Friday, 30 January 2015
Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? 1 Corinthians 14:16
Paul now changes to the second person for this verse and the one following. He is not writing about his practice, but the practice of the congregants at Corinth. He is showing what he desires for those in Corinth in the surrounding verses and contrasting that with what they are actually doing.
He just made a conclusion which he desired the Corinthians to emulate. “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” Based on that conclusion, he shows that what they are doing in the church is contrary to it. If they do as he said, there will be understanding. Should they not follow his instruction, the result will be (otherwise) “if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?”
The “spirit” is the breath of the man; the utterance he makes. If a person prays, sings, or blesses in a language which is unknown to another, the uninformed, there will be nothing to edify him. The uninformed is a person who knows neither the language nor the meaning of the words. In other words, if the gospel is spoken in a language foreign to a person, it certainly has meaning, but not to the hearer of the words. If a prayer for relief is spoken in a foreign language, it does have meaning, but not to the hearers of the words. For the hearer, then, there is no gospel message; for the hearer, then, there is no prayer of relief; and for the hearer, then, there is no change in the mind.
But this is the purpose of words; to have an effect on the hearer. Therefore, if the person speaking, or if the person hearing, or if both the speaker and the hearer (whichever combination) cannot understand the words, there is no point in the words being spoken.
Paul’s logic here perfectly demonstrates that unknown “ecstatic” or “prayer language” tongues uttered by Charismatics are false. As was noted in the commentary on verse 7, there is no language which can be unknown to God, because there is nothing that God doesn’t know. There can be no words uttered with the intent of edifying Him because He knows all. But, Paul says that the words uttered by a person are to be uttered for the edification of himself or others. If the speaker utters a supposed “ecstatic” tongue which means nothing to anyone else, then it has no purpose at all; God doesn’t need edification. Without understanding, there can be no “Amen.” This would be contrary to the purpose of communication within the church.
Life application: Thinking through difficult issues, particularly when they have been so often misrepresented by others, is difficult. But this is what we are called to do. Think!
Heavenly Father, I rejoice in You. Amen.