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Tongues Blog

          This week at the Journey, we continued our study over the book of Acts with some frank teaching over the gift of tongues as we see it described in this passage from Acts chapter 2.  Some of you may not be familiar with the charismatic segment of Christianity that celebrates and practices this and other spiritual gifts.  So, for those of you who find yourselves in that situation, you may have left asking yourself, "What's pastor all worked up about?"  Others may know quite well the teaching and practices of charismatics.  Perhaps you spent time attending a church like that.  Maybe you even practiced those gifts yourself.  If that's you, you may have left the service feeling challenged, or perhaps confused, or maybe even angry or insulted.

          For everyone who falls into one of those groups, and everyone else who lands somewhere in between, I'd like to attempt to offer some measure of explanation, and some encouragement, as we move forward in our study.

          First, let me say that I would consider myself to be a "soft" cessationist.  That means that, while I am not comfortable proclaiming the miraculous "sign gifts" that we see described in scripture (those include gifts like tongues, healing, and prophecy) to be completely absent from the modern church (that is to say, I don't dare to restrict the power and will of the Holy Spirit...although no true cessationist of any form would either), I don't believe those gifts to be part of the normative way in which God works today.  Additionally, I believe that much of what is passed off in churches today as miraculous works of the Spirit is done for selfish, human gain, in disobedience to scripture, and to the detriment of the Church.  However, in full disclosure, I am basing most of my assessments on what I have seen popularized within mainstream media, not what may or may not be happening in the far corners of the world, far from the TV camera.  In other words, I believe in miracles and I believe in the power of God to accomplish the supernatural, so I am open to the idea that my position may be wrong and maybe I just don't have all the information, or that the information that I do have is bad.  In fact, I can think of nothing more thrilling than to be able to witness a true miraculous work of the Spirit of that type for myself.  I desire to see it, but I don't expect to, at least not in the same way in which it happened regularly under the Apostles.  Hence, I am a "soft" cessationist.

          Normally in matters like this, I would encourage people who are seeking answers to search the scriptures, however, on this particular matter, scripture in absent of a definitive answer either way.  Gifted teachers and expositors of scripture land on both sides of this debate.  In fact, some of my favorite teachers, from whom I have learned a great deal, call themselves continuationists (that is, they believe the sign gifts continue today).  This doesn't mean that I should reject their teaching because we disagree on this point.  Nor does it mean that, because some gifted teachers share my position, that it is right.  The simple fact is, no man can claim to have perfect doctrine.  In matters like this, what we must do is look at what the Bible says and then try to weigh the evidence (and the teaching) to make an informed judgement based on what we see.  The danger comes when we are willing to accept or discount, wholesale what we hear from others, without being willing to dig into God's word for ourselves.  This is how we can be led astray.  Personally, as a student of scripture, I find great benefit in studying the best "arguments" that oppose my own position.  I find this can be both incredibly challenging and beneficial to my own understanding and convictions about what I believe.  Regardless, whatever we hear or read must be measured against scripture.

          In this week's sermon, Cody taught us about what the Bible actually says about the gift of tongues in Acts chapter 2.  Then he discussed how that looks different from what we see in some churches, even here where we live.  If that type of expository teaching offends someone, then their dispute is not with Cody, but rather it is with the word of God.  Sometimes, when we study scripture, it ruffles our feathers.  This is because one of the main purposes of scripture is to reveal sin to us.  It is the great illuminator of the wickedness of men.  When Cody, or any pastor for that matter, seeks to teach others from God's word, inevitably, he will step on some toes.  The key for us, as the hearers, is to listen and if we disagree, not immediately throw out the teaching as wrong, but rather dig deeper into God's word and try to determine why it is wrong.  In doing so, we may be able to rightly identify false teaching, but we also may just discover it was us who was wrong after all.  The Christian life is one that should be marked by a constant striving after truth found through the careful study of scripture.

          However, we must recognize that when we encounter doctrinal issues such as this, where there is disagreement among faithful believers, we must be willing to consider all of the information we can get.  Scripture teaches us to be "slow to speak and quick to listen" (James 1:19).  As we pursue truth, we will encounter obstacles: things that aren't as clear as we would like, conflicting teaching, conflicting practices, etc.  In these moments we need to lean first and foremost upon the infallible word of God.  We also need to be willing to try to understand the various points of view, so that we can consider them against scripture, and determine what we believe for ourselves.  Lastly, we need to be rooted in Gospel grace and humility to lovingly share with and, when necessary, correct others for the benefit of their own spiritual growth.  We won't always agree with everyone.  In fact, you may or may not be surprised to learn that my wife and I even differ on some finer points of doctrine and what we believe the Bible is teaching in relation to them.  It doesn't change the fact that I love and respect her, and that she loves and respects me as well.  It's my hope that as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God's word, through careful study and prayer, that we would be equipped to both stand against the false teaching, bad theology, and sinful practices that we find infecting the Church, but also accept, in humility and grace, our brothers and sisters in Christ who faithfully seek God's truth, yet understand it differently than us.  This can be a difficult balance at times, and only those who are being led by scripture, can properly navigate it.

In Grace,
Chris Morris

If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.

Part 3 - Speaking In Tongues

Questions discussed in this sermon:

1.  What was the Day of Pentecost?
2.  When they spoke in Tongues was it in a known human language?
3.  What did this miracle mean for God's kingdom?

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