Thursday, March 31, 2011

“DON'T TONGUES CAUSE DIVISION?”

TREASURES DISCOVERED
The people in our Baptist church loved the Lord, but I was not satisfied with the routine. I had a hunger to know and walk with Jesus in the same way as those early Christians I read about in the Bible. The Lord heard the cry of my heart, and I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the early days of the Charismatic movement in 1967 when I was 17 years old.
The Lord was pouring out His Spirit upon people in all church denominations in the USA and around the world. Christians were receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and were experiencing a renewal in the gifts of the Holy Spirit including healing and praying in tongues. I myself witnessed miracles of healing in those days and experienced the excitement and enthusiasm one would expect with the discovery of such new-found treasures. Multitudes rejoiced to know that Jesus Christ was working in the church and on the earth in the same intimate way He did in the Bible. People were justifiably excited, and there were many whose zeal may have exceeded their wisdom.

TRUTH CAN CAUSE DIVISION
Not everyone was happy with these developments, and it was not uncommon to hear people say, "Don't get involved with tongues. They cause division." Relational stresses did occur, but the reasons are more complex than simply blaming “tongues.”

Orthodox Christianity will naturally respond to perceived heresies when they arise. Therefore, divisions may occur when good people react justifiably to an evil doctrine or practice that tries to invade the church. But we must also realize that truth itself can cause division when people react to it in a hostile manner. Therefore, division does not necessarily indicate that the message causing the division is wrong or evil. While the New Testament condemns division arising from heresy and self-will, it also gives examples of division and strife arising because people rejected God's word and stumbled over truth.

Truth can bring division and even confusion when men reject it. The ministry of the Apostle Paul is an example of how conflict and strife can be the result of a negative reaction to positive truth. The following verses show how this happened to Paul as he preached the gospel message across the Roman Empire.

"These men (Paul and his company) do exceedingly trouble our city [are throwing our city into confusion], and they teach customs which are not lawful for us…to receive or observe." Acts 16: 20.
"There arose no small disturbance [a great commotion] about the Way." Acts 19: 23
"So the whole city was filled with confusion...Some cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together." Acts 19: 29, 32.
"For we have found this man (the apostle Paul) a plague [a real pest] and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world. " Acts 24: 5

We must emphasize that the Apostle Paul never deliberately tried to incite trouble. The Gospel is a message of peace, and it will produce peace in the individual and society who believe and act upon it. But the word of God is rarely received in a neutral manner. Truth carries with it the ability to bring joy, peace, and blessing. But it sometimes confronts people with realities they are not yet willing to face, and so has the potential to create tension. The messenger will often find himself either loved or hated.

Therefore, we must walk in compassion, wisdom, and love, and do everything in our power to bless and not hurt God’s people. If they are going to be offended, let them be offended by the truth itself and not by our lack of wisdom or foolishness in how we present it. We should not be arrogant, insensitive, unwise, or unloving, but walk humbly and with grace. But even when we have conducted ourselves in the wisest possible way with exemplary love and patience, there will still be those who are offended by truth. There will be those for whom certain truths will be unpalatable, no matter how much “sweetener” we add and no matter how much we disguise it in the comfortable fit of the person’s culture. We must do all we can to walk in love and wisdom, but also be prepared for those who reject the truth and sometimes us with it.

Praying in tongues is one aspect of our spiritual experience that has been a controversial topic. We are thankful for this valuable prayer tool and we encourage others to practice it. But we do not force it on anyone nor do we condemn or judge anyone who disagrees. Praying in tongues does not make me better than anyone else, but it does make my own prayer life better than it would be otherwise.

THE APOSTOLIC TRADITIONS
“…Keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” 1 Corinthians 11: 2

Tongues is part of the traditions passed down by Paul and the other apostles. We should hold firmly to these traditions and not lay them aside in favor of the ones developed subsequently by those destitute of the gifts. We avoid division caused by doctrine and traditions that are contrary to what Paul and the early apostles taught (Romans 16: 17), but we embrace that doctrine and tradition which was practiced by the early Christians, and are willing to pay the price to do so. We should not allow ourselves to be blinded by the traditions of men (Mark 7: 1-13) which contradict God's word, nor should we allow the fear of man to cause us to compromise the truth (John 12: 42, 43). We want to be faithful servants who follow our Lord Jesus Christ to do His will in all things. But in doing so we must be careful to walk in grace, wisdom, and love, and be patient with those who disagree.  (Hebrews 10:31-33).

A CLOSING WORD
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all….to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, …” 1 Corinthians 12: 10.

The objective of this teaching has been to encourage and help the reader to enter the presence of God in a deeper experience of intercessory prayer and praise. I imagine my primary audience has been those who are spiritually hungry, those who sense a call to intercession, and those who possess a certain insight into prayer and God’s presence. A few readers may have joined us who were simply curious about the topic. In any case, I trust the study has been helpful, informative, and enlightening. I also pray it has been motivational in stirring the reader to a deeper level of prayer and intercession so desperately needed in the world today..
“If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays.”
“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God.”
“For indeed, you give thanks well.”            1 Corinthians 14: 2, 14, 17
"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us..."   Romans 8: 26

3 comments:

Truth lover said...

Inspiring, healing thoughts on truth and division! I think it is quite interesting that I Corinthians 13 sits right in the middle of 12 and 14, and for a good reason! I'm thankful I happened to visit your blog! God has given us so much - His Word, His Son, the abilities wrapped up in the gift of holy spirit and all out of love for us and the good of His people. It is sweet fellowship to visit here!

Anonymous said...

I am so happy I encountered the Holy Spirit Baptism in the early 70's. It forever changed my life and I am glad to be a part of what God is doing in these latter days.
Eva

Michael said...

Billy I have appreciated this series. It has been very helpful. It has reminded me again how important this aspect of the HS work is in our lives. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.