Summary: I know there is sometimes mistrust between Christians who speak in tongues and those who do not. My desire is that this sermon might help us get over some of that so that we can grow in love for each other.

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Pastor Dan Erickson’s Weekly Message

1 Corinthians 14:1-25 "TONGUES: A CONTROVERSIAL GIFT"

January 7, 2001

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"Wise men say, ’Only fools rush in’ but I can’t help talking about 1 Corinthians again." Sorry, Elvis. Yes, after a seven-week break, we come back to the Book of 1 Corinthians where we pick up in Chapter 14. Here the topic is the gift of tongues, an issue which has been surrounded by conflict over the last fifty years. In this room today there are a variety of opinions on this subject, and I think the smart thing would be for me to just skip over 1 Corinthians 14 and move on to Chapter 15 and talk about the resurrection, something on which we all probably agree. We are not going to do that, however. Even though it may seem foolish to tackle such a divisive topic, an important part of my job as your pastor is to preach to you what Paul calls "the whole counsel of God." At this church we believe that all parts of the Bible, including 1 Corinthians 14, are words from God for us that will benefit our soul. I also know there is sometimes mistrust between Christians who speak in tongues and those who do not. My desire is that this sermon might help us get over some of that so that we can grow in love for each other. Now, maybe you are visiting with us today and really have no idea what I am talking about. If that is the case, I guess you are kind of stepping into the middle of a family argument, but I hope you are able to learn some things as well. So as we head into this topic, I feel a bit of anxiety, but I also think God has something for all of us. Let’s pause and pray that He would speak to us through His Word today.

Before we look at our text today, I am going to take time to share with you my personal journey concerning speaking in tongues. I hope at least some of you find this helpful. I grew up in a little Baptist church in Prentice, Wisconsin. When I graduated from high school, I had never heard anyone speak in tongues. I was not even exactly sure what it was, but I knew it was something we were not supposed to do. Our pastor had taught us that it was meant only for Christians in the 1st Century. However, that summer, 1975, I worked for a weekly newspaper in Northwood, North Dakota. It was a town of about 2000 which had just three churches. Two big Norwegian Lutheran ones, and one tiny, little Assembly of God Church. That is where I ended up. The folks in that church did not believe tongues were only for the 1st Century. Every Sunday I would hear someone speak in tongues, if not in the morning worship service, certainly in the evening service. Now, I never spoke in tongues, was never pressured to try to do that, but did enjoy some sweet fellowship with the believers in that little church. In fact, I still get a Christmas card each year from the couple, now well in their 80s, who were the pastors of that congregation.

When I arrived at college that fall, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, I was not an advocate of speaking in tongues, but I had nothing against it. That quickly changed. Within our Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship chapter, I saw people abusing the gift of tongues. I met folks who thought they were more spiritual than other Christians because they could speak in tongues. I talked to students who did not think studying the Bible was important because they said they had a direct line of communication to God through speaking in tongues. I knew individuals who would enthusiastically pray in tongues at a prayer meeting, but who demonstrated very little commitment to the Lord and very little godliness when they left those meetings. Though I could not convince myself that the Bible taught that tongues were not for today, something I tried to do a few times, I did conclude that they were not a good thing for the church. I believed that Christians who spoke in tongues tended to not be as solid and mature in their faith as those of us who did not. That was the opinion I held pretty much through college and seminary.

Then in 1985 I became the pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Wentworth, Wisconsin, just outside of Superior. This was a church that had suffered a pretty deep split over the issue of tongues, and the congregation still consisted of folks on both sides of the issue. In fact, one of the reasons I was hired is because I described myself as a "non-charismatic." I quickly discovered, however, that some of the most solid Christians in the congregation were the folks who spoke in tongues. Though I continued to disagree with some of their theological beliefs, I developed a great love and affection for these brothers and sisters. Thus, by the time I arrived in Chisholm, August 1993, I was both sympathetic and critical of the charismatic movement and of Christians who spoke in tongues. In fact, I could not decide if I was a sympathetic critic or a critical sympathizer. Seven years later I suppose those labels might still fit. I continue to believe that the view which says tongues was only a gift for the 1st Century lacks real biblical support. I think it is a spiritual gift that God can give people today. However, I also believe that the abuse of tongues and other charismatic gifts is a very serious problem in the Christian church. I have also become convinced that if both sides would take more seriously what the Bible says, especially what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians Chapter 14, we could avoid a lot of the tension and conflict between those who speak in tongues and those who do not.

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David Taylor

commented on Feb 9, 2014

It's great to read a sermon that teaches the Bible instead of tradition.

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