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Should All Christians Speak in Tongues?

I found a book in the garage attic today: Pat Boone’s: Pray to Win: God wants you to succeed.

If not quite a classic, it was still one of the first Christian books I ever read as a new believer, and aside from teaching me about prayer, it also made me wonder if I was missing out on a practice the Bible calls “speaking in tongues.”

I was familiar with the idea long before I had come to Christ. Growing up, we spent Thanksgivings with my mom’s sister’s family in Decatur, Illinois, and they went to a church that spoke in tongues during the service: Waterstreet Christian Fellowship. In the days before any of us Knowltons were Christians, my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jack Fleener and their kids, my cousins, seemed perfectly normal except for the church they went to.

My dad always bristled at visiting Waterstreet, but since we ourselves were regular churchgoers, if we were in Decatur for the weekend, we went along. When Dad walked in once, the greeter called him “brother”, and I remember hearing him grumbling about that: “Who’s he calling brother? I’m not his brother.” No, Dad, you weren’t, but your day would come.

And so it was that as a boy at Waterstreet, I was first exposed to this practice of speaking in other tongues, or glossolalia, as the theologians call it. And then, shortly after my conversion at age 18, I picked up Pat’s book, and who was I to argue with the old crooner? Pat spoke in tongues, and he said I could too. Moreover, it sure seemed biblical, at least as far as I could tell. So I’m sure that over thirty years ago, I asked the Lord to give me the gift of tongues.

He never did, but like He’s done for every other believer, He graciously gave me other gifts, and today I wouldn’t trade any of them for speaking in tongues, as wonderful as that gift undoubtedly is.

And interestingly, along my pilgrimage through the years, I have off and on heard people say that God wants all Christians to speak in tongues. Hmmm…apparently not. And then, of course, even worse is the United Pentecostal doctrine that you’re not a believer if you don’t have the gift; I ran across a student touting this teaching when I was in college, and it shook me for a brief time…and then I read the Bible. For among other places in the Scriptures, Paul made it ultra-clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that not all Christians speak in tongues…

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 (ESV)

The questions assume a negative answer. Are all apostles? (Of course not.) Are all prophets? (No.)…Do all speak with tongues (No.), etc.

This is so important to understand, because I recently heard of a wonderful long-time Christian who was disappointed not to have yet spoken in tongues. What a bummer…and what a lie. I suppose the disappointment largely stems from the idea that somehow it’s impossible to experience God in the fullest apart from this gift.

But speaking as one who along the way in life has known the heights of joyous and rapturous fellowship with our Heavenly Father, I can testify that while having this gift may indeed be a very wonderful thing, it is absolutely not necessary to a deep knowledge of God and a glorious experience of His love. In His wise providence, He gives each of His children different gifts…for His different purposes.

For Thursday, May 21st: 1 Corinthians 13

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How to be a Noble Christian

Acts 1711 [widescreen]I owe it to my years in the Navigators that I can’t read the Bible without seeing a highlighter through certain verses. Now I generally don’t mark in my Bibles, but I think you know what I mean: as I read, there are certain verses that I have heard referred to so many times that they stand out to me mentally, as if they were colored with a bright yellow highlighter and a big black underline. One such verse is Acts 17:11…

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (ESV)

More than anything, the Navs were Bible people, so I suppose it’s not surprising that these words are highlighted in my mind, for this is not just a Bible verse, but a verse about the Bible, and as such, it provides some excellent guidance in life.

But first, the setting is this: Paul and company are on a whirlwind tour of the Roman Empire, his second missionary journey, which begins by backtracking through some cities covered on Paul’s first journey. Barnabas is no longer with him as a result of an argument over taking John Mark on the trip. (Are you encouraged? Paul is apparently human.) But he and his new cohorts Timothy, Luke and Silas get much farther out this time, going as far as modern day Greece before starting the long sea voyage home.

2nd missionary journey of Paul

Paul’s 2nd missionary journey

The visit to Thessalonica goes pretty well, and many Greeks believe, but it all starts to go sour when some influential Jews run them out of town. But no matter, they travel by night to Berea, and set up shop as per usual in the synagogue, where the noble Jews receive “the word” with eagerness.

“The word” here refers to the gospel, but what Paul was saying about a dying and rising Messiah constituted new information, so they need to check it out in the Scriptures, and when they did…

Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. Acts 17:12 (ESV)

The principle here is very important – if you want to be a “noble” follower of Christ, be all about the Bible.  And I can think of two ways to do this:

First, examine everything you hear by the Word of God. If you’ve been a Christian long enough, it’s rare that you’ll hear a truly “new” theological idea, but when you do, something inside you should go, “Danger…need to check that out.”

For instance, in college, I began speaking with a fellow student who told me that I needed to speak in tongues to be saved (He was part of the United Pentecostal Church, a cult-like group that also denies the Trinity). This young man showed me a couple of verses and I became fearful and unsettled, largely because, you guessed it, I didn’t speak in tongues. My Navigator leader at the time was an extremely wise man named Dave Ostendorf. Dave knew that this “teaching” came from a couple of verses in the book of Acts, but he didn’t try to just show me two or three verses to prove the guy wrong. Dave sent me home with an assignment: read the entire book of Acts and see if these things were so. I did just that, and my fear was crushed. The guy was out to lunch.

But the second principle is even more all-encompassing: Acts 17:11 teaches us that we should endeavor to shape everything about our lives by the Bible.

Be a Bible guy. Be a Bible gal. Try to shape everything about your life by the Bible. And if you think this might have negative consequences, actually it’s just the opposite. In fact, there is nothing better to deliver you from the horrors of legalism, as for instance, when someone tells you that Christians shouldn’t dance. Well, see what the Bible says about it. Or, when someone says that you should baptize your infant in the remote case they might die early? Go read the Bible. Go read the Bible. Go read the Bible.

Endeavor to shape your life by the Word of God and while you’re at it, don’t believe such baptismal foolishness.

Finally…it’s worth noting that Jesus Himself would have been happy with the Bereans, for our Lord said that carefully examining the Scriptures and being a thoroughgoing Bible person would be the key…to true liberty:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (ESV)

 

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 5th: Acts 18

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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