The Gift of Tongues, No. 4
Shall we bow in prayer please? Oh mighty God, we are grateful to thee that
we have the written Word of God; that thou hast given us this
revelation through holy men of God who were led by the Holy Spirit of God to
record for us that which we need for now and for all eternity. We
thank thee that we have a completed canon
of Scripture, that the right books are in that Bible, and that thou
hast brought us into a knowledge of the truth through this Word. We pray now as we spend these moments
together searching the Word of God that it may be fruitful. We pray that thou will give us physical
capacities, spiritual insight, and the ability to concentrate so that
thy Son would be glorified in that which we share of this thy Word upon which
we must live moment. For we pray in Christ’s
The gift of tongues.
This is the fourth increment in this series. I had a remark recorded to me this week made
by a man who said that lately tongues, as satanic today, is blasphemy
of the Holy Spirit. And he was very serious and
very ominous as he said it. Now of
course the only way to decide whether this is true is on the basis of
Bible doctrine teaches, what the Word of God teaches, concerning
tongues, as to
whether tongues labeled as a satanic enterprise is blasphemy of the
Spirit. Obviously the opinion from the
experience from some doctrinally disoriented ding-a-ling doesn’t
anything. You needn’t be impressed
dramatic remarks such as that.
Another man told me about a report
from one of his relatives
of a tongues meeting in a church where the power really broke out. It broke out so dramatically in this church
in Dallas this past week that all the women fell over in the aisles and
the floor all over the auditorium. It
was so dramatic that they had to run out and get towels because the
skirts made everything look so immodest, while they were desperately
cover up what the Holy Spirit was doing.
This was the kind of delusion, and in
this church this lady
said, “We’ve had ladies once in a while fall over. We didn’t have the whole group.” I don’t know—maybe they had
refreshments and they ate something.
Nevertheless they’ve got a problem, but
it’s not a problem from God the
Now the old line denominations, of
course, who have gotten
into tongues are trying to dignify this.
They are trying to put it in a very orderly fashion. You can attend a church here in Dallas where
they know something about doctrine where they practice tongues, and
are very careful to obey everything that 1 Corinthians 14 lays out as
ground rules for speaking in tongues.
Only three people at the most can speak.
They do it one-at-a-time, very orderly.
And all of this is kind of a cover-up to show,
“You see. We can do this the way the
bible says.” Well, that’s true. You can do this the way the Bible says you
should, except this is something that God is no longer doing.
So we have studied tongues in Acts. Now we are beginning to examine the three
main chapters in the book of 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians is the only other New Testament book
of the 21 New
Testament epistles which refers to the practice of tongues. So speaking in tongues obviously did not have
a very prominent place in the New Testament church.
It is very prominent in the Pentecostal
movement today but it was not prominent in the New Testament church. We have references in Acts, four at the most,
and then you have the reference in 1 Corinthians, and that’s it. There is (also) a questionable reference in
the book of Mark.
Paul gives these three chapters 1
Corinthians because of the
abuse of tongues in the Corinthian church, and because the abuse of
was a serious offense. There were three
main errors in Corinth relative to tongues.
First of all, they gave the gift a prominent place. Paul, when he lists the value of the various
gifts, we have seen, places tongues at the end of the list. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and verse 28-29
tongues always comes at the end. In the
list of spiritual gifts which are given in Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, and
12, tongues doesn’t even get into the running of the list at all.
The second thing they did wrong in
Corinth was that they
gave prophecy, exposition—revelations from God, a minor place. 1 Corinthians 12:31 urges the Corinthians to
seek the best spiritual gifts. 1
Corinthians 14:1, 5 urge desire for prophecy which is one of the best
spiritual gifts because it gives information and understanding from God. It was a source of Bible doctrine. Unless someone is present to interpret a
tongue in the New Testament church, it wasn’t of any value
whatsoever. It was useless because the
lost. If tongues is interpreted, then it
is a source of edification just like prophecy or any other gift.
The third mistake they made in Corinth
was that they
exercised the gift of tongues in the wrong way.
They were allowing people to speak in the auditorium
being there to interpret and to confirm what the speaker said. It wasn’t enough for him to get up and
“Now this is what I have said.” Someone
else who knew that foreign language had to stand up and say,
“This is what this
brother has said.”
They were also allowing women to use
tongues in the church
services, and I doubt that the women ever had the gift of tongues, so
were practicing was in the tradition of the fake tongues that we have
today. Paul condemned that.
Women are not to stand up and deliver
messages from God within a worship service.
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 14 to give instruction in
how to handle
tongues—the technique and the procedures.
Of course, that was only applicable to the New
Testament church where
tongues were a bonafide gift.
The principle of interpretation that
we’re following is
this: The book of Acts clearly defines
as known foreign languages that existed in the world at that time. When we get to the book of 1 Corinthians, we
bring this gift over with that understanding as the same gift. The apostle Paul never indicates that
talking about any kind of a different kind of tongues gift when he gets
Now the Pentecostalist will tell you,
“Yes, in Acts they
spoke in foreign languages, but in Corinthians they were speaking in
happy-talk utterances and it was a different kind of tongues. This is false. The
very same words were used in the
Greek. There is no indication that the
apostle Paul is referring to anything other than what has always been
the case in
the New Testament relative to tongues.
So the abuse of this gift in the
Corinthians church which
was particularly rich in spiritual gifts was the result of their
carnal nature of life. This was a carnal
church. This was a congregation that was
way out in disorientation relative to the Word of God.
Therefore, tongues was an easy element to
creep in and to be distorted among them.
This is the same thing that happens today. Wherever you find tongues being practiced
with zeal and zest, you will almost inevitably find people that are out
running when it comes to doctrinal understanding. They’re
just out of it. They don’t know up
from down. They are ignorant when it comes
to the Word
Now the Corinthian church had a large
population. They were in contact with
the commercial center of Corinth. Many
Jews from all parts of the Roman Empire would come there to do
business, so it
was natural that the tongues gift should be active (exercised) in the
Corinthian church because, as you remember, it was a sign particularly
unbelieving Jews. They proclaimed the
gospel in native dialect to these Jewish merchants.
In time, the tongue speakers, because of
their carnality, began to degenerate to positions of pride in the local
church. They viewed their spectacular gift
as a sign
that they were a special breed of spiritual people, which they were not. Your spiritual gift indicates nothing about
your spirituality. You can be the
biggest clod when it comes to spirituality and have the most
spiritual gift. Now you won’t
that gift. It will not produce divine
good. It will not be fruitful of eternal
reward for you, but you will have the gift without being spiritual.
So tongues practiced in the church
service at Corinth had
turned the services into bedlam. There
were people speaking at the same time and they gave no heed to the
that there be someone to interpret. Some
perhaps were standing there like the women imitating in ecstatic
like the heathen priests were used to doing under satanic control. Paul writes 1 Corinthians 12 through 14 to
correct this condition.
1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us,
“but all these (gifts) worketh
that one in the very same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he
will.” It is God the Holy Spirit who
decides sovereignly who gets what gift, so it’s no honor to the
no sign of merit within him.
Then in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, we
found that Paul compares
the body of Christ, the church, to the human body, with all of its many
which affect each other, and the need of all the parts for one another,
like the need of the parts of the human body for one another. The spiritual gifts, he points out, are given
for the edification and the uniting of this body of Christ.
Some gifts were temporary.
They were to be in effect in the infancy stage of
the church, until the
New Testament canon of Scriptures were complete, and until they were
established, then they phased out and passed off the scene. Tongues is a sign to the unbelieving Jews
confirming that God was now working in Christianity instead of Judaism,
had served its purpose in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem, and that part of the
of the sign gift was over.
What revelations came from God
directly through tongue
speakers have been completed because these have now been recorded in
Scriptures. Revelation 22:18-19
indicates that nothing more is to be added to that book, and that same
applies to all New Testament scriptures.
It is closed. The canon
closed. There are no other books to be
written. There is nothing to be
added. The revelations that used to come
through tongues are now finished and recorded, so there’s no
point for that
gift in that respect.
1 Corinthians 12, beginning at verse
27, states the team
principle as it applies to the body of Christ:
“Now ye are the body of Christ and members in
particular.” “Ye are” in
the Greek is plural, meaning all
Christians as a whole. None are left
out. “members in particular”
literally members individually: each of
you with a specific function in the body of Christ; and, each of you
a certain local church for exercising your specific function through
specific gift within that local group as a part of the body of Christ. You can’t just join any local church. God has a local church for you.
Now if you phase out of the local church that
God has for you, you are guilty of sin, and you have a sin to confess,
God has to pick up your life and try to re-do it and try to re-make it
to re-weave it into something significant, which he does by grace,
you’re now in the wrong local church, and you take a second-class
relative to your Christian experience and to your rewards because you
phased out of the local church that God said, “Here is where I
want you.” When people phase out of
a local church, they
had better have a good reason for doing it because they have a great
stake. God the Holy Spirit places us
into the body of Christ. That expression
of our gift is through one local assembly.
So, you are members individually.
The spiritual gifts are given to meet your
particular function within
the body of Christ.
In verse 28 you have the principle
applied: “And God hath set some in
the church, first
apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then
healing, helps, governments, and diversity of tongues.” Here it is God the Holy Spirit that is
referred to. “Hath set” is the
word “tithemi.” “Tithemi”
is a word
which means “to place,” or maybe “to appoint”
sometime. “To appoint,” or
“to place,” or “to set,” and
God has done this in a certain order.
This is in the aorist tense which means it was at a
certain point in your
experience when you were set with that gift, and that is, of course, at
point of salvation. It is in the middle
voice which means that you yourself are benefitted as a result of
given this gift at your salvation. It’s
in the indicative mood which is the mood of reality declaring that
are for real. You actually have them and
you can use them.
Then Paul goes on and he lists those
in order of their
value: first, second, third,
gifts in order of their merit in the New Testament church.
Now why does Paul do this? I
want you to remember what you are talking
about. The minute he took up his pen and
began writing 1 Corinthians chapter 12, he took up the subject of
tongues. He’s trying to straighten
out the abuse of
tongues. When you get to chapter 13,
what is he talking about? Well,
going to say “love.” That’s
OK if you
know what that means. But he’s still
talking about tongues in chapter 13.
When he gets to chapter 14, he’s still talking
about tongues. So why here in chapter 12
should he bring this
in—the order of the value of the gifts?
Well, obviously he puts tongues at the
bottom of the pile,
and he’s trying to point out to these people, “You people
are majoring in the
most minor gift of all—the one that brings the lease edification,
and, the one
that is the least value to the local assembly.
And you’re ignoring gifts like prophecy and
like teaching which are the
most valuable of the gifts to your personal edification and to your
future and blessing and reward. So the
reason he brings this up is to show the relative merits of the gifts
they’re seeking. It’s of value
unbelieving Jews, but it is of very little value within the local
In verses 29 and 30, he points out
that every believer does
not possess every spiritual gift. Why
does he do that? I remind you that when
he asks these questions (like, are all apostles?), that the Greek
the answer is “no.” The Greek
question in such a way that it tells you what the answer should be. And here it asks it in such a way, “Are
apostles?” And the answer is “no.”
would say in English, “Everybody is not an apostle, is he?” No.
“Everyone is not a prophet, is he?
And so on. And of
course this applies
to the public assembly, and of course it applies to everybody privately
So why does he do this?
Again to point out that everybody in the local
church is not going to be
speaking in tongues. And that’s what
gets down to: “Do all speak in
tongues?” And the answer is
“no.” Now today Pentecostalism
says, “Yes. Everybody should speak
in tongues because
it’s the sign that you’ve been baptized with the Holy
Spirit, and God want’s
everybody to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Well, the mistake there begins with the fact that
every Christian is
baptized into the body of Christ at the point of salvation (1
12:13). So everybody is baptized by God
the Holy Spirit. It’s not a separate
work. Tongues has nothing to do with
being an evidence of that placing into the body of Christ.
There are gifts which some of the Christians
have and some of the Christians do not have.
Tongues is not a universal gift among believers and
it was never
intended to be. Some of these gifts are
leadership gifts. Obviously the chiefs
are going to possess the leadership gifts—not the Indians. Some of these gifts were more spectacular,
such as tongues and healing and miracles and interpretation, but these
There are two relationships for the
Christian that I hope
you have straight in your mind. One is a
positional relationship. This is
positional truth. Every believer is
baptized into the body of Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Therefore you are your own priest. At the point of salvation, you became chief
of your own soul relative to your spiritual development.
Every one of you as a chief and a priest of
God is in full-time Christian service.
You are His ambassador. But
is local church order and truth also.
Here we have lines of authority.
We have pastor-teacher, we have elder boards, we
have service boards,
and we have administrators, and so on.
And boards can cause an awful lot of trouble in a
congregation if they
ignore the chain of command or they try to act as administrators.
This is one thing at the Christian
conference that was stressed very very strongly. Our
school board must never try to act as
administrators. If you are in a school,
they said, where the board insists on hiring the teachers, spending the
and running the school, get out of it.
You have a disorderly arrangement and it will never
work. This is true in the local church as
well. Boards approve policy that
recommend. Boards supervise, but boards
do not administer.
Some men who are fine (men) in the
pews become a terror of
devastation to a congregation when they get upon the board if they
understand the relationship of boards to the lines of authority within
local church. This is true of church
members too who can make havoc if they decide they’re going to
instead of Indians within the local church.
Now you are a chief relative to your own personal
priesthood, but you
have lines of authority that God and the congregation through the
the Holy Spirit appoint you to within that congregation.
And that is to be respected.
So verse 31 brings us to a more
excellent way. After having said all this,
and bringing all
this background, the apostle Paul comes to verse 31 in 1 Corinthians 12
says, “But covet earnestly the best gifts.”
The Greek word here is “zeloo.” “Zeloo”
means to desire or to strive for with great energy.
It is something that you are to pursue.
What are you to pursue? Well,
you are to pursue what he calls the
best or the most valuable gifts as per this list that he gave you in
Now this might seem to contradict what
he says in verse 11
where it says that God the Holy Spirit gives the gifts.
He’s the one who decides.
But I remind you again that the word
is also second person plural and it means “you all,” as a
church body, covet
for your local congregation these specific gifts that will bring
edification to the believers. It is
right for the church to pray for that kind of gift—that God would
people with the specific gifts for edifying and for administering and
carrying on the work of that local church.
So it is wrong to seek a particular
spiritual gift for
yourself personally, but it is right to do so in behalf of your
congregation. This is in the present
tense which means you are constantly, and we are constantly through the
age, to be seeking the most valuable gifts.
Of course in our day the most valuable gift is the
because this is the source of maximum edification to the saints. If that gift breaks down, or if you lack that
gift along with teachers in the assembly, you’re in a heap of
trouble from the
word “go.” It is active which
the congregation as a group should make it its business to be praying
gifts, and it’s imperative. It’s
command—not optional. Any time you
around this assembly, as we are looking now in order to appoint Sunday
teachers, it is right that we should pray and say, “God, send us
people who can
teach.” We have all kinds of
at this time of the year to be realigning the work for teachers and
be coming in. Now it is right to ask God
to send us people that have those gifts to perform those functions. It is not only right, but it we’re
to do so.
Now Paul’s point is that the
seeking of the tongues gift and
desiring what is of the lowest value to the congregation has led to
or perhaps it was because of carnality.
These people were slim on Bible doctrine. They were short on doctrine and they were
long on carnality. Then he goes on and
says, “But zealously covet the best of the gifts,” and yet
he says, “show I
unto you a more excellent way.” This
the Greek word “deiknumi.” “Deiknumi”
a Greek word that means you’re going to be shown something as a
information that you get. You’re
to be shown something by being told something, by being informed.
So the apostle Paul says, “Now
I’m going to show you a
better way of living, a better way of Christian life than the carnality
raging of tongues and the disorder that you’ve been carrying on
Corinthian church. I’m going to show
where the real action is, where the real values lie.
You people think that it lies in your
spectacular gifts, your tongue-speaking and your healing and your
working and your interpreting. You’re
wrong. There is something that is
crucially of value to you but it is not those gifts.” Then he picks up the fact that he’s
inform them. He’s going to show them
through doctrinal information something about tongues.
He says, “to you.” This
in the Greek is a dative of
advantage. It’s going to be of
Then he says what he’s going to
show them is going to be “huperbole,”
from which we get the word “hyperbole” in English. It means “superior” or supreme. It means way out beyond. Paul
says, “I’m going to tell you something
that is really way out there. The
greatest thing—par excellence—that’s the word for it. Literally the word means “throwing
beyond.” Beyond anything with any
comparison whatsoever. What’s he
to do? Paul is going to show the
Corinthians a way of living that is exceedingly better than their
something that will avoid the abuses that they have entered relative to
Now this way is beyond comparison for
life. This superior that he speaks of is
made known to us in chapter 13. Actually
at least the last part of verse 31 should have been put with chapter 13. It’s the first introductory remark to
13 and it is the key to chapter 13. What
he is going to tell them as the par excellence way is being filled with
spirit. That’s what 1 Corinthians 13
all about. If you want to give a title
to 1 Corinthians 13, call it the chapter on spirituality on
spirituality or the
great Bible chapter on being filled with the spirit.
That’s what 1 Corinthians 13 is all about. While Christians do not possess every
spiritual gift, he is going to show them something that they all can
possess, and that is to be filled with the spirit.
This constitutes spirituality in the church
age. A spiritual Christian will not seek
for himself nor about the tongues gift.
He will produce edification for the church with his
That was the problem.
Paul put his finger right on the issue.
He says, “I know what the trouble is in
Corinth. I know why you people are abusing
this gift and
maybe some of the other gifts. It’s
because you don’t’ understand what spirituality is all
about. Some of you kooks have taken off
emotionalism and you’re all out of touch with what God is
thinking and what God
feels and what God’s choices are, and you’re operating on
the emptiness of your
emotions. You’re trying to think
your emotions. Now,” Paul says,
going to make something known to you through information to get that
What is the nature of spirituality? I think you all know that at the point of
your salvation every Christian is regenerated.
He is given a living human spirit.
He is indwelt. God the
Spirit takes up residence in your body.
He is baptized by the Holy Spirit into union with
Jesus Christ from
which he can never depart. He is
sealed. He gets the Holy Spirit’s
upon him that he is destined for heaven.
The seal can never be broken. He
is given spiritual gifts for service.
All of this happens at the point of salvation. Now no Christian is ever commanded to seek
these things. You will never find in the
Bible where you are ever told to seek to be indwelt, to seek to be
seek to be sealed, or to seek for spiritual gifts.
While you may be admonished to call upon the
Lord, and in that way to seek regeneration, we also know that God calls
But not every Christian is filled with
the spirit, and we
are called to seek this. We are told
constantly to be seeking to be filled with the spirit of God. This is what constitutes spirituality. To be filled with the spirit means to be
spiritual. And you are filled with the
spirit by confessing all known sins to the Father.
If you are not filled with the spirit, you as
a Christian are controlled by your old sin nature and the Bible
declares you to
be carnal. Now that constitutes
spirituality. Every Christian can do
this, and every Christian can be filled with the spirit so that he is
controlled by God the Holy Spirit. Then
he will imitate God. When he is
controlled by the old sin nature, he imitates Satan.
A Christian at any moment therefore is either
spiritual or carnal. He’s either in,
he’s with it, or he’s out.
Now a spiritual Christian will imitate
God as Ephesians 5:1
says. He will glorify Jesus Christ (John
16:14). And he will fulfill the Mosaic
Law (Romans 8:3-4). Now let’s get
something straight about the law. The
Christian is not under the Mosaic Law, but through the Holy Spirit he
to fulfill the standards of the Mosaic Law.
A Christian who is subject to Jesus Christ finds
that the character of
Christ is produced in him as a result of his being filled with the
What is the place of spirituality in
God’s plan? It is for believers only. It is not possible to be spiritual without
regeneration. So don’t try to impose
your Christian standards on unsaved people.
Spirituality is not the same as morality. A Christian is not spiritual because
moral, because he keeps the Ten Commandments.
It is possible for a Christian to keep The Ten
Commandments and to be
very moral, and be the most unspiritual person you can imagine. Spirituality will include morality, but
not the same thing. It goes beyond
it. Christianity is not a matter of
being moral. It’s a matter of a
relationship to Jesus Christ. Morality
is a byproduct of the relationship but it’s not spirituality. There’s no power in morality for right
living. You can be a very moral person
and have very little power for spiritual expression.
The power of Christianity is found in the
filling of the Holy Spirit.
Now morality is necessary for the
orderly function of
society and for the preservation of humanity, so morality applies to
unbelievers as well as believers. These
rules of conduct apply to unbelievers relative to murder and theft and
so on. But spirituality is only for
for the unbeliever. The morality of an
unbeliever comes from the strong side of his hold sin nature. A Christian has this old sin nature, so he
can produce the same morality from his strong side.
Spirituality is much more than morality.
Remember that Paul said he was a very
(Philippians 3:4-6). At the same time he
was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
Paul had self-righteousness. But
a Christian who is filled with the spirit does not pursue a
self-righteousness. Spirituality cleanses
the soul but morality
Now, in the plan of God the
relationship is the key. Salvation is
being rightly related to Jesus
Christ as per John 3:16. Spirituality is
being rightly related to the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:9).
The good works of the old sin nature have no
place either in salvation or in spirituality.
So when we get to the end of 1 Corinthians 12, and
he says, “I’m going
to show you a more excellent way,” this is what he is talking
excellent way of spirituality, over against the carnality that has
characterized the Corinthian Christians.
The way of life of being filled with the spirit as
over against their
being under the control of the old sin nature.
1 Corinthians 13
So we begin 1 Corinthians 13: “Though I speak with the tongues of men
of angels.” Now this word
the word “if.” “If I
speak with the
tongues of men and angels.” And as
have learned, there are certain classes of “if” in the
Greek. This is the third class condition
means, “Maybe I will and maybe I won’t.”
What Paul is saying is, “Not that there is a
tongue that angels speak
that people can speak.” Now angels
probably have some language. But he is
not saying that he speaks in an angel language.
He says, “Just suppose that I could.”
These people were crazy for talking in tongues. He says, “OK, suppose that I can talk in
the foreign languages on the earth.
Suppose that I can go even better than that—I
can speak languages that
are not on earth, like angels talk. He’s
not saying he does. It’s a
condition—third class. If you could
this, Paul’s point is, “So what? What
then?” These people would consider
very great in Corinth if they could speak in angel talk.
Now it is this verse into which the
read the justification for their gibberish.
When they come to 1 Corinthians, they say,
“You see? Here in 13:1 it’s
not foreign languages. It’s heavenly
talk. It is ecstatic utterances. It’s angel talk that Paul is talking
about. So there are two kinds. This talk they justify for their private
devotion and utterances. But Paul uses
the same word here (“glossa”) that he used in Acts. In the New Testament the word
means foreign languages. In Greek
literature it could have meant ecstatic utterances, but never in the
Testament usage. And Paul just carries
right over from the experience in Acts as if everybody understood what
meant, and there is no indication that it is anything other than human
languages, something that someone can understand. He’s
using the same word. We have no indication
that this is anything
different than what we found in Acts. As
a matter of fact, in 14:21, where he refers to the sign, the purpose,
gift of tongues, he clearly declares that it is tongues and other lips. He clearly declares that it is known
languages that he is referring to in this whole context.
So he says, “If I should speak
with the languages of men and
of angels, and have not love.” “Have
not” is present, meaning habitually I do not have.
And the word that he uses now in Greek is our
old friend “agape.” “Agape”
love has no
emotional content whatsoever. “Agape”
love is the love that God gives us. It’s
God’s divine love. This is the love
John 3:16 that the Father has for the unsaved.
It’s a mental attitude free of ill will.
It is the love of John 50:9 of the Father for the
Son. It is the love in Romans 5:5 of
love which it says he has placed in our hearts, meaning our mentality,
Holy Spirit. It is a mental attitude
love—not an emotional love.
Now this love can only be possessed
under a certain
condition. A Christian possesses this
love. Galatians 5:22 gives the fruit of
the spirit. This is point number one,
the first segment. Love is the summary
of the fruit of the spirit which constitutes the character of Christ. You cannot have the character of Christ, you
cannot have this type of love unless you are in the condition of being
with the Holy Spirit. Under the filling
of the Holy Spirit you have this love.
So therefore what Paul is talking
about is the same thing
when he speaks of this “agape” love, he’s talking
about spirituality or about
being filled with the spirit. Everywhere
through here you could substitute the concept of being filled with the
for the word “love.” Now that
important that you should understand this.
There are a lot of stupid things said about this
chapter because people
don’t understand the context of what Paul is talking about. He is trying to hit the tongues abuse. He is trying to explain that being filled
with the spirit is the crucial thing—not pursuing some
spectacular gift. He’s going to go
on to point out that no gift
is worth anything unless you have this condition of being filled with
So love refers here to something
produced by the filling of
the spirit. It’s part of the fruit. It’s the first segment.
Paul says morality produces human emotional
love that has no spiritual impact.
Because “agape” love comes through the
Holy Spirit it has great impact
on the outside. So 1 Corinthians 13 is
dealing with spirituality, the filling of the Spirit.
And it says that exercising any spiritual
gift apart from the spirit is worthless.
He says, “I am become.”
This is the Greek word “ginomai,” and it
means to become something you
are not. Now what had they become? They had become carnal instead of
spiritual. It’s in the perfect tense
which indicates that they continue in this condition from the past. At salvation they began being filled with the
spirit. They began spiritual; they
sinned; they went carnal; and, they continued in that.
“I have become something I was not.” I have become carnal which I was not before
when I was spiritual. It’s the
voice meaning that they do something themselves to lose their spiritual
spiritual. This is indicative, the mood
Then he says, “I have become as
sounding brass.” This means the
banging of metal that was used
in the market in order to get attention for the peddler for his wares. The carnal Christian practicing tongues in
the service in Corinth was just getting attention to himself like
clanging two pieces of metal together.
Then he compares it to a tinkling cymbal which is
not the musical
instrument in our splendid Berean Boys Band in the percussion section. It is rather a metal basin.
When you strike two of them together it gets
a screechy kind of sound like when somebody rubs his fingernails on a
chalkboard. This word
“alalazo.” “Alalazo” is a word which is used of
what the professional mourners
did when somebody died. They would call
them in to screech and to howl and to moan.
Now what Paul is saying is, “I
don’t care if I’m not
spiritual. I’m like somebody banging
some metal together. I’m like
scratching his fingernails on a chalkboard and making a screeching
sound, and I
am absolutely nothing.” The tongues
is not the big thing. Being filled with
the spirit is the thing. This is the
more excellent way relative to spiritual things. Apart
from the filling of the spirit, tongues
is just noise. Any eloquence of any
speech of any kind is worthless.
Now the nothingness is pointed out in
verse 2. “And though I have the gift
prophecy.” Again “if” is
class—“Suppose I do.” “Prophecy”
bringing direct revelation from God. I
understand mystery. I know the values of
various doctrines. I have all knowledge. I’m able to classify doctrines. I have all faith so that I can move
mountains. Again, “If I have,”
I do remove mountains. Every now and
then we have some idiot who’s trying to get some faith to remove
instead of getting himself a bulldozer.
God is not saying He’s going to remove
mountains through your faith. He says,
“Suppose so.” This is a
“suppose so” case. “If I
had that much faith that I could just
believe. “Oh, if I just believe that
mountain is going to move it’s just going to get up and start
trucking out of
there all by itself. I could just
believe.” How many times have you
told just to believe, man? That’s
you need. Just believe.
Well, Paul says there were idiots in
the Corinthian church
who were doing that too. He says,
I had that kind of faith but I don’t have the filling of the
spirit, (then) I
am nothing.” This is the Greek word
“eimi.” This is the verb for
status quo. It’s a being in a state
of carnality. You notice in verse 1 he
became nothing. In verse 2 he stays
nothing, in his
carnality. (There are) no lasting
eternal effects produced by his carnal exercise of his gifts. And he mentions all of these various kinds of
gifts—communicating gifts—prophecy. It’s
nothing. Information gifts—mysteries
knowledge. They’re nothing. Operation gifts—faith.
So the Corinthian Christians using
their tongues apart from
the filling of the Holy Spirit under a status of spirituality have
exactly nothing—no divine good, just human good.
When we’re carnal, we bat zero.
When we’re spiritual we can bat 1000.
Then he goes on to verse 3—the
nothingness of the production. “And
though I bestow all my goods to feed the
poor.” Again, “though”
is “if,” suppose
so. Feeding the poor is the right thing
but it’s done in the wrong way when it’s done in the
motivation of carnality—a sacrifice
done in the wrong way. “And though I
give my body to be burned.” This is
martyrdom—very dramatic, a sacrifice.
Again “though” indicates not that you
should give your body to burn—suppose
I do. It’s an “if”
suppose-so case. Here’s an
illustration of extreme sacrifice
that most people would admire. People
admire giving material things and martyrdom—highly commendable. God says they’re absolutely worthless. It profiteth me nothing if I am not under the
status quo of being filled with the spirit.
The heathen will give himself in such
sacrifices. Now and then we her of some
Vietnam immolates himself—burns himself alive, to make a point. Worth nothing. Carnal
Christians are merely competing with
unbelievers on their human-good ground and they probably can’t do
as well. So if I have not love, I have not
of the spirit, it propheteth me nothing—no divine good. Notice verse 1: “I
have become nothing.” Verse 2:
“Because I am not filled with the spirit, I am
nothing.” Verse 3:
Because I am not filled with the spirit, I am
profited nothing by what I
do. Everything I do is useless and
pointless.” The tongues devotees in
Corinth were out of
line in their general living because they were operating on the old sin
Now look at the expression of the
characteristics of being
filled with the spirit—these descriptive phrases in just these
next few verse 4
through 7, and apply these to tongues.
It says, “Love (being filled with the spirit)
suffereth long.” That means it waits
its turn to speak in
tongues rather than barging in any time.
That’s what they were not doing in Corinth. It says, “It’s kind.” The tongue speaker does not say things
deliberately to hurt the believers, but to edify them.
It says, “It envieth not.”
It doesn’t covet the tongues gift because
somebody else has it. He isn’t
of that other person. “He has that
tongues gift. I want that spectacular
gift.” It says, “It
itself.” It doesn’t put its
nose up in
the air and go around saying, “I’m spiritual,” and
have a look on its face like
it’s smelling a bad odor. And you
feeling that you’re it because you’re unspiritual. You don’t talk in tongues.
“Nor does it puff itself up.” The tongue recipient is not proud of having
the idea that there is some personal merit in him.
“It does not behave itself unseemly.” Tongues were done decently and in order. It has no such things as women falling on the
floor all over the congregations so they have to rush out to get towels
cover up their immodesties. “It
not its own.” It is never for
self-edification and private use. Have
you gotten that straight? Tongues is
never for private use. You never use
tongues in the closet. You never use
tongues in prayer. You never use tongues
privately by yourself to pray. We’re
going to see a little more about that. Tongues
always had to be used in the open assembly.
So it is not for itself. “It
not easily provoked.” Tongues is not
angered by resistance that may come to the message that the tongue
brought. “It thinketh no evil.” Tongues message is from divine good
expressions and for godly actions. “It
rejoiceth not in iniquity.” It is
delighted in the godliness that the spirit of God produces. It is grieved by evil. Its
message reflects this. And then it says,
“It rejoiceth in truth.” It
welcomes divine revelation. It’s
positive toward the Word of God. And
finally, “It doeth, it believeth, it
hopeth, and it endureth all things.” Now
this is the exercise of the gift of tongues under the status of
That’s what the opening verses
of 1 Corinthians 13 are all
about. The more excellent way is to be
filled with the spirit. And when these
Corinthian Christians are filled with the spirit, they will not be
the abuses that verses 4 through 7 spell out that they were guilty of
to tongues. Now these abuses would apply
to other gifts just as well. When
filled with the spirit, you bat 1000.
John E. Danish, 1971
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