2000-07-01 - Spiritual Gifts
Spiritual Gifts, Part 8"Now I would have you all speak with tongues, but rather that ye should prophesy: and greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying" (verse 5). In an effort to correct a misuse and misunderstanding of the gift of tongues in the early Corinthian church, Paul wrote that he wished all there could speak in tongues (foreign languages); however, when so doing, they were to use common sense. The reason Paul desired that they could speak in tongues was so those attending the church meetings for the first time might hear-each in his own tongue -- the Gospel message. This gift was never to be used unless someone in the audience was able to speak that tongue (foreign language).
To illustrate this point -- remembering that those in the church at Corinth spoke Greek -- let us suppose that six people who spoke Japanese came into one of their church meetings. They should, of course, be reached with the truth of the Gospel message. Someone having the spiritual gift that enabled him to speak in tongues (foreign languages) would come forward and speak to them in the Japanese language; not because he had learned that language, but because the Holy Spirit was miraculously speaking through him.The first requirement was to make sure that someone present had the gift of interpretation, for no one was to speak a word in a tongue (foreign language) in the church meeting unless an interpreter was present. The message to the Japanese was given in their native language, while the interpreter gave it to the Corinthians in the Grecian language. In so doing, all in the church understood and were edified. This also provided a valid check on the one doing the speaking. Anything differing from this would not be in accord with the New Testament pattern.
"But now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation (uncovering some truth they had never had before), or of knowledge (concerning the Word of God), or of prophesying [speaking in a message past, present, or future of God], or of teaching (wisdom)?" (verse 6). An illustration of this is given in verses 7-11. "Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they give not a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is a pipe or a harp? For if the trumpet give an uncertain voice, who shall prepare himself for war? So also ye, unless ye utter by the tongue of speech easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye will be speaking into the air (no one will be able to understand it). There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification, speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh will be a barbarian unto addressing the Greek congregation in Japanese; truly, he would be as Paul describes him -- "a barbarian" -- in that he was not being understood by the audience.
"So also ye, since ye are zealous of the spiritual gifts, seek that ye may abound unto the edifying of the church" (verse 12). Indicated here, of course, is the fact that at the time Paul wrote his letter, the Corinthians were falling short of this exhortation. "Wherefore let him speaketh in a tongue pray that he may interpret" (verse 13). If no interpreter was present should he not begin. "For if I pray in a tongue (foreign language), my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful (to others)" (verse 14). He understands the prayer but others do not. "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also (so others can understand). I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else if thou bless with the spirit, how shall he that filleth the place of unlearned (congregation) say the Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he knoweth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified" (verses 15-17).
Paul's Personal Testimony Regarding Tongues"I thank God, I speak with tongues more than you all (Paul had studied and learned a number of languages besides having the spiritual gift of tongues); howbeit in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words a tongue (foreign language)" (verses 18-19).
To Be continued.
In His Service,