) from glossolalia -- the very common (inauthentic) "languages" so common in many denominations, cults, and world religions today. Biblical languages were indisputably human languages.

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