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Summary of 12-14

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1 Corinthians 12:1-3… Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

Commentary

            When one thinks of the worst possible church that ever existed one need go no further than the church in Corinth in the 1st century. There were divisions, sexual escapades, law suits among believers, rampant divorce, racial/social distinctions, and an abuse of the spiritual gifts given by God to all believers. On top of all their immoralities they were an out-of-control group of charismatics who left their minds, wits, and logic outside the church doors. They had abandoned proper doctrine found only in the scriptures for the occultic ecstasy found in the mystery religions of their day – religions that promoted the speaking in ecstatic utterances, shouting prophecies while calling attention to themselves, and “worshipping” in utter confusion.

            So now Paul addresses the next concern on his agenda – that of “spiritual things [gifts].” Since this was another abuse in their church Paul did not want them to be “unaware” (Greek agnostic) – a word that refers to ignorance. This is the quest of any pastor/Bible teacher, for it is their passion to keep those under their pastoral care informed and educated in the scriptures.

            In v. 2 Paul refers back to the former state of the Corinthian believers prior to their conversion to Christ. Back when they were “pagans” they were led astray to “dumb” idols. The word for “pagan” in Greek is “Gentile” referring to those who believe in many “gods” as opposed to the Christian and Jewish singular “God” (Yahweh; Jehovah). These pagan “gods” (idols) were “dumb” (Greek aphonos) – a word that doesn’t refer to intelligence but rather to muteness. These “gods” couldn’t answer prayer, heal, save, or even speak. They were “dumb,” but they were the gods the Corinthians formerly worshipped and were “led astray” by –used in reference to prisoners being taken away for execution. So it was that the Corinthians were also “led astray” by the deceptions of Satan into believing in false “gods.” It was that life they were saved from. It’s ironic that non-Christians (pagans) actually believe they are free and/or have a freewill when in fact they are bound in spiritual chains with one destination: eternal destruction.

            It appears from Paul’s words in v. 3 that there were professed believers in the Corinthian church who were cursing Jesus while at the same time manifesting gifts of the Spirit. Of course anyone who did such was not speaking from God, but the Corinthians were so far from God they couldn’t tell the difference. It is very likely that they were judging the validity of the spiritual gifts based upon how spectacular they were as opposed to the content they espoused. The more hyped and euphoric the message was at the “worship” gathering the more they were convinced it was from God. But no can say from the heart that “Jesus is Lord” without having the Spirit, and no one could “curse” Jesus by that same Spirit. To admit that Jesus is “Lord” is simply to admit that Jesus is God Almighty. Those who can’t do that are not speaking by the Holy Spirit.

Food for Thought

            Don’t be duped by some of today’s churches that boast about their magnificent worship apart from the preaching of God’s Word. Many today, without actually knowing it, are cursing the name of Jesus Christ through their ecstatic utterances they call tongues. Even in the music of many churches today Christ’s name is slandered by well-meaning people through unorthodox lyrics. Make no mistake, there is a right and a wrong way to worship God. Preaching and teaching from the Bible and obeying the doctrines it espouses is what true worship really is.

1 Corinthians12:4-7… Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Commentary

            In v. 1 Paul turned his attention to “spiritual things,” and in v. 4 the “things” are clearly in reference to spiritual “gifts.” The word for “gifts” in the Greek text is “charisma” – referring to “a gift of grace.” Of the 17 uses of this word in the New Testament 16 of them are connected to God as the giver (gifts of salvation, blessings, etc.). Not to be confused with talents, of which even pagans possess, spiritual gifts come to ALL Christians, supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of equipping them to minister to others, especially to other Christians. If they go unused by even one believer then God’s work is often hindered. Each believer makes up the body of Jesus Christ (who is the “head”), and all gifts are intended to come together to do just that. The spiritual gifts are the focal point of 1 Cor. 12-14, and Paul addresses their abuse.

            In v. 4 Paul says, first of all, that there are a “variety” of gifts. This word refers to “division; distribution.” In other words there are many gifts (“charismata”), but they all come from the “same Spirit” – that is, the Holy Spirit. So, spiritual gifts are given by the third member of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. He distributes different gifts to different Christians.

            In v. 5 Paul continues by saying, “there are a variety of ministries.” The word for “ministry” (Greek “diakonia”) is the same word used for “deacon; service; servant” in the Bible. Jesus came to earth to do ministry, for he said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Now the “variety” of ministries as they relate to the spiritual gifts means that there are variations within the spiritual gifts. For instance, one who possesses the gift of teaching may be real good at teaching adults and not-so-good at teaching children. The converse is true as well where one person may have the gift of teaching children while not being so good at teaching adults. One person may have a heart and a passion for encouraging prisoners (the gift of exhortation) while another has the same gift of exhortation and desires to encourage pastors. The point being that ministries are many, but all of them derive from “the Lord.”

            In v. 6 there is also a “variety of effects, but the same God.” The word for “effects” is literally “energema” from whence we get “energy.” The word refers to “deeds; working; activity.” It is God the Father who provides the “deeds” of the spiritual gifts and the ministries of the Lord, and it is He “who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). And v. 7 shows that each Christian is given the “manifestation” of the Spirit “for the common good.” In other words, God’s Holy Spirit has set forth plainly His gifts to Christians “to be beneficial” – for the good of the body.

Food for Thought

            Notice that the Godhead, the Trinity, comprised of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, deals out and controls the gifts of the Spirit, the “charismata.” These gifts derive from the Spirit, the ministries from the Lord (Jesus), and the effects of them derive from the Father. The Triune God works cohesively as a unit. Now in the same way that God works, so too must the church work – as a cohesive unit. Each member of Christ’s church also has a function. When we come together and share our gifts to work as one cohesive unit only then do we fulfill God’s purpose. When we stand apart from other Christians, failing to come together for the better of each member, we stand divided. Let us share our gifts with one another, and let us bless each other with our gift(s) God has given to us for that very reason. Let us glorify Him in that.

1 Corinthians 12:8… For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit.

Commentary

            Paul explains a handful of the spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit in vv. 8-10 (see also 14:28; Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11). This list shows the varieties of gifts – all from the same Spirit.

            First, the “word of wisdom” in v. 8 (logos sophia). Wisdom was readily sought by the Corinthians, and Paul clarified what true wisdom was in relation to their corruption of the term in 1:17-2:16. They believed wisdom came from worldly knowledge, but Paul said that true wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit – from understanding “Christ crucified.” So, on one hand, the gift of wisdom is given to all true Christians because only they understand the message of salvation. But wisdom also refers to a speaking gift – such as when a prophet received direct revelation from God. Now today with the written Word given to us that particular ability has ceased. It does manifest itself, however, as a unique ability of pastors/teachers who possess a knack to apply truths gained from the Word and who can make skillful and practical application of those truths.

            Second, the “word of knowledge” is a spiritual gift. Knowledge is one of three gifts in 1 Cor. 13:8 that Paul says will end along with tongues and prophecy. “Knowledge” (Greek “gnosis”) refers to things known. Since knowledge can be attained through study of the written Word (as opposed to just “attaining it”), and since it will “pass away” in 1 Cor. 13:8, knowledge as a true spiritual gift has likely ceased. What it referred to in the apostolic era was the ability of the apostles and prophets to impart God’s “gnosis” through His divine revelation to them and its relation to Jesus Christ to the masses. They heard Jesus teach, but after his death/resurrection it all came clear to them, and their message changed the world. God gave them the necessary knowledge, they imparted it, wrote it down (the Bible), and the gift “passed away.” Today true knowledge is attained through study of the scriptures and grasping their meaning which stems from true wisdom given to those who have wisdom – a gift itself not earned but granted.

            The third gift is “faith.” This is not to be confused with saving faith, of which a measure has been given to all Christians (Rom. 12:3). This gift has to do with the ability to trust God in ALL situations and manifests itself in unusual deeds of trust (i.e., moving mountains in 13:2). Whereas God provides the faith for Christians to believe in the cross of Christ – given to all Christians, faith is also in a separate listing as a spiritual gift. Christians with this gift are clearly identified because they have no fear of life’s difficulties. In good times and bad times – in health or in torment – they have full faith in God that His will is unfolding just the way He intended for it to unfold. They never question God or wonder why bad things happen to them or anyone else. They have an unmoving faith wherewith other Christians are molded, sustained, and blessed.

           

Food for Thought

            If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have true wisdom. You may be uneducated or simply ignorant of worldly matters, but you have great wisdom in understanding that God died for you on a cross. This concept is foolish to unbelievers, but it is the power of God for those who believe. Furthermore, the knowledge once given to the apostles was written down in the Bible for all to read. It isn’t just given anymore, it is attained through discipline and study. All Christians have this. But do you know someone with the gift of faith? If not, you might try attending a Bible-believing church where that gift is given to many. Just listening to those with that gift is uplifting, encouraging, and downright wonderful. If you have that gift, bless someone with it today by standing firm in your convictions that God knows exactly what He’s doing.

1 Corinthians 12:9-11… And to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy.

Commentary

The fourth gift in the list of spiritual gifts is “healing.” This gift must not be confused with the so-called faith healers today. True healing in the NT was about bringing the dead back to life (cf. Acts 9:40; 20:9), healing the sick, and casting out demons. Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:12 that signs, wonders, and miracles were “marks of the apostles,” and the true apostles (those who actually saw the risen Lord Jesus alive after death) are all of course dead today. Hence, this gift as given to men was also temporary. However, the Greek text, in speaking of the gift of healing, literally says, “gifts of healings” as opposed to “faith healers.” The plural “gifts” shows varieties of healings within the gift itself. The revealing of the gift (the “manifestation” of the “charisma”) is given to the person who does the healing of the sick person. And the plural ‘charismata,’ in the words of Dr. Gordon Fee, himself a charismatic, “…probably suggests not a permanent ‘gift,’ as it were, but that each occurrence is a ‘gift’ in its own right.” In other words, healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons are not acts that are normative for the church today. This gift comes and goes through any given Christian at any given time. We must never believe that God no longer heals, however, but we would do well to maintain that the so-called television “faith healers” of our day are predominately charlatans. If they were true healers then they’d empty out the local hospitals and have documented proof of the dead raised the life. They don’t.

The fifth gift is the “effecting of miracles” (literally “the working of power”). This gift includes the gifts of healings, but it involves all other supernatural manifestations and activities that go beyond healing the sick. This phrase is clearly a general phrase referring to the abnormal ability to perform great signs – a gift that Paul said was exclusive to the apostles in 2 Cor. 12:12.

The sixth gift is “prophecy” (to speak forth). Prophets were the ones who received and spoke God’s message. They taught God’s people what God wanted them to know. At times they  predicted the future, but most often they simply spoke God’s Word as He revealed it to them. Prophets received God’s Word through revelation directly from God, and teachers (another spiritual gift) simply teach that same revelation as it is recorded in the Bible. The church of God was built upon the message of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20), and since the foundation is in place there is no longer any need to lay that foundation again. We simply build on it through teaching, for prophecy was also one of the gifts that Paul said would “pass away” in 1 Cor. 13:8.

Food for Thought

            Faith healers today make many fantastic claims. Oral Roberts and others have claimed to have raised the dead and seen amputated limbs grow back, but there is no documentation to prove such claims. These people make lots of money with their claims, but the “healings” they espouse look nothing like those found in the NT. The emotionalism found in their “worship services” – designed to set the tone and work people out of their wits – was never a ploy used by Jesus or the apostles. Others claim to work all kinds of miracles – claims of elevation with no support under one’s feet and of “having tea with Jesus” – are foreign to the Bible. These messengers of heresy today claim to be modern-day prophets who receive their words and power straight from God Himself. But to receive extra revelation can only be heretical. For extra words from God ADDS to the scripture. Contradictory words make the scriptures into a lie. And words that simply repeat what’s written in the Bible are unnecessary. All three options are forbidden (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Pro. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19) and prove that modern-day prophets are a sham.

1 Corinthians 12:10b-11… And to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

Commentary

The seventh gift listed is the “distinguishing of spirits.” Distinguishing, or determining, the spirits, was to differentiate the Word of God as taught by a true prophet from false prophets. In the first century, before the NT was complete, Christians had the task of determining whether or not a prophet’s message was indeed from God. The Apostle John wrote the same thing in 1 John 4:1 where he cautioned his readers to beware of false prophets. Christians were charged to “test the spirits” of these prophets to determine whether they spoke by the Holy Spirit or by a demonic one. This is akin to Paul’s later charge in 14:29 to “weigh carefully” what the prophets teach. In the modern-day, however, determining truth teaching is based upon the written Word of God, and it guides us (1 John 2:18–24; 4:1–6). But the church must always beware of false teachers (2 Peter 2:1) by using proper discernment. This gift is actually one given to verify whether all the other gifts are of the Spirit. It must not be confused with the ability that some have to judge the character of another. The gift of discernment manifests itself in people who know immediately when others are speaking non-truths about God and slandering His name.

The eighth gift listed is the one who speaks “various kinds of tongues.” Speaking in tongues (literally “languages”) is simply speaking in a language one has never learned. This gift was as controversial then as it is today. Given what Paul later says about tongues in chapter 14 it is clear that the tongues issue actually spurred his entire argument in chapters 12-14. The fact that he lists so many other spiritual gifts alongside that of tongues proves that the others are as desirable as the gift of tongues – actually far more so, for Paul in chapter 14 says that prophecy is far greater than tongues because prophecy is given to build the church up while tongues only edifies the one speaking them. Throughout the NT tongues mean two things. First, it can refer to the literal tongue in one’s mouth. Second, it refers to decipherable languages. In Acts 2, Peter and the apostles spoke in tongues as a sign that the Holy Spirit had come. Thus began the church age. This made God’s message through the apostles clear to everyone present. So, the gift of tongues is the ability to speak a language without ever having learned that language. It is easy to see why God would grant such a gift since the good news of Jesus Christ was to go out to the entire world – a world that did not always understand the language of the particular evangelist.

The final gift listed is in v. 10. It is the “interpretation of tongues.” Obviously this gift goes hand-in-hand with speaking in tongues. Those that spoke in a language that others could not understand were required to have someone interpret what they were saying. Otherwise the gift would be for naught. A prophet would receive a message from God, speak it in a language unknown to him, and have an interpreter there to reveal the truth from God.

Verse 11 say, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” In other words, Christians can take absolutely no credit for displaying their God-given gifts. After all, it is the Spirit of God who gives them as He wills.

Food for Thought

            We are blessed indeed in the modern day. We have no need for ecstatic utterances from God. We have the Bible – His complete Word to us. We are to measure all teachings against the teachings of the Bible. God used prophets and tongues-speakers in the days before His Word was complete, but today they are no longer needed. The final authority is always the Bible.

Speaking Gifts – First Peter 4:11 places these under the general heading of “prophecy.”

1.      Teaching: This is simply to communicate in a clear and defined way so as to portray God’s Word with the goal of producing an understanding and love for God’s Truth. Teaching is to clarify God’s Word (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11).

2.      Exhortation: To argue God’s case before men with the goal of motivating them to obey the truth and to encourage them in their obedience. Exhortation is application of the truth that came through teaching (Romans 12:8; 1 Cor. 14:3).

3.      Consolation: To give hope and comfort to others in settings such as small groups and/or one on one counseling (1 Corinthians 14:3).

4.      Evangelism: Making the core message of salvation, Jesus Christ, clear to the unsaved. This gift is given in abundance to some as some see much more fruit than others, but it is the responsibility of all Christians (Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:4).

 

Gifts of Service – Gifts of Service is mentioned in 1 Peter 4:11, and people who work with these gifts are known as “deacons” or “ministers.” Both words mean “one who serves.”

1.      Discernment: The ability to determine if the spiritual gifts people have and their messages derive from the Spirit of God or from an evil spirit (1 Cor. 12:10).

2.      Faith: This is a special gift of insight and trust beyond that common to all Christians. It might be characterized by living consistently on the edge of God’s promises and seeing abundant fruit in prayer (1 Cor. 12:9; 13:2).

3.      Helps: This is the ability and desire to lend a helping hand in physical tasks for the sake of the body of believers and individuals (1 Cor. 12:28).

4.      Mercy: Characterized by an extraordinary love and compassion for those who are unlovely or unlovable. This gift comes with a self-sacrificing desire to help these kinds of individuals through any and all circumstances in their lives (Romans 12:28).

5.      Giving: The ability to see a financial need and a strong desire to share one’s material possessions for the sake of God’s Kingdom. It typifies the “going above the call of duty” with no ulterior or selfish motives (Romans 12:8).

6.      Administration: This is the ability to work in harmony with others w/the ability to organize efficiently the workings of the church (1 Cor. 12:28; Romans 12:8).

Sign Gifts – This is a category of gifts  that were related to the accreditation of the apostles (2 Cor. 12:12) who were the first ministers of the good news about Jesus Christ to unbelievers.

1.      The Gifts of Indirect Power – Gifts confirmed the one giving the message.

¨      Healings (1 Cor. 12:9) The restoration of the sick back to health.

¨      Miracles (1 Cor. 12:28) This gifts includes works of power; raising of the dead.

2.      Gifts of Direct Revelation: These gifts made known the will of God before the completion of the New Testament which completed the Word of God for today (Rev. 22:18; Hebrews 1:1-2).

¨      Knowledge: (1 Cor. 12:8) Insight into truths directly ministered by the Spirit.

¨      Wisdom: (1 Cor. 12:8) This is the application of biblical truths to life.

¨      Prophecy: (1 Cor. 12:10) Receiving the direct revelation from God.

¨      Tongues: (1 Cor. 14:22) The ability to speak in unlearned languages.

¨      Interpretation: (1 Cor. 12:30) The ability to translate unlearned languages.

The gifts:

  1. Word of wisdom (temporary, yet applicable today)

·         Comes to all Christians who understand “Christ crucified.”

·         In apostolic age it referred to receiving revelation

·         Today it refers to the ability to understand scripture and apply it

·         Examples: apostles; pastors/teachers

  1. Word of knowledge – (can be trained or untrained)

·         Perceiving/understanding God’s truths

·         Used for direct revelation from God

·         Saints who study and understand God’s Word have this gift

·         13:2 says, “who know all mysteries and all knowledge”

·         Examples: writers of scripture; pastors/teachers

  1. Faith

·         All Christians possess faith in God (Rom. 12:3)

·         One whose faith in God is extraordinary (can “move mountains”)

·         Examples: Paul in Acts 27; Abe in Rom. 4; Hudson Taylor, etc.

  1. Gifts of healing/effecting miracles (power)

·         Given to Christ, the apostles, and the prophets (2 Cor. 12:12)

·         Casting out demons, raising the dead, etc.

·         Used to authenticate the message of Christ

·         Paul used it sparingly (not himself, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Tromphimus

·         No need today for God to authenticate His Word

  1. Prophecy

·         Specifically receiving God’s Word and proclaiming it

·         Generally it is a speaking gift of telling others what God has said

·         Foundation of the church built upon apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20)

  1. Distinguishing of spirits

·         Judges all the spiritual gifts; protects the church from error; church discpline

·         Distinguishes b/t right and wrong theology

·         Example: Jews of Berea (Acts 17:11); Paul’s rebuke of the slave-girl (Acts 16:16-17)

  1. Tongues/Interpretation – speaking in unlearned languages/interpreting the message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 12:12-14… For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many.

Commentary

            Paul sets out to explain in vv. 12-31 just how all the different spiritual gifts he listed in vv. 8-10 fit together. When believers come together with their gifts they form the body of Christ.

            The analogy of the human body is Paul’s illustration and parallel to how the church works. The human body is one piece, but it has many different “members” – a word that refers to arms, legs, eyes, ears, etc. Though the body parts are many, they come together to form the one body. “So also is Christ.” Christ IS the church because the church makes up his body. And just as the human body is one, so too is Jesus Christ. He is one, yet he is made up of many, and Paul shows how this is possible through the teaching of the spiritual gifts. Each Christian has a spiritual gift, and in the same way that the arm benefits the body so too does each believer benefit the body of Christ, that is the church. One believer is no less or greater than another.

            Paul explains what he means in v. 13 as indicated by the explanatory “For.” Most English translations say that it was “by” one Spirit that all were baptized. However, John the Baptist, in speaking of Jesus in Matt. 3:11, said “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” So it is Jesus who is the baptizer, and it is WITH the Spirit that he baptizes. The word “baptize” literally means to be “dipped,” as in water. The ancient Greek writer Plutarch used the word in reference to being in “over one’s head” in debt (baptized in debt). Plato uses the word in reference to being “soaked in wine.” It is used in the Bible as being “washed” both literally and figuratively in an act of ceremonial cleansing. The sacrament of water baptism in the Christian church today represents one’s inauguration into the body of Jesus Christ. However, the water baptism the church participates in today, as in first-century Christianity, is nothing more than an outward symbol to the world of one’s being identified with Christ’s death (cf. Rom. 6:1-10) that took away our sins. Water baptism is NOT what 1 Cor. 12:13 speaks of. This passage refers to the spiritual act of baptism that Jesus performs on a convert to Christianity the moment he/she comes to faith in Christ. Christ baptizes that person spiritually with the Holy Spirit just like John the Baptist said he would. The baptism in v. 13 is in a verb tense (aorist) that reflects a past tense, once-and-for-all baptism. All Christians have been baptized by Jesus Christ with the Spirit into “one body.” This is the work of God solely, and it is synonymous with salvation. There is NO second baptism as some believe. MacArthur says, “Paul’s central point in v. 13 is that baptism with the one Spirit makes the church one Body. If there were more than one baptism, there would be more than one church, and Paul’s whole point here would be destroyed. He is using the doctrine of baptism with the Spirit to show the unity of all believers in the Body.”

            The latter half of v. 13 says that God shows no favoritism between race and social status. Jews and non-Jews alike – rich and poor – are “made to drink of one Spirit.” And v. 14 sums up what he’s has been saying all along, namely that the “body is not one member but many.”

Food for Thought

            Contrary to what many teach today, there is no need to seek a second “Spirit” baptism. The moment a person receives Jesus Christ as Lord/Savior they are simultaneously baptized with the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is like a wedding ring – symbolic of our Spirit baptism. Rejoice today if you possess the Holy Spirit. You are a full and vital member in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:15-17… If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

Commentary

            Many Christians today go outside the bounds of admiring the gifts of other believers to the point of envying them and coveting their gifts. This was (and is) sinful, but the first century Corinthians fell into that trap. In keeping with their carnality they all wanted the more visual and prestigious gifts given by God – gifts such as the ability to speak in languages they’d not previously learned (tongues), gifts of healings, and miracles so that more attention and esteem would come to them. Paul stays with the human body analogy to show the Corinthians, and all modern-day believers for that matter, how vital each Christian is to the body.

            In v. 15 Paul gives the foot a voice and imagines what would happen if the lowly foot got tired of being a foot and wanted to be a hand. He also imagines the ear coveting the abilities and beauty of the eye. If either the foot or the ear began to feel unimportant in their role in the human body Paul imagines what that would do to the body. Notice that the foot (an unattractive and aromatic part of the human body) wants to be a hand (a more attractive and recognizable body part). Notice also that the ear (something rarely noticed on the body) wants to be an eye (usually very noticeable on the human body and containing great beauty). This is a parallel to the body of Christ which also has noticeable Christians in relation to those who are hardly ever noticed for their work. In the same way that that human body would be handicapped without a foot or an ear, so too is the body of Jesus Christ without its more unnoticeable members.

            In v. 17 the question is asked as to what would happen if the entire body were an eye. If the whole body could see, then it would have no ability to hear. Likewise, if the whole body consisted of an ear, how would it be able to smell those foul-smelling feet? The answer from the analogy is obvious because the whole idea is preposterous. As the human body is one, though made up of many different and vital parts – each one having its proper function to bring the whole body together as one working piece, so too is the church – the actual body of Christ. The pastor typically gets the most attention. He can be compared to the human eye. But in the same way that the eye cannot make up the whole body, neither can the pastor by himself. He needs some ears, legs, etc. In other words, the pastor, though the most visible part of the local church, cannot make up the body of Christ. All cannot be pastors, elders, and deacons. All cannot lead music, and all cannot make coffee. All cannot lead, and all cannot follow. The body of Jesus Christ, like the human body, is one. Yet, it is made up of different parts with each one having their assigned role as given to them in their spiritual gifts. When each one functions as it is intended to function, the whole thing comes together like a finely tuned and oiled machine.

Food for Thought

            If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, where do you fit into His body? The feet take the gospel out (evangelists), the eyes watch over the church (pastors/elders), the arms serve the church (those with the gift of helps who serve the sick/poor), the mouth teaches God’s Word (teachers), the ears hear about the needs of people (encouragement gifts), and the list goes on. If you’re a believer in Christ you have at least one of these gifts, and if you aren’t using it to glorify God, then you’re missing out on a blessing and also depriving the church of your usefulness.

1 Corinthians 12:18-24a… But in the present God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. 19 If they were all the same member, where would the body be? 20 So now there are many members, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” 22 On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, 23 and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less presentable members are clothed with dignity, 24 but our presentable members do not need this.

Commentary

            Christians are the members of Christ’s body. Each one has a God-given purpose in that body to keep the body working properly. God’s gifts given to believers are essentially ministries that each believer is to be involved with. A Christian without a ministry is self-defeating statement akin to saying, “Hi, I’m a Christian atheist.” Each member of Christ’s body has a ministry just as each member of the human body has a function. In the same way that the human body is handicapped when one limb fails to work, so too does the church when believers fail to use their gift(s). The whole body suffers, and vv. 18-19 say this very thing. Notice that it is God who places each Christian in his/her proper place in the church body – “just as He has decided.” To not like our given place in the church or to wish we had another type of gift is to insult God in some sense and to steal our blessing away from serving where we’re called to serve. Because some folks today fail to use their gifts, the ones that do end up picking up the slack. It’s the same thing as when one loses an arm. The load that was once carried by both is now carried by one.

            In vv. 21-24 the analogy is given of the eye scorning the hand and of the head scorning the foot. In the body of Christ, the pastor can’t look down on the janitor, and the Sunday School teachers can’t look down on the church administrator. They have differing roles, one with far more prestige than the other, but they each play an important role. Verse 22 explains the friction that exists within the church. Those members who appear to be weaker (janitors, children’s Sunday school teachers, maintenance men, etc.) are “essential” – a word that means “indispensable; cannot do without.” A church cannot function properly without teachers at the lowest level, people who maintain order and cleanliness, and those who administrate. These people, members of Christ’s body, are to be “clothed with greater honor” so that they will be “clothed with dignity.” They may seem unnecessary, but the church cannot live without them any more so than the human body can live without a brain, a liver, or a heart. The outward members that receive most of the credit for ministry are reliant upon the less presentable members who are behind the scenes praying and serving. They, like the liver and heart, are vital instruments in ministry even though they aren’t clothed with great honor. The body can live without eyes and ears, but without a heart or lungs it dies. So it is with Christ’s body. Those with higher positions in the church like pastors & elders, in v. 24, do not need greater honor, for their positions offer that already. Their ministries thrive only when the “weaker” ones do their jobs.

Food for Thought

            Remember Apollo 13? That spacecraft was a “successful failure” in that it never made it to the moon, but it came home safely. The ones people remember are the astronauts and the flight director. However, the most important ones were the “grunts” behind the scene working the problems. The most crucial members in churches are the ones that few know about. They’re the ones praying behind the scenes, taking meals to the sick, and keeping the church finances. These are faithful saints who receive little notice, but they are the critical organs of the church.

1 Corinthians 12:24b-26… But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Commentary

            When God knit the human body together he hid the vital organs beneath the surface of the skin. The heart, lungs, skeleton, stomach, liver, and the like are hidden. They receive little honor in the human body compared to the outward features of the body. Yet without any one of them the body dies. On the other hand, God has made the human face to be beautiful, straight white teeth that are seen, muscle structure that gets noticed, and eyes that sometimes mesmerize with their beauty. Yet without any of these – even all of these – the body is actually able to function just fine. The outward features get all the glory, and they aren’t even the vital organs for survival. So it is in the church, and even though many long for the more noticeable positions, it is actually the behind-the-scenes jobs and tasks that God has bestowed great honor upon.

            Verse 25 teaches that “there should be no division in the body…” Just as God gave the more abundant honor to the body parts that lacked (heart, lungs, etc.), He has also given more abundant honor to the lesser positions of authority in the church – the body of Christ. The reason He did so was to keep division out of the body. The word “division” is “schism,” but it’s clear that in first-century Corinth this wasn’t the case. Divisions clearly existed between various people groups. The earlier schism Paul spoke of concerned the division between those that preferred Paul as their preacher and those who preferred Apollos. Now the division consists of those who prefer one type of spiritual gift over another. Apparently there were bragging rights associated with certain gifts, and the ones who didn’t have the gift of tongues were looked down upon. But God never intended for it to be that way. All the gifts – both the outward gifts and the behind-the-scenes gifts were to come together in perfect harmony. Paul wrote that “the members should have the same care for one another.” Whether they were high-ranking pastors in the Corinthian church or if they were old widows who made bread for Communion, they were to have the same care for one another and bring their gifts together for the common good.

            In v. 26 Paul’s analogy of the church and the human body is unmistakable. In the same way that when one breaks an arm or a leg the whole body hurts with it, so too in the Christian church. When one member, whether great or small, suffers or rejoices, the whole body suffers or rejoices right alongside him/her. This is the essence of the true body of Jesus Christ because one cannot conceive of the human body not hurting alongside a wounded member any more so than the body Christ hurting alongside another member that suffers.

Food for Thought

            What do you do when someone in your church gets recognized? Do you rejoice, or do you find yourself growing jealous and/or angry? We should spend time rejoicing with those who rejoice instead of growing jealous over their success. After all, their success brings the whole church body success, and ultimately – and far more important – it glorifies Christ. When one member of our church suffers in any way we all suffer in the same way that when our toe hurts our whole body hurts along with it. God composed the body of Christ, the church, and even though some people receive more honor and credit than others, resolve to rejoice when one member succeeds – even if you don’t like that person. Remember that serving Christ has nothing to do with you but has everything to do with Christ Himself and Him glorified.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31… Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

Commentary

            Verse 27 is a summary statement of what it means to be a Christian – whether in Corinth in the first century or in any present-day Christian church. A believer’s relationship to Jesus Christ is that of being part of his body – “individually members of it.” In v. 28 Paul shows not only that God is the responsible One for creating the diversity in the members of Christ’s body, but he also illustrates what some of that diversity looks like with another list of “charismata.” Notice that it is God who “appoints” (to assign; to place). The first three are in descending order of rank as signified by “first” apostles, “second” prophets, “third” teachers. The apostolic office is obviously first because they are the ones who saw the risen Christ and received His words. The prophets received their words from the Holy Spirit as He gave it, but that word was measured against what the apostles spoke. The final group, “teachers,” are the ones who basically espouse and explain the Word of God as given to the apostles and prophets. Since the Word of God (Bible) is complete in its present form there is no need today for apostles and prophets, but teachers are the ones who guide God’s people through an explanation of God’s written Word.

            Verse 28 continues with “then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” In Paul’s previous list the “gifts of healings” preceded “miracles,” so it’s safe to assume that these gifts are not ranked in order of importance. The fact that “tongues” is listed last signifies that this was the gift that Paul was going to expound on further (as in  chapters 13-14). The gifts after “teachers” do not refer to people as in the previous three but refer to the various ministries of the apostles, prophets, and teachers. It is noteworthy that the gifts of miracles and signs (healings?) were exclusively apostolic gifts in 2 Cor. 12:12. Their ability to perform signs and wonders made their message believable. Today we have those testimonies.

            The gift of “helps” literally means “to lay hold of; to aid.” It is listed in the NT only once, but as a spiritual gift it refers to those who are passionate about giving to the needs of others and performing acts of mercy. The gift of “administrations” literally refers to a “a pilot; a captain.” Though often mistaken for one who can organize well, this gift is in reference to those who have an extraordinary ability to lead a church. This gift refers to the ability of one who can provide guidance and wise counsel to the community of believers as a whole – not just one or two.

            Verses 29-30 rhetorically asks if everyone can serve as apostles, prophets, teachers, work miracles, and perform healings. The obvious answer is NO. This is the whole point. Each person has different gifts, but when they all come together they form the unified church – the Body.

In v. 31 Paul concludes with a command to pursue the greater gifts – those gifts that are intelligible (not tongues) because they build up the church. Tongues only edify the one speaking.

Food for Thought

            As believers God has appointed each individual to a task. Each task is about service toward others – ultimately toward God Himself. If He appointed us for such, and if we fail to show up regularly for church and/or fail to serve with our various gift(s), can we really expect His full blessings upon our lives? Stop asking what God can do for you, and start doing for God.

1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:3… And I will show you the most excellent way. 13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Commentary

            The Corinthians spoke in tongues – languages they had not learned – by the power of the Holy Spirit. But at the same time they also allowed illicit sexual activity, greed, idolatry, and divisions in their midst. They also had the gift of wisdom but devalued the true wisdom of Christ crucified – a wisdom Paul says is above all worldly wisdom. They sought glory for themselves, an inferior glory, but Paul sets out to show them “the most excellent way” through love.

            In 13:1 Paul speaks of someone speaking in the “tongues of men and of angels” but not having love. Tongues (Greek glossa) refers to legitimate translatable languages. I myself am currently writing in English, my “mother tongue.” The term “tongues” can easily be rendered “languages” throughout the Bible, and it would avoid much confusion. In speaking of the “tongues of men” Paul is simply referring to the many dialects of mankind. In the context Paul says that if someone could speak ten different languages, a very impressive ability, but didn’t have love, then his/her ability would be worthless. But he also mentions “the tongues of angels” – another phrase that has brought about great confusion. To be sure, there is nothing in the Bible about a special angelic language spoken by angels. On the contrary, each time an angel appears in scripture to speak to a human the angel speaks the dialect of the one he is speaking to. What Paul is saying in relation to angels is this: if one were to have the ability to speak with the fluency and proficiency of an angel, or even the greatest of orators among men, he would be nothing more than a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” if he/she did so without love. It is interesting to note that first-century pagans worshipped their gods (Dionysus & Cybele) with gongs and cymbals – something the Corinthians must have fully understood. In other words, without love in a worship gathering where the Spiritual gifts are being exercised, their worship gatherings amounted to no more than the pagan worship of Dionysus and Cybele.

            In v. 2 Paul speaks of having the gift of prophecy, the most superior of the spiritual gifts in Paul’s mind. If one received revelation from God and spoke God’s words but did not have love for the people he spoke to… If he had the ability discern the “mysteries” of God (refers to God’s once hidden secrets revealed through the apostles and prophets)… if he had the deepest knowledge (representing the greatest of human wisdom)… if he had faith so strong that he could uproot a mountain – a figure of speech representing the ability to surmount great obstacles (Matt. 17:20)… but he did not have love he would be “nothing!” Yea, even if he were to give all he owned to the poor and sacrifice his body in fire, without love it would amount to a hill of beans.

Food for Thought

            Imagine Deion Sanders all decked out in his football garb standing in the end-zone celebrating a touchdown without the football in his hands. That’s the image of a pathetic Christian without love as their motive for ministry. The bottom line for Christians is that if we don’t act in love our gifts are as worthless as a superior athlete celebrating a touchdown without the ball! Love is a verb. God’s love in the Bible has little to do with sentiment and everything to do with action. Without it your life is worthless and so are your efforts to gain God’s favor.

1 Corinthians 13:4… Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous...

Commentary

            There are a handful of Greek words used for the English “love.” The Greek “eros” is associated with sexual love. That particular Greek term is not found in the New Testament. The two Greek forms of “love” in the NT are philia (friendship/brotherly love) and agapē (referring to self-giving love that is more concerned with giving than receiving). Agapē love is one of the rarest words used in ancient Greek literature but one of the most common words in the NT – mainly because the NT teaches God’s love. It isn’t a word used to describe sentimentality or warm-fuzzy love that comes and goes, and it has nothing to do with romantic feelings and infatuation. Agapē gape love is a verb. Mankind “falls” in love; God chooses to love.

In vv. 4-7 agapē love is described in 15 different ways. Though English translations bring this out in the form of adjectives that describe love, the Greek text uses verbs to describe love, and why not? After all, love is a verb. In v. 4 the first two descriptions of agapē love are positive attributes: “patience” and “kindness.” Patient love, literally “long-tempered” love, is a term in the NT used almost exclusively in relation to being patient with people as opposed to situations. It’s about remaining calm and non-retaliatory when wronged. The Greeks believed just the opposite. Only the weak endured insults. Aristotle taught that retaliation, as opposed to patience when wronged, was the true virtue. Consider Abraham Lincoln. When reviled by Edwin Stanton as a clown and a gorilla Lincoln never retaliated. However, when Lincoln needed a secretary of war he chose Stanton “because he was the best man.” When Lincoln died Stanton announced through his tears, “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” Stanton’s hatred for Lincoln dissolved through Lincoln’s long-suffering patience and refusal to retaliate.

Love is also described positively as “kind.” Whereas patience endures ridicule from others, kindness gives to others. Patience takes while kindness gives. Kindness is about doing good to others even when they do us wrong. This is the essence of what Christ commanded his disciples. Since true love isn’t a feeling (for who can feel love toward one’s enemies?), it is an act of compassion despite harsh feelings. Kindness gives to the one who steals (Matt. 5:40-41). It goes to extreme lengths to serve and look after the welfare of friends, family – even our enemies.

Next Paul lists eight characteristics that are NOT descriptive of true love. First, “love is not jealous” for they are mutually exclusive. Akin to envy, jealousy has two facets. First, it wants what someone else has because it’s not satisfied with what it has. Second, it desires for others to not have what they have, and it evolves into desiring evil for another. Jealousy was the first sin (Eve’s jealousy of God), and it permeates all sin. Cain was jealous of Abel, Joseph’s brothers jealous of him, Saul jealous of David, etc. True love for another is never jealous of him/her.

Food for Thought

            Saul’s son Jonathon is a great example of love. Though heir to the throne in Israel he knew that David was God’s anointed. He sacrificed not only his throne for David but his life too (1 Sam. 20). His patience was manifested in his refusal to retaliate against David. His kindness was exhibited in his willingness to give his life for him. And his lack of jealousy was manifested in his refusal to seek his own justice. On the contrary, he was proud, happy, and filled with admiration for David. He had every reason to disdain him, but Jonathon’s love for David was real. Is there someone you’re jealous of today? Is there someone you would love to “give a piece of your mind” to because they wronged you? That’s not love. Your thoughts are reprehensible. True love acts kindly toward those we dislike, and it never retaliates after being unfairly treated.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5... Love does not boast and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked...

Commentary

            The characteristics of love continue in v. 4. Love “does not boast.” Boasting is about calling attention to oneself. It’s about parading one’s achievements and possessions so as to exalt oneself. Boasting is about talking with conceit. Whereas jealousy is about desiring what someone else has, boasting attempts to engage jealousy through conceit. It’s no wonder Paul listed this feature to the Corinthians who were proud of their many gifts. They were showy, striving for attention, and continually seeking their own gain. C.S. Lewis called boasting “the utmost evil.” There is only one topic truly worth talking about: Jesus Christ. When mankind continually desires to speak of himself, he shows that love does not dwell within him.

            Love is not “arrogant.” This word has to do with being filled with air – puffy. It is very much akin to boasting, but whereas boasting is about one or more persons telling or showing others how great they are, arrogance is more of an attitude. A truly loving person must never be filled with arrogance because arrogance is the opposite of love. Arrogance puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1). They are mutually exclusive terms. God hates arrogance (Prov. 8:13).

            In v. 5 love does not act “unbecomingly.” This term has to do with poor manners and rude behavior, and it is not descriptive of love. Can you imagine Jesus being rude to another person or having bad manners? Those that are without love don’t care who they offend. When Paul rebuked the Corinthians in chapter 11 for their bad table manners and complete lack of respect for the poor at the Lord’s Supper he was rebuking their bad manners and rude behavior. When Paul rebuked them for speaking out of turn in their worship services in 14:40 he was rebuking their “unbecoming” behavior. Once again, we are reminded of how short of the mark the Christians in Corinth fell in their ungodly, non-glorifying, and unloving behavior.

            Love “does not seek its own.” There is nothing more pathetic than one who lives his life solely for himself. One tombstone in England reads like this: “Here lies a miser who lived for himself, and cared for nothing but gathering wealth. Now where he is or how he fares, nobody knows and nobody cares.” True love, on the other hand, seeks only the welfare of others. It longs to be wealthy so that it can give more, not have more. General Charles George Gordon is said to have “at all times everywhere given his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.” This is the epitaph of the sheep in Matthew 25.

            Love is “not provoked.” This term means “to arouse to anger.” It refers to a convulsion or a sudden outburst of emotional anger towards another. This type of anger is in contrast to “righteous indignation” – anger brought about by one who would blaspheme God and His Word. True love doesn’t fly off the handle, as it were, when things don’t go one’s way. Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles were never angered or sought revenge when they themselves were slandered, but demonstrated righteous indignation when God’s name was slandered. Love is not easily angered because it isn’t self-centered, and those who aren’t self-centered are rarely provoked.

Food for Thought

            True love is seldom found in humans. But it is modeled throughout the Bible. The Bible reveals God to His children. From Genesis to Revelation the love of God permeates the pages. His love isn’t a sentimental warm-fuzzy; it is slow to anger and selfless. God’s love culminated at the cross when He demonstrated the ultimate act of love – He died for us. We are the ones deserving death, but He took it for us. That’s true love because we humans are most unlovable. 

1 Corinthians 13:5-7... Love does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.           

Commentary

            When v. 5 says that love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” it uses one Greek word (logizomai) which is an accounting term. It means “to calculate or reckon” as when doing basic math on a ledger. This word is used often in the NT. In Romans 4:8 the man is blessed “whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” In 2 Cor. 5:19 God is said to have “not counted their trespasses against them.” One who models true biblical love might be offended and wronged by someone, but he/she does will not hold that against another. They do not “take into account” the wrong done to them. This is exactly what Christ did for his elect children at the cross. He forgave their sinful depravity and does not hold them in contempt for sins against God. There is no ledger full of sins for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. When God pulls out that proverbial ledger all He sees is “Paid in full” written in the blood of Jesus, as it were. This kind of love is God’s love, and it must also be the quest of mankind to model it.

             Love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness” in v. 6. A truly loving person never jumps for joy when an injustice is done to someone or when unrighteousness rears its ugly head. Foul jokes, filthy movies, the standard decadence of our world today – none of these atrocities are seen as funny or to be taken lightly by those who love God. When God’s name is taken in vain, or when His Word is slandered as it so often is in the media (and in many churches too), God’s children never rejoice or take it lightly. Instead, true love “rejoices with the truth.” Truth is found in God’s Word, and when it prevails in society, at church, in homes, or in schools, God’s children rejoice. There is nothing to rejoice about when others attempt to silence the Word of God, but there is everything to rejoice in when it is upheld, honored, and taught clearly and authoritatively. Love rejoices always in the truth while at the same time hating slander.

            In v. 7 love “bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things.” Love “bears” all things in that it “covers closely.” Hence, it protects others from emotional and physical harm. It doesn’t gossip or listen to gossip, and it takes no pleasure in the shortcomings of other people. It “believes all things” in that it isn’t skeptical of people or critical. It believes the best in people through acceptance. Some are skeptical of others till given a reason to love. But true love accepts until given a reason not to – then it loves anyway. Love also “hopes all things.” When people and/or life disappoint, love continues to hope for the best without losing sight of the potential good in all things. Biblical hope is far more than a wish because it is based on God’s reputation for always remaining faithful. Finally, love “endures all things.” Endure means “to stay behind; to await.” Nothing can kill it – no matter how overwhelming a situation might be. True love endures the deepest emotional cuts, the strongest of criticisms, the darkest of nights, and the most unfair times in life. It “stands behind” that which it loves because it chooses to.

Food for Thought

            Human love “falls.” We fall in “love” like love-sick teen-agers. The problem with falling in love is that we can just as easily fall out of love – because it’s not really love at all. Biblical godly love, however, chooses to love, and this ensures that the one choosing to love does so with a clear mind, a devoted heart, and an inability to fall out of love. This is God’s love. It’s NOT emotional; it is the essence of God. The only way God could love mankind is through His choosing because we are not loveable. Only a loving God would die for such wretched sinners.

Love is…

1.      Patience: (μακροθυμεῖ)  “long-tempered” with people as opposed to situations; Remains calm; opposite of Greeks who taught otherwise (i.e. Aristotle). Abe Lincoln/Edwin Stanton.

2.      Kindness: (χρηστεύεται) “Gentle in behavior; mildness” (hapax legomena); patience receives; kindness gives. Kindness gives to the one who steals (Matt. 5:40-41). It isn’t about feeling kindness toward those who wrong us but showing them kindness – a verb.

3.      Not jealous: (οὐ ζηλοῖ) “set one’s heart on; envious” – wants what others have; wants others to not have by desiring evil for them (i.e., Eve, Cain, Joseph’s brothers, Saul, etc.).

4.      Not boast: (οὐ περπερεύεται) “to vaunt oneself” (hapax legomena) – bring glory to self. Jealousy wants what others have; boasting attempts to incite jealousy.

5.      Not arrogant: (οὐ φυσιοῦται) “to puff up; inflate” – whereas boasting is outward verbal talk, arrogance is an inward pompousness and feelings of superiority.

6.      Not act unbecomingly: (οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ) “to behave indecent” – Not caring who we offend (i.e., the Corinthians at the Lord’s Supper; speaking out of turn in 14:40).

7.      Does not seek its own: (οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς) “to seek oneself” –seeks only the welfare of others while at the same time minimizing oneself. It longs for more so as to give more.

8.      Is not provoked: (οὐ παροξύνεται) “to irritate; arouse to anger” – refers to a convulsion or a sudden outburst of anger towards another upon being offended (different from righteous indignation where anger is aroused on account of God’s name and Word being slandered).

9.      Does not take into account wrong suffered: (οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν) “to keep a record; charge to an account” – Cf. Rom. 4:8; 2 Cor. 5:19. Christ paid for sin “in full” and has no ledger of sins for His children. They were forgiven through His shedding of blood. Notice also that it’s only “wrongs suffered” that aren’t recorded. Good deeds are (cf. 2 Cor. 5).

10.  Does not rejoice in unrighteousness: (οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ) “not happy about evil” – One who gives no approval to filth and corruption as see in all of society today.

11.  Rejoices with the truth: (συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ) “is happy in the truth” – Describes one who is excited over the things of God, His Word, His revelation, His victory at the cross.

12.  Bears all things: (πάντα στέγει) “covers closely” – Protects everything in its power from emotional/physical harm. Avoids all gossip and takes no pleasure in shortcomings of others.

13.  Believes all things: (πάντα πιστεύει) – accepts all people until given reason not to as opposed to rejected all until given reason to accept them. Does NOT imply gullibility.

14.  Hopes all things: (πάντα ἐλπίζει) – With people/life disappoints there is no losing sight of the potential good in all things but a continual quest to believe God is in complete control.

15.  Endures all things: (πάντα ὑπομένει) “stands behind” – nothing can thwart, not the darkest of days, the deepest cuts, the strongest criticisms, the most unfair treatments from others – it always endures because it chooses to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 13:8… Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

Commentary

            The conclusion to the 15 attributes of love in vv. 4-7 is found in v. 8: “Love never fails.” The word for “fail” comes from the Greek pipto which means “to fall; to stop; to be destroyed; to cease.” The word “never” precedes the verb, and it refers to time. Simply put, love, because it is the essence of God Himself, who is eternal, will never cease. This is in contrast to the spiritual gifts which are given by God to bring glory to God. All of them will cease, but love will not.

            Paul lists three spiritual gifts in v. 8 that would all eventually disappear. Prophecy and knowledge will be “done away,” while tongues will “cease.” The word for “done away” comes from the Greek katargeo which means “to destroy; to abolish.” The verb form is a passive which basically means that something or someone will cause prophecy and knowledge to stop. Verse 10 says this something will be “the perfect.” Tongues, on the other hand, will “cease.” This comes from the Greek pauo which means “to finish; to stop.” This verb form is a middle voice, and when it is used in reference to people and inanimate objects it denotes an intentional action upon oneself – a reflexive action. In other words, the gift of tongues had an innate ability to stop itself. The gift of tongues can be likened to a self-destructing device with a limited life span that served its purpose then simply ended itself. Whereas prophecy and knowledge would be stopped by something acting upon them, tongues would stop of its own accord. All three gifts were given to validate the message of the ones who had them. Paul’s (and the other apostles) evangelistic messages about salvation in Jesus Christ alone was given credibility by his (their) ability to perform miracles and speak in languages they had not previously learned. When unbelievers would hear the message of the apostles, and see the signs and wonders they performed, it gave their ministry a high credibility. These gifts were given to the apostles (2 Cor. 12:12), and when they died in the first century so did the normative nature of these gifts. They ceased.

            Prophecy was the special God-given ability for one person to receive God’s direct revelation and proclaim it to others. The church itself was built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20) – those men who testified concerning Jesus who is “the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). Now if the foundation is laid by the prophets and apostles, then it has no need to be laid again. It’s not their teaching that makes the foundation, it’s the office they held, and those offices died out when they died. As such, the ability to receive new revelation from God (prophecy) and the knowledge which clarified the “mysteries” of God died out when they themselves died. Whereas in the apostolic age God’s revelation was given through the apostles and prophets, in the current age prophecy and knowledge are given to us in the written Word – the Bible. Those today who are given the special ability to teach God’s Word are the modern-day prophets. All others either add to or subtract from that Word (false prophets).

Food for Thought

            Many well-meaning people today believe that they not only can speak in tongues but that they also have the knack for hearing God speak to them with new prophecies. These unfortunate events have made Christianity look pretty ridiculous. God has spoken, and the true apostles and prophets – those who walked with Jesus and saw him resurrected – recorded Christ’s words without error. We have all that God wanted us to have in our English Bibles. Beware of those who speak in ecstatic utterances, for research has shown that most of them unknowingly speak blasphemies against Christ in these utterances. Let’s praise God in a way that all can understand.

1 Corinthians 13:8… But if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away…

Food for Thought (Cf. The MacArthur NT Commentary, 1 Corinthians, pp. 359-62).

Just a few reason why the sign-gifts (tongues, miracles, healings, prophecies) have ceased. First, though God can still perform miracles and the like, the Bible records only three periods in history where miracles occurred regularly: during the days of Moses/Joshua, the days of Elijah/Elisha, and during the days of Jesus and the apostles. Each period lasted about 70 years. Miracles will also be normative during the 1000-year reign of Christ on the earth following his second coming. The last biblical miracle occurred in Acts 28:8 (AD 58), and the last prophecy came to John the Apostle (The Book of Revelation) in AD 95.

            When Israel rejected Jesus their Messiah it was “impossible to renew them again to repentance” (Heb. 6:6). So the gospel was then offered to the Gentiles. Christ’s teaching had been confirmed to all through the giving of signs and miracles – gifts of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 2:3-4). Even the writer of Hebrews (circa AD 68) speaks of the giving of gifts by the Holy Spirit in the past tense. So to him the signs, wonders, and miracles had ceased as they were solely intended for the apostles. Once they died so did the firsthand knowledge of Christ’s words, and this is why they wrote it down so as to preserve it for future generations.

            Second, the gift of tongues was a judicial sign to Israel that God had rejected them and had taken the message of salvation to the world outside of Israel. When the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in AD 70 they destroyed Judaism and the priesthood, so the Jews were no longer able to carry out their sacrifices. From that day to the present the Jews have been unable to fulfill the requirements of their Law as given to Moses. Now it is no longer necessary for God to carry out this judicial sign – the speaking in tongues – because it no longer has any value.

            Third, the gift of tongues ceased because they were an inferior means of edification even when performed properly (1 Cor. 14:5; 12-13; 27-28). In 1 Cor. 14 Paul shows that tongues were an inferior means of communication (vv. 1-12), praise (vv. 13-19), and evangelism (vv. 20-25).

            Fourth, the gift of tongues has ceased because its purpose as a confirming sign of power and doctrine ended when the NT was completed. Genuine tongues-speaking involved direct revelation of God to the speaker, and it was itself veiled revelation that always needed translation or interpretation, often even to the speaker himself (1 Cor. 14:27-28). God’s revelation to mankind, however, was completed after the writing of the NT. Jesus told John that nothing was to be added/subtracted from it (Rev. 22:18-19), affirming that Revelation was the final prophecy.

            A fifth reason to conclude that tongues has ceased is due to the silence about them in the other NT writers (Peter, James, John, Jude). Corinthians was an early letter, and the fact that no other writer even mentions them, not even Paul after 1 Corinthians, and given the fact that later lists of spiritual gifts are listed by Paul (cf. Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11) with no mention of tongues, likely means that they had ceased years before he died. Nowhere in any of the NT epistles is speaking in tongues the evidence of salvation, nor are they encouraged for spiritual exercise.

A sixth evidence for the cessation of tongues specifically is due to the fact that the early church fathers record nothing about them. Clement wrote 40 years after Paul to the church in Corinth and said nothing of them. Justin Martyr wrote extensively but makes no mention of tongues even among his lists of spiritual gifts. Origin, the great 3rd century theologian, mentions tongues only in reference to his opinion that they had ceased. John Chrysostom, a 4th century preacher, when commenting on 1 Cor. 12, stated that tongues had ceased and couldn’t even be accurately defined. Even St. Augustine is quoted as saying that tongues had “passed away.”

1 Corinthians 13:9-10… For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

 

Commentary

            The spiritual gift of tongues ceased soon after Paul’s letter. He never speaks of them again after 14:39. This is significant given that he later writes the Roman epistle – a thorough exposition of Christian theology – without mentioning the gift, and subsequently the Ephesian letter without mentioning the gift. The gifts of prophecy and knowledge, however, were not done away with because the “perfect” (v. 10) had not yet come. Remember that the reflexive middle voice verb, “to cease,” in speaking of tongues, denoted that tongues would cease of their own accord. Prophecy and knowledge, on the other hand, would be abolished by something outside of themselves. Verse 10 says that this something is “the perfect” (Greek teleios). And when “the perfect” comes, “the partial will be done away” (abolished; destroyed). So if “the perfect” can be defined from scripture we can know that when it comes then both prophecy and knowledge, referred to by Paul as “the partial,” would be destroyed, abolished – “done away.” It is clear that “the perfect” does not refer to the second coming of Christ – Christ being “the perfect” – because the Greek phrase is neuter, thus eliminating the possibility that it refers to a person.

            The word for “perfect” in scripture is used in various ways. It references Christians who are made perfect by the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 2:6). Even though believers still make mistakes and are inherently sinful, they are called “perfect” in their positional standing before God. It is also a word used to describe maturity in adults and completeness in reference to something that has reached its end. So when does “the partial” become complete? When does “in part” become perfect? Since prophecy and knowledge as spiritual gifts are given by God to build up the church of Jesus Christ, and since they are gifts that only shed light on who God is – providing enough information to bring about salvation – they are incomplete in and of themselves. This means that full perfection comes when believers are ushered into God’s eternal kingdom in heaven and no longer have a need for the partial spiritual gifts that prophecy and knowledge provide while on earth. The “perfect” therefore is the eternal state of heaven – the final destiny of all who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Only then will prophecy and knowledge be abolished as spiritual gifts. Prior to that time prophecy and knowledge will continue to function as gifts. But God’s full knowledge will be known to all who see him face-to-face. Since spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the church on earth, and since the church will ultimately reside with Jesus Christ in the eternal state of heaven, prophecy and knowledge will no longer be needed.

Food for Thought

Prophecy and knowledge are spiritual gifts that pertain to God’s revealed Word prior to the written scripture where it was actually put to paper. These wonderful gifts are “partial” because they don’t reveal all of God’s infinite wisdom. The prophets received God’s knowledge “in part” in that this limited knowledge only revealed God in the present age. This knowledge, however, must not to be confused with human learning. Rather, it is the unique expression of the Spirit, a spiritual knowledge that understands God’s revealed ‘mysteries’ (13:2). It refers to a comprehension of God and His ways right here and now. Mankind is far too depraved, however, to fully understand God’s knowledge, for his finite mind cannot grasp it. But this is in contrast to the eternal state of heaven where our depravity comes to an end forever. It is then that perfection comes, and it will be then that knowledge and prophecy, along with all the other spiritual gifts, will be “done away.” We will rest eternally with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 13:11-13… When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest is love.

Commentary

            The analogy Paul uses here of a child and a man (better translated as “adult”) is a comparison between the future perfect state of believers (cf. v. 10) when they dwell with Christ forever in heaven versus the temporary state of living in an imperfect world. During their lives on earth all Christians are like children in comparison to what they will be – full grown adults – when the “perfect” comes, namely the eternal state of heaven, the day in which we see God face-to-face. It is likely that Paul was comparing his own spiritual state of being with that of a child. As an orthodox Jew he had his bar mitzvah when he turned 13. Bar mitzvah literally means “son of the law” – a phrase that denotes how a Jewish boy became a man and was accountable to the Mosaic Law as given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai in the 15th century BC. MacArthur comments: “Our perfection in Christ (when the “perfect” comes) will be a type of spiritual bar mitzvah, a coming into immediate, complete, and eternal spiritual adulthood and maturity. At that moment everything childish will be done away with. All maturity, all childishness, all imperfection, and all limitations of knowledge and understanding will be forever gone.”

            In v. 12 Paul continues by speaking of a mirror. Whereas modern-day mirrors are made with glass and mercury, in Paul’s day mirrors were basically polished metal. The reflection they gave was less than accurate, but this is the point he’s trying to make. NOW we see a reflection that is imperfect (“dimly”). In classical Greek this word was used to denote a riddle, and Paul uses it here (only time used in the Bible) with the same nuance. Our current life is a riddle – a story that needs an ultimate answer; but one that will be plainly interpreted when the “perfect” comes. It is then that we will see God “face-to-face” and go from being imperfect to perfect. We will go from having a dim image in a mirror to a bright one. Even though God’s illumination through His Holy Spirit is available to all believers, in our present state of being we are incapable of seeing all of God’s plan clearly. Currently we know “in part,” but in the end, when the “perfect” comes, we will “know fully just as we have been fully known.” This is a reference to the  fact that even though we only see ourselves “in part” God knows us fully. He knows now and has always known exactly what we ourselves will know when we see Him face-to-face.

            In v. 13 Paul says that three remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest is love. Two of these beautiful virtues, faith and hope, are actually fully encompassed by love itself which “hopes all things” and “believes all things.” Love is the greatest because it is permanent throughout eternity. When we see God face-to-face there will be no more need of faith and hope along with all the spiritual gifts. They have no purpose or meaning in that perfect day when we see God fully and the riddle of our own life and all else is made perfectly clear.

Food for Thought

            Love endures forever, for it is the greatest of all virtues and gifts. It does not die; it is the “most excellent way.” I find it amazing that so many of us pursue that which is temporary and fading away at the expense of seeking for what is truly important in this life. If even the greatest of spiritual gifts and virtues will cease, then why are we so transfixed on wood and rocks (homes and jewelry) which are so temporary? Let us pursue that which is eternal, and when we meet our Maker face-to-face may He look at us and say, “Well done My good and faithful servant.”

1 Corinthians 14:1-4… Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.

Commentary

            In chapter 12 Paul listed some of the spiritual gifts. In chapter 13 he said that all gifts were worthless without love. So, to use the gifts of prophecy and tongues but have no love for those being ministered to would have been nothing more than an “annoying gong or clanging cymbal.” The spiritual gifts are given by God to His children so that they can minister to each other. Anytime they are used to bring glory to oneself they are abused and become worthless.

In 12:31 Paul may have condemned the Corinthians for seeking after the charismata – the showy gifts like tongues & miracles, because they brought them the attention they so desired. So, after correcting them and showing them the way of love in chapter 13, he now commands them in 14:1 to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.” The “spiritual” is in opposition to the fleshly desires they had in seeking praise for themselves. To “earnestly desire” means to “set one’s heart on.” They were to set their hearts on the “spiritual” as opposed to the flesh; things that truly matter as opposed to worldly pursuits like speaking in tongues for the purpose of being noticed.

The pursuit of selfish things is detrimental (v. 2). Those speaking gibberish were not speaking to men because no one understood them. When Paul says that they were speaking to God, however, he didn’t mean that their ecstatic utterances were some sort of prayer language. “God” has no definite article (i.e. “the”) in front of it in the Greek text, and it’s possible to translate it as “god” – a pagan god. Keep in mind that Paul is sarcastically lecturing this group who had been duped by the pagan practice of tongue-speaking in order to converse with the gods spirit-to-spirit through communication that transcended the mind and normal comprehension. A rough paraphrase might say, “God only knows what they’re saying; no one else does!” Also, it’s important to note that “tongue” in vv. 2 & 4 is singular, while it is plural in vv. 5-6, 18, 22-23, 39. The singular form might reference the gibberish while the plural form appears to reference the true gift. Pagan gibberish has only one form, while the factual gift includes all true dialects. The “tongues” were given as a sign to unbelieving Israel and to the Gentiles. They validated the apostolic message and showed Israel that God had rejected her. Those that spoke in this pagan “tongue” (singular) spoke “mysteries” in their spirit. They spoke to themselves without grasping.

Verse 3, “But the one who prophesies speaks to men…” contrasts the pagan tongue-speaking, which no one understood, with the one who prophesies. Prophecy “edifies, exhorts, and consoles.” To edify is to “build up”; to exhort is to “move to action”; to console is to “comfort – to give relief to.” All three benefit others, while speaking in a tongue helps no one. It only edifies the person making gibberish. In contrast, those who prophesy are selfless.

Food for Thought

            Pretty much everything we want, desire, and pursue is selfish. From our children’s success to our own we seek what makes us look good. Pray today for a drastic change in your mindset. Pray for an earnest desire for spiritual matters. Instead of praying for your child’s popularity pray for his/her salvation. Instead of desiring more money and/or greater prestige at work pray instead for a life that leads others to Jesus Christ. Forget the flesh and the material wealth and pursue the spiritual. After all, the flesh dies, but the spirit lives forever.

1 Corinthians 14:5-6… Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. 6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?

Commentary

            The gift of tongues was given as a sign to actually provoke Israel and show them that God had not only rejected them for their rejection of Him (as seen in the fact that every time they were used in the Book of Acts Jews were present), but also to give the Gentiles a confirming sign that the message of the apostles and prophets was genuine. They were a sign of God’s work designed to unite all believers under Jesus Christ. To believe that these tongues were mere ecstatic utterances serves only to introduce confusion. Paul has already made the statement that not all believers speak in tongues (12:7-10; 30). It’s simply not a gift for everyone, but one that is a small part of the whole body. So, in v. 5 when he wishes that “all spoke in tongues” he’s being straightforward in his teaching that tongues are not to be looked down upon, for they are a true manifestation of the Spirit in a believer’s life. He’s basically saying that if the Holy Spirit chose to give the gift of tongues to all believers, then he’d be thrilled, but he knows this isn’t the case.

            Whatever Paul may have wished about tongues what he really wanted was for all believers in Corinth to prophesy. Now he doesn’t necessarily want them all to have the “gift” of prophecy but that they all preach. Those with that gift received God’s revelation and spoke it effectively to believers, but one does not have to have the gift to perform the work of prophecy which is nothing more than preaching God’s truth. The first century gift was receiving God’s revelation while the post-apostolic gift concerns teaching the written revelation as found in the Bible. Keep in mind that church-goers in that day did not have New Testament Bibles. Most didn’t even have copies of OT scripture. So Paul’s strongest desire was for believers to proclaim God’s truth as given to the apostles and prophets. Why? Simply because speaking God’s revealed Word builds up the church – it builds the believers in Christ. Those that spoke in tongues benefited the church only if they interpreted what they said – which translates to prophecy, the greater gift. Paul’s primary concern was that “the church may receive edification.”

            In v. 6 the apostle makes a summary statement about tongues. He asks, “What does it profit you if I come speaking in languages you don’t understand?” Rather, he is more concerned with building the church up – the very reason he wrote to that church in the first place. They were filled with problems and immorality, and he wrote to correct that. God’s revelation, His knowledge, His prophecies given to man, and man’s teaching about God’s revelation spoken in a clear and understandable dialect is of utmost importance. While the Corinthians were bent on edifying themselves, Paul reminds them that God’s truth, clearly spoken, is what really matters.

Food for Thought

            The church today is filled with people seeking their own glory. Some are subtle; some not so subtle. Those who interrupt church gatherings with ecstatic utterances have one goal: to call attention to the themselves. Those that feel their language is a prayer language, who themselves have no understanding of what they’re saying, are in danger of blaspheming Christ without even knowing it. Let us speak in languages that all can understand and benefit from. Let us also pray like Jesus did in his high priestly prayer in John 17 – pouring out our hearts in simple, clear, and humble language without meaningless repetition. That formula builds us, and it helps others.

1 Corinthians 14:9-12… So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.

 

Commentary

            Lifeless things like musical instruments produce various sounds, and Paul makes this analogy in vv. 7-8. The flute and harp, for instance, make sounds and have clear distinctions in their tones. If played accordingly they produce a beautiful tune. But if instruments are played with repeated notes over and over no tune is heard – only a monotonous noise. If the bugle – used to gather troops for battle in ancient Greece and Israel (a ram’s horn) – failed to make its very distinct noise, the armies it was meant to rally together would remain idle, and the battle would be lost. With all of this in mind, v. 9 sums up the matter concerning tongues. For if one comes speaking in languages that no one understands they are little more than a musical instrument in the hands of a child making annoying noises. No one knows what they’re saying – they are “speaking into the air.” This ties in with v. 2 which is often misinterpreted as promoting tongues as a prayer language (“For the one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God”). But v. 9 clearly puts indecipherable language in the same category as worthless noise from a bugle. Since man can’t decipher what counterfeit tongue-speakers are saying, then truly God only knows what they’re saying. They’re speaking into thin air believing they’re praying.

            Verse 10 clarifies that there are many different languages, “and no kind is without meaning.” This means that the gift of tongues is the ability to speak in foreign languages previously unlearned by the speaker. This is in contrast to the ecstatic utterances the Corinthians (and many modern-day charismatics) were speaking so as to draw attention to themselves. The true gift can be interpreted because it’s a real dialect. The counterfeit “gift” can say anything the interpreter (often the speaker) wants it to say because he/she is making it up.

            In v. 11 Paul hypothetically supposes that if he were to come to the Corinthian church speaking in tongues without an interpreter, he would sound like a “barbarian.” This word is one derived from the twin syllables “bar-bar” where it sounds like the speaker is stuttering. Anyone who did not speak Greek was considered an uneducated stuttering fool to the Greeks who were enamored with human wisdom and knowledge (a trap the Corinthians had also fallen into). Paul says that others would believe him to be crazy, not influenced by the Holy Spirit. Even if he came speaking to them using his true gift of tongues-speaking no one would understand without an interpretation. How much less then would speaking in the counterfeit gibberish?

            So, in v. 12, Paul concludes: “Since you’re so eager to participate in the work of the Holy Spirit, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone?” Tongues didn’t benefit all, and all were to benefit. It actually hindered some because they thought the speaker was insane.

Food for Thought

            If you’ve ever entered into a church where ecstatic utterances (thought to be the gift of tongues) are practiced you likely thought just what Paul predicted: those people are crazy! As a result you didn’t benefit from the worship, and you found another church. This illustrates the entire principle. If our churches don’t build up the body of Christ with spiritual nourishment and exhortation, then what’s the point? See to it that what you do benefits all, putting yourself aside.

1 Corinthians 14:13-15… So then, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unproductive. 15 What should I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. I will sing praises with my spirit, but I will also sing praises with my mind.

Commentary

            Spiritual gifts are given by God as “He wills” (12:11), and each believer has at least one gift as their part in the body of Christ. Believers are not to pursue gifts within Christ’s spiritual body that they don’t possess any more so than a foot should seek to be a hand in the physical body. Nowhere in scripture are believers told to seek the spiritual gifts they don’t have. This is a common practice in charismatic churches that actually teach others to speak in tongues. If it’s a spiritual gift given by God then how can it be taught by a human? So, in v. 13 the conclusion is that the one speaking in an unknown tongue should pray that he may interpret what he/she is saying because an un-interpreted language is worthless to those who don’t understand it. It demands interpretation. Notice that Paul tells them to “pray” that they might interpret the gift. Up to this point “pray” has not been used; it’s all about “speaking” in a tongue or tongues, and it was to be done out loud for the benefit of those hearing. Now since Paul is speaking of the false use of tongues here (evidenced by the singular “tongue”) notice that he demands that they pray for an interpretation. But since we are not to actually seek spiritual gifts, which are given by God alone as “He wills,” it is apparent that Paul is being sarcastic in this admonition to seek to interpret. These tongue-speakers were babbling in incoherent syllables that no one could understand. This was a common pagan practice for the purpose of higher communication with pagan gods. These utterances were designed to transcend the human mind and go into the spiritual realm of the gods. As in 14:2 & 9 Paul said that only God knew what they were saying, now he tauntingly tells them to ask their “gods” for an interpretation.

            In v. 14 Paul uses a hypothetical situation where he might “pray” in a tongue. This hypothetical situation concerns public prayer as evidenced by vv. 15-16, so it cannot be used to actually promote the speaking of tongues as a private prayer language, a point reinforced in the final phrase of v. 14… “but my mind is unfruitful.” In other words, in this hypothetical situation where Paul might pray in an unknown tongue he might use gibberish in his words, but his mind would understand nothing. Keep in mind that 1 Corinthians was written to correct unorthodox behavior. Chapters 12-14 are about correcting the misuse of tongues, and when taken out of that context the text can say anything the reader wants. Verse 14 teaches how absurd praying in tongues without an interpreter is. When he says, “My spirit prays” the inclusion of “my” rules out that this refers to the Holy Spirit. The word for “spirit” can also mean “breath,” so it is clear that Paul is referencing his own will that makes itself evident in his words. But when speaking in an unknown tongue his mouth says things that his mind can’t comprehend. So, in v. 15 Paul decides to nix the unknown-tongue prayer because his intellect profits nothing. The best way to pray (and sing) is in such a way that one’s mind understands what one’s mouth is saying. When he says that he will pray “with the spirit” he is not referencing the Holy Spirit, as denoted by the lower case “h” in the English text. It’s the same “spirit” or “breath” he spoke of in v. 14.

Food for Thought

            The Bible says nothing about special prayer languages. Our language to God is powerful when we pray in our native tongue and in faith. And our prayers with fellow believers build the church when we praise and petition God in simplistic language and humility. That’s good prayer.

1 Corinthians 14:16-19… Otherwise, if you are praising God with your spirit, how can someone without the gift say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you are certainly giving thanks well, but the other person is not strengthened. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you, 19 but in the church I want to speak five words with my mind to instruct others, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Commentary

            In v. 16, one of the reasons for nixing the “prayer language” in public worship is that when an unknown tongue is spoken the “ungifted” (Greek idiotas) – the one who is ignorant of the language being spoken – won’t understand and won’t be able to say “Amen!” after the prayer. The word for “amen” literally means “so let it be!” And if anyone is at the prayer gathering where the prayer is not understood he/she can’t “amen” the message of thanks.

In v. 17 giving thanks, or blessing, without edifying the gathering of believers (the church) is no good. The text literally reads, “For you are giving thanks well, but the other person is not being built up; he is not edified.” Paul does seem to affirm, however, that the Corinthians and their tongue-speaking did in fact give thanks to God – the true spiritual gift of tongues. They were truly thankful for God’s gifts, but in thanking God for them they alienated those without the gift and exalted themselves above others with the gift. As such, no one benefited.

            Verses 18-19 prove that the gift of tongues (plural) is a real spiritual gift as given by the Holy Spirit. Paul had this gift because he was an apostle. He used it properly, and he was trying to teach how the improper use of them benefits no one. In v. 18 he moves from speaking about the counterfeit gibberish to the orthodox spiritual gift. Even though there is no specific instance of Paul speaking in tongues in the Bible, he apparently had far more experience in using the gift than the Corinthians. He obviously didn’t use the gift to glorify himself, and it is clear from Paul’s own life that an orthodox understanding of the gift of tongues prevented those who had the gift from abusing the gift. Paul, as did all the apostles, primarily used the gift of tongues to speak of God’s mighty deeds (Acts 2:11) and to verify God’s work through Christ and the apostles. So, he was able to thank God that he spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthians. Notice that he uses the plural “tongues” (a reference to the orthodox gift) as opposed to the singular “tongue” (a reference to the ecstatic utterances of the pagans who worshipped false gods). But for Paul his ability to speak in tongues meant little to him in v. 19 if no one could understand what he was saying. When he gathered with other believers in worship of God (“in church”) he said that he would rather speak five intelligible words than 10,000 in a tongue (singular). The word for “10,000” in Greek is a word that denotes an uncountable sum. It’s the largest number for which Greek had a specific word. The book of Revelation translates it as “myriad” and “thousands.” For Paul, the edification of others was of utmost importance.

Food for Thought

            Notice how true spirituality manifests itself through a greater concern for others than oneself. Clear teaching and prayer in public worship along with interaction and participation is what makes a true worship service. Public prayers in church should be orthodox enough to receive a resounding AMEN! from those participating in the worship. But when the church worship is done in languages the congregation doesn’t understand, like Latin or in unknown languages by one who claims to speak in tongues, the worship is meaningless; no one is edified. Through true and coherent worship Christians will be fed with true spiritual food from God’s Word. This ultimately glorifies the Almighty God, the Holy Creator and Sustainer of all things.

1 Corinthians 14:20-22a… Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord. 22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers…

 

Commentary

            In verse 20 Paul seems to pause for a moment, and with a great sigh he says, “Brothers, it’s time to grow up…” The only reason that he cares enough to tell them this is due to the fact that they are his “brothers” in Christ, and they are witnesses for the sake of Christ.            When he tells them not to be “children in your thinking” he’s condemning their immature behavior in reference to the issue of tongues-speaking. The whole context is a condemnation against their misuse. They thought and acted like little children, yet they were adults who not only knew Christ but possessed all the spiritual gifts. He tells them “in evil be babes.” Just a child is innocent in his/her ignorance of the evil ways of the world, Paul wanted them as adults to be ignorant to the evils of the world. A rough paraphrase might say, “Your misuse of the wonderful spiritual gift of tongues-speaking is reprehensible. Stop acting like selfish children, and grow up! You should be ignorant of the wicked ways of the world and privy to the things of God.”

            Verse 21 is a quote from Isaiah 28:11-12. The context of Isaiah 28, in relation to the problem of tongues in 1 Corinthians, has to do with the ancient Assyrians who were the dominating world power in the 8th century BC. Isaiah the prophet had warned the Jews that their disobedience would bring God’s judgment, and he was reminding them of the captivity their brothers had endured at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 BC because of their disobedience. The Assyrians were the “men of strange tongues” who had oppressed them. Because of their unbelief God sent that pagan nation against them as the rod of His discipline. Moses prophesied the same thing in Deut. 28:49 as did Jeremiah in 5:15. All of these prophecies of strange tongues coming from foreign nations were prophecies against the Jews because of disobedience. God sent pagan nations, who spoke in languages they did not understand, to judge them. The Isaiah quote then means that the gift of tongues was given to the Church as a sign of God’s judgment on Israel’s disobedience, specifically for their rejection of the Messiah – Jesus Christ.

            So, per verse 22, the message of the tongues was given to show Israel that God had judged them. They were a “sign.” In the same way that the barbaric Assyrians spoke to Israel in foreign tongues as they took them into captivity – then later the Babylonians, so now, the Gentiles would speak to the Jews using the spiritual gift of tongues as a sign of God’s judgment against them for rejecting Christ. God had used the prophets to speak to His people in their own language, and they refused to repent. Now it was judgment time, and this appears to be the primary biblical reason for the gift of tongues.

Food for Thought

            Note that Paul referred to the Corinthians in v. 20 as “brethren.” It is evident that the Corinthians were immoral, confused, and unorthodox in many areas of their lives, but Paul still addresses them as “brothers.” The mere fact that he wrote to them as he did means that he believed they were saved and that he loved them. But since their actions did not reflect Christ it was his responsibility to correct them. As professed believers in Christ they had put themselves under the authority of Christ and were accountable to other Christians. Paul’s tone is strong, but it’s strong because his brothers were defaming the name of Christ. Let it be your quest to lovingly correct false doctrine and all behavior unbecoming a Christian. But start with yourself.

1 Corinthians 14:23-24… If therefore the whole church should assemble together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.

Commentary

            When the church gathers for worship, if all begin to speak in tongues, those who enter who either do not possess the gift (the “ungifted”) or aren’t saved, they would believe the tongues-speakers to be lunatics. Since all do not possess the gift, they consequently cannot be edified by the gift. In Acts 2:11 it is noteworthy that those Jews who came to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost plainly understood what was spoken by Peter and the apostles who received the gift of tongues that day. Tongues were given to be understood, not to bring confusion.

            If, on the other hand, in v. 24, a group of believers gather to worship God and to prophesy (preach & teach God’s Word) – if an unbeliever or another “ungifted” Christian should enter, then at least five things are said to occur. First, he is “convicted” by all. This word means “to show fault; to expose.” Upon just hearing God’s Word people are convicted. His Word truly is a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). The power of God’s Word is made manifest in the preaching of His Word. Preaching God’s Word is of utmost importance in corporate worship. Without it, there is no conviction, and without conviction from the mouth of God’s prophets we all die in our sins.

            The second thing that transpires as a result of prophecy is that the convicted one is “called into account by all.” With their sins exposed and their lives full of humility before God, they stand to “account” for their sins. This word means to be “evaluated; questioned.” So following a conviction through the hearing of God’s Word we then stand before God in judgment as He evaluates us. No one can stand before God with their head held high. This is the reason He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us. For when we stand before God in judgment we can only defer to Christ as having paid our penalty. He took our judgment for us.

            In v. 25 the third thing that transpires upon hearing God’s Word prophesied is that “the secrets of his heart are disclosed.” The “secrets” (Greek kryptos) – the “hidden things” are laid bare and “disclosed.” At that point – a point every single person who breaths and dies will reach – no one and nothing can help them except the Lord Jesus Christ. He has granted forgiveness for the worst of sins to all those who place their faith in Him alone, apart from works, for salvation.

            The fourth thing that transpires is worship. Those who go through this process can do nothing but “fall on their face” and worship God. The word for “worship” means “to do obeisance to.” What else can a person do who has stood before God full of sin and been forgiven of all? Nothing else but worship through obedience to His written Word.

            The final event that transpires is prophecy. The person who receives God’s forgiveness goes out and “declares” the good news. To “declare” something is to proclaim a truth. So the whole experience is circular, beginning and ending with prophecy.

Food for Thought

Prophecy is that wonderful act that edifies the whole church. When God’s Word is preached and Christ’s name is proclaimed lives are changed for eternity. Funny thing about that… most Christians do believe this, but they won’t practice it or even attend a church that does. Messages about strong families and how to be successful in business and in relationships have their place, but it’s the pure preaching and teaching of God’s Word that really matters.

1 Corinthians 14:26-28… What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and let one interpret; 28 but if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.

 

Commentary

            A rough paraphrase of v. 26 might say, “Alright, so what does all this mean?” Paul then summarizes what the Corinthians had been doing in their assemblies. Some were singing psalms, some were teaching, some having revelations, some speaking in tongues, and some were giving interpretations of those tongues. This church was truly filled with spiritual gifts, and it is evident that they were using them but not for the building of the body of Christ. This is why spiritual gifts are given in the first place – to edify the body of Christ not the individual believer.

            Everything listed in v. 26 is used for the worship of God. Even the true gift of tongues had a place in serving God, but these folks (and many today) were abusing them. Everyone was speaking at the same time resulting in absolute chaos in what was supposed to be orderly worship. No one was listening to the other, with the possible exception of a visitor to the congregation who was, no doubt, left to sit and look upon the mayhem in disbelief.

            In v. 27 Paul doesn’t address the aforementioned “psalms, teachings, or revelations.” He only hones in on the speaking in a tongue and the interpretation thereof. He sets up the proper order for speaking in a tongue (the singular use here should be distinguished from the pagan utterance because the subject, “anyone,” is also singular, thus giving credence to the fact that Paul is here speaking about the true gift of tongues). The proper way to speak in tongues is four-fold. First, only  “two or thee at the most” should speak. Second, each one should speak one at a time. Third, each one who speaks MUST have an interpreter. Fourth, if no interpreter is present the tongues-speaker should remain silent. God is a God of order so worship should reflect that.

Verse 28 is clear when it teaches that if no interpreter is present when others are speaking in tongues, then those who have the gift must remain silent. There is no use for tongues if no one understands, and understanding comes only from an interpreter. But notice where they are to remain silent: the church – the assembly of believers who have come together to worship. They are not commanded to remain silent outside of the church, but neither are they given the commission to use their gift of tongues freely outside the assembly. Paul says, “Let him speak to himself and to God.” The passage might move us to believe that Paul advocates a time of prayer in tongues with God, but that isn’t what it says. Furthermore, the spiritual gifts are never once used as a ministry to or for God. Those with the gift of prophecy don’t teach to God; those who administrate (or lead) don’t lead God; those with the gift of helps don’t help God. Neither do those with the gift of tongues use their gift to speak to God. God understands all languages, and the gift of tongues was given as a sign to unbelievers (v. 22), not as a way to pray to God.

Food for Thought

            Our God is a God of order. He is extremely precise. He didn’t change through time or get old and become lax. God gave spiritual gifts for a reason, and they are designed to come together through the body of believers like the internal body parts on the human body. Some body parts, like the gift of tongues, once had a purpose (the umbilical cord) but are no longer needed. The remaining ones like prophecy must be orderly. Just as our mind is to control our tongue so too do the spiritual gifts work together under control and order to our benefit and to God’s glory.

Tongues and Prophecy Compared

I)            The Function of Tongues: A Sign (vv. 20-23)

A)    A Sign of Judgment

B)    A Sign of Blessing

C)    A Sign of Authority

II)         The Fivefold Results of Prophecy (vv. 24-25)

A)    Convicted: Life is Exposed

B)    Called into Account: Questioned/evaluated

C)    Secrets of Heart Disclosed: Hidden Things Laid Bare

D)    Falls on Face to Worship: Does Obeisance

E)     Prophesies: Declares God’s Power

III)      The Formula for Tongues (vv. 26-28)

A)    No more than two or three

B)    Each in turn

C)    Someone must interpret

D)    Remain silent if interpreter not present

B.     Tongues do not edify the believer (vv. 20–21).

Though some would suggest that tongues reveal mature believes, look at the Corinthians! They were “babes in Christ” and “carnal” (3:1–4); boasted of their “spirituality” (8:1–2; 10:12), yet had to be warned by Paul and taught in the most elementary manner. Mature believers have the Spirit and the Word and don’t seek emotional experiences.

C.     Tongues do not win the lost (vv. 22–25).

In Acts 2, God gave the apostles the gift of tongues that they might share the Word with the Jews at Pentecost. It was a sign to the Jews that God was at work, fulfilling Isa. 28:11–12.

We find incidents involving tongues four times in Acts, and each time they give evidence to Jews present that God is working:

(1) Acts 2; tongues are evidence to the unbelieving Jews at Pentecost;

(2) Acts 8; evidence to the believing Jews that the Spirit had come upon the Samaritans;

(3) Acts 10; evidence that the Spirit had come upon the Gentiles;

(4) Acts 19; evidence that the 12 Ephesian men had received the Spirit.

*** But tongues would never reach the unbeliever for the Lord, especially the confusion of tongues that existed at Corinth. It was another Babel! Far better that the unbelieving visitor should hear a message from the Word, something he can understand, and then make his decision for Christ, than hear a confusion of messages he cannot grasp.

 

 

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 14:29-30… And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent.

 

Commentary

            In the same way that tongues-speakers were to speak one at a time, using their gift to proclaim God’s mighty deeds (v. 27), so too were the prophets who proclaimed God’s Word through new revelations. There were two ways in which the NT prophets prophesied. First, some were able to receive new revelation from God. Second, others were simply reiterating what the apostles had taught (this is the function of pastors/teachers today).

In v. 29 there were to be no more than three prophets who had the floor, as it were, and they were to speak in turn (v. 30). Not only this, but the words they spoke were to be evaluated (“judged”) by those they spoke to. Now those that “judged” might have been the congregation as a whole (since all of them prophesied in v. 24), but they were likely those who had the spiritual gift of discernment – that special gift that grants the ability to distinguish between true and false spirits. The “others” in this context then, would be anyone who understood the prior teaching of the apostles who saw the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. If a prophecy uttered by a prophet in the congregation did not line up with apostolic teaching then it was to be discarded. This was what the Apostle John taught in 1 John 4:1… “test the spirits to see if they are from God.”

Now since v. 24 supposes that all are prophesying in the church, this passage cannot actually be limiting the prophetic utterances to only two or three prophets. Rather, the issue concerns the judgment of those hearing the prophecy. In other words, all who were gathered could prophesy in the corporate gathering of believers; they just had to do so in turn. But v. 29 seems to limit the prophetic speaking to “two or three” so as to keep order and to maintain the ability of those listening to evaluate the prophecies accordingly. What he was protecting against was a disorderly worship service where pagan and godless prophecies might enter in and go unnoticed amongst all the mayhem. Paul went to great lengths to make sure that all prophecies were orthodox and edifying. The tongues-speaking, without an interpreter, that no one understood was worthless in the worship gathering, and the prophecies spoken were potentially detrimental unless they were “judged” by the others present.

            Verse 30 says that if, while one man is speaking God’s Word, another man receives a new revelation from God, the first man must cease from speaking. Possibly while one prophet was speaking God would reveal more of Himself to another prophet in that company. The new revelation took precedence over the old. It must not be overlooked here that this was an apostolic time period when God was revealing His Word to the apostles and prophets, and these two offices ceased following the completion of the NT. Any new revelations today violate the biblical mandate not to add or subtract from God’s Word (cf. Rev. 22:18-19).

Food for Thought

A scary trend in churches today is biblical illiteracy – when a large number of people don’t know enough about what the Bible teaches to evaluate the preacher’s words to determine if those words are orthodox. Hence, our churches are full of watered-down nothingness and heresy. One of the ways heresy is introduced is through “new revelations” in the modern day. Anything that would be added to the Bible through the so-called “new revelations” that many believe they receive would in fact add to or subtract from God’s written and completed work as found in the Bible. Jesus forbids that in Rev. 22:18-19. His words to John in Revelation were God’s final word of revelation to mankind. The Bible is sufficient for all preaching without new revelations.

1 Corinthians 14:31-33a… For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33a for God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

Commentary

            All Christians were able and were commissioned to tell about God’s mighty works through prophecy in the first century church, but they were to do so “one at a time.” The gift of prophecy was exclusive to a few, but the commission of a prophet was given to all – to declare God’s glory. The reason for this is in v. 31: “So that all may learn and all may be exhorted.” The word for “learn” means “to direct one’s mind to something so as to gain an external effect.” That’s what prophecy is for – to learn so as to edify the body of Christ. The second reason is for “exhortation.” This word can also be translated as “encourage,” but not in the sense of “to comfort” in this context. It rather refers to a “push to obey.” So when one man prophesies about God’s mighty works and what He has commanded for His children to do, one learns from hearing the message of the prophet, then he is pushed to obey God’s Word. It’s the twofold nature of teaching. First, we share the knowledge of what God has said; second, we exhort them  to obey. Obedience without knowledge only brings skepticism as to why we do anything. But knowledge without action condemns us for knowing the truth but rejecting our responsibility.

            When God is truly present and being worshipped in spirit and truth in any church there will be no competition or contradiction among those who preach His Word. In the first century Corinthian church Paul commanded this among the prophets. When he says in v. 32, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” what he is saying is this: “Now the prophets are responsible for their behavior and to be led by the Spirit.” In other words, because “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” prophets and their spiritual gifts are NEVER to be controlled by their gifts but to control those gifts. Paul wanted to put an end to the out-of-mind slain-in-the-spirit mentality of the prophets. When the Spirit leads the way His prophets are in control of themselves. After all, one of the fruits of the Spirit is in fact “self-control” (Gal. 5:23).

Food for Thought

Those preachers who say things like, “When the Holy Spirit takes over, you can’t worry about clocks!” so as to justify their long-windedness, they are prophets who are not in control of themselves. The self-control, or lack thereof, by God’s messengers is one of the tell-tale signs on whether or not the Holy Spirit is at work in the worship gathering of believers. The Holy Spirit has always brought order to chaos, even as far back as Genesis 1:2. It is the devil himself who is the author of confusion and disorderly conduct. As one man has commented, “Chaos and discord in a church meeting is certain proof that the Spirit of God is not in control.”

Now since the 21st century church does not receive new revelation from God, the messages of all prophets must be pitted against the teachings of the NT – the Word of God. Every message from the pulpit that is preached must be in line with what the apostles and prophets of the first century taught. Beware! For there are many false prophets today that are sent by the devil to deceive Christians. The Spirit is to be sought for guidance, and the spirits behind all prophets are to be tested (2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1–6). Even true prophets make mistakes in their interpretations through their own biases, and it is the task of every believer to judge them carefully. Of course this means that God’s children must know the message of the apostles and prophets as found in the Bible. Far too many preachers today get away with heterodoxy because their parishioners can’t tell the difference between orthodox Bible teaching and rank heresy.

Introduction to Women and the Bible…

            The issue of women and the Bible is a controversial topic of discussion among Christians. The NT was written during a time when women were little more than third-class citizens. In the U.S., thankfully, this is no longer the case, but equal rights for women and equality in general are still very pertinent issues among women today when compared to their male counterparts. So when the Bible, God’s timeless and inspired Word to mankind, espouses a view that strikes a nerve among His children, teaches a doctrine contrary to the accepted norm of the day, Christians are forced to deal with the problem. How should they handle teachings that seem to reflect a first-century culture that held women in very low regard? The issue seems hopeless to many who have their minds closed to the clear teachings of the Bible and open only to progressive theology where God is supposed to change with the times. But the issue isn’t nearly as volatile as it may seem. First, women are never once in the Bible labeled as lower than men. They are a compliment to men, for the woman was originally created to be the man’s “helpmate” in Gen. 2. God made woman for man. Clearly man was (and is) not complete without the woman by his side (who was taken out of his side).

            The problem came about when the woman fell to the temptation of the serpent in Genesis 3. She succumbed to his logic to disobey God, and then she led her husband into the sin. That changed everything, for it brought about the fall of every human being who would ever live. Following that terrible event a curse fell upon the earth and its inhabitants. God placed a curse upon the woman that not only gave all authority to her husband (a mandate that already existed), but gave her the desire to have his authority. So, though the man was given authority over the woman in everything, the woman’s curse was that she would want his authority.

Throughout the OT the women did traditionally submit to their husbands – certainly those of the godly line (Sarah, Leah, Ruth, Hannah, etc.). The fact that there was actually a woman who was a judge in Israel (Deborah) can only be viewed in a negative light, for she ruled over God’s people during the most wicked of times – the times when “Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 18:1; 21:25). Far too often Deborah is used as an example for women ruling over men. She ruled because the men were spineless as jellyfish, and she is an example of what happens to a society when women are given authority over men. Isaiah prophesied: “O My people! Their oppressors are children, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray, and confuse the direction of your paths.”

In the NT the Gospel writer Luke depicts Jesus as showing the utmost compassion and respect for women. And why wouldn’t he? Jesus created women, and he loves them as much as he loves men. They are different from men, not inferior to them. Now they have differing roles within the sexes, but their roles compliment each other, not contradict each other.

The Apostle Paul has been accused of male chauvinism. But his writings are said to be “scripture” by the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:16) who also added that it was the “ignorant and unstable” who twist Paul’s writings “to their own destruction.” Paul teaches that wives are to submit to their husbands and to respect them in everything (Eph. 5:22-23; 33); he teaches that women are never to teach or have authority over a man in the church worship gathering (1 Tim. 2:11-12); he teaches that wives are to submit to their head (husband) as the authority over them in the same way that Jesus Christ submitted himself to God the Father (1 Cor. 11:2-26); and he teaches that though women can teach, their audience must be limited to other women (Titus 2:3-5). All of these passages are consistent with each other and the teaching of the OT. So, when one comes to the admonition in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 it makes sense to understand that what Paul is saying here is consistent with all of scripture.

1 Corinthians 14:33b-35… As in all the churches of the saints, 34 let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

Commentary

The word for “woman” and “wife” are the same word in the Greek text. Context always determines which use is best. In this context “wife” is best used because the woman is told to ask her “husband.” The same is true in Ephesians 5:22-33 where marriage is clearly in view.

What Paul is saying is that in every orthodox Christian church of the first century the women were to remain silent in their particular congregation. This is what was practiced by all the churches that Paul and the apostles started, hence, “as in all the churches of the saints.” The apostle has corrected both the tongues issue and prophecies. In each instance he uses masculine pronouns for those who were to speak in tongues and/or interpret those tongues. It’s never given to a woman to speak in tongues in the church service or to interpret those tongues. The same is true with prophecy. When someone is prophesying about God, again, only two or three could have the floor at one time. Each one was to speak in his turn, and each pronoun Paul uses is masculine. It is clear that Paul has only the men in view who were to prophesy in church.

So, in vv. 34-35, when Paul tells the women to “remain silent” he does so within the context of tongues-speaking, interpretation, and prophesying. If one man was prophesying and/or giving a new revelation from God, if the woman didn’t understand the prophecy or revelation, she was forbidden to speak out and ask what it meant or protest the contents of the revelation. She was commanded to ask her husband at home as opposed to asking in the public worship.

Paul says that the women were to “subject themselves just as the Law also says.” The “Law” here is a reference to the OT, specifically Gen. 3:16 (“Yet your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you”). This was part of the curse of women after the fall – not that they submit, but that they would desire to rule over their husbands. Now Paul adds that in submission to their husbands they are to remain silent during the church worship while the men interpret the tongues and receive revelation from God. This reference to the “Law” solidifies the fact that Paul is not referencing a cultural norm but rather a timeless scriptural mandate.

As v. 35 states, because it was completely inappropriate for a woman to speak in church, if she should have any questions about what is being prophesied in the public worship she has only one option: to ask her husband at home. The husband’s task would be to know enough to be able to answer his wife. Far too many fall way short of this standard.

Food for Thought

The entire teaching here regarding women is parallel to Genesis 2-3. God gave Adam the order to keep from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam told Eve of the warning, but she didn’t like it, so she disobeyed it. Her seemingly harmless rebellion subsequently plunged the entire human race into sin. Why? Because she didn’t like the order from God. Is it any different today? Can mankind expect to fare any better today just because we don’t like God’s Word? Let us be very careful in interpreting scripture, and let us be even more careful when we interpret something that we just don’t agree with. Just because we may not understand it fully or just not approve of it, this doesn’t negate what God has put before us. He has laid out His perfect Law, and it isn’t subject to negotiation. Those who obey God are the ones who truly love God, and only those who obey God can truly be called His children.

1 Corinthians 14:36-37… Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? 37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment.

Commentary

            Many today wonder if the words in the Bible are the true words of God. Some have rejected the whole Bible while others take every word as “God-breathed.” In the middle are some who only take the “red letters” in the NT as spoken by Jesus to be true. Paul’s words are sometimes disregarded as male chauvinistic, opinionated, and un-inspired. Verse 37, however, condemns those who believe such. Those who reject Paul’s words reject Christ’s words.

Verse 36 is a sarcastic statement aimed straight between the eyes of the arrogant Corinthians who thought so highly of themselves that they apparently believed that all gospel truth began and ended with them. This is typical of many churches today who look down on those who don’t possess their legalistic beliefs. They felt that they alone had all of God’s attention. Paul basically says, “God’s Word did not originate at your church!” They had no right to decide independently of other Christian churches what orthodoxy truly was.

In reference to v. 37, the NT has 27 books, and the Apostle Paul wrote at least 13 of them. He believed that as an apostle of Jesus Christ he was writing the very words of God. Verse 37 proves that what the Corinthians were reading were words from God Himself, and it shows that the Apostle Paul was a true apostle and prophet of God. His office of apostle is the first and foremost of the spiritual gifts (12:28), and even though his credibility was low among the Corinthians, he reminds them who he is and what he’s doing, namely, espousing God’s inspired Words to this immature group of believers caught up in the carnality of their world.

            Whoever the prophets and tongues-speakers were in the church at Corinth they would likely have been infuriated at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians. And the women who took part in the worship service were likely just as miffed by being told to remain silent.  After all, Paul was correcting their unorthodox behavior. His sharp words, no doubt, hit a nerve with these people, and though they might have greatly resented him for such, Paul claims inspiration for his writing. Anyone who was a prophet or who considered themselves “spiritual” was to understand that Paul was speaking directly from God – his words were the “Lord’s commandment.” The prophets were likely the high-ranking “clergy” who were respected by all, but Paul was sharply rebuking them. Those that thought of themselves as “wise” (3:18) and as “having knowledge” (8:2) were being shown that this wasn’t the case at all. It is likely that Paul was addressing only a few people here, as in 4:18 and 9:3, although his words were for the entire congregation as well as the church in the modern day.

Food for Thought

            It is the basic human reaction for those who think so highly of themselves and their ministries to listen to no one. Their reaction to Paul’s rebuke should determine how “spiritual” they really are. This is a tried and true test for all of us today when we receive criticism for our actions. Do we listen, or do we become defensive? Are we willing to hear those who attack us and vow to pray through the accusation, or are we just convinced that we are always right? Our response will determine if we are as spiritual as we think we are. The long and short of this passage is this: Anyone who considers themselves to be spiritual people (as opposed to non-Christians who are not spiritual), they will heed the words of the apostles as found in the scriptures. They will submit themselves to God’s Word and put their own ideas aside.

1 Corinthians 14:38-40… But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner.

Commentary

            In verse 38 Paul sums up the place of those who reject his teaching as having come from God Himself. The Greek text literally reads: “But if anyone does not know this, he is not known.” The play on words here means that anyone who rejects the words of Scripture as found in the Bible should himself be rejected. Those who reject Paul’s words, Peter’s words, James’ words, Jude’s words, Matthew’s words, Luke’s words, Mark’s words, and John’s words are rejecting God’s Word – the are rejecting Jesus Christ. The litmus test for any false prophet and/or tongues-speaker is this: Do they listen to and follow the words of Scripture in their entirety? Paul’s words, specifically, especially regarding the place of women in the church and the use of tongues, are rejected today by those who simply don’t like what he said.

The word “therefore” in v. 39 draws a conclusion. Paul’s entire teaching is summed up in three concluding statements. First, they were to “earnestly desire” – they were to “set their hearts on” the setting forth of God’s Word – prophecy. He does not tell them to earnestly desire the “gift” of prophecy but the act of prophecy. Some had the gift, but the act of declaring God’s Word was for all, and they were to set their hearts, first and foremost, on this act.

            Second, they were not to forbid the legitimate gift of speaking in tongues. Paul never told them to forbid it, but he did set the parameters for their use. Tongues were to be interpreted so that all could benefit, but the legitimate gift was not to be forbidden. The gift had a purpose, and it ceased just as Paul said it would soon thereafter. His words about tongues here were spoken in a day when they were still active. They served their purpose, and during the time in which they were active they were not to be despised because they were given by the Holy Spirit. Because they ceased very soon thereafter, v. 39 has no immediate application for the church today.

            Third, in v. 40, all things in the worship service were to be done “properly and in an orderly way.” This included partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the role of women, tongues, and prophecy. Since God Almighty is most certainly a God of order, as seen in His creation, man, and His Laws, so too should the worship of His name be orderly. The word for “properly” literally means “gracefully,” and “orderly” literally means “in turn.” In other words, everything that Paul taught about church worship and order was that it was all to be done with grace, and everything was to be done in its turn. Males and females had their proper role and place in the worship and tongues and prophecy had their place and their order. This sums up Paul’s teaching concerning spiritual gifts to a church that was in tremendous disarray and chaos.

Food for Thought

A woman once shared with me that the Apostle Paul “irks” her with his “opinions.” As a result she rejects some of his teaching and takes what she likes from the Bible while rejecting that which offends her. God’s Word, through the Apostle Paul, condemns this kind of thought pattern by commanding that such a person “is not recognized” – they are not “known.” And those who are not “known” are left behind when our Lord returns to the earth. To their bewilderment, Christ leaves them behind even as they plead with him. He tells them, “Depart from me; I never knew you” (emphasis mine; Matthew 7:21-23; 25:12). Do you know Christ? Does he know you? Whether or not he knows you will be determined by your willingness to accept the words of scripture as inspired by God Almighty through the pen of man.

Proper and Orderly Worship

I)            The Inferiority of Tongues (14:1–25)… NOT the mark of superior spirituality. 

A)     Tongues do not edify (build up) the church (vv. 1–19).

1)      Not for personal enjoyment

2)      Contrasted with Prophecy

Prophecy   Tongues
1. Speaks to men for their good, v. 3   1. Speaks to God for the speaker’s own good, v. 2
2. Can be understood, vv. 2, 5   2. Not understood unless there is an interpreter
3. Edifies the church, vv. 3–4   3. Edifies the speaker, v. 4
4. The greater gift, vv.   4. The lesser gift, v. 5 (note 12:10)

Tongues, apart from utterances that are interpreted, are of no value to the church. They bring no personal blessing to the speaker himself unless he understands what is being said (vv. 14–15). How can we edify the church if we use our spiritual gifts in private and not to serve others? And if we do not understand what is being said, how can we profit from it ourselves? It is possible for the flesh and the devil to imitate spiritual gifts and lead a believer into a religion of shallow emotionalism instead of one of solid understanding and faith. This is not to deny the place of sincere emotions in the Christian life, for the fruits of the Spirit certainly involve the emotions (Gal. 5:22–23); these emotions, however, must be instructed by the mind and controlled by the will, or they will be destructive.

B.     Tongues do not edify the believer (vv. 20–21).

Though some would suggest that tongues reveal mature believes, look at the Corinthians! They were “babes in Christ” and “carnal” (3:1–4); boasted of their “spirituality” (8:1–2; 10:12), yet had to be warned by Paul and taught in the most elementary manner. Mature believers have the Spirit and the Word and don’t seek emotional experiences.

C.     Tongues do not win the lost (vv. 22–25).

In Acts 2, God gave the apostles the gift of tongues that they might share the Word with the Jews at Pentecost. It was a sign to the Jews that God was at work, fulfilling Isa. 28:11–12.

We find incidents involving tongues four times in Acts, and each time they give evidence to Jews present that God is working:

(1) Acts 2; tongues are evidence to the unbelieving Jews at Pentecost;

(2) Acts 8; evidence to the believing Jews that the Spirit had come upon the Samaritans;

(3) Acts 10; evidence that the Spirit had come upon the Gentiles;

(4) Acts 19; evidence that the 12 Ephesian men had received the Spirit.

*** But tongues would never reach the unbeliever for the Lord, especially the confusion of tongues that existed at Corinth. It was another Babel! Far better that the unbelieving visitor should hear a message from the Word, something he can understand, and then make his decision for Christ, than hear a confusion of messages he cannot grasp.

Additional Notes on First Corinthians 12–14… Claims of some charismatics

There is a baptism of the Spirit after salvation.”… Some teach that it is necessary to “tarry for the power” in prayer and fasting, basing this on Acts 1 and Luke 24:49. But 1 Cor. 12:13 teaches that all believers have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ. This was true even of the carnal Corinthians! There are “fillings” of the Spirit after conversion, and we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18); but we are never commanded in Scripture to be baptized with the Spirit. There is one baptism that takes place at conversion, but many fillings of the Spirit as we daily yield to God.

“The evidence of this baptism is speaking in tongues.”… If this is true, then most of the Corinthians had never experienced the baptism, because not all of them spoke in tongues (12:10 and 30). Yet 12:13 says they were all baptized by the Spirit. Therefore, if the charismatics are correct, all of the Corinthian believers should have spoken in tongues; but they did not. John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit before birth, yet never spoke in tongues. Great saints down through the ages have never spoken in tongues.

“The gift of tongues is a mark of spirituality.”… Not at Corinth! This was the most carnal church Paul ever had to deal with. They were babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1–4). Instead of being a mark of deeper spiritual life, tongues are a relatively inferior gift that has little value to the individual Christian or the church collectively. It is possible to have spiritual gifts and not have spiritual graces, and 1 Cor. 13 clearly teaches this. The important issue is not how many gifts I have, but is my life like Christ’s and am I attracting people to Him?

“Tongues are for the church today.”… There is every evidence that several of the gifts were temporary. Prophecy, tongues, and knowledge (the imparting of immediate spiritual truth by the Spirit) seemed to have passed away with the completion of the writing of the NT. First Cor. 13:8–13 indicates that these gifts would pass away and no longer be needed. They belonged to the “childhood” of the church. Today the church’s life and ministry are founded on the Word of God. Read Acts 20:17–38 for a picture of the ideal NT ministry; here you will find nothing about tongues.

“A believer can benefit from tongues privately.”… But spiritual gifts are given for the profit of the whole church (12:7), not just one saint. There is no suggestion in these chapters that any gift is granted for the private enjoyment of the believer. In fact, in 14:13–15 Paul clearly states that the private use of the gift of tongues is not right. If there is interpretation, allowing the believer to know what is being said, then there can be spiritual benefit; but without understanding, there is no blessing. The private use of tongues is contrary to the letter and spirit of 1 Cor. 12–14.

“The gift of tongues ties believers together.”… There is a new kind of ecumenicity among Christians in the charismatic movement that says, “You don’t have to deny your basic beliefs to be a part of our fellowship.” But did the so-called “baptism of the Spirit” unify the believers at Corinth? The church was divided four ways (1 Cor. 1:10–13)! Yet all of the believers there had experienced the baptism of the Spirit (12:13)! There was discord, division, and dispute in the church; yet there was also the gift of tongues. It has been our experience that the emphasis on “tongues” and “Spirit baptism” divides the church instead of unifying it. The “tongues Christians” think themselves superior to the others, and then trouble starts.

“It makes no difference what terms you use as long as you have the experience.”…

This is a subtle lie of Satan. The very words of Scripture are given by the Spirit, and we must obey them (1 Cor. 2:9–16). It is wrong to confuse the baptism of the Spirit with the filling of the Spirit, for God has definitely separated them. We must base Christian experience on the Bible, and not interpret the Bible by experience. If we understand Bible words and truths, we will understand how to live the Christian life. Notice how many times Paul uses the word “ignorant” in writing to the Corinthians. “Be not children in understanding!” he admonished them in 14:20. It is possible for Satan and his demonic powers to counterfeit “spiritual experiences” for shallow Christians. But Satan cannot work where Christians understand the Word of God.

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