Charismatics – Part 8

By: Dr. Thomas Figart
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By: Dr. Thomas Figart; ©2012
Instructions on the proper use of the gift of tongues.

An Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14 – (Part 2)Part 8

II. Two Illustrations showing the inferiority of “tongues” to prophecy. 14:6-12

   A.Without interpretation, “tongues” was profitless, like indistinct musical sounds. 14:6-9

14:6 “If I come speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except…”
In the original Greek text, the comma comes after profit. Speaking in tongues would “not profit, except I shall speak to you (he-an me) unless I give you things other than tongues, which things do profit.” Paul is not saying that if the “tongue” were interpreted it would become one of the four things he is about to mention; these are separate. As we mentioned, the only two descriptions of the content of “tongues” was offering praise, or giving glory to God. Furthermore, in every case where “tongues” was used, a separate Gospel message was preached, so that “tongues” was never used to “speed up the gospel” in a foreign land! Also, the construction of this Greek sentence has two parallel clauses of contrast,
Proposition: What shall I profit you?
Two possible results:

       1.If I speak with tongues; no profit.
       2.If I speak by revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or doctrine; much  profit.

Inward:revelation: expresses itself in prophecy.
knowledge: expresses itself in doctrine.
Outward: prophesying: taking revelation and speaking it.
doctrine: taking knowledge and teaching it.
14:7 “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?”
The emphasis in this musical illustration is not on the indistinct nature of the sounds, but on the failure of the sounds to communicate a message. Wind and stringed instruments are subject to this law of being understood by means of proper sounds. How much more should human language, which is the direct expression of living beings.
14:8 “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
Possibly Paul was thinking of Num. 10:1-10, where there were different trumpet calls for various reasons. They had to understand the distinction of sounds for preparation for the proper event.
14:9 “So likewise ye
So with human language, unintelligible sounds (and this is not gibberish) will not prepare us for anything. Here again, the emphasis is not on the distinctness of speech but on understanding what it means.
For ye shall speak into the air.”
Even real languages must be interpreted, or your words will be wasted; no one will understand, and there will be no profit.

   B.Speaking in tongues without an interpreter is useless, just as it is impossible to understand the language of a foreigner. 14:10-12

14:10 “There are…so many kinds of voices
Paul is speaking of human languages, as the context shows; “and none of them is without signification.”. Literally, “none is not a voice” That is, language must be a language, not gibberish.
14:11 “Therefore, if I know not the meaning of the voice
Literally, “If I know not the force, or the interpretation of the language.” “I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian.” Notice Paul does not say “a babbler” but rather a “barbarian” so that real languages are in view. The Greeks called anyone who could not understand Greek a barbarian. A language barrier prevented useful communication. So in the use of spiritual gifts, how could one maintain fellowship with someone whose gift was unintelligible? They would be like strangers to each other. Nothing which mars fellowship should exist in any church!
14:12 “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts.”“
The noun is zelotai: “those who are zealous ones.” There was nothing wrong with their desire after these spiritual gifts as the Holy Spirit had distributed them, but there should be proper direction in their use. “To the edifying of the church seek that ye may excel.” These two phrases are reversed in English, but in Greek, the emphasis is on the edification of the church rather than the excellence in personal expression of the gifts. Yet, it is not a seeking of the gifts themselves but seeking to excel in edifying the church.
Three things are mentioned here:

       1.There is no seeking of gifts.
       2.There is no seeking of personal glory.
       3.There is the seeking for excellence of growth in the church.

III.Because of the foregoing facts, the gift of tongues should not be exercised without an interpreter. 14:13-17
14:13 “Wherefore let him that speaketh in a tongue pray that he may interpret.”
This instruction enforces the thought that a person could have had the gift of tongues without the gift of interpretation. The alternative is to keep silent (see v. 28) in the church and not display the gift but keep it to himself and to God.
14:14 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.”
The implication that the mind or understanding of the speaker is not involved while speaking in tongues is not due to an ecstatic, trance-like state, but rather because the speaker does not understand what he himself says. The only solution is interpretation! This shows clearly that when interpretation is given, the understanding is involved.
14:15 “What is it then?”
We would say, “How shall we respond?” “I will pray with the spirit and with the understanding also.” Praying with the spirit does not refer to praying in a tongue, but is directly connected with the understanding also. This means that the only true kind of prayer includes both spirit and understanding.
14:16 “Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit
Bless” means to offer praise to God. “…how shall he who occupieth the room of the unlearned (That is, how shall he who is not in a position to understand) say Amen at thy giving of thanks seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” There could be no response, no fellowship in this kind of praying.
14:17 “For thou verily giveth thanks well, but the other is not edified.”
Thus, in vv 16-17, blessing and giving thanks in “tongues” cannot be understood by the speaker or the hearer. The possibility that the speaker is actually blessing and giving thanks may well be there, but even he himself cannot understand it, so the whole thing is useless to himself as well as to the hearer! The entire N.T. teaches that all Christians have complete access to God through prayer. Why then would God insist on a gift to make devotional prayer greater or better? Prayer is always based on knowledge, but Paul classifies this so-called “praying” in a tongue as “speaking into the air,” (14:9) and “unfruitful” (14:14).
IV.Prophecy produces spiritual growth, while the gift of tongues is a sign of spiritual childishness.14:18-20
14:18 “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than ye all.”
Paul had used this gift; he does not despise it; he merely wanted them to see its relative inferiority.
14:19 “Yet in the church
This is emphatic; all of this chapter has to do with public church meetings. “I had rather speak five words with my understanding.” (These five words could well refer to 15:3 “Christ died for our sins!”“ “… that by my voice I might teach (katecho, from which “catechize” comes) others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Possibly the real reason for the contrast in the number of words was that the tongues speakers were so excessive in their outbursts.
14:20 “Brethren, be not children in understanding.”
The present tense gives the idea, “Do not continue along these childish lines which you have already begun to do.” “however, in malice (kakia, baseness, nothingness) be babes (napioi) , but in understanding be (telioi, mature) men.” Thus, to put all your energy and emphasis on childish things (in this case, the inferior gift of tongues); rather, in malice (baseness, nothingness things) be babes, but in understanding become mature. In the latter half of the twentieth century, many of our churches have failed their members by replacing good teaching with rather baseless and bad entertainment.

Dr. Thomas Figart

Dr. Thomas Figart

Dr. Thomas Figart

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