Friday, September 16, 2011


In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul continued his correction of the errant church which was primarily made up of Gentile believers. He made it clear that not all born again believers spoke in tongues. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:30, "Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" The obvious answer is no, since some have other gifts. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:5, "I would that ye all spake with tongues...." 1 Corinthians 14:26 says, "How is it then, brethren, when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation? Let all things be done unto edifying." In other words, since the gift of tongues is given to those God wanted to have it, why is it that every one of them had a tongue?

In addition, tongues was listed last of the gifts for good reason. It was the only gift that required someone with another gift to partner in sharing God's Word. At Pentecost, there were folks present from other lands, who heard and understood the things spoken in tongues. They did not need an interpreter. But in the church at Corinth, people were speaking and no one was being edified (v. 14:2, 4). Paul stated over and over again, that if they wanted to covet the greatest gift, it would be the gift of prophecy (v. 14:1, 3-5, 19, 24; etc.). However, it is quite possible that when tongues are interpreted, the result is equal to the gift of prophecy.

Then there is the question of what kind of gatherings did the church in Corinth have? We think of a church meeting as being a gathering of believers to learn, share, and worship the Lord. But just like our churches today, there were those who showed up to find out what was going on. Paul wrote, "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?" (1 Cor. 14:22-23). Tongues were a tool to reach the unsaved, and as we noted earlier, they were primarily for the Jewish unbeliever who needed a sign to believe (1 Cor. 1:22).

So this is how I understand the problem at Corinth. Being composed predominately of Gentile believers, tongues weren't needed because: 1) the members were already saved and tongues were for unbelievers; 2) unbelieving visitors who did not hear the message in their own language, would get absolutely nothing out of what would appear as chaos; 3) unbelieving visitors who were Gentiles sought wisdom and not signs; 4) the local assembly was not built up by tongues unless someone interpreted them; 5) it was clear that many members were faking the gift to gain prestige. It seems that, just as today, many within the local assembly professed to be believers, but like the Pharisees, they were displaying fruit that proved they were wolves and not sheep at all.

If I haven't offended you with my observations, praise God. If He will let me, I will continue tomorrow.

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