Agonizomai: 1Cor 14:15-20 - The Point is <u>Communication</u>

Sunday, August 24, 2008

1Cor 14:15-20 - The Point is Communication

15-20 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 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? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

Putting himself in the place of the manifestation-seeking, tongues-gifted Corinthians Paul asks the rhetorical question, "What should I do?" What he means is to teach them what they, and all similar Christians should do in like circumstances. He says he will pray with his spirit (manifesting the gift), but will pray with his mind also (using the gift properly for the benefit of all). Just as praise arises from the heart due to the presence of the Holy Spirit within and finds expression in song carried by words which communicate ideas about God - so must tongue-speaking be.

It may be that the tongue-speaker is actually giving thanks to God in an unknown tongue and is, thereby, expressing a genuine concept "in the spirit." But so what? Quite aside from the question of how God is pleased by us uttering something that is nonsense to our own understanding, if it is also nonsense to the understanding of all those fellowshiping with us in worship then where is God’s pleasure to be found? Worship apart from understanding is absolutely pointless, and therefore ultimately meaningless. As Paul states, no one is able to say "Amen" with any sincerity if they do not know what was said.

Again, Paul indicates that "in the spirit" a person may (note may) actually be saying "thank you" words in some foreign language but nobody can share in that worship apart from understanding what was said.

Paul apparently had the gift of tongues. This would have been useful to him in his particular metier. It seems he reveals that he uses it quite a bit - so you can be sure that when he does use it, he conforms to his own advice and teaching. But in church especially - that is when the saints are gathered together for worship and fellowship - he would much rather use his mind to prophesy to the brethren things he understands and that will be of benefit to all in attendance. He so values cogent and thoughtful teaching above uninterpreted tongue-speaking that he gives a ratio of five cogent words to ten thousand unintelligible ones (2000:1) for dramatic effect.

So his whole point comes back to the underlying principles that the spiritually mature ought to understand. Gifts are for the benefit of the whole church, and due consideration of how this can be shown is vitally important, especially when the church is gathered together. It’s not about us and our gift, or about being seen or heard for ourselves - it’s about God desiring to bless others in us through the gifts given to us. Paul wants the Corinthians to grow up. It’s time to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves. It is the nature of the mature Christian to be harmless and meek and gentle and self-effacing - but not if it is a cover for being simplistic and childish. Be child-like - not child-ish. Behave harmlessly, but do not be naive. Be peaceable, but never make peace with sin or error.


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