Troublesome Topic: Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 12:7,22,25,30

1 Corinthians 12:7

Translation

But to each is given the manifestation

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of the Spirit for the advancement.

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Paraphrase

Each follower of Jesus is given a clear sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power intended for the common benefit of all the followers of Jesus.

ALL GIFTS FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT MUST BENEFIT OTHERS

This is one of the key rules about the use of spiritual gifts, possibly the most important rule. The Holy Spirit graciously gives us giftings for ministry that we don’t deserve and which we should not use to make ourselves look good; they are given so we can help others. That is their purpose, and we must use them according to their intended purpose. This rule is solid, immovable, inviolable. If anything violates this rule, it is not a proper, God-given spiritual gift; it is something else.

Where did Paul get this rule?

I believe he got it from the Old Testament. Paul knew that the Law taught them about faith, righteousness and mercy (see Jesus’ statement in Matt 23:23). Therefore, Paul knew that the principles involved in one of those major categories could not violate the principles involved in the other two. The principles that lead us into faith would never violate the principles involved in Holiness, or those that lead us toward mercy and compassion. Relating that truth to tongues, Paul knew that God’s Holy Spirit would never create a spiritual gift that violated any of the principles He had been teaching His followers since the time of Adam. He would not create a means for getting closer to God (such as a prayer language) that would violate the principles of looking out for others, or the principles that lead us into proper, God-given holiness. It is never just about self; it is always be about God and others. Therefore, the rule that spiritual gifts must benefit others, not self, fits perfectly with everything taught in the Old Testament.

Therefore, the Old Testament clearly shows that God’s heart is for the widows, orphans, and strangers, the blind and deaf, the exploited, the weak, the helpless and the lonely, etc. Here are a couple examples among many: Job 29:12-17 and Isaiah 1:17. He commanded His followers to love God and love their neighbors (Lev 19:18). It was never about self-glory, but about God’s glory; and God says He will not share His glory with any other (Is 48:11).

1 Corinthians 12:22

Translation

But much rather, those members of the body which seem to be without strength, are necessary;

Paraphrase

But quite to the contrary, those members of the body which seem to be feeble, are necessary;

WHAT FEEBLE PARTS IS PAUL REFERRING TO?

I believe there is a double meaning intended here. In a general sense, this can be applied to various aspects of the Christian life; however, in a specific sense that is based on context, speaking in tongues is the feeble part Paul was referring to. His purpose was to correct a problem and the context is that of spiritual gifts, so the feeble thing Paul was referring to was probably one of the spiritual gifts. The controversy that was brewing in Corinth and which they asked him about in their letter to him, seems to have focused on gifts of the Spirit and especially on the gift of tongues. Here Paul is setting the stage for what he wants to say specifically about the gift of tongues which will include a minimizing of it to show it is not the most important thing (as some Corinthians seem to think) and yet it should not be eliminated altogether because it does have an important role. So, as you read through the rest of this section, remember that Paul is probably talking about tongues as that feeble, less honorable gift of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:25

Translation

so that there should not be any schism

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in the body, but the members should have the same concern for one another.

Paraphrase

so that there should be no dissention in the body of Christ, but rather, the members of His body should all have the same concern for all the other members of His body.

ANOTHER RULE: SPIRITUAL GIFTS SHOULD PRODUCE UNITY NOT DIVISION

This is the second rule governing all spiritual gifts; it can be summed up in one word, unity. The unity being spoken of here is unity in the body of Christ. If something causes great division in the body of Christ it is not a proper gift of the Holy Spirit, or it is not being properly employed.

1 Corinthians 12:30

Translation

Not all have gracious gifts of healing? Not all speak in tongues? Not all Interpret?

Paraphrase

Not all have gracious gifts of healing, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all interpret, do they?

NOT EVERYONE RECEIVES THE SAME SPIRITUAL GIFT

If anyone says that everyone should speak in tongues similar to what they do, such a person is violating the principle that not everyone receives the same spiritual gift.

WE SHOULD ASK OURSELVES:

Do I seek personal gain or to make others better?

Do I crave being in the spotlight?

Are my attitudes and actions enhancing unity or fomenting division?

When I help others, do I really “take hold of” the situation, or do I do the bare minimum?

The next Short Lesson on Tongues is Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 12:31 & 13:1

Footnotes

1

This word comes from a root word meaning “to illuminate, bring to light, make visible, make manifest, make clear, or make plain.”

2

“Advancement”: This is a compound word made from the preposition “with” and the verb “bring or carry.” When combined they express the idea of “a combination that brings a profit, a benefit or an advancement.” As it is used in this context it is intended to communicate “for the common good” or “for the benefit of every [believer].”

3

This is indeed the source of our word “schism”.