1 Corinthians 14:12


Monday, 26 January 2015

Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. 1 Corinthians 14:12

“Even so” relies on what he just said and leads into the rest of this verse. Taken as a whole, it thus reads:

“Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.”

Again and again in Chapter 14, Paul has attempted to wake up the believers in Corinth (and thus us!) to pursue that which is useful and edifying rather than that which is self-centered and merely for show. The abuse of speaking in tongues was such that it had become a complete distraction to what would otherwise be a normally functioning church.

If speaking in a tongue which no one understands means that we remain a foreigner to those around us, then we should pursue a gift other than speaking in tongues. Paul is trying to be diplomatic about the issue without directly bringing insult upon those who continued to speak in tongues. The purpose of tongues was to demonstrate to the Jewish believers that God was working through the name of Jesus (Acts 2), and to convince them that He is the fulfillment of their Scriptures, their worship, and their hopes.

A further demonstration of tongues was again given to show them (through Peter’s visitation to the house of Cornelius in Acts 10) that the Gentiles had been accepted by the Lord as they were. It was to show that they were brought into the same New Covenant as the Jews without converting to being Jews or observing the Law of Moses.

The only other time that tongues were mentioned in Acts (the account of the establishment of the church) is in Acts 19. Certain believers had been baptized into John’s baptism, but not into Jesus’ baptism. When they were baptized into Jesus, they received the gift of tongues. This was done to show them the difference between the two baptisms. This was in Ephesus that it occurred and the congregation in Corinth would probably have heard this exciting news.

Because of the grand nature of what transpired, the now-established church continued to force the use of tongues where it was no longer needed. Thus Paul is spending an inordinate amount of time on the issue in order to get them to grow up and stop acting like children (verse 20). Nowhere else in the New Testament are tongues mentioned in this type of context, and the word “tongues” is only used again in Revelation under a completely different context.

And so, without trying to humiliate these immature believers, he is attempting to get them to stop with unneeded tongues and to pursue greater gifts. Tongues were a gift given as a sign at the establishment of the church. They were never intended to be used in the church age in the manner that they are being used by the Pentecostal movement of today. If believers would simply read the Bible, study the words of Paul, and apply these studies to their lives, they would see that the use of tongues was a specific gift with limited purpose. Other than for times when translation between languages is needed, tongues are something Paul actually argues against in the now-established church.

This is seen with perfect clarity by his words that, “since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.” Rather than making a self-centered show which edifies no one, he asks them to seek gifts which actually edify the members of the church. The word “gifts” is inserted by the translators. Literally it reads “since zealous you are (for) spirits…” As Vincent’s Word Studies notes –

“Paul treats the different spiritual manifestations as if they represented a variety of spirits. To an observer of the unseemly rivalries it would appear as if not one spirit, but different spirits, were the object of their zeal.”

In other words, instead of looking at the gifts of the Spirit as having one intent and purpose, which is the edifying of the church, they were looking at the “gift” of tongues as a case of “I have the Spirit because I can speak in a foreign language.” Add in a “ne ni ne ni boo boo” and you can see the attitude of these immature believers. It is an attitude which continues to permeate immature believers and churches in an ever-increasing manner since the establishment of the Pentecostal movement. It demonstrates a departing from sound doctrine intended for edification and a return to the immature behavior of the dysfunctional church of Corinth.

Life application: Conduct in the church should be “Edify!” not “Look! How spiritual am I!”

Lord God, I pray that one person today who is praying with me will make a commitment to read their Bible everyday for the rest of the year. I pray that as they fulfill this commitment, that You will bless them both in their walk with You and in their personal lives as well. I pray that You demonstrate to them that pursuing You through Your word is worthy of abundant blessing. And Lord, may this desire  then spread like wildfire among all people. Even to much-needed revival. Amen.


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