Wednesday, 10 December 2014
…to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:10
Paul continues with his list of spiritual gifts in verse 10. The first is “the working of miracles.” This is a separate category than “healings” which has already been mentioned. It could be a reference to Jesus’ words in Mark 16:18 –
“….they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Whatever the miracles are, they are above and beyond what would normally be expected from a person; exceeding general capabilities. However, there are those who have unusual abilities and who will claim their “gift” is from the Spirit. People can do an astonishing array of unique things, but this doesn’t mean that their ability is a true spiritual gift. It can only be considered as such if its intent is to bring glory to God.
Paul next says that “to another prophecy” is given. There are two types of prophecy in Scripture. The first is “foretelling.” This is speaking of something future and which is otherwise unknowable. There are instances of this recorded in Acts. However, this is such an abused practice in modern times that the only word which can be used for such utterances is “false.” People “prophesy” over others about prosperity, deliverance from sickness, marital issues, etc. These are not God-centered, but man-centered and have nothing to do with true prophecy. Foretelling ended with the word “Amen” at the end of the book of Revelation.
The other type of prophecy is “forth-telling.” This is the speaking forth and explanation of Scripture. Pastors who rightly divide the word of God, speaking from the pulpit or in teaching classes, are forth-telling the word of God. It is an on-going gift which will last throughout the church age.
Paul next states that “to another discerning of spirits” is given. This is an immensely valuable gift. There are true preachers and there are false ones. There are people who can actually speak in tongues and there are those who utter nonsense. There are those who really have the gift of healing others through prayer and intercession, and then there are charlatans who stand on stage and mock the Lord through supposed healings.
To be able to recognize the difference between what is true and what is false takes discernment, and that discernment is only certain when based on a knowledge of Scripture. One cannot support a “feeling” of discernment without backing up that “feeling” with knowledge. Otherwise, there may be lacking of discernment about one’s own feelings. John writes about the use of this gift in his first epistle –
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
How can one “test the spirits” unless they know what is false? The answer is that they can only know what is false through knowing the word of God. The word was breathed out by the Spirit and therefore the word will provide right discernment concerning that which is false.
Paul’s next item in the list is that “to another different kinds of tongues” have come. He will later show that this is a lesser-gift and a most abused one, even during his time. He will spend an immense amount of effort explaining it because of this. The word “tongues” is the Greek glossa. It literally means “tongue,” such as the tongue in the mouth. It also is figuratively used to describe a tongue, such as “tongues of fire.” The fire looks like a tongue and therefore it is called a tongue. And, it is used to describe that which a tongue is used for – to speak or make sound. Therefore language and sound is called a “tongue.”
There is no verse in Scripture that shows these to be anything more than known, spoken languages. In fact, in Acts 2, all of the “tongues” are explained as known languages –
“And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:8-11
This is consistently the case throughout the rest of the New Testament. It is always referring to a known language and one must insert their own presupposition to come to the conclusion that these “tongues” are either ecstatic or incoherent. Paul, for example, says in 1 Corinthians 14 that he spoke in more tongues than all of those in Corinth. This doesn’t mean in frequency, but rather in acquired languages. He knew Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and probably Latin, and his native dialect as well. He may have known others languages too.
And he finishes with “to another the interpretation of tongues” is given. Later, Paul will show that if someone speaks a tongue (a known language) in a congregation, there must be an interpreter. Therefore, if a person speaks a language and yet doesn’t understand that language, they must have someone interpret what is spoken.
This is not at all unusual. Many people, for example, learn biblical Hebrew and Greek in college and yet they cannot speak it. Rather, they can only understand it in writing. On the other hand are people who can speak those languages, but who do not understand what they are speaking because they have never been trained in the language structure. Some speak languages in acting or sing them in songs and yet they have no idea what they are saying. Paul says that if someone speaks in a tongue, they must have an interpreter to explain the words that are uttered.
Life application: Paul’s list today has been taken to such unhealthy extremes in churches that only self-aggrandizement and humiliation of the name of Christ is the result. A gift, if properly exercised, will have the purpose of edifying others, building up the church, and bringing glory to God. The showy use of supposed “gifts” which call attention to someone are to be shunned. A church is to be conducted in an orderly and harmonious way.
O God, I’m heading in one direction in time. The past is there for my learning and the present is here to guide me – moment by moment – into the future. And the great thing about the process is that I am being led through each step to a known destination. The final book of Your word is written and what it details is glorious. Because I know the end, the process of getting there is bearable, even when it’s difficult. Thank You for the surety of Your word which tells me of the surety of my future. Amen.