Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit VI

The most valuable gifts are the ones that help people know God and his desires.  Those who are most interested in demonstrating god’s gifts and power should be focused on the best gifts, as I Corinthians 14:12-17 tells us.  “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.  Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.  What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?  For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. “  Speaking in a language that no one understands is a waste of time unless someone interprets it.  If you don’t know what you are saying, only your emotions (your own spirit) are affected and you gain no spiritual understanding or growth.    As a result, Paul was determined not to spend time in those prayers, so that he could worship both with his emotions and his mind. 

Likewise if he prayed audibly in an unknown language, other people would have no idea what was really said.  How could they honestly say amen, or let it be so when they didn’t know what was being said?  For all they know it might be cursing Jesus rather than praising him.    A Chinese missionary described hearing a person who supposedly had the gift of speaking in tongues cursing the Lord in fluent Mandarin Chinese, and a man who visited our church had a similar experience with one of the Native American languages.   I Corinthians 12:3 tells us,”Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed…”   

“I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” (I Corinthians 14:18-19)  Paul had grown up speaking Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.  In his various missionary journeys to different cultures he had also learned at least some of various other languages.  He could accomplish more with five words in a language he and the people understood than in hours of talking in language they didn’t understand.   

It is okay to have childlike attitude toward grudges and hurt feelings, but in things of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, we need to have a mature attitude, as I Corinthians 14:20-22 tells us.  “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.  Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”

Several times in the Old Testament, Most notably in Isaiah and Joel, God had warned that the would send people  speaking other languages in an attempt to turn the Jews back to God, but they would not listen any more than they did to the Jewish prophets.   Acts 2:5-12 describes on situation in which this prophecy was fuflfiied, with every person hearing the messages in their native language.  “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,  Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.  And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

Clearly the gift of tongues was given as a sign to reach people who were not Christians.   Those who already believe do not require some special sign to convince them of God’s power.  They will be satisfied to know what God has said, but those who do not believe will not.  As we saw in I John 4:6, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.”   The gift of tongues only matters to those who do not trust God and need constant reminders and reassurance of his power. 

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