Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The Apostle Paul wrote about half of the New Testament, and his writings might well be summed up by a single verse: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). For instance, the Book of Romans is perhaps the most concise and yet thorough presentation of Bible doctrine found anywhere in Scripture. Galatians is clearly Paul's reproof of those who had turned away from believing in the Gospel he had preached to them. His letters to Timothy and Titus reveal his fatherly instruction to men he had recognized as church leaders. And when one thinks of Paul's correction of a congregation for multiple errors, he immediately thinks of the Church at Corinth.

In his first epistle to Corinth, Paul addressed doctrinal questions, divisions, contentions, and their failure to discipline a case of incest of one of its members. But it was their errors concerning spiritual gifts that concerned him enough to motivate him to write three chapters of correction. He began by writing, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant" (v. 12:1). By the end of the third chapter dedicated to correcting their errors, he wrote, "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant" (v. 14:38). In other words, if a man chose to remain ignorant concerning Paul's instructions, so be it. Nevertheless, he was to submit to the church leadership and to maintain order (v. 14:40).

Before I present Paul's instructions on how the gift of tongues was to be used, I need to say that the Bible translators did not help by adding the adjective "unknown" to describe tongues in chapter fourteen. In fact, it has had the opposite effect on our understanding of tongues. And why add it in chapter fourteen but not in twelve and thirteen? Had it not been inserted in 14:2, 4, 13, 14, 19, and 27, there would be no reason to suppose that there are two different kinds of tongues. The same Greek word translated "tongues" is used in Acts and in 1 Corinthians; if it meant "unlearned languages" in Acts, why would anyone suppose it to mean something else in this epistle? Had Paul wanted the word inserted, he would have done so himself, as he clearly knew the Greek word for "unknown" (2 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 1:22).

That being said, for the purpose of this study, I would like for us to evaluate Paul's guidelines for the use of tongues as though they were real languages. Let's see what Paul had to say about their use. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, he wrote:
"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."

To be continued tomorrow, God permitting.

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