1 Cor. 14:5 (NIV) “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues…”
When you were a child, did you ever experience that anticipation to open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve? Do you remember your children feeling that way? The people in the church of Corinth were almost like that concerning the gifts of God. They were a church of young believers. They were excited and wanted everything God had for them. In their excitement and spiritual immaturity, they made many mistakes. But isn’t it a good thing when people crave for more of God? I think so. Their immaturity caused problems but my personal motto is this, “They’ll grow up. Just hang in their and work hard to train them in the process.” Honest people will admit they make many mistakes in what they think, what they do, and in the presumptions they make along the path of life. But, in time, those things get corrected.
The Apostle Paul had his work cut out for him with the church of Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 14, he is specifically talking to them about how the gifts of the Spirit – specifically the gift of tongues, prophecy and interpretation of tongues and how they are to operate in the corporate church setting. He was teaching them AND helping them to learn to avoid confusion. What is key to understand is that He was not giving instructions for these gifts in other settings such as our day-to-day walk. He was teaching them the order when the church came together. Where most people make mistakes is trying to apply PRAYING in tongues, with SPEAKING in tongues for the edification of the church. PRAYING in tongues is something that is done in one’s personal life and prayer closet or as the church when they are together for purposes of prayer. Paul was laying out instructions for SPEAKING in tongues for the church so that it was done decently and in order and for the edification of all there.
Let me walk you through so you can understand. First Paul said that love, not pride – not wanting to look spiritual, but love should be their motive for the gifts of the Spirit. Then he said, “eagerly desire spiritual gifts,” “especially the gift of prophecy.” This is not because the gift of prophecy is better than the rest of the gifts as a rule. This was the better gift in general when the entire church came together. It was a gift that could be understood and would speak into the hearts of all that were gathered together.
If Jane Doe showed up and had just received a report that she had cancer, the better gift for her could have been the gift of healing. That wouldn’t have benefited everyone but for her it would have been the better gift. Paul was trying to teach them how to act as a group. He wasn’t trying to put the gifts in some order of importance. Go try to peel a carrot with a spoon. You will see a carrot peeler is a better tool for that job. Each gift has its place and time of importance.
Paul then went on in verse 3 to explain something about tongues. He said that when people pray in tongues, they aren’t speaking to men but to God and that the Holy Spirit is praying mysteries (0r you could say things that are unknown to the person praying.) In the church setting, someone just speaking (as a person speaking to everyone there) in tongues is not going to benefit those around them. That is why he went on to say that the person who prophesies will be speaking things that strengthen, encourage and bring comfort to those who can hear. He said that when a person speaks in tongues, there is a personal edification but that it is not going to benefit those around them. At this time, prophecy is the better gift for everyone’s edification because they can understand what is being said.
What Paul DID NOT say, is that the gift of tongues is therefore not that big of a deal or not important. He did not say it is not as good a gift as prophecy or other gifts. He did say, that in the church setting, it is not a gift that will be as helpful and edifying for all as prophecy is. Why? Because they can all understand and be blessed by the gift of prophecy!
Paul then went on in verse 5 to say,”I WOULD LIKE EVERY ONE OF YOU TO SPEAK IN TONGUES.” Now let me say this and it’s important. It would have been wrong for Paul to say this if it couldn’t happen. It would have been a tease. It would have been misleading. That isn’t the case. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to say and write these words. The big question everyone brings up is this. Doesn’t it say that tongues or these gifts aren’t for everyone? No, it doesn’t say that.
Earlier on the Apostle Paul asks this question. “Will all speak in tongues?” He put it like that because he knew that not all would. Not all people will give their life to Jesus either. But both are the will of God. It’s just that God does not make us do anything and so instead He offers us things and calls what He offers us “gifts.” A gift means it’s free. A gift implies it has value. A gift has to be freely and personally received. This is why Paul said. “Will all speak in tongues?” He also went on to reveal his heart. He said, “I WOULD LIKE EVERY ONE OF YOU TO SPEAK IN TONGUES.”
He didn’t stop there; he was midway through a statement. He went on to say; I would rather have you prophesy. Again, what HE DIDN’T SAY is this, “forget tongues, prophecy is better.” He was saying that in the church setting, I would rather have you all prophesy because in that setting prophecy is what they can understand and be benefited by. He was teaching them order and the greatest benefit to the order of things when they all came together.
God knows we need power from above to be strengthened to live for Him and carry out His will in this earth. Tongues is a gift creating that help and power. He furnishes and equips us so that we can be vessels of His love to others. He gives us supernatural gifts of His spirit to aid us. I need the help of the Holy Spirit and His gifts to succeed as a Christian in life. How about you? More next time…
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
Copyright© 2008 Tim Burt, All rights reserved.