Statement of Faith
The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell
Listen to this week's message!
Map to the Church
Enhance your daily reading of God's word. Click here for free, printable Bible Reading and Prayer Journal sheets!
AM Bible Study Archives
"With Tongues and Other Lips"
1 Corinthians 14:20-25
Wednesday AM Bible Study
January 16, 2008
Theme: Paul reminds the Corinthians that the gift best suited to the conversion of souls is a clear, understandable proclamation of what God has said.
In urging the Corinthians—who were abusing the gift of tongues—to emphasize the building up of the body in the use of the gifts, Paul reminds them of how tongues fit into the Old Testament picture of God's promises concerning Israel.
This stands as the backdrop of Paul's words of correction to the Corinthians—showing that prophecy, and not tongues, is best suited to show a church's standing as a people among whom God is clearly present.
I. A CALL TO MOVE ON TO MATURITY OF UNDERSANDING ABOUT THE GIFTS (v. 20).
A. Paul urges the Corinthians to cease being children in their understanding (see also 13:11). The grammatic sense of Paul's words is that they cease from an action that they are already engaged in. This sounds insulting—telling them to stop being children; but it is probably a command that's inspired by the passage in Isaiah 28 with respect to the priests (see verses 21-22; also Isaiah 28:9). Its seemingly harsh tone is also moderated by the kind introduction "brethren".
B. Paul uses a different word for children in the second half of the verse—a word that is best translated "babes". Paul wants the Corinthians to be as innocent and as ignorant as babes when it comes to "malice" or "wickedness". This may be a reference to the behavior described in 12:1-3; or to the confusion described in 14:23,33. It also may be a reference to the divisiveness that the misuse of tongues was bringing about, or to an immature desire to be noticed. Paul instead calls them to be "men" (mature) in understanding. He calls the Corinthians to put tongues in their proper perspective.
II. A CALL TO REMEMBER THE PUROSE OF TONGUES IN GOD'S PROPHETIC PLAN (v. 21-22).
A. In Deuteronomy 28:49, God warns that He would bring a nation upon Israel in judgment, "whose language you will not understand". In Isaiah 28:9-13, God makes an immediate promise of that warning's fulfillment. Israel had not heeded God's words through His prophets. Even the priests could not receive them, because they had become like "children" who became drunk and ignorant. So God warns that "with stammering lips and another tongue I will speak to this people . . . Yet they would not hear" (Isa. 28:11-12). Thus, unknown tongues are presented as a warning of the impending judgment God would bring upon unbelieving Israel through the invading Assyrians.
B. Paul stresses that, therefore, "tongues are a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying (speaking forth what God has said) is not for unbelievers but for those who believe". This seems to contradict what follows--unless we consider that what Paul is stressing is the end intended in the two gifts. The results of the two gifts either confirm an unbeliever in his or her unbelief, or convert that unbeliever into a believer. Tongues do not convert; but prophesy does. (See Acts 2 as an example of the two gifts in action with respect to these two results. It begins with the speaking of various tongues, which capture the attention of the Jewish people and provoke ridicule in some; and ends with a clear proclamation of God's truth, which leads to the conviction of the soul and the conversion of the heart.)
III. A CALL TO CONSIDER THE IMPACT THE USE OF THE GIFTS HAS ON THOSE WHO DO NOT BELIEVE (vv. 23-25).
A. Thus, if an uninformed person or an unbeliever comes into the congregation and finds the whole group in one place speaking in tongues, they will not be impressed with the clear declaration of God's word. Instead, they will conclude that the believers are "mad". (This suggests a connection to the behavior of those who gave themselves to ecstatic behavior in the worship of false gods. Those who were not in the cult could only look on as outsiders and not understand what was going on.)
B. By contrast, a clear, understandable proclamation of what God has said would cause an unbeliever to (1) be convinced (or put to the test) in his mind, (2) convicted of his sin, (3) have the secrets of his heart revealed (Heb. 4:12), and (4) be moved to fall down and proclaim that God truly was among the Corinthians. Thus God demonstrates that the way of conversion is not through the emotions first, but rather through the understanding first—and then to the emotions.
Copyright © 2007 Bethany Bible Church, All Rights Reserved