The Gifts Part 73
We have discussed at length seven of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, and as such today we begin our discussion of the eighth gift on the list that Paul outlines, the gift of different kinds of tongues. As with the gift of prophecy, there is much confusion within the congregation of God when it comes to the gift of tongues. The word of God clearly tells us that it is a viable gift, one of the nine gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows upon individual believers, and it was also the first gift that was received en masse on the day of Pentecost when the power fell, as all who were present in the upper room began to speak in other tongues.
We will discuss this gift as we have discussed all the other gifts thus far, not via the prism of personal interpretation, not via the prism of a given denomination, but via the prism of the word of God. It is only by understanding certain truths in the light of scripture that we can avoid confusion within the household of faith, and be certain of the foundation upon which we stand. The words of men are mere wind, moved to and fro upon the currents, ever changing direction ever changing meaning, but the word of God remains the same from age to age an generation to generation. When we come to an understanding or draw a conclusion based upon the word of God we are certain that it is right, and true, and lasting.
It is not my personal experience, or another’s personal experience that determines doctrine, it is not personal experience that determines dogma, but the word of God and its teachings. Our personal experiences only serve to confirm Biblical truth and the fact that we are living within the parameters of what the word of God has already delineated as such. If we are people of the Book, if we are followers of Christ and adherents to the teachings of the Bible, then our doctrine and our beliefs must be in harmony with it.
As such, the first thing I must point out, is the fact that nowhere within the annals of scripture does it say that the gifts, including the gift of different kind s of tongues, will cease before the day our Lord returns and we see Him face to face.
Even before we get into the specifics of what the gift of tongues is, how it is vital to the congregation of God, how it is that via this gift we speak to God and not to men, we must establish its availability and Biblically prove out that it is still among us.
Taken out of context, there is one verse in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that would intimate that tongues will cease, but in the selfsame verse it also says that knowledge will vanish away. Knowing that the earth itself will one day pass away, as per the word of God, the issue really isn’t if, but rather when this will occur.
Due to either inattentiveness, laziness, or a refusal to study the word of God for fear that it might contradict a previously held denominational edict, those who vociferously declare that tongues have ceased because Paul said so, are disingenuous in their declarations, because in the selfsame chapter in which Paul says tongues will cease, he also tells us when they will cease.
As such, before we get into our discussion of the gift of tongues itself, I want to exegetically go through the handful of verses in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that seem to be at the heart of the controversy concerning the cessation of the gift of tongues in particular and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in general.
1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
Well, that settles it, it’s right there, black and white, tongues will cease! Not so fast. In the same verse Paul also says that prophecy, which we have come to know is the exhortation, edification and comfort of the brethren, as well as knowledge, which God Himself said His people perish for lack thereof, will also fail or vanish away.
As I said, I am not disputing that prophecy, tongues and knowledge will fail, cease or vanish away, it is after all in the Bible, the question of the hour is when will these things no longer be? In his God given wisdom, Paul continues, as we will see in subsequent teachings to tell us when these things will cease, and it is the answer to the question of ‘when’ that is the key to this mystery and fabricated controversy within the household of faith.
In order to understand what prompted Paul’s writing, we must understand the mindset of the individuals that made up the church of Corinth. Paul was, after all, writing this letter to them, and he was addressing issues that he knew existed within the congregation at Corinth.
Although Paul places the gift of different kinds of tongues next to last on the list of the gifts to which the children of God have access, the gift of tongues was one greatly desired within the church of Corinth, and it was a point of pride and accomplishment among them. Likewise, knowledge was greatly desired by those of the church of Corinth, and just as tongues was a point of pride, knowledge was also viewed as an accomplishment.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul is attempting to correct them, and remind them that absent love, though they might speak in tongues, and have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, they are as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. Paul is neither negating or denying the existence of the gifts, he is not denying speaking in tongues, what he is doing is extoling the virtue of love, reminding them that it is a necessary component of a healthy and vibrant spiritual life.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.