Troublesome Topic: Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 12:1-7

1 Corinthians 12:1

Translation

Now concerning

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the spiritual,

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brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

Paraphrase

Dear brothers in the Lord, you asked about spiritual things, such as spiritual gifts, so here is my answer – I don’t want you to act out of ignorance, so please listen to what I say.

IGNORANCE HAS VARIOUS CAUSES

Paul did not want them to be acting out of ignorance regarding spiritual gifts, but he did not explain the cause of the ignorance he had in mind. Some ignorance is self-induced because a person does not take the opportunity afforded them to learn something. Sometimes people act out of ignorance because they have chosen to ignore what they have been taught. They act as if it is only valid learning if they experience it themselves (along with the consequences their actions will produce.) From several things Paul says in chapter 14, I believe the ignorance he had in mind while writing this verse was when people purposefully ignore something they have been taught. Even if the person who promoted the Corinthian counterfeit came to Corinth after Paul had left them, there were plenty of believers present who had heard his teachings about spiritual gifts that they should have known better than to fall for the deception.

1 Corinthians 12:2

Translation

You know that when you were nations, you were being led away

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to the soundless idols, in the manner in which you were led.

Paraphrase

You know that when you were Gentiles, you were seduced and led astray, in whatever manner you were led, to speechless idols which cannot teach you truth.

DON’T BE SEDUCED AND LED ASTRAY AGAIN

It does not matter what method was used to seduce them and lead them astray the first time, it only matters that it does not happen again. He may be saying this because some among those of the Corinthian church are in danger of being seduced, or have already been seduced, regarding the topic Paul has just entered.

1 Corinthians 12:3

Translation

Therefore, I make known to you that no one who is speaking in the Spirit of THEOS says “JESUS is laid up [for destruction],

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and no one is able to say “JESUS is Lord” if not in the Holy Spirit.

Paraphrase

That is why I want to make it clear to you that no one whose speech is guided by the Spirit of THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS says, “the one called SALVATION COMES FROM THE ETERNAL AND PRESONAL GOD is under a curse and will be destroyed;” likewise, no one can say “the one called SALVATION COMES FROM THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD is my Lord,” (and mean it) unless he is being guided by the Holy Spirit.

WHO OR WHAT IS HOLDING THE REINS OF YOUR LIFE?

The thing or person that holds the reins of your life becomes evident by your words and your actions. Whereas previously the Corinthians had been seduced and led astray to allow the worship of senseless idols (and the demons behind those idols) to guide them, Paul now wanted them to be guided and empowered by the Spirit of God. Through this example Paul was telling them that all our words should be guided by the Holy Spirit; this set the stage for circling around to deal head-on with the issue of speaking in tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:4

Translation

There are distinctions

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of grace endowments,

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but the self-same Spirit;

Paraphrase

Many different gifts involving the operation of divine favor have been distributed to believers, but all of them were given by the same Holy Spirit; He is not divided.

1 Corinthians 12:5

Translation

and there are distinctions of waiting on tables,

Although this word is usually rendered “service” it literally means “to wait on tables.” It pointed to a set of tasks which, in that day, was usually done by slaves.

but the same LORD;

Paraphrase

There are many different ways to serve others, but we do all of them in submission to, and for the glory of, one SUPREME RULER.

1 Corinthians 12:6

Translation

and there are also distinctions in energized workings

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but also the same THEOS is working all things in all people.

Paraphrase

and there are also many different  energized workings that are effective for God, but once again it is the same OWNER AND RULER OF ALL THINGS that is accomplishing all that  energetic work in every person.

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, holiness and compassion (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.

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). Therefore, the rule that spiritual gifts must benefit others, not self, fits perfectly with everything taught in the Old Testament.

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Then Jesus came and gave us many examples of how to live by the principles taught in the Former Covenant, “put others first” being one of those principles. This rule fits the New Testament as well.

The next lesson in the Full Series on Tongues is Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 12:8-11

Footnotes

1: "now concerning":

The phrase “now concerning” has already introduced two things that the congregation from Corinth asked Paul about in a letter sent to him (see 7:1 & 8:1). Now Paul is responding to a third thing that they asked him about in that letter. They probably asked him about this because there was controversy in the church at Corinth over the exercise of spiritual gifts, and especially the gift of tongues.

2: "the spiritual,"

The Greek does not give us the noun, just the adjective, and we must supply the noun, such as “spiritual things” or “spiritual gifts.” The latter is usually chosen by translators because of the context, i.e. what we see in this chapter and in chapter 14.

3

“led away” comes from two words – from the preposition “away” and the verb “to carry, take, lead.” Putting those two words together brings the meaning of “seduce, lead astray.”

4

The clause “laid up for destruction” is the way they expressed the idea of being “cursed with death.” It was the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word which means “something devoted to God” which in turn meant “something devoted to God for destruction.” If an animal was “devoted to God for destruction” it could not be redeemed but must be slain. If a person was “devoted to God for destruction” it meant that punishment via the death penalty was unavoidable and must be carried out.

5

This word means “division, a distinction or a difference.” In English it is usually singular but the Greek uses a plural form here which sounds strange in English. This is a compound word coming from the preposition “through” and the verb “to reach across.” The online Helps Word-studies says this is “properly, God’s choice to give sovereign endowments of grace to His people so they can reach out (“across“) to others, as His hand extended.”

6

The word “gifts” is a rich word carrying several layers of meaning. It comes from the root word “grace” but here grace is referring to endowments that God graciously, and undeservedly gives believers. However, this word has an ending which points to the final result of that endowment, i.e. it describes the operation of grace or divine favor intended to edify others and serve the church. It comes to believers as a miraculous faculty or ability which cannot be used to gratify or magnify self.

7

“energized workings”: This is the Greek word from which we get our English word “energy.” It refers to the power to do and accomplish work. It is effective action. Any type of work or service or action accomplished by a believer in Jesus is possible only by the energizing power of the Holy Spirit in us.

8

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

9

“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].”

10: Do you dislike the Old Testament?

If you have negative things coming into your mind about the Old Testament and how judgmental God seems to be during that time, I encourage you to read my lessons explaining how God will punish if we refuse to repent, but He much prefers to show mercy; He emphasizes mercy and grace just a little bit more than Holiness.