Is the gift of tongues for the Church today?
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ETERNAL EXCELLENCE OF LOVE
I CORINTHIANS 12:1 – 14:3
As we continue in I Corinthians Chapter 12, Paul has been explaining that the Body of Christ, that invisible make-up of all believers from wherever they are on the planet, and of whatever background, every true child of God becomes a member then of that Body of Christ. And that is a revelation that was given only to the Apostle Paul, because you do not see the Body of Christ taught until Paul comes and shares the revelations that he got from the ascended Lord. And that is what we’ll be emphasizing in Chapter 15; a chapter about the resurrection. You see the resurrection of Christ was at the core of all of Paul’s preaching.
But here Paul has been addressing problems because the Church was still so carnal, they had not grown spiritually. Now it’s interesting that of all the things he has dealt with in Corinthians from Chapter 1, where they had divisions of whom they were following, and going to court against each other, and the problem of immorality in the Church, he also had to deal with the tongues phenomenon, which it had also become a problem. He does not address it as some aspect of their spirituality, because it had become a problem. It had upset the function of the local Church, and they were causing disorder, and he has to address it. So all these things had been in answer to questions that they had written to Paul requesting some answers. Tongues were unique in the Corinthian Church, and this is what I can’t get over in my own study, as we never see again in any of his other churches tongues even mentioned. We only find tongues at this carnal Church at Corinth, and that should tell us something.
But for now let’s get back to where we left off, and here Paul is dealing with the Body of Christ which is composed of people who have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. Now that Holy Spirit baptism is not an emotional phenomenon, or a physical thing, because you or I never felt a thing, or didn’t know anything had happened when the Holy Spirit baptized us into the Body. We know it happened only because the Book says so, and that’s the only way we know that we were placed into the Body of Christ, and we have to leave it at that. We don’t try to look for some emotional thing or feeling. I’ve told people so often that word feeling is not used in the Scriptures. We take these things by faith, and not by feeling. Now let’s look at verse 23:
I Corinthians 12:23
“And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, (remember in the last lesson I used the little toe as an example. It’s very seldom seen, and we probably think it’s totally useless until you lose it, because if you lose your little toe it inhibits walking, and balance. It may be the place of less honor, but it is still important, so also are the less noticed, and less honored members of the Body of Christ.)upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.” In other words, that’s just the way that God works. He takes the foolish things of this world and confounds the wise. He says in another place in I Corinthians that He took the things that are not, to confound the things that are, and it’s basically on this same premise.
I Corinthians 1:27
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” Now let’s look at verse 24:
I Corinthians 12:24
“For our comely parts (the best part of our appearance) have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:”
Isn’t that amazing? As I was studying this I couldn’t help but think of parents who have had a retarded child, maybe even the Down Syndrome child. We’ve talked to several who have had this kind of child and even though they had several children, the Down Syndrome child was always the most responsive. That was the child that they poured their love to in such a very special way, and every parent that has one will tell you that same thing. They are the most lovable, and the most easy to love of all children. Well I think Paul is saying the same thing here, we take the weakest believer, the one that the world would think, “Well, the Church certainly can’t use that person.” But that’s the very one that God wants us to enhance, and to bring them to the forefront. Now verse 25, all of these things are for one purpose.
I Corinthians 12:25,26
“That there should be no schism (or division) in the body; (That is the Body of Christ) but that the members should have the same care one for another.” In other words, every believer in God’s eyes deserves the same amount of love and compassion as the next one.
“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;…
And again he’s going to use the analogy of the human body and what is it? You hit your thumb with a hammer, and the whole body is shot with pain. It’s the same way with the Body of Christ, if a believer is hurt, then the whole Body hurts with it. Now verse 27.
I Corinthians 12:27
“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
As an individual, we don’t just come into the Body of Christ as a number, but every one of us is an individual in God’s sight, whom He knows. And He knows our every need, and He knows our every heartache and joy. So many times Christians pray, and we think, “Oh it’s just another sound to God.” No it’s not! It’s just as if you are the only one in the throne room with Him, and that’s the kind of God we serve. Now verse 28, and again here’s the list that he has in Corinthians compared with the one we saw in the Book of Ephesians.
I Corinthians 12:28-31
“And God hath set some in the church, (that is the local Church) first apostles, (we know they went off the scene) secondarily prophets, (we know that has left, because we now have the printed Word) thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, (or administrations) diversities (the ability to speak more then one language, and that’s what the word tongues in the plural always implies; it was known languages, and they were able to communicate the Gospel to those of a different language.) of tongues.”
“Are all apostles? (of course not, the Church would get lopsided.) Are all prophets? (No) are all teachers? (No) are all workers of miracles? (Of course not) Have all the gifts of healing? (No) do all speak with tongues? (absolutely not) do all interpret? (No) But covet (or desire) earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”
And that’s why I taught Chapter 13 first, because all of this, even to be an apostle, even to be a gifted man, at especially in the Church at Corinth, if they didn’t exhibit the love of God in what they were doing, then they were better off staying at home. Just don’t even do it, if you can’t do it in that attitude of love. Now since we’ve covered Chapter 13, let’s go right on over to Chapter 14.
I Corinthians 14:1
“Follow after charity, (love) and desire spiritual gifts, (don’t request them specifically; ask the Lord to use you) but rather that ye may prophesy.”
Now remember the word `prophesy’ is not being able to tell the future as we think of Daniel or Isaiah, but to simply speak the Word of God. Share the Word, that’s what it is to prophesy, and that’s what every believer should desire. “Lord give me that ability to just share your Word with people, whether it’s believers who need to be taught, or the unbeliever who is still out there in darkness, Lord give us that opportunity to speak forth the Word. ” Now verse 2 which reads:
I Corinthians 14:2
“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue (Now watch the language here because the word “unknown” is italicized. So it’s been added by the translators, because even way back at the time of the King James translators, they really didn’t know how to handle this word tongue in the singular, because, like I explained in an earlier lesson, this denoted a sound that had no phonetics to it. It could not be reduced to writings, it was just a guttural sound , and had no pronunciation.) speaketh not unto men, but unto God: (because only God could understand it) for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit (Now it’s a small s so it’s not the Holy Spirit, but in his mind and his own thinking processes) he speaketh mysteries.”
Those things are beyond the ordinary human comprehension. Now before we go any further, come back to what we just read: that the person speaking in this so-called “unknown” tongue, or in this unwritten tongue, was speaking to God. Let’s go back to the three times in Scripture when the Holy Spirit delegated this miracle of speaking in tongues to men, and there are only three times. The first is in Acts Chapter 2, and here is our first example of the gift of speaking in tongues, but it’s plural so it’s languages, and of course it’s back when God was still dealing with the Nation of Israel. And here it was on the day of Pentecost. I’ve always maintained that Pentecost was a Jewish feast day, and Gentiles had nothing to do with Pentecost.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues,…”
Other languages, because there were Jews there from all over the then-known world all speaking different languages. Now the miracle of Pentecost was that God gave these apostles for sure this gift to speak all the languages of the people that were out there in that massive crowd in front of them. And then you come down to verse 6:
“Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.”
This is the first time in Scripture that we have a manifestation of the Holy Spirit given to men – this gift of speaking known languages, but which was not intrinsic to their own education. In other words, where did Peter and most of the disciples come from? Galilee. They were uneducated fishermen, and all of a sudden here they are speaking the various languages that were evident there on the day of Pentecost. It was miraculous, and it was the work of the Holy Spirit, but as Paul said in I Corinthians, who were these men talking to? Other men, and what was the purpose? To bring them salvation. That’s the whole purpose of this Book from cover to cover. The purpose is that mankind might hear the plan of salvation, and it was the same way at Pentecost. Peter and these other disciples were promoting the Gospel of the Kingdom, that Jesus was the Christ, but they were doing it in languages that everyone could understand, so it had a divine purpose.
Now the next time this happens is in Acts Chapter 10. And Peter is now up in the house of a Gentile, the Roman, Cornelius. You all know the account, how that Peter, contrary to his own desires, is forced by God to go up to the house of Cornelius. And you remember the last thing Peter said as he goes through the door: “Cornelius, you know it is an unlawful thing for me, a Jew, to come into the house of another nation. But God has shown me.” In other words, there was a distinct divine purpose in Peter coming up to the house of Cornelius. Now, as he is preaching and is probably expounding about Jesus of Nazareth, and how He had come to be Israel’s Messiah and Redeemer and King, I imagine as Peter was laying all of this out, in the back of his mind he was thinking, “Why am I giving this to Gentiles?” He had no idea that there was something moving in God’s purposes that He, God, was now going to go out to the Gentile world. He certainly was not aware that in the previous chapter (I don’t know how many months previous to this, but not many), that God had saved Paul of Tarsus and had told him He was going to go to the Gentiles. I don’t think Peter knew that yet. But here he is in this Gentile house of Cornelius and is proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus and the Twelve preached: that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, Repentance, and water baptism, which was in a different administration, and is completely different from the Gospel of Grace that was given to the Apostle Paul, and the Gospel that we believe for salvation. (Ref. I Corinthians 15:1-4) Now let’s look at verses 44 and 45:
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” Now you want to remember, this was in the confines of a gentlemen’s house. This wasn’t in a great coliseum. This was in the house of Cornelius, a Roman officer. But as Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on that house full of Gentiles. Verse 45.
“And they of the circumcision (these Jews) which believed (they were like Peter. They had recognized Jesus was the Christ) were astonished,….”
Now we pointed all this out when we taught the Book of Acts, that these Jews, six men who came with Peter for a total of seven, were just utterly astonished that these Gentiles were hearing a salvation message and believing it. Now in order for God to prove to these seven Jews that He was doing something totally different than had ever been done before, what does He do? He proves it with these Gentiles speaking other languages. Not just the Latin, in which they had grown and probably practiced. Maybe not even just Greek that they probably used in their military conversations, but now:
“….as many as came with Peter (these six Jews) because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. (how did they know?) For they heard them (the Gentiles) speak with tongues (known languages) and magnify God…”
Were they talking to God? NO! They were talking to fellow men and they were magnifying God in the presence of these seven Jews, as well as the members of the house of Cornelius, and there is no manifestation of an unknown language here or a guttural sound. It was speaking languages. That’s the second time that the Holy Spirit was manifested by giving the gift of speaking more language than they were normally living with. Now the third and last time that this happens in the whole of Acts is in Chapter 19. The first time it happened to Jews in Chapter 2 – strictly Jews. The second time it happens – to a whole house of Gentiles. Now the third time it happens it’s another unique little group. Small in number, but they were representative of another larger group and we’ll look at it here in Acts 19 and verse 1.
“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: (where a church had been founded) and finding certain disciples, (we know they were Jews because he says they are) He said unto them, `Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?’ And they said unto him, `We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.’ And he said unto them, `Unto what then were ye baptized?’ And they said, `Unto John’s baptism.’ (John the Baptist) Then said Paul, `John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, (that was to the Nation of Israel and John baptized in Jordan with the message of repentance) saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’ When they (these Twelve men)heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, (these twelve Jews) the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues (languages other than their own) and prophesied.”
Now those are the only three times in the whole Book of Acts, in fact in all of Scripture, where the Holy Spirit manifested Himself by giving out the gift of speaking a multitude of languages. They were known languages. They were languages that could be understood if somebody happened to be in that same room with that same background. There was no need for interpreters. No emotional upheaval. This was just simply the working of the Holy Sprit to the third category of people that God would be dealing with in the Book of Acts. Remember what they were. Chapter 2 – with the Nation of Israel. Chapter 10 – with the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. Chapter 19 – with those who were in the transition. They were Jews who had been saved under John’s baptism, but they had known nothing of Paul’s Gospel and now the Body of Christ and these further revelations. And those three categories are the only ones that came under the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit to speak in languages other than the ones they normally practiced.
Now let’s go back to Chapter 14 and remember that whenever the Holy Spirit was manifested in the Book of Acts, it was for a divine purpose and that was to prove something. It was to show Israel that God was now moving in the work of the Holy Spirit. It was to prove to the Jews in the house of the Gentiles that God was now saving Gentiles. It was manifested in these twelve Jews to show that there was now a change in the overall program. It was not longer based on John’s baptism and Christ’s earthly ministry. It was now based on that which followed the work of the Cross, His death, burial and resurrection.
I Corinthians 14:3
“But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” Paul said in verse 1 that the one that they should really long for is the gift of speaking the Word of God. That’s the number one criteria and in verse 3 he re-emphasizes it again.
I Corinthians 14:3
“But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification. (to lift him up, support him) and exhortation (to encourage him. Every one of us need to be encouraged throughout our daily walk) and comfort.”
Now we know that we’re in this old world which is under the curse, and a lot of people are hurting. How can we best comfort them? By proclaiming to them the Word of God.
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RESURRECTION OF THE BODY
I CORINTHIANS 14:4 – 15:19
Now let’s open our Bibles to I Corinthians Chapter 14. And again, before I start teaching I would like to get into the background, because I’m finding out there are very few people who know the circumstances that surround a particular Book or Letter, so we should always know the circumstances, and that makes all the difference in understanding. Remember that Paul is writing to these weak, carnal, fleshly, believers that have just come out of abject immorality in Corinth. He’s writing to correct them because they had so many problems. So the whole theme of I Corinthians is to correct problems, and this whole letter has to be studied in that light.
Also remember the reason, I think, the Holy Spirit prompted Paul to write the love chapter, which is Chapter 13, and to sandwich it in between 12 and 14, which are filled with problems. Chapter 13 was to soften his approach in order to prepare the ground. Because Paul realizes, as well as anybody, that the only way that you can bring people around to the truth is in the spirit of love, you don’t slap them in the face with anger, or ridicule, and put them down as some kind of dummy, but in the spirit of love bring them around to the truth. So as we pick up our study in Chapter 14 don’t lose sight of what he wrote in the love chapter. Remember love is still the greatest of all the things so far as God’s dealing with mankind is concerned. Verse 1:
I Corinthians 14:1
“Follow after charity, (love) and desire spiritual gifts, (gifts is italicized, and personally I like to use the word `things’ instead of gifts) but rather that ye may prophesy.”
Remember the greatest spiritual thing at this time was to prophesy or to speak forth the Word of God, because at the time that Paul is writing to these early Churches there is still no New Testament written. The Four Gospels haven’t been written and won’t be written until many years after Paul’s letters. His own letters have not gone out as the Word of God as yet. He certainly hasn’t written to the Corinthian Church before, so you have to realize that these early primitive, apostolic Churches were experiencing their growth and reaching out into the pagan world without benefit of the written Word. Where would we be today if we didn’t have the Book. I mean this is all that we have to go on, but they didn’t have that so what did they have to depend on? Gifted men. And they had to be gifted to the point that they could now teach people the Pauline doctrines, and not that which was still coming out of the Old Testament, or there would have been pandemonium. So Paul realizes through the Holy Spirit that this was the most important thing a local Church could have, and that was men who could proclaim the truth of God’s Word without benefit of having it in print. Now does that help? Paul said in Chapter 13 and verse 10 that the time would come when that gift would fade away. And it is no longer a valid gift, because now we have the printed page. Now of course to be a pastor or teacher it’s still a gift, and it’s delineated as such. But once the printed Scriptures came into being, Paul’s letters come into the right format. Then we got the Four Gospels, and Book of Acts, and so forth, and our New Testament is complete, and now there is no need for that kind of gifted men.
I had an interesting phone call the other day, and ordinarily I wouldn’t share something like this with you, but I imagine that if the gentlemen hears it may get his attention. And that phone call reminded me of gifted men who didn’t have the Word of God, and he was such a kind, benevolent type or I would have hung up on him sooner than I did. At first I didn’t get what he was driving at, but finally he came out and in so many words said, “Les, you’re just like everybody else, you are teaching men’s words, and I wish I could sit down with you and teach you what God has said.” Well, the bells began to ring, and the red flag started to fly, and I said, “Wait a minute, what are you trying to tell me? That you are the only one who has received the revelation of the true Word of God?” He replied, “Yeah.” I said, “I’m sorry, but this conversation is ended,” and I hung up on him.
I had a note in the mail from him yesterday, and he couldn’t figure out why I hung up. I didn’t fly off the handle I just said, “You’re way out in left field, why do you think I have the camera constantly putting the Scriptures on the screen!” I said that’s the Word of God, not what someone like you has supposedly received, and this is what I’m constantly trying to drive into peoples’ thinking – that it doesn’t matter what I say or think, but rather what does the Book say? This is why I prefer the Word of God on the screen rather than myself, and we have to understand that, yes, in the early Church it did take men with that kind of a gift, but today we have the Word of God. And the Word is in such a format that anyone can understand it, and it can feed a hungry heart. So when Paul speaks of this gift of prophecy it was under a whole different set of circumstances than what we’ve got today.
I Corinthians 14:2a
“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue…”
And we defined all that in our last lesson, and when you see the word “tongue” in these two chapters, 12 and 14, in the singular, and with the added word unknown italicized by the translators, it’s talking about a bunch of sounds that cannot be reduced to print. They are not phonetic, there is no way anyone can write them down, it’s just a bunch of noise. And Paul is going to make this so evident later through this chapter. But when you see the word “tongues” plural, then he’s talking about languages. And even in the city of Corinth there were probably five or six languages being used constantly. There was Latin, Greek, Spanish, Hebrew, and Aramaic, so those languages made up the city of Corinth, and it all enters into the picture of these Chapters 12 and 14. Now here he’s speaking of the tongues movement, it’s an unknown language that no one can print, so this is why the translators call it an unknown tongue. Continuing on in verse 2:
I Corinthians 14:2
“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: (God is the only One who can make anything out of it if it were possible.) for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit (small “s” so that’s man’s spirit) he speaketh mysteries,”
And I mentioned this in the last letters about some of the pagan religions and their mysteries. And so Paul is saying here what they’re doing is using their own make-up or personality, and they are speaking things that to anybody else is nothing but a mystery. Now verse 3:
I Corinthians 14:3,4
“But (the flip side) he that prophesieth (or speaketh forth the Word as a gifted individual) speaketh unto men to edification, (lift them up) and exhortation, and comfort.” Now verse 4, and I’m not going to make a lot of comment, because the Book speaks for itself.
“He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth (and speaks forth the Word of God) edifieth the church.”
When someone claims to have had a tongues experience, according to the Book, who are they edifying? Themselves. It’s an ego trip, and that’s what it amounts to. Now reading on in verse 5.
I Corinthians 14:5
“I would that ye all spake with tongues, (That’s plural, which means languages. Paul is saying it would be nice if you could just go up into northern Greece, or other countries and speak the dialects that those people do. Today I’d say the same thing, and those of you who have kids out on the mission field know what I’m talking about. My, wouldn’t it have been great if your son or daughter could have gone to the mission field, and picked up the language the next day? But instead they had to go to language school to learn the language before they went to the field. So Paul knew what he was talking about. He said, “It would be great if you all spoke several languages.”) but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”
Let’s take that little congregation in Corinth, and let’s say that most of them were able to understand Greek. Now there were probably some even in Corinth that couldn’t understand Greek, all they could understand maybe was Hebrew or Aramaic. Paul says, “Now it would be great if you could come into this congregation and be able to teach and preach in a language that they could all understand.” My, what a great gift that would be, because that’s what people needed, they had to hear the Word, because they couldn’t go home and read it.
I Corinthians 14:6
“Now. brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, (these different languages) what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?”
Those are the things that count. People even today need doctrine as very few professing believers today have a good solid understanding of doctrine. I’ve learned over the years that most Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, or just about any other denomination don’t really know what they believe. And if you doubt that, just ask people what they really believe, and most of them can’t tell you much. I say that sincerely, and this is what Paul is saying. Even the Corinthians were so weak in the fundamentals, but oh, they were emotional, they had a lot of enthusiasm, but that in itself is not enough. So Paul says:
I Corinthians 14:6b,7
“…except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine.” What’s the profit? Now verse 7.
“And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
What is the Apostle Paul is saying here? Unless somebody picks up an instrument that knows how to play, knows how to bring out the right tone at the right time within the score, what do you have? A bunch of noise. In fact I’ve been to a few concerts in my life, and especially if you go to a concert of a symphony orchestra, and before they lift the curtain what are those musicians doing back there? They’re tuning their instruments at the same time and it’s just a bunch of noise, there’s no melody, or harmony, or anything worth listening to, you can’t hardly wait till the curtain goes up and you can hear some real music. Well here, Paul is saying the same thing. Look at it again:
I Corinthians 14:7
And even things without life giving sound, (Musical instruments, when they’re giving sound) whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, (The right note at the right place) how shall it be known what is piped or harped?”
How can you make a melody? How would you know what song they’re playing? Well, you don’t. Now verse 8, and Paul is using simple illustrations, and I really don’t have to comment on them.
I Corinthians 14:8
“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
Now you want to remember that the Romans used the trumpet for battle commands much like you have seen in the movies and like our American Calvary did with their riders and so forth. They had a particular trumpet sound for each command, and every soldier knew what it was. And it was the same way in the Roman army, when the trumpet was sounded they would know whether to retreat, attack, or whatever. And Paul is using that analogy here. Now what if the trumpeter didn’t know his command? What if he was just blaring out a bunch of sounds, what would the poor troops do? They would just be looking at each other wondering what they were supposed to do. It would cause confusion. Now verse 9:
I Corinthians 14:9
“So likewise ye, (see how plain this is?) except ye utter by the tongue (this organ in your mouth) words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.”
Common sense? Yeah. In fact I’ve even given this illustration before: I remember years ago I was reading a book by one of the deep, deep theologians of that time, and I would just have to go back and read it over and over. I mean, it was just so hard to dig any of the truth out of it, because it was written in such complicated language. So one morning while Iris was fixing breakfast, and I was sitting at the table, and I had just read a paragraph to her, I said, “Honey, do you know anything that the guy is saying?” And she said, “No, what’s he saying?” Well, I just spit it back out into plain, ordinary laymen’s language, and then she said, “Oh, is that what he said?”
And this is what has happened across the whole spectrum. We’ve got men that are such theologians that they talk above the heads of the average individuals. And you know what I’m talking about. You pray with me that every time I teach that I can take these same truths and keep it so simple that a six-year-old can understand it. And this is what Paul is saying, what good does it do to come in with high-sounding intellectual statements if people don’t know what you’re talking about. The Word of God is simple, I explained just yesterday the Gospel (Ref. I Corinthians 15:1-4) to a man I’m sure had never heard it before. I put it in such simple language that I know he went down my driveway with no doubt what it would take to gain heaven. I don’t know whether he will or not, but I tell you what, he’s going to stand responsible someday, because I laid it out as plain and simple as it can be laid out. And this gentleman just stood there and said, “I’ve never heard that before.” Of course not, most people haven’t. Now verse 10:
I Corinthians 14:10
There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.”
Do you know what Paul is talking about here? You go out even into the animal kingdom and what are sciences learning more and more everyday? That even the animals communicate one with another. Those of you who are quail hunters know if you flush out a covey, the first thing you hear is they start whistling. Iris and I were out fishing a while back, and our dog scared up a wild turkey, and she flew right over where we were fishing, and after a while we could hear her start to cluck, and her little ones who were back in the woods started to answer. What were they doing? Communicating. And those sounds weren’t jibberish, those little turkeys knew exactly what momma was saying, and momma knew exactly what they were saying. And we’ve found that throughout the whole spectrum of the wild animal kingdom that they communicate. The same is true with sea creatures, they all communicate. Men, whatever the background, whether we’re European, or Asiatic, we all communicate and this is what Paul is saying, and that’s why God gave us that ability to communicate.
I Corinthians 14:11
“Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, (If I don’t know what someone is saying) I shall be unto him that speaketh (like) a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.”
What’s he talking about? He can’t understand, and if that be the case what purpose is there in making a sound if it isn’t going to communicate. So how much understanding will come between a barbarian, an uncivilized person, and a cultured man like Paul? Nothing!
I Corinthians 14:12
“Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying (or promoting, or the lifting up) of the church.” Not just one person or two, but the whole congregation.
I Corinthians 14:13
“Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue (here’s that singular again) pray that he may interpret.” I know that to most of our tongues people, (and I’m not condemning them, because the last verse of this chapter says that he doesn’t forbid it), unless this sound can be reduced to something understandable, you’re beating the air. That’s what this chapter is pointing out. Verse 13 again:
I Corinthians 14:13
“Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.”
And for what purpose? To communicate. Otherwise it’s just so much lost energy, and time. And we’re going to see in our next lesson that it had gotten to the place even in Corinth where it was just causing commotion in the local congregation, and no one was being edified by it. So the whole purpose of this chapter is in the spirit of love to bring these people to a solid understanding.
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RESURRECTION OF THE BODY
I CORINTHIANS 14:4 – 15:19
Now let’s just jump right into where we left off in the last lesson and that would be verse 14, and here Paul is admonishing the Corinthians to take stock of what they were doing, and realize that all that glitters isn’t gold. And that’s all I’m saying, because I’m not condemning the folk who claim to have spoken in tongues, or I won’t look down my nose at them, but all that I do ask everyone in the spirit of Chapter 13, the love chapter, is to analyze this whole thing in the light of what God wants, not what men want. You know we’re living in that era of instant gratification regardless of what area of our life we may be looking at. But listen, we have to line everything up with the Word of God or we’re on thin ice. And that’s all I try to do. I don’t try to browbeat people into everything the way I see it. You can disagree with me on things and that’s fine, but on the other hand I think it’s my responsibility, since the Lord has given me this avenue of teaching, that we show what the Word says. Now verse 14, and to me this is so plain, where Paul, now speaking in the first person says:
I Corinthians 14:14
“For if I pray in an unknown tongue, (there’s that singular again, that sound that can’t be reduced to a phonetic sound or to writing) my spirit ( small “s”- his own personality) prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.”
How much plainer can you get? Even for the individual, what good does it do, Paul says, to speak in a language that you don’t know what you’re talking about, and I know their answer, “Well, God does.” But the Book doesn’t say that He does. We know that God being Omnipotent, He certainly can if He wants to, but there is nothing in here that indicates that this is what God expects people to do.
I Corinthians 14:15
“What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, (Paul is saying, `I will pray from my innermost being. His own spirit – small `s’) and I will pray with the understanding (Now how many of you would talk to God in prayer, whether it be in thanksgiving or supplication, or whatever thing you might have on your mind – what good would it do to talk to God in some language that you don’t know what you’re saying? Even if God is able to discern it, what if you can’t? You don’t know what you’re asking for, and this is what Paul is pointing out. Whatever you do while communicating with God, do it in understanding.) also: I will sing with the spirit, (I know that sometimes we’re too laid back. I know from Scripture that there were times when people sang and danced before the Lord, and there’s nothing wrong with singing, or an exuberance in our Christian Spirit, absolutely nothing, but again, it has to be tempered with common sense.) and I will sing with the understanding also.”
I Corinthians 14:16
“Else when thou shalt bless (That is the food) with the spirit, (small “s” – your being) how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say `A-men’ at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
In other words, you’re asking the blessing over a table around where many people are sitting, and if you supposedly pray in an unknown tongue how will the people around the table know when you’re finished? Verse 17:
I Corinthians 14:17,18
“For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. (and then in verse 18 Paul makes a graphic statement) I thank my God, I speak with tongues (Plural – Languages) more than ye all:”
Now for years I’ve said this is what Paul is driving at, and now some of the great scholars are beginning to write it in their books. What’s Paul saying? That when he went into some of these various areas and different tribes and dialects, and different languages, could he communicate? Yes. He had that special gift, Christianity was just getting off the ground, and he had this gift to speak whatever language was necessary. So here in verse 18 Paul is speaking of languages with which he could communicate the Gospel. Now verse 19:
I Corinthians 14:19,20
“Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice (And that’s not a very nice word) be ye children, but in understanding (grow up and) be men.” Do you see how plain all of this is? Now verse 21:
I Corinthians 14:21
“In the law it is written, `With men of other tongues (Languages) and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.'”
Here Paul is quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy, and we’re going to go back and look at it in Chapter 28: And naturally this is directed to the Children of Israel.
“The LORD shall bring a nation (of foreign people) against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand:“
Now here the tongue refers to their language. Whether it was the Babylonians that He was referring to or some other nation, there would come a time in Israel’s history that a foreign nation would over-run them, invade them, and the Jews would have to listen to them talking in their language as they were being occupied. Do you see that? Now it wasn’t an unknown tongue, but it was a language that the Jews wouldn’t be able to understand. It was a warning, “Listen, you’re going to have people in your midst that you’re not going to like to have around, you’re not going to be able to understand what they say, they’re going to be foreigners.” And so this is exactly what Paul is referring to now in I Corinthians when he says in verse 21 again:
I Corinthians 14:21,22
“In the law it is written, `With men of other tongues (or other languages) and other lips will I speak unto this people; (by occupying them) and yet for all that will they not hear me,’ saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues (This ability to speak in languages) are for a sign,…”
To the Jew, and we find that in I Corinthians Chapter 1, and verse 22, and again, all we’re going by is what the Book says.
I Corinthians 1:22
“For the Jews require a sign,…”
Now stop and think, how long has Israel been demanding signs? Well, it goes all the way back to when Moses was first called out of the desert, and even Moses the Jew did not believe that he was supposed to do what God wanted him to do. And so how did God prove it to him? He said, “Throw your shepherd rod on the ground.” And you all know the account, and what happened? It became a serpent. Then the Lord said, “Pick it up,” and it became a shepherd’s rod again. What was God trying to show Moses? That He is in it. He is going to take him back to Pharaoh. And then Moses said, “Yeah, but when I get to Pharaoh he’s not going to believe that I’m supposed to lead the children of Israel out.” And what does God tell Moses and Aaron? The same thing: “You throw your rod down and it will become a serpent,” and all these signs were not so much for Pharaoh’s benefit, but rather for Moses’ and Aaron’s. To prove to those two men that God was going to do the supernatural. He’s going to bring Israel out of Egypt. So all the way up through Israel’s history you have the supernatural, and you come into Christ’s earthly ministry, and I’ve taught it and I’ve taught it until I’m blue in the face. Why did Jesus perform miracle, after miracle? To prove to the Jew that He was Who He said He was. It was signs. And remember when we taught the Book of John there were seven miraculous signs, and every one of them had a whole train-load of truths for the Nation of Israel. They didn’t mean that much to the Gentiles, but they meant everything to the Jew. And now Paul comes in even as he writes to a Gentile congregation and says:
I Corinthians 1:22,23a
“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; (Now look at the flip side in verse 23) But we preach Christ crucified,…”
Do you see the difference? Now let’s come back to Chapter 14, and again he comes back with that same concept that tongues, the ability to speak all the languages such as he had, were for a sign.
I Corinthians 14:22a
“Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but (the flip side) prophesying (being able to speak forth the Word before they had the New Testament)…”
So signs and all this is not going to accomplish all that much, but what will? Preaching the Word! This is what people need to hear today, people have to hear the Gospel (Ref. I Corinthians 15:1-4). They have to hear the plan of salvation, they don’t have to see some kind of miracle, and I’m not condemning these people that can prove some miraculous manifestation. But they’ve got to prove it before I believe it. If they can prove it, then I’ll say, “Yes, I know we have a God Who can perform miracles.” I know God can heal miraculously, and I do not deny that. Now finishing verse 22:
I Corinthians 14:22b
“…prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”
Now what’s Paul talking about? To bring them growth in their Christian experience. To bring them so they wouldn’t be blown about with every wind of doctrine. Well let’s just sort of skim through these next few verses, and then I’ve got to deal with another hot potato in this day and time: “What about the women’s activity in the local Church?” Well, we’ll come to that in a few minutes, but before we get there let’s skim verses 23 through 33.
I Corinthians 14:23
“If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, (languages) and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?”
Do you know what the Greek root word for mad in the King James is? Maniac. That’s where the word maniac came from. He says, “They’ll come in off the street, look at you, and will say you’re a bunch of maniacs, you’re mad.” Now verse 24.
I Corinthians 14:24-26
“But if all prophesy, (or speak forth the Word) and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: (Because he’s hearing the Word of God, see the difference?) And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. (if he can hear the Word) How is 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. (now if you had all that at once you’d have confusion) Let all things be done unto edifying.” If you’re wondering what he’s driving at, verse 40 puts the cap on it.
I Corinthians 14:40
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” That’s what the Book says, it’s not what I’m saying. The Book says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”