Monday, April 24, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit V

I Corinthians 12:31 instructs, “But covet earnestly the best gifts…”  As we have seen, every part of the body is important because of the particular function it plays.  In the same way, every gift of the Spirit is important in the church.    The body can function without the tonsils, although somewhat less efficiently, and there are some gifts the church can function without.  Other gifts are like the heart or lungs, essential if the church is to be able to survive on its own.  Paul is saying these are the gifts we need to be most concerned about. 

In I Corinthians 13, He pointed out that without love, or charity, the gifts of the Spirit are worthless, so in I Corinthians 14:1-4 he points out why one is more important and essential than another.  “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.  For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.  But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.  He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” 

In modern language, the word “prophesy” is nearly always used in reference to foretelling the future.  The biblical usage had a much broader meaning, referring to telling people what God said, whether about the future, or about something teaching God wanted them to know.  The gift of prophecy was a special ability to receive a message directly from God which was to be shared with the other people.   When the scriptures were complete, those special messages were not necessary.  Teachers can fulfill the responsibilities of the prophet in our day because they have God’s word to teach from.  As a result, I Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us, “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

When Paul wrote that the scriptures were not yet complete, so prophecy was still a necessary gift.  Because there was such a variety of languages, the ability to speak in tongues was also necessary, but Paul says the gift of prophecy, of telling people what God wanted is more important because tongues were only of benefit to people who understood them, whereas prophecy could strengthen everyone that heard it.  Tongues would only build up or strengthen other Christians if they understood them so they were worthless unless they were interpreted, as he explains I Corinthians 14:5-11.

“I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.  Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?  For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?  So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.  There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.  Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. “ (I Corinthians 14:5-11)

If people do not understand what is being said, it is just meaningless noise.  They may legitimately think the church is insane for putting up with such confusion.  On the other hand, even a bugle or musical instrument, can convey a message if played in a recognizable pattern.  If we are to have an impact on others, they have to understand what is said. So Paul says it would be better for the church if they taught what God wanted than if they spoke in tongues.  


  1. Amen, Donald! God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. It is sad to see churches where the pastor spouts gibberish that is intelligible to no one, and then to be mimicked by others who claim to be "in the spirit." Does not sound like the Holy Spirit to me. Sign gifts had their time and place in the early church, and the gift of tongues was always to increase understanding, not to obscure it.
    Thanks as always for the great post, and God bless,

  2. Thankis, Laurie. It is sad to realize how many have fallen for an imitation of the gift of tongues or one of the others and are being misled.