Agonizomai: 1Cor 14:5 - Preach It, Brother!

Monday, August 18, 2008

1Cor 14:5 - Preach It, Brother!

5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Why on earth would Paul want all the Corinthians to speak in tongues? What would be the point? It would be to communicate to people of other languages and cultures and dialects the wonders of the gospel. But he has already explained - and here reiterates - that if they all prophesied it would be better.

Now before we go building a whole theology on a single verse and saying that all believers should at least want to speak in tongues because Paul said so (but, not curiously that we should all want to prophesy, for the same reason) let’s put it in perspective ... or make sure we keep it there. "Not all speak in tongues, do they?" "God has appointed first Apostles and prophets..." Remember those verses? Not everybody has or will have all the gifts. God decides. So Paul’s "want" is just that - Paul’s want. His desire is that they have as much of the gifts as God allows and his hope is for an overflowing abundance of them. But he still puts the forthtelling of God’s word in their own native language as number one. Is the message getting home yet?

The Spiritual gifts are for the building up of the body of believers; tongues can do this when interpreted - even when interpreted by the speaker of the tongue, because he/she would then actually be prophesying. But the best gifts are those which instruct and elighten and inform the whole body about the wonders of the gospel and God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ.

Speaking in tongues in public worship without an interpretation is unedifying to the body and must therefore not be done. I personally don’t think it ought even to be done as some sort of half-under-the-breath muttering that informs those in the immediate vicinity of the “great spirituality”, the gifting and the "restraint" of the giftee. I just think people should exercise the self-control that God gave them.


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