THE GIFTS OF UTTERANCE
As we begin our discussion of the gifts of utterance, may I remind you of the words of Paul:
Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols [gods who cannot talk], even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost (I Cor. 12:2-3).
The Christian serves a God who speaks by His Spirit. Paul says that if we speak by the Spirit of God, we cannot say that Jesus is accursed. He also contends that if we say that Jesus is Lord, we must speak by the Spirit. Finally, he declares that if we serve a god who does not speak, it must be a dumb idol.
In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul discusses various ways that God speaks by His Spirit: devotional tongues (the prayer language), the gift of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, the gift of prophecy, and the message of the prophet.
THE PRAYER LANGUAGE
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself (I Cor. 14:4).
"Devotional tongues," or the "prayer language," is an utterance spoken to God in a tongue given by the Spirit that is not understood by the person who is speaking, because it bypasses the intellect. To be understood, it must be interpreted. It has as its purpose a prayer or an expression of praise. When spoken by an individual to God in private devotion, or, if spoken in a public service to God under one's breath, not aloud, it edifies the one who speaks.
THE GIFT OF TONGUES
I will pray with the Spirit...I will sing with the Spirit...Else when thou shalt bless with the Spirit (I Cor. 14:15-16)
The gift of tongues is an utterance spoken by the Spirit that is not understood by the speaker or the hearer(s), but is spoken to God audibly in the midst of others. Its purpose is to offer a prayer for the body of Christ or to offer thanksgiving to God for the body of Christ. In order to exercise the gift of tongues to edify the church, there must be an interpretation so the body will know the mind of the Spirit in the prayer or understand the praise offered by the Spirit to God and join in the prayer or thanksgiving with understanding. The gift of tongues enables us to pray collectively in the Spirit, or to make a collective psalm of praise in the Spirit, either of which is directed to God.
A special manifestation of tongues appeared on the Day of Pentecost. After the 120 believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues (the prayer language) as the Spirit gave them utterance, they went out of the upper room to the street corner. On the street, as certain of the disciples (Galileans) spoke in tongues (the gift of tongues), people of various nations heard in their own languages the wonderful works of God. The Spirit manifested the GIFT OF TONGUES through the speakers in order to give a PROPHECY to the hearers. It was not TONGUES AND INTERPRETATION because the people heard them speak in languages they understood.
This manifestation has occurred various times since that day. A person will give an utterance in a language unknown to him but which is understood by the hearer, revealing his need of God. A person speaks by the inspiration of the Spirit in a GIFT OF TONGUES and gives a PROPHECY in the language understood by the hearer, and "thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest...and he will worship God" (I Cor. 14:25). The Spirit may speak a prophecy through any of us by the gift of tongues to a person whose language we do not understand in order to give him a witness to the wonderful works of God.
While I distinguish between speaking in tongues as a private devotional exercise (Oral Roberts has termed this the "prayer language") and the gift of tongues which is for ministry to others, not every Charismatic would accept this distinction. However, most Pentecostals make a distinction between devotional tongues (the prayer language--speaking in tongues in prayer and praise to God in private devotions) and the gift of tongues, (expressing publicly the prayer and praise of the church in tongues to God), which must be interpreted.
THE INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES
Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret (I Cor. 14:13)
Interpretation of tongues does not mean translating the utterance in tongues, but rather giving the meaning of what is spoken to God in tongues. If one interprets an utterance in tongues, he gives the meaning of that utterance. A person may give a five-minute utterance in tongues followed by a one-minute interpretation, or a one-minute utterance may be followed by a five-minute interpretation. Interpretation does not translate word-for-word. It simply gives the meaning of the utterance in tongues. The interpretation would usually be a prayer or praise, revealing what is said to God. Oral Roberts, however, enlarges the meaning of interpretation to include God's response to that which is spoken. Under this concept, the interpretation of an utterance in tongues could be a prayer, a praise, a prophecy, a word of wisdom, or a word of knowledge. However one may view the gift of interpretation, Paul points out that the utterance in tongues is always spoken to God, while prophecy is always spoken to man.
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort (I Cor. 14:3).
For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted (I Cor. 14:31).
Prophecy is an utterance spoken by the Spirit in a language understood by the hearers. It is spoken by the Spirit, bypassing the intellect, and its purpose is edification, exhortation, and comfort. The person speaks on behalf of God to men. I make a distinction between the gift of prophecy given by the Spirit and the message of the prophet who is a gift of Christ to the church. The prophet speaks the mind or will of God for a specific purpose--often in judgment, often with a word of knowledge. The number of prophets who may speak is limited (v. 29), and the message of the prophet is to be judged by others (v. 29). The gift of prophecy is for a different purpose, is not judged, and is unlimited (v. 31).
These are the gifts of utterance that Paul discusses with the church at Corinth. In order to better understand these gifts, we will make a comparison and contrast study of the teachings of Paul in fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
THE FOURTEENTH CHAPTER OF I CORINTHIANS
FOLLOW AFTER CHARITY
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts [pneumatikos--spirituals], but rather that ye may prophesy (I Cor. 14:1).
The theme of the thirteenth chapter, love, carries over into Paul's discussion of tongues and prophecy. The key concept in the fourteenth chapter is edification which is produced by understanding. Paul speaks of "edification" six times (verses 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 26); he speaks of "understanding" seven times (verses 2, 9, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20). All of the spirituals should produce edification for the body of Christ. This can only happen if the body of Christ understands the mind of the Spirit. We are to pursue love, desire spiritual gifts of which prophecy is the most desirable, and seek to excel in the edifying of the church.
In the opening verses of this chapter, Paul establishes the "direction" (to whom the utterances are addressed) and the "purposes" of the utterances. Here is a schematic that may help us as we compare and contrast prophecy with tongues and interpretation of tongues.
TO WHOM SPOKEN
Tongues is spoken TO God in an utterance not understood by the speaker or the hearers. It must be interpreted for the edification of the hearers.
For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries (I Cor. 14:2)
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself (I Cor. 14:4)
Prophecy is spoken FOR God in a language that is understood by both the speaker and the hearers. Its purpose is to edify, exhort, comfort men.
But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation. and comfort
(I Cor. 14:3).
Paul compares and contrasts the persons to whom utterances in the Spirit are addressed. If we speak in tongues, we speak mysteries by the Spirit to God. No man understands what we speak to God in tongues by the Spirit because we speak mysteries. However, if we prophesy, we speak for God by the Spirit to men. Many times we hear it said that tongues and the interpretation of tongues is the equivalent of prophecy. I believe that Paul distinguishes between these two manifestations of the Spirit, even though tongues with interpretation may be as edifying to the church as the gift of prophecy. One distinction is that tongues are always spoken to God, while prophecy is always spoken to men. Another disctinc-
tion is in the edification of the speakers and the hearers. The person speaking in tongues edifies himself, while the one who prophesies edifies the church (I Cor. 14:4).
EDIFICATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself (I Cor. 14:4)
There are several ways that speaking in tongues may edify the individual. First, because speaking in tongues is speaking by the Spirit, we are edified by knowing that the Holy Spirit is resident within us. If we become depressed and feel as though we do not have a friend in the world, not even God, we can be built up in the spirit by speaking in tongues knowing that the comforter, the Holy Spirit, is abiding within us. We are built up and comforted.
Second, speaking in tongues releases the creative power of God. If we are willing for the Holy Spirit to speak through us in a language that does not seem to make any sense, or does not seem to have any value, we are more willing to open up our lives so the Holy Spirit might express other gifts through us.
Third, when we pray with the Spirit or sing with the Spirit, our prayer or our praise is in harmony with the will of God. This is edifying because we have confidence that when we pray, we know that we receive the things we ask of God according to His will. We have a sense of completeness and fulfillment which is edifying as we worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
Fourth, speaking in tongues is a rest and a refreshing. Isaiah prophesied that speaking with stammering lips or another tongue is a rest and a refreshing:
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is
the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear (Isaiah 28:11-12). (Also see Addendum)
This rest and refreshing form the basis for Paul's declaration that the person who speaks in tongues edifies himself.
PURPOSE OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the Spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit (I Cor. 14:15-16).
The purpose of the gift of tongues, an utterance in tongues spoken to God, is to pray in the Spirit or to sing (psallo) in the Spirit. Paul's concept of blessing with the Spirit combines praying and singing in the Spirit. As the body of Christ comes together, the Spirit may gather up the needs of the church as if it were one individual and through a prayer in tongues present those needs to God. The Spirit prays a collective prayer for the body through an individual who prays in tongues. When the utterance is interpreted, the body is edified because the church understands what the concerns of the Spirit were in presenting the needs of the church to God.
In like manner, when the body meets, the Spirit may gather up the praise and thanksgiving of the church, express it in a song (psalm) and speak that psalm to God. When the utterance is interpreted, the body is edified because it understands the expression of praise that the Spirit spoke to the Father. The phrase "I will sing (psallo) in the Spirit" may be translated "I will psalm in the Spirit"; therefore, the Spirit is giving the church a psalm comparable to the psalms found in the Book of Psalms to express the emotional and spiritual concerns of the church.
PURPOSES OF THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort
(I Cor. 14:3).
When I speak of prophecy in this context, I am speaking of the simple gift of prophecy, the spiritual manifestation of prophecy and not the message of the prophet. Paul makes a distinction between the gift of prophecy (ye may all
prophesy one by one [I Cor. 14:31]) and the prophetic revelation given by a prophet (Eph. 4:11). The purposes of the gift of prophecy are edification, exhortation, and comfort.
One of the purposes of the gift of prophecy is edification, to promote the spiritual growth and development of the hearers. He that speaks in tongues to God edifies himself. He that prophesies to men edifies men, building them up. Philip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9). They prophesied under the anointing of the Spirit to build up the church, to promote spiritual growth, and to promote the development of the hearer. To build up the saints at Corinth the Apostle Paul wrote,
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work
(II Cor. 9:8).
Another purpose of the gift of prophecy is exhortation. The word for exhortation, paraklesis, is also translated comforter. It means to admonish another, or urge another person in a future course of conduct. The one who prophesies exhorts someone to do something. For instance, Paul exhorts us to:
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. Quench not the spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil (I Thess. 5:16-22).
These prophetic admonitions urge us to pursue a future course of conduct.
The other purpose of the gift of prophecy is to comfort. The word (paramuthia), translated comfort, means "near speech." A friend draws close to somebody and solaces them by the Spirit. The Spirit is very tender toward God's children and, through prophecy, He tries to help, to succor people, who have experienced trials or sorrows or tragedies. He brings them close to God and comforts them. Paul states it beautifully:
Blessed be God...Father of mercies...God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we our
selves are comforted of God (II Cor. 1:3-4).
The purpose, then, of the gift of prophecy is edification, exhortation, and comfort as contrasted to the purpose of tongues which is prayer and praise.
WHY PROPHECY IS GREATER THAN TONGUES
I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying (I Cor. 14:5).
Paul reveals to us that while he wishes that all would speak in tongues, he would rather that we would prophesy, since prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, except the tongues should be interpreted. Prophecy is the greater gift because we are speaking for God to persons in languages they understand. We do not have to interpret the language; they understand what we are saying. Tongues is of little value to anyone except the person who does the speaking, unless there is an interpretation. If there is an interpretation, then there is a significance to the tongues that are spoken because the church can receive understanding through the interpretation.
WHAT IS SAID IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE METHOD OF SPEAKING
Now brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? (I Cor. 14:6).
Paul is careful to point out that speaking in tongues, or in any other language, is not what is important, but rather what is said, the content of the speaking, is of utmost importance. This is why Paul states, "Now, brethren, if I come unto you by speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you?" For instance, if I came to class and taught the lesson in a language that you did not understand, you would be profited very little.
Paul also says that there are basically two types of speakings that profit the church: prophecy and doctrine (teaching). Paul uses four words--revelation, knowledge, prophesying, doctrine--to discuss these two concepts. The foundation of prophecy is revelation by which one speaks for God. Prophecy does not come from the mind; it comes from the direct revelation of the Spirit and is spoken to the people. The Spirit gives the words, He gives the utterance; the person speaks the prophecy. The foundation of teaching, on the other hand, is knowledge. If one teaches, he speaks by knowledge. He speaks from the Word (the completed reve-lation of God), from experience, and from knowledge gained by years of study. My teaching comes primarily as a result of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. Teaching comes from the completed revelation of God; prophecy comes by the direct revelation of God. The Bible is the completed revelation of God. We teach from that knowledge. Prophecy, the direct revelation, comes by the Spirit's speaking through us to individuals. Paul said that if he came speaking some kind of tongue that was not understood, even though it was given by the Spirit, he would not profit or edify them. There are only two speakings that edify the church, according to this context: one is prophecy, based on revelation, and the other is teaching, based on knowledge. These are the utterances by which the church is edified.
ALL SOUNDS MUST HAVE SIGNIFICANCE
And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore, If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me
(I Cor. 14:7-11)
Even inanimate objects that give sound, whether a pipe or a harp, must provide a distinction in the sounds, or we will not know what is being piped or harped. The sounds themselves are not important, but what they signify is. Have you ever thought about how strange are the sounds that make up a language? We glug and gargle and goo and gaggle and cackle and hiss and hum--we make all those sounds, yet the sounds have significance. We puff and hiss and spit, "Passssss a piesssss of pizzzzzzzza," and someone hands us a gastronomical delight. Amazing!
Paul says that even though the sounds may have a meaning to others, if there is no distinction in sounds, they may not have meaning to him. This is why the older generation does not understand certain kinds of music made by the younger generation. They cannot make a distinction in the sounds. Young people enjoy a rock concert, but the older generation wonders what is going on.
Then, Paul says, "so likewise you, except you utter by the tongue, words easy to understand, how shall it be known what is spoken?" Even though a person may be speaking by the Spirit in the tongue of angels, it will be as though he is speaking into the air. There are many kinds of voices in the world, almost 3,000 different dialects in which to express an idea, and every one of them has meaning to somebody. But, to the majority of us, only one, or a very few, have significance. For, as the apostle said, "If I don't know the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaks a barbarian and he that speaks shall be a barbarian unto me," even though he is my brother in Christ.
Remember, it is not just the speaking that is important, whether it be angelic or the common language of the people. For we may listen for an hour to a speaker who has nothing to say and we are not edified. What is important is whether or not the church is edified.
This is why Paul said, "I would that you all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied" (verse 5), because in prophecy we are speaking in a language that can be understood for the purposes of edification. And this is why he also said, "Let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret" (verse 13). People must have an interpretation of what is spoken in tongues if they are to be edified.
EXCEL IN EDIFYING THE CHURCH
Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret
(I Cor. 14:12,13).
When we read the scriptures, it is important to see the connections between the verses: the "wherefore's," the "even so's," the "for if's," the "what is it then's," and the "else when's." All of these little words have meaning. They all have a significance because each of these connectives is relating that scripture to something that the writer has already said and is providing a logical foundation for his argument.
Paul declares that if we are going to be zealous about spiritual things, if we are going to speak in tongues, if we are going to give utterances in the church, if we are going to be zealous of spirituals, we need to be zealous in finding ways that we may excel in the edifying of the church. This should be our desire. WHEREFORE, if we want to be zealous of spirituals; WHEREFORE, if we are going to edify the church; THEN, if we speak in an unknown tongue, we must pray for an interpretation. Why an interpretation? So we can edify the church. If we are speaking in tongues, we are edifying ourselves. However, if we are going to speak out in public, then we need to have an interpretation so someone else can understand what we are saying.
In these scriptures, Paul is also emphasizing common courtesy in personal relationships. Why would anyone, ministering in love, desire to edify himself at another person's inconvenience? It is not proper for me to edify myself by speaking in tongues while others sit there not understanding what I am saying, especially if they are unbelievers. It would be as if I invited them to my home, then sat at the dining table eating a good meal without asking them to eat with me. I am enjoying myself, edifying myself, while they are hungry. Paul's guidelines are based upon love and a consideration for the needs of others--"Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth [well-being]" (I Cor. 10:24).
THE NEED FOR UNDERSTANDING
For if I pray [or speak a psalm] in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays [or speaks a psalm] but my understanding is unfruitful (I Cor. 14:14).
When we pray in the Spirit our spirit prays and we are edified. However, Paul instructs us to pray for the interpretation in order to understand what the Spirit is saying and illuminate our intellect. As John said, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 2:7,11,17,29). We need to hear the voice of the Spirit to help us understand the will of God. What is the Spirit's prayer to God in our behalf? What is the psalm the Spirit is speaking to God? What is the blessing that the Spirit would bestow upon us?
Since we are praying or psalming in the Spirit, we are blessing by the Spirit in an excellent manner and our spirit is edified. However, without an interpretation, we are not receiving the full benefit of the manifestation--our understanding is unfruitful, our intellect is not enlightened. To receive the full spiritual and intellectual benefit, we should pray and psalm both with the Spirit and with the understanding.
I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding....(I Cor. 14:15).
Paul will not be satisfied with anything less than the fulness of the blessing of the Spirit. He is determined to not only receive the full benefit of the spiritual edification of speaking in tongues, but also to receive the benefit of the intellectual stimulation of understanding what the mind of the Spirit is in the experience.
When we pray in tongues, our spirit prays but our understanding is unfruitful. If we pray in a tongue, our spirit is praying by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and we are talking to God. Tongues are to God. Our spirit is praying. We are speaking in tongues by the Spirit, so the Holy Spirit is prompting our spirit to speak in tongues to the Father in prayer. At those times when we do not know what to pray for, Paul gives us an answer,
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God
We know not what to pray for, and even if we did, we do not know how to pray for it, so the Spirit prays the prayer for us, through us, according to the will of God. Isn't that tremendous? God desires to answer the prayers of His children; therefore, He does not leave it completely to us to try to determine for what or how we should pray. Instead, He prompts our prayer through His Spirit, who prays the prayer according to His will and, as a result, God gives us the desires of our hearts. The Spirit prays for us, through us, so that God may give our desires to us. Wonderful!
So when I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, and I am speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But, unless there is an interpretation, my understanding is unfruitful! I am praying, my spirit is praying, but my intellect is not enlightened. It is not enough just to be edified spiritually. Paul wants us to have understanding, to be edified intellectually. It is not enough just to pray in the Spirit and think, "Well, I am very spiritual." No, I need understanding. I will pray with the Spirit (my spirit will pray by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), and
I will also pray with the understanding. I must have an interpretation of my praying or singing in tongues.
I WILL PRAY WITH THE UNDERSTANDING
To pray with the understanding is to interpret the tongue in which we pray, thereby knowing the meaning of the prayer. As I mentioned earlier, Oral Roberts enlarges the concept of interpretation: "When I pray in the Spirit by speaking in tongues and then I pray in English, one or two things may happen: I either speak what I said to God in prayer or praise, or I speak God's response to me." God's response may include three other speakings by the Spirit: a word of wisdom; a word of knowledge; a prophecy.
The concept of interpretation has posed a lot of questions for people. Oral Roberts, in a meeting with the Deans, shared with us what he believed about praying with the Spirit and praying with the understanding. He said that after he prayed in the Spirit, he would then pray in English, and try to sense if there was a direct relationship between his speaking in the Spirit and his speaking in English. Sometimes, his English prayer gave the meaning of his prayer in the Spirit. Other times, in his English prayer there was a new idea, a new concept, a word, a phrase, or a sentence that was anointed of the Spirit and was impressed upon his mind.
Perhaps the best way I can illustrate his explanation of praying with the Spirit is by discussing the way we read the Bible. Most of us believe that the Bible is given by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Holy men of God wrote the Bible as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Even though it is inspired by the Spirit, we sometimes read whole chapters, and do not receive anything. Why do we read the Bible at times and do not get any inspiration from it? Is it because that part of the Bible was not inspired by the Spirit? The answer is that even though the word was inspired by the Spirit, at that moment He did not quicken any of it to our hearts. So it is with praying in the Spirit. We might pray in the Spirit and then pray in English, but there seems to be no correlation between our prayer in the Spirit and our prayer in English. The Holy Spirit did not quicken or interpret our prayer in the Spirit to us.
Other times, however, we read a chapter in the scriptures and a single word is illuminated, a word becomes alive. The Spirit quickens that word to us and through it, He interprets the whole chapter. Sometimes from a phrase, the Spirit may bring the whole chapter alive. This is an illustration of tongues and interpretation. We pray in tongues and we pray in English, but seemingly receive nothing. The Spirit does not interpret even a word from our prayer. Nothing. Then, we pray in tongues and we pray in English and we receive a new idea, a new concept. Or, we may pray in tongues and pray in English and receive a whole phrase or a whole prayer. God may give us an interpretation of the whole prayer. Therefore, when we pray in the Spirit, let us pray that we may interpret that we may understand what the Spirit is saying.
The reason Oral Roberts emphasizes tongues and interpretation is that through these gifts the University came into being. He walked over this land asking God how to build a university. For years he had preached a Pentecostal message that included speaking in tongues and all the gifts of the Spirit. However, it was as he was praying in the Spirit about building ORU that he began to interpret what the Spirit was saying and God gave him a word of knowledge. He began to see the outlines of the University.
Evelyn Roberts heard him praying in the Spirit and interpreting and she thought, "Finally, Oral has lost his mind." But, he explained what had been happening to him. He related that as he prayed in the Spirit and began to interpret the prayer, God began to illuminate his mind and he began to understand a way of communicating with God and a way of understanding what the Spirit would have him do in relationship to building the University.
If the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues illuminate the intellect, when we hear an utterance in tongues and an interpretation, we should meditate on it, trying to understand it. We have the mind of Christ, and if we have the mind of Christ, we ought to understand the things of God. So, when we hear an utterance in tongues, let us listen to what is being said, and ask ourselves, "What is this?" "What is the Spirit saying?" If it is a speaking by the Spirit, it should have some value to us; it should have meaning. We should listen, trying to understand what the Spirit is saying to the church.
I WILL SING WITH THE SPIRIT
I will sing [psallo] with the spirit, and I will sing [psallo] with the understanding also (I Cor. 14:15).
A good translation of this scripture would be: I will make a psalm with the Spirit; and I will make a psalm with the understanding also. I will offer my praise to God by the Spirit.
Paul joins praying and singing together and says, "Else when thou shalt bless by the spirit" (verse 17). Therefore, the purpose of tongues is to bless by the Spirit. My prayer and my praise are to bless. Speaking in tongues is prayer and psalming to God in order to bless, and the interpretation is for men that they might share the blessing of my thanksgiving and say amen at my giving of thanks.
In his letter, James likewise admonishes the Christians to pray and to sing:
Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms [psallo] (James 5:13).
James uses the same word that Paul used. This concept of singing with the Spirit, or blessing with the Spirit by offering your thanks to God, is beautifully echoed in the following two scriptures:
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [psallo] in your heart to the Lord;
giving thanks [eucharisteo] always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:18-20).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16).
In Ephesians, Paul admonishes us not to try to find escape in wine but to be filled with the Spirit, speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody (psallo) in our hearts to the Lord. We are singing, making melody, and giving thanks to the Lord, but we are speaking to ourselves. So, when we are filled with the Spirit, what do we do? We make a psalm in the Spirit to the Lord (he that speaks in tongues speaks to God, verse 2), but we speak to one another (the interpretation of the tongue is for men, verse 5). We make psalms. We are speaking to ourselves, but we are singing and making melody to the Lord. This is singing with the Spirit and with the understanding. We are singing and making melody (by the Spirit in tongues) to the Lord, but we are also speaking to one another (by interpretation) in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
In Colossians, Paul says almost the same thing when he tells us that we are "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." We are singing (by the Spirit in tongues) to the Lord, but we are admonishing and teaching one another (by the interpretation). We are singing to the Lord but teaching and admonishing one another. This was rather puzzling to me until the Spirit seemingly said, "Why don't you read the Song of Moses?"
THE SONG OF MOSES
Moses spoke a song to God, and He told Moses to write the song down and teach the children:
Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel...Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel...And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended (Deut. 31:19,22,30).
God told Moses to write the song down as a witness for the children, to teach and admonish them. After Moses wrote the song, he spoke it to the Children of Israel.
After reading this scripture, I began to understand better what Paul meant by the scriptures, about singing or psalming in the Spirit. We make a psalm to the Lord, (tongues are to God), and then the interpretation of the psalm is given for teaching, for admonishing, or for encouraging one another. The song is spoken to the Lord, but in the interpretation we are speaking to one another. I believe this is why so many utterances in tongues seem to be spoken to people instead of unto God. They seem to be a message to men, not a psalm to God. If the Spirit desires that we use the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to teach and admonish, we can understand why we may believe that tongues and interpretation are the same as a prophecy.
Next, the Spirit asked me to read Paul's song book. And I thought, "What! Read Paul's song book? What is that?" He said, "The Book of Psalms." I thought that if Paul said, I am going to sing in the Spirit, I should look in his song book (the Book of Psalms) to find out what his concept of a song was. As I began to read the psalms; I realized that many of the interpretations that I heard in the church after an utterance in tongues paralleled the psalms. I found that the interpretations that blessed the people also seemed to echo the psalms. The
Spirit, through tongues and interpretation in the form of a song, was giving to the body of Christ new psalms for today.
I began to study the variety of psalms that were written and spoken to God. It was amazing how many different kinds of songs there were. The psalmists wrote about things that we might not think would be appropriate for a song to God. There were around twenty seven psalms of prayer. These are songs that David or others sang or spoke as prayers to God. Fourteen psalms were psalms of praise. Even though they were singing to the Lord, the songs were written down to bless the people. I concluded that in singing or psalming through tongues and interpretation God is giving to the church up-to-date psalms. In other words, we do not always have to go back to the twenty-third psalm to receive comfort; God can give us a psalm for today that blesses us and refreshes us in the now--a psalm for today.
I also found that there are twenty one psalms of exhortation. It seems unusual to sing an exhortation, but that is what they did. These psalms of exhortation probably sounded like prophecies. Then there are twelve "country and western" psalms, songs of complaint, the "He done me wrong kind of songs." The psalmist complained to the Lord about how his enemies had wronged him. I estimate that there are twenty one psalms that make a statement, thirteen psalms of description, two of thanksgiving, and about seven psalms of declaration. Notice how widely the psalms vary. Often when we read a psalm, we feel that it is a message to the people; however, they sang or spoke them to the Lord. I believe that what happens in tongues and interpretation is that a psalm, according to the pattern of the Book of Psalms, is sung or is spoken to God, while the interpretation of the psalm is given for the teaching and admonishing of the people.
Most of the psalms were spoken or chanted, but there were also songs with melody. We sing hymns, spiritual songs (any song that is brought forth by the Spirit), and psalms. Three kinds of songs may be given by the Spirit. Some songs may be interpreted, some may not. When they are not interpreted, the singer is edified by his own singing of them. When they are interpreted, not only is the singer edified in the singing, but the understanding of the hearer is illuminated in the hearing.
ELSE WHEN THOU SHALT BLESS WITH THE SPIRIT
Else when thou shalt bless [eulogeo] with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks [eucharisteo], seeing he understandeth not what thou
sayest? For thou verily givest thanks [eucharisteo] well, but the other is not edified. I thank my [eucharisteo] God, I speak in tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue (I Cor. 14:16-19).
Paul sums up praying in the Spirit and singing in the Spirit by saying, "Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit..." The purpose, then, of tongues and interpretation is blessing with the Spirit, through prayer or through praise. But if you bless with the Spirit (in tongues), how is the person going to say "Amen" at your giving of thanks if you do not interpret your blessing or offering of thanks? In this very interesting passage of scripture, the Apostle Paul is stating how we offer thanks by the Spirit.
From the Greek word eulogeo, translated bless, we derive our word eulogy. A eulogy presented at a funeral pronounces a blessing on the departed one. From the Greek word eucharisteo, translated giving of thanks, we derive our word eucharist or the Communion, a time for the offering of thanks. When we bless or eulogize by speaking in tongues by the Spirit, how can the unlearned man who does not understand what we are speaking by the Spirit say "Amen" at our eucharist or offering of thanks?
Then Paul implies, "Now do not get upset at me for what I said because you offer thanks (eucharist) very well." Certainly, if we are offering thanks by the Spirit (in tongues), we have to be doing it very well, because we are offering our thanks by the Spirit. However, Paul says that the other person is not edified because he cannot understand our offering of thanks (in tongues). In a variant reading of the Greek text, Paul affirms that he offers his thanks to God in the same manner:
I offer thanks [eucharisteo] to my God by speaking in tongues more than ye all (I Cor. 14:18).
In the King James text, we find this reading:
I thank my God that I speak in tongues more than ye all (I Cor. 14:18).
The only difference in the Greek manuscript used in the King James translation and the variant reading is an "n" on the end of the Greek word for "speak." If Paul wrote, "glossais lalon," it may be translated "by speaking with tongues." If he wrote, "glossais lalo," it may be translated, "I speak with tongues." I believe the variant reading fits the context more appropriately, which would make the passage of scripture read:
Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at your offering of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily offerest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I offer thanks to my God by speaking with tongues more than you all. Yet in the church, I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue
(I Cor. 14:16-19).
Whichever translation we choose, blessing the people by words they understand is paramount to Paul. That is why he has spoken of edification and understanding so many times in these scriptures. Yet, Paul offers his thanks to God by speaking with tongues more than anyone else. He admonishes the Corinthians to
"forbid not to speak with tongues" (I Cor. 14:39), because he understands the value of speaking in tongues in order to edify one's self even if there is no interpretation.
TONGUES AS A SIGN(See Addendum)
Paul turns his attention to the purpose of tongues for the unbeliever-- tongues as a sign. This is another difficult passage. Some Bible commentators believe the translation has confused the meaning. But I believe that the passage is translated correctly. Paul writes,
In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 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. 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? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth
(I Cor. 14:21-25).
The key phrase is: "Yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord." God said that He was going to speak to the people through men of other tongues and other lips, yet, they would not hear Him. Paul, therefore, said that tongues are for a sign, not to the believers, but to them that believe not. However, he points out that the tongues were not going to convince the unbelievers because God said they would not hear nor understand what was happening.
Many believe that if God said tongues are for a sign, then the more we speak in tongues the more we will convince people by the sign of tongues. However, God said that they will not hear. Therefore, Paul declares that if the whole church comes together in one place and all speak with tongues and the unlearned or unbelievers come in, they will say that we are mad. Why would they think that tongues were a sign? Because God said, "They will not hear me." God is speaking through His people in tongues under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but the unbelievers will not accept the sign. God ordained that He would speak to men--that tongues are a sign--but that when we speak in tongues, the people will not believe it is of God. This was true at Pentecost ("these men are full of new wine" (Acts 2:13), it was true in Paul's day ("will they not say that ye are mad" (I Cor. 14:23), and it is true today. People still are not convinced by tongues-speaking; they still say that tongues-speakers are out of their mind.
Therefore, tongues are a sign to unbelievers even though they will not hear. If the unbelievers come into a meeting and everyone is speaking in tongues, they will say that the people are mad. God said they would do this and they do. On the other hand, if the unbelievers come into a meeting and they hear a prophecy, even though it is a sign to the believers, they understand what is said because they hear the Spirit-inspired utterance in their own language. They hear with understanding and the word of God grips their hearts, and, falling down, they say that God is in us of a truth.
Earlier I observed that the Spirit may speak through someone in a language the speaker does not understand to a person who does understand the language, and give that person a prophecy in his own tongue. This is not speaking in an "unknown" tongue which must be interpreted; it is speaking in a language understood by a hearer. This manifestation of tongues may convince the
unbeliever because it is not an "unknown" tongue but a prophecy in the "known" language of the hearer, even if unknown to the speaker.
EACH HAS A CONTRIBUTION TO MAKE
How is it then, brethren? when you 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
(I Cor. 14:26).
It may be well to point out here that in the New Testament church, the Christians met from house to house to edify themselves, and it was unusual for the unbelievers to be present. One of the difficulties in the way we worship today is that we invite the unbeliever to our services. Since the gifts of the Spirit are to edify the body, we are presented with the problem of how to edify the body of Christ through the manifestations of the Spirit in the presence of the unbeliever who does not understand them. Are we to eat the good meal, edifying ourselves, and let the unbeliever go hungry? Or, do we minister to the unbeliever and let the Christians go home unedified? I believe this is at the heart of much of our confusion today concerning spiritual gifts.
Be that as it may, Paul says that when Christians come together, every one has something to contribute to the building up of the body. One has a psalm; let him psalm by the Spirit. One has a doctrine; let him give his teaching. One has a tongue; let him speak by the Spirit the mysteries to God. One has a revelation; let him give his prophecy. One has an interpretation; let him give the interpretation that all might understand the utterance in tongues and say "Amen" at the offering of thanks to God. It is important that all be done for the edification of others. Let everything be done unto edifying. So the one with the psalm would be singing in the Spirit; the one with the doctrine would bring a teaching based upon new knowledge; the one with the tongue would lift up a prayer or offer thanks to God; the one with the revelation would prophesy to men for edification, exhortation, or comfort. But it is "God which worketh all in all" (12:6), and if God operates all, all will be done unto edifying and in decency and in order.
PROCEDURES and LIMITATIONS
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 any thing 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 (I Cor. 14:27-31).
After Paul lists the contributions each person may make for the edifying of the body, he places limitations upon certain speakings and gives guidelines for their use. Paul places limitations on tongues and, therefore, interpretation, and he limits the number of prophets who may speak in a service. However, he does not limit the number who may prophesy with the gift of prophecy.
Paul puts a limitation on the number of people who speak with tongues in a meeting:
If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three (I Cor. 14:27).
Paul puts a limitation on the number of prophets who should speak in a meeting:
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge (I Cor. 14:29).
However, Paul does not place a limitation on the number of persons
who may exercise the gift of prophesy:
For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted (I Cor. 14:31).
There is no limitation on the spiritual gift of prophecy, only on speaking in tongues (with or without interpretation) and prophets.
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 (I Cor. 14:27).
Here, Paul is establishing a proper order for the manifestation of the gift of tongues. If any speak in tongues, the speaking should be limited to two, or at the most, three, and that by course, or one after the other, not all speaking at once. One may speak, another may speak, or a third may speak, one after another, and one should interpret. But if there is no interpretation after each or any of the utterances in tongues, then a person should keep silence in the church and speak (quietly) to himself and unto God. These are the guidelines that the Apostle Paul gave concerning the manifestation of the gift of tongues.
Paul says that when you are taking up the time of God's people, you should be considerate of them. For you to speak in tongues while people just sit there is not appropriate. If there is not an interpretation, then you should sit down and be quiet and talk to yourself and unto God for your edification. But remember Paul does not forbid to speak in tongues. He only provides guidelines for your speaking out in a meeting.
It is worth noting that Paul only suggests limitations for the two more sensational types of utterances, speaking in tongues and the message of the prophets. In considering this I asked myself the question, "Why would we need more than three prophetic messages, or why would we need more than three speakers in tongues in a given meeting? If speaking in tongues is to God for prayer and praise, then why would we need more than three, especially when it is essential that the teaching and preaching of the Word of God go forth. Or, how many direct revelations of the will of God given by the prophets are we able to comprehend in any one service?
I believe one of the reasons the Apostle Paul established these guidelines in the Corinthian Church was to reduce the temptation for the tongues-speakers and the prophets to compete with each other. Prophets should not get into the business of trying to out-prophesy one another and those who speak in tongues should not try to demonstrate their spirituality by much tongues-speaking. Therefore, Paul put limits on tongues and on the prophets but he does not limit the simple gift or manifestation of prophecy.
ALL MAY PROPHESY ONE BY ONE
Ye may all prophecy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted (I Cor. 14:31).
Paul does not limit the gift of prophecy because the church needs all of the edification, exhortation, and comfort that it may receive, "that all may learn, and all may be comforted."
RESPECT FOR OTHERS
If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace (I Cor. 14:30).
This is an interesting scripture. Paul states that if a person is ministering and God reveals something to another person, the first person must hold his peace, while the second person assumes responsibility for the service. If the Spirit moves on someone to minister when someone else is ministering, the Spirit is saying that the second person has a fresh revelation from the God which supersedes the manifestation that the Spirit gave to the first person. Thus, the first person should be quiet and allow the second person to minister. The service and its continuance become the responsibility of the second person because God has revealed something to him and he must manifest it to the church. However, a person who assumes the responsibility of "replacing" his brother must recognize that LOVE does not "behave itself unseemly" and the Spirit will not force anyone to manifest any gift.
THE SPIRIT OF THE PROPHET IS SUBJECT TO THE PROPHET
And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (I Cor. 14:32).
In light of the above discussion, this is a pivotal verse. The spirit of the prophet, and I might add, the spirit of every child of God, is subject to him. We have control over and, therefore, are responsible for our actions. Our spirits are subject to us. The Holy Spirit is always a gentleman, and we need to operate in love, always asking ourselves why we wish to do something. If it is not in love, then we should not speak or act, because God is not the author of confusion.
GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints
(I Cor. 14:33).
Let all things be done decently and in order
(I Cor. 14:40).
This thought refers us back to where we began our discussion of THE SPIRITUALS: "there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (I Cor. 12:6). God works all gifts, all ministries, in all persons, and in all situations; therefore, there can be no conflict or disharmony in the ministries of Jesus Christ or the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. If there is conflict, confusion, lack of decency, or lack of order, someone is not moving in the Spirit of God; someone is operating in the human spirit, or the enemy of our souls is sowing confusion.
In spite of all of the many difficulties present in the spiritual worship of the Corinthian Church, Paul does not tell the people that they do not have the Spirit of God or that Satan is influencing them. Instead, he reminds them "that in everything ye are enriched by him (Christ) in all utterance, and in all knowledge" (I Cor. 1:5) and that they are "behind in no gift" (I Cor. 1:7). However, he continues,
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ (I Cor. 3:1).
Although they had the Spirit, had utterances and knowledge, and lacked no gift, they were following the human spirit, the carnal mind, rather than the mind of Christ.
This completes our study of Paul's answers to certain questions the Corinthians had asked him concerning the gifts of utterance. We can only guess as to what those questions were; however, we can apply his answers to the various situations which arise in our meetings. In comparing and contrasting the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues with the gift of prophecy, I have emphasized those distinctions that I believe Paul made: 1) one who speaks with the gift of tongues, speaks to God; one who speaks with the gift of prophecy, speaks to men; 2) the purpose of the gift of tongues is prayer and praise; the purpose of the gift of prophecy is edification, exhortation, and comfort; 3) the gift of tongues is a sign to the unbeliever; the gift of prophecy is a sign to the believer; and 4) the gift of tongues is limited in a meeting; the gift of prophecy is unlimited.
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