Cherishing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gift of Tongues

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The last two sermons that I’ve preached out of 1 Corinthians 14 have been very challenging.  Not just the study and preparation, but also knowing that there would be lots of definitions and cross-referencing.  Honestly, I was a little concerned that these sermons might come off as too technical with little practical application or a “sense” of God in them.  However, as I prepared, the Lord kindly met my sermon prep and writing.  I found myself at the end of each Sunday thanking God for meeting us in remarkable ways.  I think He broadened our horizons a bit and I believe that God seems “bigger” in our hearts.  

Finally on this, I can’t thank the many of you who offered words of encouragement to me about these past two sermons.  Many of you let me know how God met you and how you were encouraged by what you heard.  I’m really glad about that.  

An interesting thought:

Kelsi Miller, is a dear college student at our church.  She’s attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and is currently home for the summer.   She was at church Sunday and she sent me a very interesting thought about the gift of tongues/languages that she was considering.  Here’s what she wrote me (shared with permission):

“One thing I learned from sociolinguistics was that if you go anywhere in the world and ask people what they think of different languages/speakers of different languages (or just observe their interactions), they will have visceral and deeply internal responses. As I was reading more and more of how deeply rooted these responses to languages/dialects were (from a secular,  psychological, descriptive perspective) I went to my linguistics prof and asked him, “So, within the church, how do you help disciple people coming from different sides of a language-prestige spectrum, to practice the unity of the body?” There wasn’t a great cut-and-dry answer, but one thing he emphasized was that if possible, the minority language/low-prestige language should be spoken from the front (if that language was the native language of the church).

That got me thinking about how language attitudes might connect with the gift of tongues, especially in the context of Corinth. If there was a slew of languages spoken there, I’m willing to bet almost everybody had strong feelings about how everybody else talked. You probably would have had the “snobby” educated Greek speakers, the “rough” Koine speakers, not to mention a host of “barbarian” languages (within which I’m sure there would be a variety of stereotypes influenced by any number of rivalries or historical conflicts). I bet Corinth was a sociolinguistic disaster in terms of unity. But all of a sudden, people are hearing from the front of the church that God can be addressed in their own language – whether it’s a language people tend to look down on them for, for being “too educated” or too “ignorant/barbaric”. And, you are hearing that God is being addressed, in front of the whole church, in a language you might just loathe/envy/be prejudiced against for whatever reason. You yourself might find yourself worshipping God in a language that you didn’t think was suitable to even write in. To me, tongues in that context feels like the Holy Spirit sanctifying the whole church out of any grudges or idolization she might have towards speakers of other languages, teaching every member of the church that God honors their own language – and honors everyone else’s language, too. I think that could do something similar to how Bible translations in native languages show that God speaks your language: the gift of tongues shows that all languages can legitimately address God and proclaim Him to others. It’s like a preview of coming attractions with the Spirit washing and preparing the Church to be truly ready for total unity and joy in worshipping before the Throne alongside speakers of EVERY tongue – including the angelic tongue/s, I would presume!”   

I found this to be very insightful and helpful.  Honestly, I never thought of languages being seen in this light in various contexts and this idea fits very well with Paul’s passion for unity in the Corinthian church.  

Misapplication and skepticism:

One of the challenges with this particular gift is how much misapplication has happened with it and how much hurt has happened because of that.  Members of my immediate family have been harmed by this and I’m particularly sensitive to folks that have had this happen to them.  Pastors, spiritual leaders, or mentors putting pressure on people; churches doing things out of order; “Thus saith the Lord”-type of attitudes towards these types of gifts; and people acting “high and mighty” if they had one of these gifts really confuse people. And honestly, I think this is why there’s so much skepticism.  

I know many people who have theological issues with this gift.  But I’ve also noticed that most who have theological challenges with these types of gifts often reference the misuse.  

So, one goal of a church that believes that spiritual gifts are still active should be to avoid misapplication as much as possible and further to make certain that emotional manipulation or spiritual confusion doesn’t take place.  In my mind, this is where Christ-like love must win the day in our hearts.  We must love each other enough to give room to each other’s opinions or be gracious to one another when an honest, faithful attempt to use spiritual gifts happen.  Love will win skeptics:).  

This coming week:

We will finish 1 Corinthians 14 by looking at verses 33-40.  Another challenging text about gender roles in the church and order in the church.  The Lord has been kind to bring us to some tough texts.    

From the Cheap Seats:

  • Congratulations to our neighbors in baseball, Glide High School, for winning the culmination week championship last week.  The Wildcats got on a nice run and it was good to keep the State Championship in Douglas County. 
  • Legion baseball begins this week with the Doc Stewarts opening tonight (Monday) at Medford.  Their home opener is Wednesday night at 5:00 against Medford.  I’m working in a new role with Legion and I’m excited to help and serve the coaches and the players.  
  • Well, Dallas Baptist beat Oregon State in the NCAA Baseball Regionals…DBU is my alma mater and OSU is the Oregon school I have pulled for.  Honestly, I couldn’t go wrong in this…but it is surreal seeing my school beat the Beavs.  

To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.

Have a great week!

In Christ, 

Dave York

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