A Voice in the
February 1, 2002
Re: Gifts & Tongues from 1Corinthians 12-14
Introduction: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Back in 1997 the monthly articles traversed briefly through the first few chapters of 1Corinthians. (Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May) At the time, then, the Lord moved us away from the book without finishing it; although, with all the continual questions about things related to charismania and tongues, I knew it would be appropriate to go through ch12-14 in detail. But the Lord never gave such direction. This past year it has become apparent 'why' it had not yet been the right time. Work on the VW-Edition has shown that little translational problems needed to be fixed first. With various words rendered more correctly, there are not nearly so many questions about what Paul is teaching regarding "spiritual matters" and "tongues". Recently a subscriber wrote, asking some detailed questions about these passages in an honest search for answers regarding tongues. Most charismatics proclaim what they call "tongues" from ch14, whereas Paul is actually teaching the opposite, which we have approached from many different angles in the past; and those studies can be accessed from the TopicSearch under "tongues" and/or "charismatic". While it would require a couple months' worth of weekly studies to cover these chapters in depth, this discussion will be more of a "list" of observations. It is recommended that the reader view these passages from the VW-Edition to see them in their 'corrected' form. Also, because this discussion will not be quoting entire passages, you will want to read it in its entirety (and context), side-by-side with this 'list', to get the whole picture. Spiritual Matters: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 12:1 Paul is setting the tone for this 3-chapter discussion. Many translations say, "concerning spiritul gifts". And everybody goes about seeking their "gift". But that verse does not even contain the word "gifts". It was added by translators to indicate what they thought it meant and/or to complete the grammatical sentence structure. ("Spiritual" is an adjective, and needs a noun to modify to make it grammatically proper.) But that addition has been the basis for much of the doctrinal error that exists. People go about to seek something that is not even in that verse. It is a "spiritual" discussion. The VW word "matters" completes the proper English grammar, without pointing the reader to anything, except for the fact that Paul is going to discuss "spiritual" matters. 12:2 Also, the Corinthian background which Paul references is their past in connection with "mute idols". Understand that practically throughout the entire book, Paul is 'Correcting Errors' at Corinth. As He begins his discussion of spiritual matters, he reminds them that their mentality is remembering "idolatry". This idolatry included shamanistic incantations and various vocal mutterings and demonic spiritual manifestations. That is their background. That is the basis for much of what they have been doing, which he is now setting about to unravel, straighten out and correct. And vs1 suggests that their error came out of "ignorance". 12:3 When Paul references the "Spirit of God" and "Holy Spirit" as he does in this introduction, if we can understand the concept of "context" as we progress through these chapters, remembering these introductory remarks as we observe later topics, we can understand that God's Spirit is 'in-contrast-to' the errors he is about to seek to correct. In other words, their background in idolatry is of spirits -other- than God. In other words, satan and his demons. This concept they obviously never quite "got it", as people today also miss it, because in his follow-up epistle he addresses the deceptiveness of satan, appearing "as an angel of light" (2Cor11:14-15) Even though it 'seems' and 'feels' right, it is of satan. 12:4 The "distribution of gifts". Coupled with vs29-30. During my college years, one summer I worked for a logging company. At one of the locations, sparks from the rigging pulleys started a forest fire, so everybody was now fighting the fire. As everybody was gathered around, the foreman said, "Grab a tool and follow me". The tools included shovels, axes, mattocks, etc. This was a "distribution" of tools. Not everybody got a shovel. Not everybody got a mattock, etc. Each one had -a- tool, which they picked from the pile. Vs29-30 in most translations do not give the entire picture. They ask, "Are all apostles? etc." The text actually has the word "not" in front of all those gifts. "Not everyone is an apostle?" The understood answer, "Well, of course not!" And yet, pentecostalism and charismania proclaims that "tongues" is the indicator (gauge) that a person is "spirit-filled". Why do they ignore teaching and preaching, wisdom and knowledge, discernment and faith, and love, etc? (vs8-10, 28-30, ch13) Why do they just pick out the -one- item? And at that, the one at the 'bottom' of Paul's priority list. (vs28) And notice that it is "tongues of nationalities" (more on this later); he doesn't even list any form of -babbling- as a 'gift'. 12:4-6 There is only "one" Spirit, Lord and Father, even though the job assignments are different for each person. If one person is doing one ministry, and the Lord has called somebody else to something else, they should not condemn each other for not doing what they are doing. If one is called to evangelism, they should not condemn a teacher. They are both working for the same Lord. It is "one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism". (Eph4:5) In fighting that fire, one wields the mattock, one drives the caterpillar, one the water truck, and another pilots the water-drop plane. They are all working for the same 'boss', to put out the 'same' fire... doing their own respective jobs, for the one goal. 12:7 "..the illumination by teaching from the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.." This verse cuts to the core of the individual motivations of those who lust after "gifts" and "experiences". Other translations say, "..manifestation of the Spirit" I don't yet know if "illumination" will be the final choice in that spot for the VW-Edition. (I've struggled to find the exactly-right word there.) Most people seeking experiences look for the Holy Spirit to "manifest" -Himself- to them via the experiences. They look to be "spirit-filled" so they know they "have" the Spirit. They are looking to/at the Spirit; much the same way the pilgrims of 'Rome' look for "manifestations" of their Queen of Heaven. But the word actually means what the Spirit is "distributing". That which He is "teaching". This sentence indicates a fulfillment of Jesus' words, "..when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all Truth; for He will not speak things originating from Himself, but whatever He hears He will speak.." (Jn16:13) The Holy Spirit is not the focus. He is the agent. Notice that Jn16:13 is different, too. The typical argument is that the "Spirit decides to do..." something new or different, so therefore, we should be willing to 'go-with-the-flow' of the spirit's whims. But God's Holy Spirit does not initiate new things. He takes from the Father and the Son and discloses to us. He "illumines" us as to wisdom and spiritual understanding. He never says, 'Look at Me.. let Me MANIFEST -Myself- to you with some hocus-pocus." But that is what charismania seeks. And finally, what the Holy Spirit distributes is not for each of us to become self-absorbed in our own mini-trance-state of mantra 'worship'. What He distributes individually is "for the profit of -all-". "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself." We belong to the Lord. (Rom14:7-8) Tongues: ~~~~~~~~ 12:10 "..to another tongues of nationalities, to another the interpretation of tongues.." First of all, let's clear up one fallacy about the word "tongues". I know of at least one translation (LITV) that tries to 'clarify' -doctrine- throughout these chapters by differentiating between "languages" and "tongues" according to the understanding of its editor. KJV adds "unknown" in front of some in italics. But the word for tongues comes from "glossa". The word from which the various derivations of "glottis/glottal stop" comes. It is a word related to the entire vocal mechanism by which we speak and make vocal sounds; starting at the vocal chords and ending up at the tongue. But the same Greek word is also used of, "language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations". And all instances for "tongues" in these passages come from the same Greek word. It is not differentiated in the word, itself. Thus, we must receive our understanding from the context and overall teaching and 'Spirit'. The fact that this passage includes discussion of things more than mere "babbling" is indicated by "tongues of nationalities". Here, again, other translations speak of "kinds of tongues". And, without looking any further, people assume "kind" means, a linguistic -kind-, or euphoric -kind-... much as people might ask, "what -kind- of day have you had?" or "what -kind- of ice cream would you like?" As if 'babbling' is a -kind- of acceptable vocal sound. But "kind" is actually related to "KIND-red". (genos == offspring, family, tribe, nation) Thus, when the Holy Spirit distributed the 'gift' of 'tongues', it is a "language" or "dialect". As Paul goes on to speak of "..so many ethnic languages in the world.." (14:10) This is what He did at Pentecost. All the hearers understood the preaching "in their own -dialects-". (Acts2:6-8) This is in contrast to the unintelligible "babbling/gibberish" which goes on in so-called "tongues" services. And as if there should be any question as to what he is talking about, he follows with "interpretation of tongues". Interpretation is used when a person not familiar with the language being spoken, is given its meaning. Many missionaries are 'gifted' with linguistic skills and wisdom to go to various parts of the world and "interpret/translate" God's Word into the local, native, ethnic languages and dialects. This is the work the Holy Spirit 'distributes'. But does 'everybody' go out under Wycliffe (or whoever else) to do translation work? Of course not! (vs30) 13:1 "If I were to speak with the tongues..." Others say, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels.." Most people understand the word "though" in this kind of context as, '-while- I'm speaking in tongues and using my prayer language...if I do it without love.." They make an -assumption- that, indeed, yes, they -do- utter these sounds; only, they need to be sure they are doing it 'lovingly'. But the idea is more, rather, 'If it were to be the case that I could speak so euphorically with the angels..." Paul is comparing with the lofty grandeur that people lust after, vs neglecting the care for fellow-believers. He is not saying that, -while- one mutters gibberish, to -also- be sure to "love". He is referring to "tongues" in a 'hypothetical' sense, for the sake of illustration; and the way he says it, he is making it into more of an 'impossible' situation; something actually unattainable in reality; but if it were even possible to do such things, if I am without love...blah, blah, etc.etc. They were lusting after the supernatural, while taking each other to court out of hate and envy. (ch6) As he writes to the Philippians, "Let each of you not look out for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Php2:4) 13:8 "..if there are tongues, they will cease.." At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given to the Jewish Believers. This was a new covenant from God. Something similar happened in the O.T. where some of God's Spirit that was on Moses was distributed to elders who helped him govern the people. When this happened, they "prophesied" but then, as the "sign" of this new gift had served its purpose in authenticating the elders as being God's servants, "..they never did so again." (Num11:25) What happened in Acts ch2 was a special "sign" to Israel, which served a 'temporary' purpose, as we have discussed at other times. Now, just in case anybody complains that this discussion is about "tongues", but Num11:25 said "prophesied", remember that Acts was not 'only' about the fact that all these people heard the preaching in their own individual ETHNIC DIALECTS, but... the disciples were -PREACHING-! In Acts ch2 they were -not- 'babbling' unintelligibly and incoherently. They were -PREACHING- understood words, in recognized dialects, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And people were coming under conviction, repenting before God, and getting saved, and being immersed in water. They did so under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Who knows 'what' those 70 in Numbers ch11 said, what their message for that day was; but they were filled with the Holy Spirit and were -PREACHING-. In that instance, some different 'dialects' were not necessary, because they were all one nationality. Let us understand that there is no recorded Scriptural reference to the Holy Spirit anointing people to utter gibberish. Where gibberish is mentioned (mutter and peep -Is8:19) it is with reference to pagan idolatry and the occult. 14:2 "..he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God...however in the spirit he speaks mysteries." In ch14 I believe Paul is doing a lot of argument with 'tongue-in-cheek'. Many people take this verse (the parts quoted here), to suggest things like "prayer language". That when they babble, that it is just between them and God. Their own special corner on God. But notice Paul's emphasis. "..no one understands him.." And vs3-4, someone who preaches (in UNDERSTOOD speech) is building up and exhorting "the church". When he says the person "speaks..to God", I believe he is carrying along in the fantastical world of the hypothetical of 13:1. Taken in the context of everything else he says, it certainly seems more like he is 'poking fun' at the ridiculousness of it all. Too bad we don't have a video of Paul saying it, to get his vocal inflections and physical gestures as he would be saying it, perhaps, rolling back his eyes and making some wild hand gestures to mimic the false 'grandeur' he is poking fun at..? Because... "no one understands him"..! 14:3-4 Preaching builds up. Tongues is selfish; "..builds HIMSELF up". Notice the emphasis. Preach for the building up of "the church". 14:5,18 "I wish you all spoke with tongues...I thank my God I speak in tongues more than every one of you.." (Let's not forget that Paul would have been fluent in at least Hebrew and Greek. Likely also Latin and Aramaic? He was an educated scholar.) Ignoring all the arguments the other direction, those who lust for their experiences take these comments out of the overall context to suggest that Paul 'endorses' babbling. Again, I believe he is proclaiming the stupidity of babbling through the use of the absurd. (See his wide hand gestures as he 'wishes' for them "-ALL-" to speak with tongues? See his mock snooty nose in the air that "I speak in tongues more than every one of you"? Let me speak tongue-in-cheek "foolishly" (2Cor11:17) See how much better than you I am? See all these languages I can speak?) But let's see his argument... 14:6~~ Remember, he has repeated the "building up the church" concept. (vs4,5) How is any "building up" going to occur if he was not coming with knowledge, teaching, etc? In order for teaching to occur, it must be orderly and discernable. Music is not recognized, except it has ordered notes and pitches. (vs7) A call-to-arms is not heeded if the trumpet doesn't emit sounds that are 'recognized'. (vs8) The many "ethnic languages" around the world have their own distinction in sounds. It is not merely understanding words, but each language has its own "dynamics". (vs11) If there is lack of understanding the language, it is understood that the 'other' person is a "foreigner". A little sidebar here: Taking this last statement another step; if the Believer's citizenship is in Heaven (Php3:20), being indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom8:9), and somebody is babbling a so-called "spiritual" language that is not understood by the Believer, not being "witnessed" by the Believer's indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom8:16), they are a "foreigner". As we have said repeatedly in other studies on this subject, they are of a different "spirit" than God's Holy Spirit. Remember, Corinth's background, their past, in idolatry. (12:2) 14:12-13 But the repeated exhortation "..to excel in the building up of the church." Therefore, let's have none of this babbling. Nobody else understands it. If something is to be uttered in an assembly that others don't understand, let it be INTERPRETED. Why? For 'understanding' 14:14~~ The mind. Typical situations of being "spirit-filled" involve the use of mantras for the purpose of "emptying" the mind. An empty computer (void of software) does not work. In similar fashion, an empty mind cannot function. God gave us minds in order that we can "understand" Him. Just do a word-search through Proverbs and see how many times the word "understanding" appears! Also notice: "The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction... then you shall understand the fear of Jehovah, and find the knowledge of God." (Pr1:7,2:5) When these people have their worship/tongues times, they often abandon Scripture teaching for the service, because they've "had the spirit". When they set aside "wisdom and instruction" like that, God calls them "fools". 14:16~~ What kind of witness is possible if the "unlearned" cannot understand? If he understands, his heart is convicted and he "falls down on his face and worships" and confesses to God. (vs24-25) [Ed: Notice this 'worship' is a "falling down"...not standing erect with hands raised. It is repentance... not an assumption of one's own inherent 'worth' to God.] If babbling is going on, they will do, as we know they do. When TV news specials show charismania, they usually consider it to be off-the-wall. "..will they not say that you are not in your right minds?" (vs23) 14:19 "..five words with my mind.." rather than a whole service of babbling. Why? "..that I may -teach- others.." Again: for building up. 14:21 "With men of other languages and other lips I will speak to this people; and yet, for all that, they will not hear Me, says the Lord." At Pentecost the first reaction to the giving of the Holy Spirit was scoffing and ridicule, 'They're drunk'. (Acts2:13) And while thousands did come to the Lord in those days, how many -more- did not! For the most part, the leadership did not. And the final pronouncement of Israel's rejection is recorded in Acts 28:28. 14:22 "..tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe." Even if we didn't have all the other arguments, this one verse, right here, could 'cure' all the errors regarding babbling. Who is it who continually seeks "tongues"? Those who call themselves "Christian". But I don't see how it could be any clearer than this. Tongues isn't even -for- the Believers! It (speaking in someone else's language such that they can understand what is being said) was a "sign" for Israel, regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit; and of the fact that the Holy Spirit was also being given to Gentiles (Ac10:46) and Jews of the dispersion (Ac19:6) What Believers do when they gather is to hear the preaching and teaching of God's Word. When charismania often lays aside teaching and doctrine, in favor of so-called 'worship' and tongues experiences, by their practice they are proclaiming themselves to be unbelievers. They are seeking and doing the -opposite- of what Paul is teaching here. They reject what he says is for Believers, and embrace what he says is for unbelievers. (were it even possible to be said that their babbling and what happened in Acts ch2 was even the same thing. It's not!) Thus, there can be only one conclusion. 14:26 When the group meets, different ones have different contributions. What is the goal? Again.. "for BUILDING UP" If a foreigner is there who speaks a different language, "let one interpret" (vs27) If there is no interpreter, "let him keep silent in church.." (vs28) 14:29 When preachers/teacher speak, it says, "..let the others discern.." Now again, using simple logic: why should others "discern" what is being said? What is the purpose, which Paul has repeated over and over and over? For "building up". Now, if someone is babbling and "not -understood-" by the rest, how can they discern? They cannot. The argument is given on the order of, "If you haven't experienced it, don't judge.." And yet, the clear teaching is that, if it is of God, it should be -discernable-. If we are told to "discern", and we would then realize that anything coming from God's Holy Spirit is discernable, if what they do is not discernable, due to its 'babbling' non-understandable nature, that very reasoning is cause enough to see a big "red flag" regarding the whole so-called "tongues" phenomenon. But they hide behind what I believe is Paul's tongue-in-cheek comment about speaking "..but to God" and that they are speaking "mysteries". (14:2) They don't see/hear him 'mocking', and ignoring all the rest of the teaching in its context, pick out what they 'want-to-see'. 14:32 "..the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.." This is a root/core doctrine regarding "spiritual matters". This verse, by itself, also, negates so-called "tongues" as it is practiced. The whole object and methodology of charismania is to "empty" one's mind, and loose control of themselves over to the spirits by which they become "spirit-filled". Yes, "loose" is the intended word. They do not -accidentally- "lose" control. They -deliberately- "loose" control of themselves, and deliver that control over to the 'filling' spirits. In doing this, they purposely disobey this verse. A prophet's control over himself, even when being filled by God's Holy Spirit is evident in the Scriptures. Remember that the prophets were "propelled along by the Holy Spirit" when the Scriptures were written. (2Pt1:21) And yet, as anybody who has studied the matter will affirm to you, each book of the Bible, penned by different men, each retain the personality, educational sophistication, and background of each man who took pen-in-hand. They wrote down God's Words, but did so within the personal makeup of each writer. They were not in trances, being out-of-control of their own functions when they wrote. 14:33 "..God is not of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.." If a room-full of people are all babbling, what does one hear? A din. A jumble of indistinguishable sounds. Remember, already, the argument of music with its distinction in notes, etc. If a congregation is singing songs of praise to God, a person walking by outside can hear God being glorified. If a preacher/teacher is speaking "one by one" (vs31), that, too, can be heard and understood. But when everyone is babbling, the sound is "confused". It is not of God. 14:39 "..be zealous to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.." Aah, see?? Paul says, "You can't tell me I shouldn't speak-in-tongues. Let's hear your answer to -THAT- huh? Huh? Huh? Paul said I can!! After all, he said, 'I speak with tongues more than every one of you'. So, what's your answer to -THAT-?? I dare you, if you can!" Again... "context". Remember? If someone is to speak in a group in another language, let it be "interpreted". (vs27) Yes, even if there is more than one to speak, let them speak "each in turn"... INTERPRETED. If more than one person is to speak, when the next one speaks, let the first one keep silent while the next speaks. One-at-a-time. "..each in turn.." You see, in 'context', we understand that there is NO provision for the likes of what goes on in the so-called "tongues" services, where everybody is all babbling and muttering all at the same time. So yes, if a Japanese Believer is visiting in an English-speaking congregation and is to share God's Word to the group, let him speak, as long as there is someone who can interpret it into English so that the group can understand with the "mind" (vs14-15), for the "building up" of the group. Don't let him be forbidden from sharing with the group, just because he's of another language. But also... -translate- it. 14:40 "Let all things be done decently and in order" This pretty much sums up the matter. The so-called "tongues" services are -not- "orderly". In fact, they usually boast in their disorderliness as being some sort of going-with-the-flow of the 'spirit'. And when people are falling down all over, "slain", some in immodest poses, how is such a scenario to be considered "decently"? Summary: "Ten Commandments for Tongues" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ God's Holy Spirit: 1) Is -One- Spirit (12:4) 2) Distributes different gifts to different people (12:4) 3) Gives teaching and illumination from the Father and Son (12:7) 4) Does not focus attention to Himself (Jn16:13) 5) Does not usurp self-control away from the individual (14:32) Scriptural Tongues (speaking): 6) Is understandable ethnic language/dialect (12:10,14:9-11,19,Ac2:6,8) 7) For the building up of the Church (12:7,20,14:3,4,5,12,17,26,31) 8) Gift will teach/preach, with understanding (12:28,14:5,15,19,24) 9) Foreign tongue only useful if interpreted (14:5,13,27) 10) If others don't understand, benefits only "self", and should keep quiet (14:4,28, Php2:3) As one analyzes a so-called "tongues" service, do its activities line up with these Scriptural parameters? If they don't, they are not of God's Holy Spirit. But, "..if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant." (14:38) Amen!