Church History: Spiritual gift of tongues

An interesting companion piece to the post below.

By Rev. Mel C. Montgomery

A visitor to my website asked me recently to show proof from Early Church records, written by legitimate, orthodox Christian leaders, that speaking in tongues continued after the last apostle died, and to furnish the specific references so that he could look them up for himself.

I found this study to be an interesting journey indeed, that has bolstered my faith in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our day and hour.

As you will read in the next paragraphs, there are numerous ancient, reliable, orthodox references to speaking in tongues continuing centuries beyond the lives of the Apostles.

As we read these ancient eye-witness accounts, you will see that genuine speaking in tongues continued directly from the Day of Pentecost, through the lives of the Apostles in Acts, then onward in the Early Church, to the Medieval Church, to the Reformation Era, to the present.


Cessationists argue that the moment the last Apostle died, or when the final sentence of the last book of the Bible had been written, all miracles including speaking in tongues ceased.

Are they correct?

Let’s first establish the date that miracles supposedly ceased:

The Apostle Paul died somewhere between 64 AD and 69 AD, and the last Apostle, the Apostle John, died in 110 AD.

So let’s compare the cut-off date, the year of the last Apostle’s death, with the timeline of events in the Early Church:

Justin Martyr (100 ad–165 AD) was only 10 years old when the Apostle John died. He was an early Christian apologist. His works are the earliest Christian apologies, of substantial size, to survive to today.

Forty years after the Apostle John’s death, he writes in 150 AD:

“For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to this present time.” Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 82

And, “Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God;” Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 88.

Irenaeus (c.130-202 AD) was born 20 years after the last Apostle died.

He was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyon, France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. Like Justin Martyr, he was an early Christian apologist. His writings carry significant weight because he was a disciple of Polycarp, who had been a disciple of the Apostle John.

Irenaeus writes of believers in his day:

“Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ] and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ,” Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book II, Chapter 32, section 4.

Additionally Irenaeus writes:

“We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, terming those persons “perfect” who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through 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,” –Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book V. Chapter 6. section 1.

The writings of Irenaeus carry significant weight, especially concerning spiritual gifts considering:

Irenaeus had learned directly from Polycarp who had sat under the instruction of the Apostle John.

John had traveled with Christ and had spoken in tongues at Pentecost.

Surely the Apostle John knew genuine prophecy and genuine speaking in tongues when he experienced them and heard them in others.

It is only reasonable to assume that John passed clear teachings on to Polycarp, who in turn, passed such teachings and understandings on to Irenaeus.

Had John given any warning that the gifts would cease upon his death, both Polycarp and Iraneaus would have known of it.

Irenaeus testifies, in writings that exist to this day, that “prophetic expressions” and believers “who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages” were so common and widespread in his life (130 – 202 AD) that “…it is not possible to name the number of gifts…”

His comments were written probably 80 to 90 years after the last Apostle died.

If these gifts ceased 90 years previously, then to what was Irenaeus referring?

Click the link to continue reading this interesting account concerning: Tongues Throughout Church History

5 comments on “Church History: Spiritual gift of tongues

  1. The practice that IS condemned by the church fathers is the use of the “gifts of the Spirit” to promote false doctrine. That is what Montanism was all about AND similar movements plague the church in our day. This is what turns so many people off about manifestations. If the people of God would exercise more discernment about what they let in the church in terms of supernatural manifestations of the Spirit of God, there would be much less controversy over the subject. As the Word says … “Test the spirits”.

  2. Have you seen people receive the HOLY SPIRIT without speaking in tongues. I am trying to find out scripturally if tongues is always the intial evidence

    • I believe in speaking in tongues but that that is the evidence of salvation, I do not believe. The gift can be faked, as can love, and the other gifts…
      Oh and there are fakers… but this should not take away the holiness of other believers.

  3. Where can I read the full version of this article?? Please let me know. The link to the full article is dead.

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