Full disclosure: many Christians have such reverence for Pastor Billy that they love him no matter what his denomination. In my mind, that is a very good thing. He was a spirit-filled Christian who evangelized, calling millions of lost people to a relationship with Jesus Christ. He did the work of The Lord.
He was an ordained Southern Baptist Minister.
What denominations today primarily speak in tongues? Grahams writes that there are Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists as well as Pentecostals who speak or have spoken in tongues.
Full disclosure: the denominations that are most associated with this spiritual gift are most often Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian churches.
As I have commented on his book The Holy Spirit, I have taken significant sections and I have broken them down, explaining Graham’s ideas, putting my own twist on his thoughts, adding to his ideas from other sources. His book has been an extensive discussion of all aspects of the Holy Spirit, but no subject has been discussed as much as the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. Being a Southern Baptist, the gift of tongues is not as common in his “mainline” denomination but it has occurred and it certainly deserves attention. With Pastor Graham, I would say his lengthy discussion is an effort to be in “balance.” He does not condemn this spiritual gift, but he also does not promote it.
Why do I say that? I present six reasons from his book to support my assertion.
First, the various interpretations of speaking in tongues in Acts 1, 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14 do not actually agree on the act of speaking in tongues. That is ok, but the variation of the act itself may mean that we need to be very careful in accepting any utterance as a legitimate spiritual experience.
Second, tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit, not a fruit. Fruits of the Spirit should mark every Christian who is walking in the Spirit. Graham and I cannot find any Biblical evidence that tongues is a gift given to all believers. This can lead Christians who don’t have this gift to view themselves as “second rate” believers but feeling that way is not valid. “It would be equally wrong for someone who has this gift to try to compel others to have it, or to teach that everyone must experience it” .
Graham says that the gift of tongues “is clearly one of the “less important” gifts of the spirit” . He says that because it does not seem to provide any spiritual benefit to other believers. The other gifts of the Spirit are exercised to build up and strengthen the body of Christ, but unless an interpreter is present, tongues in a public worship service does little for the mutual strengthening of believers present.
In a fourth point, Graham says that tongues are not a sign of baptism of the believer by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. “Nowhere in the Bible do I find it said that the gift of tongues is a necessary evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit in Christ’s body” . Graham further states that some of the most Spirit-filled Christians he has ever known have never experienced the gift of tongues.
To further explain his position, Graham writes at length about the abuse of the gift of tongues. He cites pride that can occur when a believer is given the gift, with the recipient feeling more spiritual than other believers. I have already discussed at length the divisive nature of tongues [see January 23rd post]. He cites imbalance that can occur when a believer focuses all of their attention on that gift and neglects other gifts. Some feel that tongues can be thought of as a short-cut to spiritual maturity when in reality, millions of mature Christians have never spoken in tongues and many who have spoken in tongues are not spiritually mature. The occurrence of tongues may be “counterfeit”; Graham cites historical examples of people who professed to speak in tongues, but they were found to be frauds.* Today, Christians have admitted that they faked speaking in tongues just to be accepted in their worship groups.
The last point is the speaking in tongues in a private, devotional sense. Graham admits that over the years some of his friends have prayed such fervent prayers that they found themselves speaking in an unknown language. Maybe this is real, as most of the recordings of this have never been publically acknowledged. His friends have stated emphatically that their experience is real. Maybe this has happened to you and if it was a private experience, who can declare it “counterfeit?”
Graham’s last words on this spiritual gift are these; if you have this gift, that is good; if you don’t that is good too. “We worship the same Lord, and for this we are grateful” .
Is this a gift that God has seen fit to give you? Don’t be prideful about it. Don’t be preoccupied with it. Is this a gift that God has not given you? Don’t be preoccupied that He has not given it to you. Don’t let it divide you from your fellow believers. “Whenever gifts of this nature are given, they must be used strictly in accordance with the principles God has set forth in the Bible. This should also contribute to the unity of the Spirit. And if God chooses to give these gifts to some today, we should always pray that they will be used ‘for the common good’ and the furtherance of the Kingdom of God” .
There are brothers and sisters who have a different emphasis than you, and different gift or gifts.
Always remember that they are still your brothers and sisters in Christ. “love others, including believers who may not agree with your emphasis” .
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
We would all live our best lives if we focus on what unites us.
We have to look no further than Christ’s second commandment.
*the ancient Greek oracle of Delphi, the Pharaoh’s magicians [recoded in the Bible]
**John 13: 34