Charismatics – Part 7
By: Dr. Thomas Figart
|By: Dr. Thomas Figart; ©2012|
|First Corinthians chapter 13 has shown the supreme value of love in the exercise of all spiritual gifts. Follow, or pursue has the connotation of a hunter. There should be considerable energy expended in the pursuit of love. This does not rule out spiritual gifts, but means that gifts are distinct from love.|
An Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 1 (Part 7)
Prophecy is the greater gift, not the gift of Tongues. 14:1-40
I. Prophecy edifies the Church, the gift of tongues does not. 14:1-5
A. Introductory statement: The priority of the gift of prophecy.14:1 1.“Follow after love” or “pursue” (dioko) love. Paul says this because chapter 13 has shown its supreme value in the exercise of all spiritual gifts. Follow, or pursue has the connotation of a hunter. There should be considerable energy expended in the pursuit of love. This does not rule out spiritual gifts, but means that gifts are distinct from love. 2.“and desire spiritual gifts.”
The word and is de, a mild contrast to expending the same energy as you would for love. Spiritual gifts should be “desired” (zeloute) or “be zealous for” spiritual gifts. So the distinction is: Love is supreme and should be pursued whereas spiritual gifts are merely desirable.
3.The third thing in the verse is that, more specifically, in being zealous for spiritual gifts, make much of the gift of prophecy. Again the word is de in contrast to other spiritual gifts, and specifically in contrast to “tongues”, “rather (mallon) that you prophesy.” This entire chapter is given over to the preference of prophecy over tongues. B.The gift of tongues is understandable only to God, not to man. 14:2 1.“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue.” The word unknown is not in the Greek, simply “in a tongue” referring to the gift of tongues, but this gift was not gibberish; it was definite language. The same terms are used in describing the gift in Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6. Peter’s words in Acts 11:15 proves that all three occasions in Acts were the same kind of experience. Also, in Acts and 1 Corinthians laleo, “to speak,” and glossa, “tongue,” prove there is no distinction in the gift, although there were various ways in which the identical gift was administered. 2.“speaketh not unto men but unto God, for no man understands him.”
Prophecy is preferred because it does speak to men (see v. 3); but “tongues” speaks only to God. Is this saying that tongues is to be used as a private prayer language? No, it merely says that “tongues” is intelligible only to God, not to man. Paul would never say that prayer to God is inferior to speaking to men; Paul always emphasized the importance of real prayer (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:4-8). The whole point is this: when “tongues” are interpreted, then they can speak unto men, but uninterpreted tongues do not speak unto men, because only God understands.
3.“Howbeit (de) in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”
This mild contrast is referring to the fact that no man understands, but (contrary to this) “…in spirit (that is in his human spirit, since there is no article with en pneumatos ) he speaks (laleo) mysteries.” A mystery was hidden truth until it was revealed. Here, in this case it remains unknown because no one understands. This is just another way of stating that such “speaking” is useless to man. It is all negative usage of the gift of tongues, and thus Paul condemns such usage.
C.Prophecy is understandable to man and is expressed in three functions. 14:3
“He that prophesieth “ The gift of prophecy included direct revelation from God through a prophet in the language of the hearers.
speaketh unto men Now this is positive speaking and produces three positive results; thus it is superior to “tongues” without an interpreter.
edification (oikodomeo) building up for spiritual profit.
exhortation (parakalesin) stirring up for spiritual encouragement.
comfort (paramuthian) cheering up for spiritual consolation.
D.Uninterpreted tongues “edifies” the speaker.14:4a
“He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself.”
Is this a contradiction to v. 2? Is the gift of tongues for self-edification when used as a private devotional prayer language? No! This is stating again a negative result, a factor against the use of tongues in the assembly without an interpreter! This whole section is dealing with the use of spiritual gifts in the church, and self-edification is a misuse of any spiritual gift anywhere!
How can we say that self-edification is negative?
1.First, because the same word, oikodomeo is used in 1 Cor. 8:10: “Shall not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened (edified, from oikodomeo) to eat those things which are offered to idols?” This wounding of a weaker brother’s conscience is definitely a negative edification! 2.Second, by a listing of seven other statements which either assert or infer a negative aspect of self-edification: a.The Corinthians were warned against pride (a form of self-edification) which caused divisions; 1:26-29; 3:3-7. b.Paul warns them against self-glory in 4:6-7. c.In 14:9, tongues without interpretation is “speaking into the air” clearly a negative connotation. d.In 14:17, the hearer cannot be edified. .In 14:14 even the speaker’s mind is fruitless. 3.To consider “tongues” as self-edification is to say that God gave a gift which (without interpretation) cannot accomplish what the individual can accomplish simply through his understanding of teaching, for example. In other words, why give the gift of tongues at all, when you can accomplish edification through teaching and prophesying! 4.Since “tongues” was never given to all Christians (see 12:28-30) this would mean that God gave to a certain few, a miraculous ability to grow spiritually which is not available to those without the gift. E.Prophecy edifies the Church. 14:4b
“He that prophesieth edifieth the church.”
Clearly, from v. 3 and v. 22, this gift has as its main purpose a ministry to the church, whereas the purpose of the gift of tongues as stated in v. 22 is “for a sign to them that believe not.” When a believer is ministered to in his own language through a prophet whose gift can edify, exhort and comfort, it will indeed cause the entire local church to grow.
F.Conclusion: The gift of prophecy was preferred rather than “tongues.”14:5
“I would that ye all spake with tongues.”
Paul is not expecting that all would be given such a gift since he has already said that all Christians do not possess any gift (12:28); he is merely expressing a desire that all could speak with tongues.
The word thelo (I will) is used in the sense of desire in Gal. 4:20 also: “I could wish to be present with you.” In Num. 11:29 Moses did not expect that all Israel should be prophets, though he could wish it. It is interesting that Paul wished this, which means that not all the Corinthians spoke with tongues! This is contrary to Pentecostalism today, which requires speaking in tongues as a sign of spirituality, or even of salvation!
“but rather that ye prophesied.” mallon de hina (but rather that) is a telic construction, indicating a stronger intention toward a higher object. Thus, again, Paul places the gift of prophecy in a higher position than “tongues.”
“for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues.” In 12:31 they were to be zealous for the better gifts, and now here, prophecy is designated as greater.
“except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”
The exception devolves back on the one speaking in tongues; he must have both gifts, tongues and interpretation of tongues. Verses 13, 27-28 may infer that Paul expects another person to be present with the gift of interpretation. This would do away with the possibility of a pretended interpretation or even a pretended gift.
We might ask just what sort of edification could have come from interpreted “tongues.” The only two places where this is described at all are Acts 2:11 as “the wonderful works of God” and in Acts 10:46 where they heard them “glorify God.” In Acts 2, of course, interpretation was not needed, and in Acts 10:46 interpretation must have been given to someone there, who could tell that the Gentiles were speaking in tongues and glorifying God.