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February 1, 2002

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Re: Gifts & Tongues from 1Corinthians 12-14


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

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)


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!

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

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 

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."


Charismania: Joel 'proof text'?


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