Troublesome Topic: Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 12:27-30

1 Corinthians 12:27


Now you are the body of Christ, and members [with] a share

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of it.


Now all of you are the body of Christ, and each member is a constituent part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:28


And  THEOS has set in place

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these in the assembly,

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first Apostles

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second prophets

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third teachers

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then demonstrations of power, then gifts that result in healings, the taking hold of in order to help someone,

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those who steer,

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of tongues.


Furthermore, in the church, THE CREATOR AND RULER OF ALL THINGS has appointed the following: first those with special authority through whom God has passed on the message of Jesus, second those who call people to the correct course of action based on a current spiritual reality, third those who help us understand God’s word clearly, then those through whom God works miracles, then gifts that bring about healings, “taking the bull by the horns” in order to help someone, those who guide others, and different kinds of tongues.


Some think that Paul was listing the spiritual graces in order of importance. This could be true, but only partially true. Paul does indicate that some gifts of grace are not as important as others, and tongues is one of the s. However, he has also made the case that people are all important and we should not minimize a fellow believer because he does not have the same gifting as we do. Of course we won’t have the same gifting; gifts were intended to bring variety of function to the body. He was trying to bring balance to a situation in Corinth that was out of control with people on opposite ends of this issue and pulling hard against each other. So the one group should stop making tongues into something bigger than it actually was, yet the other group should not seek to eliminate tongues altogether.

It is possible that the first three listed are clearly the most important while the other ones are not as easily placed in a specific order and that is why Paul stopped enumerating them after the third one. If this was the intended meaning, it utilizes the first three to show that some indeed are more important than others while not specifying a precise order for the rest of them, although the list intentionally places tongues in the last spot. I favor this interpretation.

We likewise should not emphasize a gift of grace in order to make ourselves look good; the glory should always go to the gift-giver.

1 Corinthians 12:29


Not all [are] Apostles? Not

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all [are] prophets? Not all [are] teachers? Not all [have] powers?


Not all are Apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all have special powers through God’s abilities, do they?

1 Corinthians 12:30


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


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


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.


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 lesson in the Full and Mid Length Series on Tongues is Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 12:31 & 13:1



“a share”: This word is often used of receiving an inheritance or of being given an assignment and a commission. It means “a portion, a share, a part, what is due you or what is assigned to you.”


Also “establish, appoint or assign.”


This is consistently the word for “church” in the New Testament. It means “assembly, or the assembled ones.”


The word “apostle” means “sent one” but in the New Testament it was often used of those who had special authority in the churches because they had been with Jesus (Paul qualified because Jesus had met him on the road to Damascus). It was through them that the accepted message of Jesus was passed on to others. Their role was to receive something special and pass it on. Today there can be apostles with a lower case “a” meaning those who have been “sent,” but there are no longer any Apostles with an upper case “A”, meaning those through whom the teachings of Jesus have been passed on because they spent time with Jesus.


The act of prophesying in Scripture is usually associated with calling people to the correct course of action based on a current spiritual reality. It often sounded like this: “You people are far from God and living in sin. You need to repent and change your ways, or you will suffer God’s judgment. So turn to God while you still have a chance.” Notice in this example that no details are given about God’s judgment, only that it is warranted and therefore they should repent. Only rarely did prophecy include foretelling what would happen in the future. Usually it was connected to the present and projected spiritual truths in general terms into the near future. Thus, the act of prophesying was to speak truth in a practical, livable way.


Teachers are important because they help us understand God’s word clearly.

7: "taking hold of":

This is a compound word coming from “take or receive” and the preposition “opposite of, as substitution for.” The idea of “take hold of” was used of helping or supporting someone because the root word carried the idea of “embracing” someone who needed help, “to partake with them in their hardship,” or “to take hold of a person or a situation in a fitting way, a way which matches the situation.”


This word means “to steer, to pilot, to guide.”


“families”: In English, Latin and Greek this word expresses “offspring, kinds, families, races, nations.” Our word “genus” used in biological classifications, comes from the same root, as does our word “generation”. The root word in view here means “to give birth to.”


The negative used in each of these sentences also serves as an interrogative; that is why all translators consider these questions, not statements. Greek of those days did not use any punctuation, so it was the choice of words that marked something as a question.  However, these questions sound different than our question in English. Here the question and the assumed negative answer are expressed together.