Agonizomai: 1Cor 14:26-28 - Hold Your Tongue!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

1Cor 14:26-28 - Hold Your Tongue!

26-28 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
The gifts were given to the church in variety to different members so that each could exercise them. Here, Paul deals with gifts involving speech and information. Note the word "INFORM-ation." Much has been made of the intent of the language gifts (preaching, teaching and tongues) as means by which the whole church is edified. Paul does not wish to denigrate the gift of tongues because it is, after all, a gift of the Spirit of God to the church of Jesus Christ. He merely wishes that gift to be used properly whenever they are assembled together and in a timely and appropriate manner, benefitting all members.

The same Spirit gives impetus for one to praise with a hymn, inspires another to give a lesson drawn from the gospel and another to shed light upon the scripture and its revelation of Christ in the Law and the Prophets. Similarly, the Holy Spirit would preach through tongue speakers, if indeed it was the Spirit Who moved them to utter, and this was perfectly acceptable when done in good order and when whatever was said was interpreted for the benefit of all.

Tongue speaking was not to dominate the meeting or to intrude upon common sense and good order by which the minds of those present were provided with something spiritually useful. And Paul is emphatic in this - that tongue speakers ought to be utterly silent where no interpreter was present. And he means utterly silent. None of this speaking just low enough or moving the lips in a whispered but plainly non-natural sound so that those around get the impression that you are truly a gifted and spiritual person. Anathema! Just shut up and stuff it completely. It isn’t like occultic automatic writing where the person is taken over by a force he has no power to control. That is not God’s way, nor is it the way His gifts work. They work through people exercising their natural functions of choice and volition. The same Spirit that gives the gift produces the fruit of self-control by which the gift is administered.

The exhortation to keep silent and to "speak to himself and to God" is in no way an endorsement of the idea that tongues are a private prayer language that has no correlation with any earthly tongue. That is a tragic twisting of the sense of the text. What Paul is implying is that God, Who understands all languages because He knows what the heart is intending, is the only one present in the meeting who can receive anything from uninterpreted tongues. If a person prays silently in Senegalese in the meeting - well, God speaks that language and is not the least bit fazed by it. But the others have no use for it. And the proper understanding of Paul’s command to use the gift in private may be that it should be exercised at home, rather than in the public meeting, if there is no interpreter available.


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