To bring to a conclusion our discussion of God’s Spirit And You let us review some matters in the context of the most infantile of the Church’s early gifts - tongues. Then let us examine carefully what Paul says to the Corinthian Church and some of their problems regarding the gift of tongues and prophecy.
“Suddenly there was a sound from above like the noise of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Split tongues of fire appeared and these rested upon each one [of the apostles]. All of them were filled with the holy Pneuma and foreign languages [tongues (GLOSSAIS)] were given to them. … [Acts 2:2-4 NCMM]
This is the first instance of speaking in tongues. That is speaking a foreign language unknown to the speaker. This occurred above for the first to the apostles. They native tongue was Aramaic [Hebrew] in a Galilean dialect. It happened during the festival of Pentecost. (Neither Jesus or his disciples ever spoke in tongues during his earthly ministry.) Consider the account:
AC2:2 “Suddenly there was a sound from above like the noise of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. AC2:3 Split tongues of fire appeared and these rested upon each one [of the apostles]. AC2:4 All of them were filled with the holy Pneuma and foreign languages [tongues (GLOSSAIS)] were given to them. … AC2:5 Now there were pious Jewish men dwelling in Jerusalem from all nations under heaven. AC2:6 And when they happened to hear the sound the gathered crowd was confused because they were each hearing the apostles speak in their own language. AC2:7 They were amazed and astonished and began to say: ‘Look! are not all these speaking Galileans? AC2:8 So how are we all hearing in our own native languages? AC2:9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, those from Pontus and Asia, AC2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egyptians, and those from Cyrene in Libya, visitors from Rome [both Hebrews and Jewish converts], AC2:11 Cretans and Arabs - all of us in our own languages hear them in other languages the mighty acts of the God." [NCMM]
Is it fair to conclude that these different “tongues” were the actual languages of that international crowd of Jewish men attending the festival of Pentecost there in Jerusalem? These languages are actually listed in verses 9-11, where the account shows that these men did not need a translator for they naturally understood their own language. Also, is it fair to conclude that these men did not hear gibberish but actually some message about “the mighty acts of the God”? Just so these apostles did have God’s spirit come over them causing them to begin to speak in tongues “about the magnificent things of the God.” These tongues were heard by male Jews from different nations and then recognized their own language, even though those speaking in tongues were all Galileans. It might be added that these “mighty acts of the God” was no plural, triune god as worshipped by the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks.
Such spirit-inspired gifts are mentioned only a few more times in the Acts of the Apostles. For example, though in Acts chapter 8 tongues are not mentioned, it is clear from reading the account about Philip and Simon [Acts 8:18] that such gifts were only passed along by the hands of the apostles. No where do we see anyone other than one of the apostles dispensing these spirit-gifts.
After Pentecost the next mention of the gift of tongues is recorded over three years later in Acts 10:46 when Peter is speaking to the family and friends of Cornelius. Acts 10:44-46 states, “As Peter was speaking these words the holy Pneuma fell upon all those hearing the Word. Now Peter and those of the Circumcision with him were amazed that the gift of the holy Pneuma was poured out on non-Jews. For they were now hearing all of them speaking in tongues and exalting the God.” [Christian Scriptures 2001] Now, in this account we are not told what foreign languages they spoke. It may have included Latin [or, Italian], and it may be that some of the army officer’s friends spoke other languages. As pointed out in Part One of this article, the gift of tongues here may have been largely for the sake of Peter and those Jewish Christians with him. For this eyewitness evidence is later used in the first apostolic synod to prove the non-Jews were also being invited into Church membership. [Acts 15:1ff]
The last occurrence of miraculously speaking in tongues or foreign languages is mentioned many years later. Acts 19:5, 6 records the event: “Having heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Now when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the holy Pneuma came upon them. Then they all began to speak in tongues and prophesied.” [Christian Scriptures 2001] Here also, it is with the laying on of the apostle Paul’s hands that speaking in tongues occurs.
There is no further mention in the Christian Bible of speaking in tongues except in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian congregation. It is likely that Paul laid his hands on some individuals and these spoke in tongues. However, a serious problem developed resulting in jealousies and disunity. [1 Corinthians 3:1ff] Corinth was a port city visited by people from all over the world. Just as God empowered the apostles to speak in tongues in the presence of men who spoke at least a dozen different languages, just so the gift of speaking a foreign language might have been most effective in reaching such people with the Gospel.
The context of this gift of speaking in foreign languages actually begins in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 where Paul lists this spirit-gift among the last of the manifestations of spirit. “However, to every person is given the manifestation of the Pneuma for a purpose. Indeed, to one person is being given a word of wisdom by the agency of the Pneuma; but to another person a word of knowledge according to the very same Pneuma. To a different person a faith by the very same Pneuma; To another charismatic gifts of healings in the one Pneuma. But, to another inner-energies of dynamic powers, to another a prophecy, to another discernment of inspirations. To a different person different languages [or, tongues = GLOSSON], but to another person interpretation of languages.” [1 Corinthians 12:7-10 Christian Scriptures 2001]
Paul repeats this list indicating “tongues” are the lesser of the gifts: “But all of you are Christ’s Body and members individually. Really, the God has set [these members] in the Congregation: apostles first, prophets second, teachers third; thereafter, dynamic works, charismatic gifts of healings, helpers, guidance, different languages. Are all Apostles? Are all Prophets? Are all Teachers? Are all Dynamics? Are all gifted charismatically? Are all possessed of healings? Are all speaking [different] languages? Are all translators? However, continue zealously seeking the greater charismatic gifts. And yet, I point out to you a more elevated way.” [1 Corinthians 12:27-31 Christian Scriptures 2001] Thus, Paul indicates there are degrees of gifts with tongues the last. He urges the Corinthians to continue to seek “greater” gifts. That is, greater than “tongues.” And yet, Paul concludes chapter twelve indicating there is something altogether better.
And what is this? In Chapter 13 Paul begins, “If I should ever speak in the languages of humans and angels, but do not possess real [divine] love, I have become merely the sound of copper or a clanging cymbal. And if ever I should possess [the gift of] prophecy - and should know all the Divine Mysteries and Know all - and if ever if possess all the conviction needed to ‘transplant mountains’, [Luke 17:6] but do not possess real [divine] love - I am nothing. And if ever I should sell all my possessions so that I could feed the largest number - and if ever I should offer up my body so that I might boast - but do not possess real [divine] love - I am profited nothing.” [1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Christian Scriptures 2001] Paul says “if” he speaks in ‘tongues of men and angels’ and not necessarily indicating he did. There is no account in Acts or elsewhere where Paul did actually speak in tongues. However, he himself does state that he “speaks in more tongues than any of you.”
Is it fair to state that if a person spoke in tongues and yet was without love, such a person was just ‘a clanging cymbal’? That is a single noise that makes no particular sense.
From this Paul introduces what he is to discuss in detail latter in chapter 14. That is, what is the ultimate outcome regarding the gift of tongues? Paul continues: “Real [divine] love never fails. But, prophecies will be rendered useless. Tongues will cease. Knowledge will be rendered useless. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. However, when full maturity should arrive, the part will be rendered useless. When I was an infant my speech was infantile. I thought like an infant. I reasoned like an infant. When I will have finally become an adult man, I will have made the infantile things useless. For right now we are looking through an enigmatic mirror, but then ‘face to face’. [Exodus 33:11] Right now I know in part, but then I shall know completely just as I am also completely known. But, now there remain faith, hope, love - these three things - but of these, real [divine] love is greater.” [1 Corinthians 13:8-13 Christian Scriptures 2001]
Paul writes that the future mature Church will then know God ‘face to face’. Some take this literally to mean someone in God’s presence. However, the phrase is exactly the same as the experience of Moses with Yehowah. Exodus 33:11 states: “And the Lord had talk with Moses face to face, as a man may have talk with his friend.” [BAS] Moses had not gone to heaven, but rather he had cultivated a ‘friendship’ with his God. Just so, members of the mature Christian Church would develop a similar relationship with the Father that would become just as intimate. Such a disciple would truly know God as his or her personal associate. [Compare Genesis 32:30; Numbers 14:14; Deuteronomy 5:4; 34:10; Judges 6:22; Ezekiel 20:35.] It is a truth that, through Jesus, each Christian disciple has a superior relationship with God than even Moses experienced.
No one would ever argue that love is not the greatest gift of all, while the gift of tongues is ‘infantile.’ Indeed, those who had matured would not even bother with the gift of tongues, for they would have passed beyond such infantile behavior or speech as though it were ‘baby-talk’. They would be ‘seeking greater gifts’. [1 Corinthians 12:31]
As discussed above, Paul uses the Greek TELEION several times in his epistles, and often in the context of maturity. [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5046, 4b1 full grown, adult, of full age, mature] Though many versions render this either “perfect” or “complete” this idea may be misleading. The context and Paul’s use elsewhere might better argue for “mature” [or, maturity]. For, example earlier in First Corinthians, Paul first uses TELEIOS where he states that he “preaches wisdom among those who are mature.” [1 Corinthians 2:6] Also, a bit later he chastises the Corinthians for their immaturity. [1 Corinthians 3:1, 2] Note Paul’s similar use of TELEIOS as “mature” in Philippians 3:15 and Colossians 1:28; 4:12.
Compare also, for example, Ephesians 4:11-16 and Hebrews 5:14-6:1 where TELEION is used in the sense of growing up into maturity. [See 1 Corinthians 14:20 where TELEIOI (mature persons) is used again.] Thus, comparing his analogy of the infant with its baby speech and baby thoughts, the Church also began with babyhood and proceeded toward grown-up maturity after the example of Christ who did not speak in tongues. So, in the infancy of the Church it spoke in ‘baby-talk’ [ = tongues] but ‘when the Church became a mature man it would dispense with such baby-talk’.
Paul then continues with more precise detail to the Corinthian church in the context of its “infant” status. The early Church at this stage was highly dependent on the Hebrew Scriptures Old Testament and did not yet have access to the vast bulk of the Christian Scriptures as Christians today. It is most likely that they had not yet read Luke, John, Acts, the epistles from Romans to Hebrews, the epistles of Peter, James, and Jude, let alone the Apocalypse.
Paul continues to write to the Corinthian church during that infantile period of the growth of the whole Church of Christ. Let us examine 1 Corinthians chapter 14. [See Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes on the same for more details.]
1Co14:1 All of you continue to pursue real [divine] love, but [also] continue to zealously seek the Pneumatic things, preferably that you prophesy.
Love is the greatest gift to pursue. This would mean that any Christian, man or woman, would seek to be loving and not slanderous or working harm to another Christian. Better than speaking in tongues is the gift of prophecy. [Or, PME: speak the message of God; GDS: inspired preaching; BEC speak God’s Word] Such may include an inspired prophetic utterance with precise details that affect the infant Church, as well as long-term futuristic information.
When Paul says “you” collectively he means those men in the congregation. See “the man” in the next verse.
1Co14:2 For the man speaking in a tongue is not speaking to humans but to God, for no one listens to him as he is speaking sacred mysteries.
The gift of tongues includes speaking in a foreign language to God without producing any direct disclosure of God’s mysteries to other humans. That is, sacred secrets, hidden truths. No one can understand what seems vain babbling in another language though the message may be discussing spiritual truths. This is because, as Paul continues, there is no one to translate or interpret the message.
Paul uses HO [the person] in the masculine and many versions so indicate this by the use of “he” or “a man.” [KJV, NEB, TCN, BEC, NWT, RHM, BAS, DAR, WBS, WEY, YLT] This is consistent with what Paul is to say later regarding the silence of women in the congregation.
1Co14:3 In contrast, the one prophesying is speaking to humans constructively, encouraging and comforting.
The Christian who prophesies speaks in an upbuilding manner to others with words of encouragement and comfort, something lacking in tongues. Thus, Paul infers that the gift of tongues is lesser than that of prophesy. The Greek for “prophesying” is PROPHETEUON [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 4395, speak forth by divine inspirations, to predict]. Whatever form or message this prophecy contained it would only be “partial” or incomplete as Paul has said above in 1 Corinthians 13:9. It would be another fifty years before the Book of Daniel would be “unsealed” and the Book of Revelation complete the full knowledge of prophecy.
1Co14:4 The man speaking in a tongue is only constructive to himself; but the man prophesying is doing something constructive to the congregation.
The Christian who speaks in tongues only upbuilds himself and not others within the Church. The person who prophesies does something constructive to the whole congregation. The word “constructive” [upbuilds, edifies] comes from the Greek for building a house [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 3618, to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, blessedness].
1Co14:5 Now I wish all of you spoke in tongues, but [I would prefer] that you prophesy. Greater is the man who prophesies than the man speaking in tongues. Unless, of course, there be a man to translate so that the whole congregation might receive [something] constructive.
Paul wishes that all the men could speak in tongues, indicating that all did not speak in tongues. However, his preference is that all prophesy. For the person who prophesies is constructive and upbuilding to the congregation. When Paul above discussed “tongues” he evidently is referring to a situation where no one is present to translate or interpret the tongue. Only if another is present to translate the tongue will it prove upbuilding.
1Co14:6 Now, brothers, if I ever should approach you speaking tongues how would it benefit you, unless I spoke either in a revelation, or in knowledge, or in a prophecy, or in a teaching?
Paul argues that even if he came to them speaking in tongues it would be of no benefit unless this included a “revelation or some inspired knowledge or an inspired prophecy or an inspired teaching” that made known accurate knowledge. Paul echoes something he said earlier in 1 Corinthians 13:9 where he may have meant that partial knowledge or partial prophecy while using the gift of tongues. Paul means a tongue or foreign language that could be translated by another in the congregation. Thus, the gift of tongues is not only infantile, but useless unless it also possessed “revelation knowledge, prophecy, or teaching.” And yet, Paul continues to demonstrate a gift greater than tongues.
1Co14:7 Just so the things without a soul give off sounds, whether a flute or harp. If their tones are not distinctive how will it be known what [music] is being played on the flute or on the harp? 1Co14:8 Really, if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? 1Co14:9 Just so, if you should every speak a word by means of a tongue without any significance how will the things you speak be understood? For you will just be speaking into the air!
Paul uses the analogy of inanimate musical instruments - if these are just played at random, without a melody or purpose - they are of no benefit. Tongues must be understood and make sense to the audience, otherwise it is futile. Paul argues that the use of tongues should be distinct, not uncertain, but significant, and thus no mere babbling, gibberish nonsense. As above, tongues - with a translator present - should produce a revelation, knowledge, prophecy or teaching, not just a rambling gibberish.
1Co14:10 There are many different kinds of sounds in the cosmos and none are without some noise. 1Co14:11 However, if I do not understand the force of the sound, I shall be just as one speaking a foreign language, and the one speaking to me [will be speaking] in a foreign language. 1Co14:12 Thus, also, all of you - since you are so zealous for inspirations - continue seeking something constructive to the congregation so that you might overflow.” [NCMM]
Paul suggests that speaking in tongues may not be upbuilding to the whole congregation of believers. He encourages the Corinthians that not mere noise or gibberish take place, but that they produce something constructive to the whole congregation. He uses the analogy of speaking to someone “foreign”. The Greek is literally “barbarian” which has a harsher meaning today. Here Paul seems to make clear that speaking in tongues is like speaking in a “foreign language” and not “gibberish.” [On “gibberish” compare MOF, NEB]
1Co14:13 Therefore, let the man speaking in tongues pray so that he may be translated.
The Christian man [HO; compare KJV, WMS] who wishes to speak in tongues at this infantile time of the Church ought also to pray that some one would interpret or translate his speech.
1Co14:14 For if I should ever pray in tongues, [it is] my inner self praying, but my own mind is unfruitful. 1Co14:15 Therefore, what should be done? I shall pray within my inner self, but I shall also pray within my mind. I shall make melody within my inner self, but also within my mind.
Paul states that IF in his prayers he speaks in an unknown language his “own mind is unfruitful.” Paul does not say that he does this, but IF he did pray in a foreign language he did not understand, his prayer would be useless or unfruitful. What is the solution, then? Whether Paul speaks in tongues or sings, he hoped he also did so from his mind, rather than in a tongue or foreign language he himself did not understand.
1Co14:16 For if you ever offer a blessing just within your inner self, how will the ungifted person sitting in the common place say, "Amen!" upon your thanksgiving, since he does not understand what you are saying? 1Co14:17 You may, indeed, be giving thanks in an excellent manner, but the other person receives nothing constructive.
If Paul speaks in a tongue unknown how will the visitor to the congregation understand the message? Even though Paul might express himself in a fine way, how does this upbuild the visitor? Paul uses the example of a person asking a blessing over a common meal with others present without uttering anything. How could the other persons present say their own “Amen.” This private prayer may be outstandingly stated, but since it is not known by others, nothing constructive or upbuilding is accomplished.
1Co14:18 I give thanks to the God that I speak in more tongues than all of you! 1Co14:19 Within the congregation I would rather speak five words with my mind -- so that others also might be instructed -- rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Paul himself is bold in stating that he speaks “in more tongues” than the entire congregation at Corinth. One of the reasons this would be true is that Paul traveled so widely among people of many foreign languages. Though we have no record of Paul so speaking in tongues, he states that he would “rather speak just five words with his own mental faculties with the purpose of educating others than ten thousand [ = an infinite amount] words in a tongue.”
In Greek Paul uses NOUS [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 3563, faculties of perceiving and understanding … the intellectual capacity] meaning something “intelligible.”
1Co14:20 Brothers, do not become little boys in mental powers, but be babes regarding harmful things. Rather, become mature in mental powers. 1Co14:21 In the Law is has been written, "’In different languages and in different speech I shall speak to this people, and yet they will not listen to me,’ says YHWH." [Isaiah 28:11]
That Paul is speaking to the men of the congregation is shown by the use of PAIDIA which may also mean “little boys” whom he addresses as “brothers.” So what is to be done in this congregation during the infantile period of the Christian Church? Paul encourages a grownup and mature Christian Church instead of a bunch of spiritual babies. Paul uses here the Greek TELEIOI as he did above when referring to growing up into maturity. He repeats his earlier analogy of growth from babyhood to full-grown maturity. One version renders this: “do not be content to think childish thoughts.” [KNX] This may echo back to those infantile “thoughts” in 1 Corinthians 13:11.
1Co14:22 And so, the tongues are a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelievers. However, the prophecy is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
Paul now begins to explain the difference between tongues and prophecy. Tongues are only as a sign to those who do not believe. On the other hand, the gift of prophecy - a superior gift - is for the benefit of those who do believe. Thus, if a congregation was composed only of believers the gift of tongues would not be used at all, while the gift of prophecy would encourage and educate all present.
When Paul says tongues are a sign to unbelievers, he may have in mind primarily Jewish unbelievers as he has earlier stated, “Jews seek signs.” [1 Corinthians 1:22] Also, here this form of “prophecy” is something limited to the congregation of “believers.” Thus, this “prophecy” here is not public speaking to outsiders or those unfamiliar with the Gospel message. At the time of Paul’s writing this “prophecy” would be something “partial” or immature, waiting for the time when full maturity [TELEION] would come upon the whole Church about the time the New Testament canon was completed near the end of the 1st Century.
1Co14:23 Therefore, whenever you should come together as a congregation to the very same place - and if all of you may be speaking in tongues - and common people or unbelievers enter - will they not say you are all out of your minds? 1Co14:24 However, if you should all be prophesying the unbeliever or common man will be reproved by everyone since he is being scrutinized by everyone. 1Co14:25 The hidden secrets of his heart will become manifest and so he ‘will fall on his face and render worship to the God’. He will report: "The God is really among you!" [Isaiah 45:14]
Paul then discourages a congregation where all are speaking in tongues. For if such is taking place - in the infant Church - those who are visitors will think they are out of their minds. That is, mad [KJV], demented [BER], raving [BER], fanatical [LAM], or, crazy [BEC]. On the other hand, the Christian who prophesies will speak in reproof to the visitor in his own language and the visitor will examine his/her own heart. It is the gift of prophesy that causes the unbelieving visitor of the congregation to expression his/her belief that “God is really among you,” and not the gift of tongues.
So, in the infantile or, baby Church, what is to done during their meetings back then in the 1st Century?
1Co14:26 Therefore, what is to be done, brothers? Whenever you assemble for a meeting: one man has a hymn, one man has a teaching, one man has a revelation, one man has a tongue, and one man has a translation. Let everything occur with a constructive purpose.
The Greek language suggests that only males would experience such a manifestation of the holy spirit. Paul uses masculine verbs and the word HEKHEI or HEKASTOS [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1538, every man] and note as well verse 27 [KJV] where he uses TIS [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5100, certain man, some man]. Paul makes clear that only one would speak in a tongue only when another was present to translate such speech. No matter, everything must occur for an upbuilding and constructive purpose.
Besides these infantile tongues as baby-talk in the early Church, the congregations were also to be educated and encouraged by hymns, teaching and revelations.
1Co14:27 And if anyone speaks in tongues let it be limited to two or three [and one at a time] and let a man translate.
If some men [KJV] were to speak in tongues it should be no more than two or three in the whole congregation. Also, in each case there should be some inspired translation or interpretation of such spirit-inspired speech. Otherwise, this brother in the congregation should remain “silent.” Paul will use this word in a wider application to Christian women later.
1Co14:28 But, if there is no man to translate, let him remain silent in the congregation, though he may speak to himself and to the God.
If there is no Christian male to interpret this foreign language such a person should control himself and remain silent. However, such a man may speak to himself and to God. The language indicates the speaker in tongues had control over the gift so that he could choose whether he spoke or not. The word “silent” is from the Greek SIGAO or SIGATO [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 4601, to keep silence, hold one’s peace]. Paul will go on to use the same word when he counsels that women should remain “silent” in the congregation. [1 Corinthians 14:34]
1Co14:29 Let two or three prophets speak and let the rest [of the congregation] discern the meaning.
In a congregational meeting there ought to be no more than two or three qualified men who speak. And the rest of the congregation can mediate on the meaning of these prophecies or messages. The privilege of addressing the congregation was not limited to just one cleric or pastor.
1Co14:30 But, if ever something might be revealed to another person sitting [in the congregation], let the first man remain silent. 1Co14:31 For you [men] all may prophesy one at a time so that everyone may learn and be encouraged.
The whole congregation, or those gifted with tongues or prophecies, should NOT all be speaking at the same time. If someone is so moved by the spirit to speak, then others in the congregation should remain silent as he speaks. For every man in the congregation may speak one at a time - in proper order, one after another - for the purpose that all may be educated and encouraged. Likely Paul means an elder or mature Christian man may have a specific thought that he may speak from his seat, just as Jesus did in the synagogue in Nazareth. [Luke 4:16-21] In the Jewish synagogue visiting elders were asked to speak a word of encouragement or exhortation. [Compare Acts 13:15, 16.] No doubt the seated brother might raise his hand, or in some manner indicate he has something to add as he was moved by the Spirit. At no time should more than one be speaking as though two or more were arguing with one another.
1Co14:32 Also the inspirations of the prophets should be subjected to the prophets. 1Co14:33 For the God is not disorganized but peacefully [arranged].
A degree of personal control should be exercised by those who are gifted by the spirit. In other words, this is not an uncontrolled expression. Paul’s reason is that God “is not a God of disorder [or, chaos] but rather of order and arrangement.” So that anyone inspired by Him would be characterized by such orderly arrangement. This suggests that a prophet [as well as the one who spoke in a tongue] has some degree of control over what he says and when he says it. In the end the over-riding principle is that God is never disorganized but always works in a state of peaceful arrangement. Thus, Christian meetings would be peaceful, well-ordered affairs.
We may also note that no where does Paul mention musical instruments or music. He does mention “a hymn” above, but no where does he include musical instruments as among the ancient Jews. Indeed, there is no case of musical instruments in the three-decade history of the Church in Acts. This does not mean these are inappropriate, only that they are absent from the early Church.
1Co14:33 As in all the congregations of the Saints 1Co14:34 let the women in the congregation keep silent, because it is not permitted for them to speak. But rather, ‘let them be subjecting themselves,’ [Genesis 3:17 LXX] just as the Law says. 1Co14:35 However, if they want to learn something let them question their own husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to be speaking in the congregation. 1Co14:36 Or, did the word of the God originate from you? Or did it reach only as far as you?
Given all the above discussion of tongues and prophecy, women are to remain silent in the congregation meetings. Therefore, no Christian woman would speak in tongues in this congregational environment. When Paul uses the word “silent” he uses it as he had used in earlier with regard to one man speaking at a time. [SIGATO; See verse 28] The early Church followed something of the Jewish manner in the synagogue where women remained silent.
Elsewhere Paul gives the same counsel: “Let a woman learn in silence in all subjection. I do not allow a woman to teach, nor to have a man’s authority, but rather to be in silence. The reason is because Adam was formed first, then Eve. Also, Adam was not deceived, but in contrast, woman, having been deceived, has come to be in transgression.” [1 Timothy 2:11-14 NCMM] Here Paul uses another word for “silence” which means to remain quiet. [HESYCHIA, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 2271] How important is this counsel from Paul. He ends this subject with a serious caution.
1Co14:37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or a pneumatic [spiritual] person, let that man acknowledge these things I am writing to all of you, because it is the Lord’s commandment. 1Co14:38 But, if anyone wishes to ignore these, he should be ignored. 1Co14:39 And so, my brothers, all of you continue to zealously seek prophesying, and yet do not forbid tongues. 1Co14:40 But, let everything occur according to good manners and order.
Consistent with what has gone before, when Paul says “anyone” [TIS = some male] he means those men who are “gifts to humans” within the congregation. [Ephesians 4:8, 11] What Paul has written is not just the mere suggestions of one Christian male. Rather, Paul calls his instructions “the Lord’s commandment.” Thus, in the infancy of the Christian Church, the above was a formal outline of meetings. If any person thought themselves particularly gifted or “spiritual” and chose to ignore “the Lord’s commandment”, such a person should be ignored.
In the infancy of the Christian Church tongues were not to be forbidden, as Paul counsels. The gift of tongues - with its partial knowledge, and partial prophecy - would continue until “that which is complete arrives” - that is when the Church reached a state of maturity after nearly six decades or more. Then “tongues … would cease.” [1 Corinthians 13:8] Even then in the babyhood of the Church tongues were the least of the gifts and were viewed as infantile thought and speech. The mature Christian - as well as the whole mature Church - would move away from such “childish things” and seek greater gifts, including the greatest of all - love.
In modern times at the beginning of the 3rd Millennium Christians find that all over the world many speak something of an international language - English. Also, the Bible and Christian publications are available in almost all the known languages. It is now possible to communicate with others in unknown languages by virtue of computer software and the Internet.
What if some Christians speak in tongues? Whether this is the result of God’s Spirit will be manifest by other matters within such a church. At the very least, as we have seen above, speaking in tongues is infantile and babyish according to Paul and mature Christians should move beyond it.
However, how does God’s Spirit operate today?
As mentioned in the introduction to this article, many evangelists, ministers, or church members claim that God, or the Holy Ghost, speaks to them. Just a brief review of the television channel Trinity Broad-casting Network in the USA [also available in many countries] will reveal individuals claiming that God’s Spirit talked to, spoke to, or gave them a “word” to preach to others. Sometimes this involves the solicitation for donations.
It seems reasonable that if a person claims to have the guidance of God’s Spirit then what he or she says will be accurate, truthful, and consistent with the Bible. If someone claims Christ’s authority, or affirms that God’s Spirit moves them, they cannot produce something false or untrue with regard to Bible teaching. For example, if a person spoke in tongues and yet preached the unscriptural doctrine of the Trinity or hell-fire torment, this would not be consistent with what we have learned above. No matter how the promised spirit-helper manifests itself, it is described by Jesus as “the spirit of the truth.”
On that very theme of “truth” as it is associated with claimed charismatic gifts of God’s Spirit, Paul - under true inspiration - warned:
“Because the mystery of this lawlessness is already working within [the Church] until the one who acts as something of a restraint is removed as an obstacle. It is then that the lawless one will be revealed. The Lord Jesus will annihilate him by the spirit of his mouth, thus rendering him completely ineffective at the moment of his visible Return. The coming of this lawless person is in accordance with the inner working of Satan in all [his] lying power and signs and wonders. And this will be accompanied also with every kind of unrighteous seduction to those who end up destroying themselves - all because they refused to love the Truth that they might be saved. Therefore, the God sends among them the inner working of error and falsehood so that they all start believing in the lie. Thus they will all be condemned - all those who did not believe the Truth but thought well of unrighteousness.” [2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 NCMM]
Thus, when all the apostles were dead - as the “sleeping men” of Matthew 13:25 - as well as those they had laid their hands upon as a sign of authority - then the corporate “man of lawlessness” would begin to claim Christ’s authority and use satanic power in “lying power and signs and wonders … with every kind of unrighteous seduction.” Jesus had compared this to a woman kneading yeast or leaven into dough until the “whole” was fermented. Leaven is always used as a negative element in the Christian Bible. So, comparing this with the Nazarene’s related parable of the wheat and weeds, he foretold the corrupting of his own Church or Kingdom. [Matthew 13]
Using Jesus and Paul together there seems a clear prediction that pseudo-miracles would be a tool used by Satan. In this regard, Paul also warns about those who would appear as “messengers of righteousness” and yet be full of deception. He warns the Corinthian Church:
“But, I continue to fear that some how, as ‘the serpent seduced Eve in its cunning,’ [Genesis 3:4] your minds might be corrupted from the single-mindedness and chastity due the Christ. For it is a certainty that if a person arrives preaching another Jesus whom we did not preach - or you accept a different inspiration which you had never received - or a different Good News which you had never accepted - you [Corinthians] put up with him in a fine manner. For I consider I have not proved inferior to those ultra-superior apostles. … For such persons are pseudo-apostles, deceitful workers, refashioning themselves into Christ’s apostles. And no wonder, for Satan continues to transform himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing, then, if his ministers also continue to refashion themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will be according to their works!” [2 Corinthians 11:3-5, 13-15 Christian Scriptures 2001]
Jesus had also warned his apostles, as well as future disciples, that those persons would come claiming his authority and accompanied by misleading signs. The Nazarene forewarns: “Look out no one misleads you. For many will come using my name, saying: ‘I AM THE ANOINTED!’ Or, ‘I AM HE!’ Or, ‘THE APPOINTED TIME HAS COME!’ Do not follow them! They will mislead many! And then if anyone says to you: ‘Look! Christ is here!’ Or, ‘There!’ you should not believe it. For many pseudo-anointed and false prophets will rise. They will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, The Elect. Look! I have foretold everything!” [Matthew 24:4; Mark 13:6, 21-23; Luke 21:8 Christian Scriptures 2001] So, Jesus put on notice that future disciples could expect false claims with attendant “great signs and wonders.” The sad historical fact is that many of the Elect have been misled by such false prophets.
Does this mean that everyone who has spoken in tongues is of the Devil? One could not make such a broad statement. Any message should be “tested” as to the source of their “inspiration” as John exhorts in 1 John 4:1. How can such “tongues” be tested? Against the Scriptures.
How, then, does one get “filled” with God’s Spirit today at the beginning of the 21st Century? We must admit that none of us has been “filled by the spirit” to make wood-work for the Tabernacle of Moses. None of us has been “filled by the spirit” to pulled down the columns of the altar of Dagon. None of us have been “filled with the spirit” to see a vision of Christ in heaven.
If we take the view that the infantile speech and behavior of the early Church have “ceased” then we want to know what is the God-given way to become “filled with the spirit” today?
One view shared by this author is that our Father has provided us with a trustworthy “God-breathed” Book that amounts to a form of His Spirit or Pneuma. Earlier it has been compared to water and H2O can exist in several states - fluid, gas, and solid ice. Just so, God’s Spirit manifests itself in several forms, but it is most useable as a fluid. So His Word - a collection of His Thoughts from His Mind - are found like a frozen block of ice in the Bible. Now to be of use, it must be melted and then swallowed to be of benefit. God has made His Spirit available, but some effort is required in order to become “filled by the spirit.”
The Bible itself states the idea in several verses. First, we have read Jesus teaching: “My Sayings are Spirit.” [John 6:63] So when we read the Nazarene’s Saying we are drinking down God’s Spirit. To the extent we do this we are “filled by the spirit.”
Second, we read how Paul wrote: “These things we also speak - not in words taught by human wisdom - but rather in [words] taught by the [Spirit] - as we discern [spiritual] things [spiritually].” [1 Corinthians 2:13 Christian Scriptures 2001 Paraphrase] It is through “words” inspired by God’s Spirit that we spiritually discern that truth found in His Word. [John 17:17] To the extent we do this we are “filled by the spirit.”
Third, Paul again writes of the living nature of written words inspired by God: “For the Word of The God is a living [thing], energizing, and sharper than a two-edged sword. [God’s Word] cuts through so deep as to separate psyche and pneuma, even joints and marrow.” [Hebrews 4:12 Christian Scriptures 2001] When we read His Word we are experiencing that ‘living energy’ that, like a very sharp blade, can separate what is physical and spiritual in our character. To the extent we do this we are “filled by the spirit.”
Finally, we learn from Paul that all that we need is His Word. Note this in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But, as for you [Timothy], you remain in what you have learned and have been persuaded to believe, realizing from whom you learned. And that how, from your very infancy, you were made acquainted with the sacred writings, those that are able to make you wise for salvation through deep conviction in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for readjusting everything, for disciplining in righteousness. Thus, the man of God be completely prepared for every good work.” [Christian Scriptures 2001] It is only through these “God-breathed” Scriptures that a disciple of the Master is “completely prepared for every good work.” Thus, nothing else is needed.
How is this energizing work of God’s Spirit accomplished? Take for example, the reading of any material that moves us. A person is moved by an interest in motor-cycles by a magazine seen in a market. He/she buys the magazine and goes home to read it. They study the words and the pictures, and become stimulated even more. Soon, they are noticing motor-cycles everywhere when they did not before. Next they go into a sales room and examines, or even tests motor-cycles. Finally, they are riding a motor-cycle and having a degree of enjoyment. Now this all started - and to a great extent is maintained - from the original reading. In the same way by reading the Bible God’s Spirit motivates us in the right directions - only these are godly and spiritual.
What affect does this have on a group of like-minded persons? How does God’s Spirit “inspire” the whole membership as though it were one entity? We might think of an orchestra. Each person comes with their musical instrument, even though these may vary from drums to strings to wood-winds. Some play the same instrument as something of a team. Others are soloists who only clash cymbals or ring chimes. Some play constantly, while others wait for the whole composition just to fire the canon, as in the 1812 Overture. This is how we are as individuals in Christ’s Church.
The conductor is Christ himself who strives to make all play their individual gifts to make a harmonious whole.
The sheet of music is God’s Word which all read in harmony. Now there are some compositions that are particularly moving. So powerful are they that each and everyone musician, as well as the conductor, are carried away and exalted with heart-felt emotion. The result is a certain “spirit” coming over the whole orchestra, including those who hear the music. Just so God’s Spirit moves among all, to inspire all to lofty heights of spirituality and godly thinking.
Some Christians, particularly some evangelists and Biblical commentators, foster the idea that God’s Spirit actually guides and directs their explanations. This virtually amounts to a claim of inspiration. Some have claimed visions and dreams such as Joseph Smith and Ellen White. Others have claimed angelic direction such as Joseph Rutherford. Is there any Bible verse that would prove God’s Spirit “inspires” or guides anyone in their personal search of the Bible? Is there any proof that God’s Spirit helps a person determine what doctrine is true and what doctrine is false?
In a word, No. Essentially, the truth of God’s Word is there in the pages of the Bible and to the extent one reads, studies and meditates on this one will come to know the Truth. Are teachers in the Church necessary? Yes. For Paul has already said the same in 1 Corinthians 12:28, 29. [Compare Ephesians 4:1-16 and James 3:1-3.] But, taking Paul’s example among the Bereans, those who test these teachers are described as “noble.” Acts 17:11 records this good and godly attitude: “These [Jews] were of a better race than those in Thessalonica and they accepted the Word with complete mental readiness. They would examine the Scriptures everyday to see if these things were true.” [Christian Scriptures 2001]
This is in harmony with the wise direction of the last of the apostles. John authorizes every Christian: “My dearly beloved friends, do not put your trust in every ‘inspiration’. Rather, test out these ‘inspirations’ to know whether they originate with God. The need for this is because many false prophets have proceeded from the world.” [1 John 4:1 Christian Scriptures 2001] John mentions that “last hour” at the end of the 1st Century when many pseudo-prophets had appeared among Christians. Paul had warned of the same in nearly every epistle. [Acts 20:29, 30]
Now how does one know whether the “spirit” or “inspiration” of someone’s teaching is true or false. [1 John 4:1] In his own day - and the context of that period of time - John outlines several things in his first, second and third epistles. Essentially these methods of testing involve “the doctrine of Christ” which are to be found in the Gospels. [John 7:16 KJV; 2 John 9] The Nazarene himself states that his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount serve as a “foundation built on rock” and those who live by these will be safe. [Matthew 7:24-27]
Remember Jesus said that his Sayings “were spirit.” [John 6:63] If one learns to study these Sayings well, meditating on them with prayers, then this source of “primary doctrine” will be a guide in other matters. [Hebrews 6:1]
The teachings - or “spirit” - of a true Christian teacher will be recognized by faith in Christ, love of others, consistent harmony with the Sayings of Christ and those inspired disciples who later experienced the aid of the promised spirit-helper - “the spirit of the truth.” Peter goes into considerable detail regarding some of those false teachers in his own day and how they were recognizable. [2 Peter chapter 2] Jude does the same thing in his brief epistle. Of course, the Christian teacher is held responsible for what he teachers. [James 3:1-3]
Some, however, argue that no teachers are necessary at all. They point to 1 John 2:27, “You don't need for anyone to teach you.” [WEB] Does John mean Christians need no teachers? Or, does he mean on this subject they need no one to teach them? Does he mean there are certain “teachers” who are not needed among Christians? If we consider the whole context his meaning becomes clear.
“Young spiritual children, it is the final hour. As you have heard already, the antichrist is coming. Already many antichrists have materialized. It is from this we know it is the final hour. These antichrists abandoned us because they were never really part of us. If they really had been part of us they would have stayed with us. In order to manifest these antichrists and make it clear they were never part of us. All of you who have an anointing from the Holy One have an intimate relationship with Him. I am not writing you because you do not know the Truth but because you do know it and also that no falsehood springs from the Truth. … I have written these matters to you because of those who try to deceive you. You received an anointing from God that continues within you. Therefore, you have no obligation to have any of these deceivers as your teachers. The reason for this is that God’s anointing is teaching you every truth and not a single falsehood. And so as you were taught by this anointing, continue to abide within the Father.” [1 John 2:18-21, 26, 27 Christian Scriptures 2001 Paraphrase]
Surely John does not include himself in this lack of a need of teachers, for that is exactly why he is writing to the Christian community in general. The erroneous view that no teachers are needed at all also contradicts Jesus and Paul completely. Matthew 28:19 shows that Jesus commissioned his apostles to teach all nations. Paul several times shows the need for qualified teachers. Compare also:
Acts 2:42, “Then these [Jews] devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles.” (NCMM)
Romans 12:7, “Let the teacher continue at his teaching.”
1 Corinthians 4:17, “I teach in every ecclesia.”
1 Corinthians 12:29, “Are all teachers?”
1 Corinthians 14:26 “ ... another man teaches.”
Galatians 6:6, “In addition everyone who is taught the Word should share his blessings with the teacher.”
Ephesians 4:11, “ ... some as pastors and teachers.”
Colossians 3:16, “Continue to teach.”
2 Timothy 2:2, “ ... these things entrust to trustworthy men who, thus, competent enough to teach others.”
Hebrews 5:12, “Really, though you should be teachers yourselves by now you will need a teacher to teach you the first principles about divine revelations.”
James 3:1, “Very few of you should ever become teachers.”
Judging from the context John means these Christians have no need to have these antichrist “false prophets” teaching them. [1 John 4:1]
The Bible is not a sealed book for an exclusive hierarchy who alone may act as some kind of “channel” to dispense its truths. One of the closing angelic thoughts in the Bible’s last book reads: "You should not seal the word of the prophecy of this Small (apocalyptic) Bible.” [Revelation 22:10 Christian Scriptures 2001] Unlike the prophet Daniel who’s work was sealed until “the time of the end” in the 1st Century, Revelation and the other books in what is called the New Testament are there for all to study and learn and be taught. [Daniel 12:4]
To the extent Christian individuals put forth the effort required to read, study and meditate on the Bible, to that extent the same will continue to be “filled with God’s spirit.” [Ephesians 5:18]
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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