Making Sense of Speech
Father, I need perspective in perplexity, patience in trial, and strength in adversity. I pray for grace equal to today.
1 CORINTHIANS 14:1-25
Consider: "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psa. 19:14).
We come now to the crux of the problem--the inordinate value placed on the gift of tongues. Paul's concern throughout is the edification of the community (5), but due to the excessive value placed upon the gift of tongues and the lack of interpretation of these within the worshiping assembly, worship had descended into confusion and the community was not being edified. It is important to note that the issue is not the gift of tongues per se.
As Paul says in verse 18, he is grateful for the gift of tongues. His point is that he does not see this gift as one directed primarily at the community; that is the place of prophecy. The issue is intelligible speech versus unintelligible speech. It is not possible for uninterpreted tongues to edify the listeners, believers or unbelievers. An unbeliever entering the community and hearing a babble of uninterpreted tongues could think that the Christian community was just another mystery cult or that Christians were simply mad. Either way, the unbeliever would dismiss the Gospel, due to its inaccessibility, resulting in divine judgment. This is the "sign" that tongues represents for unbelievers (22) and explains the quote from Isaiah (21; Isa. 28:11-12), which is an oracle of judgment.
In contrast, prophecy, as intelligible speech, can both edify believers and lead unbelievers to faith through the conviction of sin and the realization that "God is really among you!" (25). Prophecy thus functions as a sign of God's presence, since all can understand the message. This does not mean that all will become Christians, but intelligible proclamation of the Gospel has a greater likelihood of leading non-Christians to faith than unintelligible speech. "Whatever the place for profound, personal experience and corporate emotional experience, the assembled church is a place for intelligibility" (Craig Blomberg).
What teaching from this passage is helpful for your church? Your spiritual walk?
Sovereign Lord, through Your Spirit, You give Your gifts to Your people. May they be used wisely and well for Your purposes.
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