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872 1 Cor.14.13-22 Maturity in Action

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A baby has a way of making a man out of his father and a boy out of his grandfather. —Angie Papadakis
- That is so true & as a grandfather my family knows how well my grandchildren bring the boy out in me
- Children are high octane, often demanding creatures
- They are learning to fit into the world
- They are learning the discipline – at least we hope – of realising that they are not the centre of the universe
- However, with many households now with only a minimal amount of children it becomes all the more difficult for the single child not to see himself or herself as the centre of the universe
- Children are immature & they take time to grow up & mature
- Generally speaking they think mostly of themselves & their wants
- One person I read commented on how often, in marriage, there is a tension over who is boss
- The marriage begins & so do the fireworks
- The husband might say, I’m the head of the house & the wife will reply, but I am the neck & I’ll turn you whichever way I please!
- But, this commentator said that when the first child comes along, there is now no question of who is boss
- When the child starts crying, both husband & wife jump to fulfil the child's desire
- Paul’s criticisms of the Corinthian tongue-speaking community is that they are immature & selfish & have not grown up in Christ
- Like a child, they are thinking only of their desires
- They have a gift from God & use it to fulfil their felt needs
- Rather, Paul says, the gifts are to be used for the body
- My last sermon was entitled: “The Love Principle in Action” & that related to Paul’s teaching on the mandate to love, it was on the gifts of the Spirit, especially, the gift of tongues which they were selfishly using for what prestige & prominence they gained from it
- Today, I’ve entitled this message: “Maturity in Action”
- The apostle is still talking about the gift of tongues or languages & urges these believers to grow up
1 Corinthians 14:20 NASB95
20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

1. Engaging the Mind

- Tongues-Speaking to a number of people is bizarre but to those who practice it, it is meaningful
- My position is that only truth matters
- What does the Scripture have to say?
- We need to realise that we are complicated people
- We have all sorts of stuff going on inside us – especially as it relates to God
- There is faith, there is doubt (if we are honest) & there is a whole plethora of emotional turmoil depending on your background & your experiences
- The problem for the Christian is that we tend to want to validate our faith by our experience
- That is a highly dubious place to go
- If you are looking to validate your Christianity by your experience, then Christ is only valid with the experience
Q. What happens if the experience drys up which it has done for many people? Then they leave the church saying, “it didn’t work”
- The truth is that Christ is valid whether your experience is true or not
- We walk by faith, we live by faith
- Jesus said to Thomas & the disciples there with him, “more blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe”
- The Scriptures validate themselves by appeal to facts
Matthew 28:6 NASB95
6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.
Luke 24:39 NASB95
39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
- When it comes to tongue-speaking, some Christians support their relationship with God by that experience
- The Corinthians, no doubt, saw their ability to speak in tongues as a symbol of status & elevated position with God over & against other Christians who had the “lesser” or more “mundane” gifts
- These Christians were on the lower rung of the ladder in their relationship with God
- For if they were up there with Him, He would given them the “greater gifts” as in tongue-speaking – that is the Corinthian position!
- There have been studies done by social scientists (sociologists) which seek to understand the modern tongues phenomena across a broad range
- The reason I raise this is that tongue-speaking is not the sole domain of the Christian church
- Vern Poythress writes that
Does religious free vocalization occur in other religions? Yes, religious free vocalization and related phenomena occur among some non-Western religions. This is natural, since free vocalization is so easy to produce.1
- He goes on...
“Non-Christian religions, psychotics, and small children sometimes produce phenomena that might or might not be similar to “speaking in tongues.”2
- As he mentioned earlier, these social scientists also note that this phenomena – they call “vocalisation” - is easy to do
Can the average person be taught to produce free vocalization? Yes. Learning to free vocalize is easier than learning to ride a bicycle. As with the bicycle, the practitioner may feel foolish and awkward at first. But practice makes perfect. Moreover, though at first a person may feel self-conscious, after he has learned he may sometimes forget that he is doing it. It is something that he can start or stop at will without difficulty. One easy way for a person to learn is to pretend that he is speaking a foreign language. He starts speaking, slowly and deliberately producing syllables. Then be speeds up, consciously trying to make it sound like a language would sound. Once he is doing well, he just relaxes and does not worry any longer about what comes out.3
- Now you need to remember that these social scientists are looking at this across a broad range not just, as you might think, charismatic churches
- When it comes to studying the words themselves, the studies revealed that they did not represent any known human language
In almost all instances, linguists are confident that the samples of T-speech represent no known natural language and in fact no language that was ever spoken or ever will be spoken by human beings as their native tongue. The phonological structure is untypical of natural languages.4
- Let me add just one more quote from the research of social science
- This has to do with the thought of any harm that can come to a person
As far as we know, no more [harm] than in reading a book. Many people have been free-vocalizing for years with no ill effects. A person’s beliefs may lead to associating free vocalization with other practices that are questionable. In short, it seems that the capacity for free vocalization is a normal, God-given human capacity. The person who was unable to do it would be unusual.5
- Whilst they say that it doesn’t seem to create any harm, they did note that it can lead to other practices that are dubious or questionable
- In other words, since the activity is experience based, the experience becomes the guide for what is true & what is not true
- Now with this background, we need to see what the apostle Paul makes of tongue-speaking
- I’ve entitled this first point: “Engaging the Mind”
- From v. 13-19, his main point is that the purpose of the gathered church is for edification
- If the gift does not edify someone else, then it is useless
- Remember, last time I spoke we saw very clearly that the gifts of the church are to be used – as love would have it – for the good of the body
- Love is other directed – self-esteem or self-love is such a distortion & perversion of the truth – it amazes me that we keep swallowing this stuff
- If a person speaks in a tongue, another human language, then Paul says, he needs to pray that he can interpret
- If not, see v.28
1 Corinthians 14:28 NASB95
28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.
- Silent means silent – speak to himself & God means in the mind, in the head
- The only way edification takes place is when a person can engage the mind & learn something
- A person can pray in their heart, in their spirit; they can sing within themselves too
- But the apostle will not leave it there
- “I will sing, pray, give thanks with the mind, also, he says
- So we have here a clear emphasis upon the mind, the understanding
- Paul even boasts (tongue in cheek type boast) about speaking in tongues better than the elite tongue-speakers of Corinth
1 Corinthians 14:18 NASB95
18 I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all;
- “More than” means here “better” – He is more versed, more skilful, better equipped, than all of them at speaking in tongues, but what is he concerned about?
- He goes on to say that he would rather speak 5 words to instruct someone than 10,000 in a tongue
Q. Why? Because the other person will not benefit - & how is love practised when the other person will not benefit?
- Now often when someone prays, they would close with “Amen
- It would be great if everyone followed suit & said “Amen” following the person who prays
- When a person speaks in an unknown language, that he or she cannot understand, how can they say “Amen” to what they do not know was said?
- Have you ever signed a document without reading it?
- Of course you have – not only are those legal documents so long, but they are so complex, you need to be a solicitor to understand them
- So we sign them on trust, don’t we – that they will do the right thing or that the government have laws in place to protect us
- But there is always unease, is there not, when signing something that you either haven’t read or don’t understand?
- Same here, to say “Amen” without knowing what you’re amening to is a dangerous practice
- For all you know the person is blaspheming the Lord or perhaps saying, “Jesus is cursed” – & you say “Amen” to that?
- So it is important that language is clear & that the mind is fully capable of understanding what is being communicated
Paul declares that being “spiritual,” i.e., of the Holy Spirit, occurs “when the Holy Spirit controls both the spirit and the mind.” If only the mind is active, everything remains at a theoretical level; if only the heart is active, the door lies open to self-deception and credulity. If both are open to the Holy Spirit, the result can build up the community and bear the fruit of love for the other. -- Anthony Thiselton
- Just a note on the word, “outsider” here in the ESV
1 Corinthians 14:16 ESV
16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?
- That is an unfortunate translation as the word “outsider” conveys the sense that the outsider is not a Christian
- But there are good grounds to see this person as a Christian
- The Gk word is idiotes & you would be right to see that our English word, “idiot” comes from this Greek word
- But it did not mean then, the same as what our English word means now
- An idiotes is an unskilled person – a person not versed or part of a professional guild or trade
- In other words, here, it means that this person is not skilled in, or knows the language of, the tongue-speaker
- It’s certainly not fair to call him an “idiot” because he doesn’t know the language of the tongue-speaker
- Let’s translate it this way then & see if it makes better sense
Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of being unaware of that language say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?
- Edification has to do with the mind – that is Paul’s main issue here & to which Anthony Thiselton again makes a valid point
To assume that Paul thinks that the Spirit evicts the mind is “to fall into the very trap to which the Corinthians and many today fall prey, namely, of associating the operation of the Holy Spirit more closely with non-cognitive ‘spontaneous’ phenomena than with a self-critical reflection upon the word of God as that which addresses the understanding and thereby transforms the heart – Anthony Thiselton

2. God’s Purpose in this Gift (of Languages)

- If we are able to step back from the issue of tongue-speaking, because to be honest it has become such a divided and emotive issue in the modern church, then we would in theory be more open to asking the question, “what is its purpose”
- This is what Paul now elaborates on – what is the purpose of tongue-speaking in the overall plan & providence of God
- As the church of Jesus Christ, our Lord has always wanted the church to be mature in Him
- A number of verses share with us the goal of church community & of the spiritual gifts
Ephesians 4:12–13 NASB95
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Colossians 1:28 NASB95
28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
- The first place to start, then, is in your thinking
- Children behave like children because they think like children
- They haven’t matured in their thinking & growth, so they act out childishness
- The same is true with the thinking of the church
1 Corinthians 14:20 NASB95
20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.
- I think it is fair to say, that as the Corinthians imitated the ecstatic practises of the pagan religions around them, they imitated their mindless, childish behaviour
Ecstatic religion by its very nature is self-oriented. Christians were to use their Christian χαρίσματα for the common good, but the pagans were totally concerned about their own personal experience, an attitude also prevalent among Corinthian Christians.-- H. Wayne House
- Ecstatic speech was all about getting caught up in the experience of being possessed by the god – actually for these pagan religions – it would have been possession, unbeknown to them, by demons
- In losing themselves in the experience, in the emotion, in the euphoria, the Corinthians ignored the fact, that love is about other people!
- In your thinking be mature

a) A Sign to Unbelievers

- In its first purpose, Paul says that tongue-speaking became a sign & that sign was made by pagan tongue-speakers in the OT
- In the OT, Isaiah prophesies that God will bring judgement upon His people
- The priests & false prophets got offended by Isaiah & thought he was treating them like children
Isaiah 28:9–10 NASB95
9 “To whom would He teach knowledge, And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast? 10 “For He says, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.’ ”
- That’s a common way children learned – like abcdefg_hijklmnop – part of the routine of learning
- Isaiah emphasised the true knowledge of God, yet the priests & false prophets despised him & told him to stop lecturing them as if they were children
- The fact was – they were like children – ignoring the truths of God & refusing to believe His word that spoke of judgement for apostasy & idolatry
- Now how was this prophetic judgement of Isaiah’s to come about
Isaiah 28:11 NASB95
11 Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue,
- The Assyrians were a ruthless nation that had not a compassionate bone in their body
- The nation of Assyria came in & conquered the nth kingdom of Israel & carried its people off to foreign lands – the nth kingdom was no more
- You won’t listen to My plain language, says God? Then I will speak to you in a language you cannot understand & that you will be in dread when you hear it
- Paul’s writes, therefore, that the purpose of tongues was a sign, not for the believers, but for unbelievers
- The believing Israelites took heed to what Isaiah plainly said
- The unbelievers of Israel rejected the plain speech of Isaiah & carried on in their shameless idolatrous ways
- They may not have understood the language of the Assyrian invaders, but they sure got the message!!!
- Tongues that could not be understood was used by God as a sign to the unbeliever & disobedient of imminent judgement
- The take on this then, is that speech in the church that cannot be understood has no place period!
- The church is not a place of judgement, but of salvation – we are the redeemed people of God – the true remnant that believe in Him
- Tongue-speakers who do not have an interpreter must be silent
- On the other hand, prophesy is understood & is, therefore, for believers & has its place in the church
- This is the first purpose Paul brings out about tongue-speaking
- If the message is not understood, it has no place in the congregation of God’s people

b) A Sign of a Mad– House

- It’s second purpose, Paul says, is actually another sign, but a negative one
- Now its a sign that you are all nuts
- He says here that if a person (the idiotes) – a Christian - doesn’t know the language of the tongue or an unbeliever comes into the church – who likewise doesn’t understand the language & you are all babbling away in another language no one can understand, they will say you’re all mad
- You’re all fruit-loops, nutso!
- The ESV says that they will say “you are out of your minds”
- Interestingly, it is the mind that Paul wants edified – to the unbeliever – they will think you don’t have any minds
- It is a sad indictment of the modern church that we are so afraid to speak the truth of what the apostle plainly & clearly says here
- In the age of experience first & truth second (or no truth at all), we will have little chance of staying with the will of God unless the church starts using her mind & acting in a mature way about the gatherings of the church
- We must not forget that with prophesy, the message of God is understood by all
- If this happens & God speaks to the heart of an unbeliever or of the one who knows only the common language, then real ministry takes place
- The person who hears the message has an amazing thing happen in his heart – because faith comes via hearing & hearing the word of God
- 3 things happen
1. He is convicted by all
2. He is called to account by all
3. The secrets of his heart are laid bear
- What is really happening here is that due to the secrets of his heart being disclosed or laid bear – as a result of this – he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all
- He is turned to God & he responds to God
Q. How come he gets to be called to account? – because he understood what is being said!
- Thus falling on his face – that’s gotta hurt – falling on His face in worship of Christ
- This is quite in contrast to those supposedly being “slain in the Spirit” & falling backwards into some comatosed state
- The only falling is when one bows the knee to God
- This is an act of humble, lowly submission to the eternal God who has shown His light & exposed the heart of a person & knowing that, they then surrender themselves to the Lord
- This reminds me so much of the work of the Spirit that Jesus said would happen
John 16:8 NASB95
8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
- This comes about because his mind was informed & thus, as Anthony Thiselton says, “addresses the understanding and thereby transforms the heart”
- What I would like to do each week at the close of the message is to re-read the passage of Scripture
- I’d like to have you connect what you learnt with the actual words of the text
READ again 1 Cor. 14:13-25
1Vern S. Poythress, “Linguistic and Sociological Analyses of Modern Tongues-Speaking: Their Contributions and Limitations,” Westminster Theological Journal 42, no. 2 (1979): 372.
2Vern S. Poythress, “Linguistic and Sociological Analyses of Modern Tongues-Speaking: Their Contributions and Limitations,” Westminster Theological Journal 42, no. 2 (1979): 368.
3Vern S. Poythress, “Linguistic and Sociological Analyses of Modern Tongues-Speaking: Their Contributions and Limitations,” Westminster Theological Journal 42, no. 2 (1979): 368–369.
4Vern S. Poythress, “Linguistic and Sociological Analyses of Modern Tongues-Speaking: Their Contributions and Limitations,” Westminster Theological Journal 42, no. 2 (1979): 372.
5Vern S. Poythress, “Linguistic and Sociological Analyses of Modern Tongues-Speaking: Their Contributions and Limitations,” Westminster Theological Journal 42, no. 2 (1979): 371.
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