2000-07-08 - The Subject of Tongues
Spiritual Gifts, Part 9"Brethren, be not children in mind: yet in malice (ill will) be ye babes, but in mind be men" (verse 20). This was a call to Christians maturity, indicating that the Corinthians -- as to spiritual gifts -- were acting as little children. A child will often selfishly desire something that is not best for him.
"In the law it is written, by men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers will I speak unto this people; and not even thus will they hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to the unbelieving, but prophesying is for a sign, not to them to the unbelieving, but to them that believe." (1 Corinthians 14:21,22)
Those who would not listen to Isaiah's message had as much as said, "We are men!" "Whom will he (Isaiah) teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts (little children)? For it is precept a little, there a little." Isaiah answered those unbelieving who had rejected his message by saying, "Nay, but by men of strange lips (the Assyrians who invaded the Ten Northern Tribes) and with other will he (God) speak to this people" (Isaiah 28:6-11). As indicated in 1 Corinthians 14:22, tongues were for a sign to the unbeliever (this was true on the Day of Pentecost), but prophesying was a sign for the believer.
"If therefore the whole church be assembled together and all speak with tongues, and there come in men unlearned or unbelieving, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there coming one unbelieving or unlearned, he is reproved by all, he is judged by all; the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed" (verses 23-25).
If the gift being exercised in the church is the gift of tongues (foreign languages), the "unlearned" or "unbelieving" visitors in the congregation will say that they are mad. This happened at Pentecost -- the apostles were accused of being drunk. Peter's message, clarifying what was taking place, resulted in three thousand being saved. Paul said that tongues are a "sign" to the unbeliever.
"What is it then, brethren? When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things to be done unto edifying" (verse 26). The meeting referred to there was particularly for the purpose of providing fellowship and edification among the believers at the Corinth. They were to participate in the meeting; each person possessing a gift was to use such with this exhortation in mind; "Let all things be done unto edifying."
Paul then continues with the subject of tongues, which had been so much abused in the Corinthian church. "If any one speaketh in a tongue (foreign language), let it be by two, or at most three, and that in turn; and let one interpret: but if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God" (verses 27, 28). Both he and God could understand, but since the congregation could not he was not to speak audibly.
Further instruction is provided for a situation that might occasionally arise in the church. "But if a revelation be made to another sitting by, let the first keep silence. For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted" (verses 30, 31). There was an orderly way in which to handle this kind of interruption. For instance, should there be a situation where someone was giving a psalm -- or was teaching or speaking in a foreign language -- and another received an insight into some truth, they were to conduct themselves according to the above instructions, for "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace" (verses 32, 33).
Paul's Special Exhortation to Women on the Subject of Tongues"As in all the churches of saints, let the women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith in the law" (verse 34).
Let us recognize that there is nothing contradictory between what Paul is saying and what he had previously said, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:5. Paul there--recognizing the right of a woman to pray or to prophesy--gave instructions concerning what was proper for her in the city of Corinth.
It was evident that certain women in the church at Corinth were asserting their emancipation in an unwise manner. It does not appear as though this instruction still pertains, but the principle does. Everything depends upon what the apostle meant when he said, "Let the women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, also saith the law. And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church" (verses 34b, 35). The word "speak," as used here, translated "to speak" as Dr. G. Campbell Morgan explains, may mean talking, questioning, arguing, protesting or chattering. Paul might have written with equal accuracy, "Let a man keep silence, in the church for it is not permitted for men to chatter or argue." Undoubtedly there were arguments among those in the church.
In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul is seen writing in view of contemporary local conditions. Here again he could just as well have written. "I suffer not a man to teach by usurping authority," for this is the meaning of the passage. Here was a meeting for fellowship that was being broken up by certain women who were claiming liberty to speak with their heads uncovered. Certainly he was not saying that a woman had no right to pray or prophesy in the church since he had previously given instructions as to how and under what conditions she was to do so; it was the attitude of the women, and their contentious utterances, that had disturbed the fellowship meeting.
"What? Was it from you that the word of God went forth? Or came it unto you alone?" (verse 36). Paul was reminding those in the Corinthian church that their independence in these matters did not have his endorsement and that the Word of God had some instructions to be heeded.
Paul's Apostolic Authority Expressed"If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. But if any man is ignorant, let him be ignorant" (verses 37, 38). Indicating the divine arrangement, the Apostle Paul couples together the human with the divine as pertaining to the inspiration of the Scriptures; he calls attention to the fact that he himself was writing this commandment of the Lord.
"Wherefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. But let all things be done decently and in order" (verses 39, 40).
Three Things are Set Forth in Paul's Concluding Statement:
This concludes the actual study on Spiritual Gifts as done by Oliver J. Siemens.
Next week we will share our thoughts as well as those expressed by you the reader.
In His Service,