Troublesome Topic: Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 12:31 & 13:1

1 Corinthians 12:31


Boil with zeal,

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however, [for] the mega

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gifts of grace. And now I show you a far superior

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However, after all I have said, I summarize it this way – be overflowing with desire for the gracious gifts that have greater spiritual impact. But now I turn your attention to a far superior way of living.


It appears that the believers in Corinth had become sidetracked into an intense search for, and debate about, spiritual gifts, especially tongues. Here Paul demonstrates that they should seek to love one another much more than they should seek spiritual gifts of grace. Love is not a spiritual gift given only to a few; it is something all of us receive and all of us should show to others. Love is the foundation on which everything else is built. Paul will powerfully make the point that, despite how impressive they are, all those spiritual gifts are worthless without love for others.

1 Corinthians 13:1


If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have sacrificial love,

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I have become  loud, reverberating

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bronze or a clanging

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If God gives me the ability to speak in any human language or even in the language of angels, but I do not show sacrificial love to others, my speaking in those languages is just a lot of loud noise with no meaning, or at best a noise that sounds nice but still has no meaning.


There are many ways to apply “the love chapter” to our relationships, and these have been made clear by everyone who preaches from it. I do not wish to minimize those points at all for they are real, powerful, and important. I trust you will find my translation, paraphrase and footnotes to be helpful in bringing more light and power to the topic of relationships. However, the purpose behind my comments about this passage will be to point out its connection to the topic of spiritual gifts and especially to speaking in tongues.

You will notice as we go through this chapter, that the topic of tongues is brought up several times.

Love must be a key component of spiritual gifts because those gifts must be exercised in a way that puts others first – in love. Paul has already brought up this point in 12:7.

The next lesson for the Full Series on Tongues is Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 13:2, 8-13

The next lesson for the Mid Length Series on Tongues is Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 13:2,8,10

The next lesson for the Short Series on Tongues is Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 14:1


1: “boil with zeal”:

This is the source of our English word “zeal.” It comes from a root word meaning to boil. I can be rendered “so hot as to bubble over, to burn with zeal, to be jealous, to intently desire something.”


This is where our English word “mega” comes from. This once again indicates that not all underserved gifts are on the same level. I think this is true because the gracious giftings of the Holy Spirit affect people differently when measured as eternal impact on others. Also, some gifts of grace are more resistant to being counterfeited.

3: “far superior”:

This is a compound word which means “to throw beyond,” hence it is used to communicate “far beyond, far superior, exceeding, surpassing, excessive, beyond measure, excellent.”


This was their word for “road, path or way.” Obviously, the New Testament usually employs this word in a figurative sense pointing to our daily “walk,” our conduct.


This is the kind of love that sees something in others worth investing in, even if no one else sees it. It is willing to act in a self-sacrificing manner in order to help the other person. It is the giving kind of love; it seeks the good of others without emotion and without wanting anything in return.

6: “loud, reverberating”:

This is their word for “loud noise.” When context calls for it, this word is rendered “roar.” It is the verbal form of the word from which we get our word “echo.” The focus of this word is that the sound being produced is “loud.”


“Clanging” is an onomatopoetic word in Greek that sounds like someone is trying to imitate a clanging noise with his tongue; it is transliterated into English as “alaladzon.”


Cymbal”: We get our word for cymbal from this Greek word. It means a hollowed basin made of brass; when two of these were struck against each other, they produced the sound we know as cymbals.