Monday, 2 February 2015
…yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 1 Corinthians 14:19
Oh that people would simply read the Bible! How does the church wander into such strange and unbiblical doctrines? If we would but open the word of God and, without presuppositions, read and apply it to our lives, we wouldn’t prohibit certain foods, we wouldn’t mandate certain days for “Sabbath observance,” and we wouldn’t act childish as we applied our tongues to the wind in an incoherent manner! Paul’s words in this verse are so obvious that they appear to need no commentary at all, and yet they have been so utterly ignored that commentary is needed.
He begins with “yet.” This is the Greek word alla which indicates a contrast – “but.” The contrast is in relation to what he just said – ” I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet…” Paul spoke many languages, but at Corinth it would be pointless for him to speak some of them. Most Corinthians probably didn’t speak Aramaic. His home dialect of Tarsus would be unknown to them as well. Other than any learned Jews present, none would know Hebrew.
Despite knowing such languages, it would make no sense for him to come in and start speaking in any of them. Their “voice” would have no meaning to the people in Corinth. Without meaning, he would simply be wasting his time by speaking them. And so he tells them that “in the church,” meaning whatever location the group gathered to meet – not a building, but a gathering – he says that he “would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
The words “five” and “ten thousand” are used in a superlative sense. It would be like the modern phrase “one in a million.” In other words, he is telling them of the utter absurdity of speaking in a language that no one else understood; it is a completely pointless waste of breath. If there is no edification; the words would only be a distraction. This is the force and intent of Paul’s words. How is it that churches have so far departed from what is plain, clear, and obvious? It is because the word of God, which is given for our instruction, is either completely ignored or it is selectively taken apart and divided up to meet the agenda of the reader.
What a shame! What sad consequences there will be for those who so abuse this precious gift of God. Let us not be found in such an unhappy position when we stand before Him for our rewards and losses.
Life application: There are many issues in the Bible which are difficult to understand and which result in various opinions concerning doctrine. These require a much deeper analysis in order to grasp. However there are issues which are clear and precise and which should be obvious to anyone who simply takes them at face value. The way to do this is to reject presuppositions and to allow the Lord’s word to fill them with their plainly understood message. In such cases, drop all presuppositions and be a vessel prepared for pure doctrine.
Lord, Your word tells us that it is preferable to speak five words with understanding, than ten thousand words in a tongue. May I apply this to my heart and mind. Help me to never conduct myself in the congregation in any way which would diminish the little time I share with others by uttering unintelligible sounds. Rather, help me always to speak words which edify, words which have meaning to others, and words which glorify You. Help me to be responsible with my tongue, and adult in my spiritual thinking. Amen.