Saturday, 24 January 2015
There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. 1 Corinthians 14:10
Paul continues with his dialogue concerning the speaking of tongues with a thought that looks back on what he has said and forward to a continued discussion about tongues in the church. In verses 7 and 8, he mentioned instruments and the sounds they make – literally, “their voice.” Then he compared those things to tongues, or languages by saying, “So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”
Just as a trumpet that isn’t given a specific tune will fail to assemble the army, so a language spoken that no one understands will fail to edify the people. But this is the purpose of languages. They are given to instruct, warn, comfort, etc. All languages have purpose and no word in a language can be without meaning. Rather, there must be a thought connected to it or it is a useless sound; not a part of the language. In other words, thoughts are connected to words which are invented in order to convey those thoughts.
Understanding this, Paul says, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world.” The word translated here as “languages” is literally “voice.” It is the same word used to describe the sounds of the instruments in the previous verses. It is used to describe the words of the prophets (the voice of the prophets) in Acts 13:27; the outcry of an assembled crowd (the voice of the crowd) in Acts 19:34; the voice of the Lord in Acts 22:9 (which was only understandable to Paul and not those around him; it being the Hebrew language); the blast of the trumpet (the voice of the trumpet) in Revelation 8:1; and even the sound of the wings of the locusts (the voice of the wings) in Revelation 9:9. All of these, and many other examples, show that translating the word here as “language” is a general idea, not what was specifically on Paul’s mind.
He has shown that there are many “voices” in the world such as trumpets, flutes, languages, etc. And so he is tying this word “voice” to all of those things. The intent of his words is “anything that makes an understandable sound.” This is certain because he finishes the verse with, “and none of them is without significance.” Whether it is the voice of the trumpet, or whether it is the spoken Hebrew language, the voice is what conveys the meaning. This is why earlier he used a variety of words to describe sounds (see the analysis of verse 7).
The idea is conveyed by the voice. If there is no understanding of the voice, then there is no grasping of the intent behind the voice. His words in this verse almost make a playful sound. Vincent’s Word Studies translates the idea as, “So many kinds of voices, and no kind is voiceless.” There is intent in Paul’s words and there is a “voice” behind the intent of them. They are specific and they are calling out for reason.
Why then the minute parsing of his thoughts? Because his thoughts are what drive proper theology, and they are what are intended to drive proper conduct in the church. Unfortunately, it has become the standard to ignore such exacting analysis and to make stuff up which is completely unbiblical. Thus congregations and church meetings devolve into anything but sound theology and proper conduct.
Life application: Paul expects every word uttered in a church to be a word which is understandable and which will edify the congregation. If they don’t meet these requirements, then they are not in accord with the Bible which was given by the Spirit of God, and thus they are not of the Spirit of God.
Heavenly Father, help me to guide my conduct in the church in accord with Your word. If Your word was given by the Spirit, and my conduct isn’t in harmony with Your word, then my conduct isn’t in agreement with Your Spirit. I can see that it is all or nothing, and so I pray that pleasing You will be my sole aim and goal. Yes Lord, help me to glorify You in the congregation by having me apply Your word to my actions. Thank You for hearing my prayer. Amen.