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CHAPTER 3-section 7

Paul was a world traveler. Especially endowed with the Holy Spirit, leader of a God-directed missionary movement, he journeyed from country to country, conversing with other nationalities in their native tongues. Would God limit Paulís gift of tongues to only one foreign language? Knowing Christís desire to spread the gospel to all the world, no doubt Paul really meant that he had the ability to speak with more languages than all the others. His God entrusted him with a commission unequaled in scope and importance, and He would definitely not confine this great task to only one foreign-language area. To say that verse 18 means that Paul spoke in many different kinds of untranslatable soundsóis this not to depart from the sense of the verses that precede it?

Furthermore, in verse 19 Paul explains that (even though he speaks many languages) he would rather speak five words with understanding than ten thousand in a language. Following this, in verse 22, he makes a clear distinction between the roles tongues and prophecy are to play in the church.

"Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying [serveth] not for them that believe not, but for them which believe." Donít demonstrate your language ability to fellow believers, he counsels here, but reserve them for the unbelievers to show them that God has given you a special blessing which enables you to preach to them in their own language. Donít bring your tongues into the church, but prophesy instead, for that is given for the benefit of the believers!

He thus contined, discussing a point which no doubt had been in the center of the controversy: "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?" Verse 23.

"How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." Verse 26.

Imagine the chaos that must have prevailed within the Corinthian church. One group speaking foreign languages, other members vying for attention to propagate a new doctrine, others claiming to have a revelation or to interpret tongues while perhaps a few true Christians prayed in quiet meditation. It is no wonder that Paul questioned, "Will they not say that ye are mad?" A spiritual chaos such as this can never be edifying, and his admonishment, "let all things be done unto edifying" was more than necessary! The situation confronting Paul unquestionably turned unbelievers away from the church, and this he wanted to avoid at all cost.

Deeply troubled, Paul established guidelines under which the Corinthian church would be allowed to practice their spiritual gifts. Normally this counsel would not be needed, as mature Christians would not consciously misuse a gift of God. The Corinthiansí immaturity in spiritual matters, however, necessitated some strict rules, and these Paul proceeded to provide.

"If any man speak in an [unknown] tongue, [let it be] by two, or at the most [by] three, and [that] by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If [anything] be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted." Verses 27-31.


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