Signs of a Corrupted Word
thou shalt be justified,
and by thy words
thou shalt be condemned.
(38)Then certain of the scribes and
of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master,
we would see a sign from thee.
An evil and adulterous
and there shall no sign be given to it,
but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
in the whale's belly;
so shall the Son of man be
three days and three nights
in the heart of the earth.
Yes, we must be careful how we hear, but we must also be careful how we speak, since we will be judged by our words and how we use or abuse God’s Word. This includes being careful not to spiritually harm ourselves or join in the attack against the minds of others by participating in the world’s fragmenting and corrupting process.
The people were unable to grasp Jesus’ definition of “work.” Neither could they comprehend what sort of work Jesus was involved in. So like today, they asked Him for a sign, some mystical supernatural sensational experience outside of the Word of God to “help” them believe.
That was definitely the wrong thing to ask for.
He bluntly told them that seeking a sign was a manifestation of apostasy and unfaithfulness to God.
Jonah was the only sign they were going to get. This was a sign recorded in the Word of God. Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale and then expelled onto dry land, Jesus would be three days and three nights in the earth and then resurrected. For those who had really responded to the call of God and been born again (See John Chapter 3), this account of the death and resurrection of Jesus would be sufficient evidence to support their belief.
Jesus emphasized the importance and detailed fulfillment of the Word of God. After the resurrection, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Paul continued to warn those who considered themselves to be followers of Christ.
This time it was the Corinthian Church and Paul was warning them about seeking gifts and signs outside of the Word of God patterned after the pagan practices of Delphi, Greece’s most famous center of oracles who often spoke in strange utterances and an unknown language.
Instead of accessing the power of God through the Word of God, the church at Corinth was creating a mockery of the Word by twisting the true meaning of the “gift of tongues.”
Remember, in the above passage in Matthew 12:37 Jesus had said: “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
Paul corrects the false doctrine of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:
and desire spiritual gifts,
but rather that ye may prophesy.
[#G4396 = rightly interpret – declare the Word of God]
-1 Corinthians 14:1
Paul is telling the congregation at Corinth (and us) that it is good to let love lead you and to desire spiritual gifts, but being able to correctly interpret and declare the Word of God is more important.
Here is why:
in an unknown tongue
[G#1100 = ethnic language from a known geographic location]
speaketh not unto men, but unto God:
for no man understandeth him;
howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
-1 Corinthians 14:2
First of all, every time the gift of tongues is mentioned in the Scriptures, in the Greek, it is referring to an ethnic language from an existing geographic location.
When language is referred to as “an unknown tongue,” it means that the language from that particular country cannot be understood by those who are not from that country or cannot be understood by those who are not able to speak that specific ethnic language.
Let us use the German language as an example, since it is an unknown tongue to people who have not been born in Germany. In this case, when a believer visiting the United States speaks in the German language in a church that is located in the U.S., the language is not going to be known to everyone. Therefore, the German person visiting the U.S. can only really speak to God when he talks in German, because no one else can understand him.
As a result, what he is saying does not provide any spiritual knowledge to the listener—it remains a mystery.
[expounds the Word of God]
speaketh unto men
to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
(4)He that speaketh
in an unknown tongue
but he that prophesieth
edifieth the church.
-1 Corinthians 14:3-4
On the other hand, when someone prophesies, everyone is edified, encouraged, and comforted. If someone speaks in another language that is not understood by the listeners, the person who is speaking is only (perhaps selfishly when in a group setting) edifying or building up himself.
[had the ability to speak in foreign languages]
but rather [even more desire] that ye prophesied:
for greater is he that prophesieth
than he that speaketh with tongues,
except he interpret,
that the church may receive edifying.
-1 Corinthians 14:5
Paul would like it if everyone had the ability to speak in foreign languages, (because those having the gift of being able to speak in foreign languages have an advantage to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to foreigners) but he makes it clear that it is better to “prophesy,” that is to clearly declare the Word of God, than to be able to speak in other ethnic languages, since understanding the Word of God is the primary purpose of declaring the Word of God.
Therefore, if someone is going to speak in an unknown ethnic language in the congregation, he must do it through an interpreter, or there isn't any logical reason to speak at all because without understanding what is being said, no one can be edified.
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?
-1 Corinthians 14:6
Again Paul reminds the congregation that the whole purpose of speaking in the Church is to provide comprehensible revelation, knowledge, and explanation of the Word and doctrine of Christ. Common sense tells us that no one can profit from speech that they are unable to understand.
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?
(8)For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound,
who shall prepare himself to the battle?
[understand and receive marching orders]
(9)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.
(10)There are, it may be,
so many kinds of voices in the world,
and none of them is without signification.
(11)Therefore if I know not
the meaning of the voice,
I shall be unto him that speaketh
[#G915 = crude and rude foreigner],
and he that speaketh
shall be a barbarian unto me.
-1 Corinthians 14:7-11
Paul boldly illustrates the absurdity of speaking in unknown ethnic languages when listeners are unable to understand. He says that it is like a musical instrument that does not have any distinction in the sound or like a trumpet that makes a sound but the people cannot distinguish what sound it is and therefore cannot take instruction from it and prepare for battle.
Whether Paul, or anyone else, speaks in an unknown ethnic language (or any other unknown utterance) to people who cannot understand it, they become like a crude and rude foreigner, a barbarian (#G915), to the listener.
forasmuch as ye are zealous
of spiritual gifts,
seek that ye may excel
to the edifying of the church.
(13)Wherefore let him
that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray
that he may interpret.
-1 Corinthian 14:12-13
If a congregation is desirous of spiritual gifts, it should be for the purpose of magnifying the Word of God and edifying the entire church. Therefore, no one should speak in a foreign language unless he can interpret what is being said.
my spirit prayeth,
but my understanding
(15)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.
-1 Corinthians 14:14-15
Paul addresses the matter of prayer as well. Neither is there any benefit to praying in an unknown ethnic language when people cannot understand the prayer.
How can an incoherent prayer bare any fruit when no one can understand what is being sung or what is being said?
We must conclude, with Paul, that when praying or singing, understanding must also be present in order to benefit the spirit.
how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned
[one who has not learned the specific ethnic language]
say Amen at thy giving of thanks,
seeing he understandeth not
what thou sayest?
(17)For thou verily givest thanks well,
but the other is not edified.
-1 Corinthians 14:16-17
Furthermore, when a prayer is answered and brings a blessing, how can anyone praise and thank God for it if they do not understand what was even prayed for?
I speak with tongues
[various ethnic languages]
more than ye all:
(19)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.
-1 Corinthians 14:18-19
Paul was a very well educated man and able to speak many different ethnic languages, yet his priority was to teach the Word of God, not hear himself speak in a foreign language that could not benefit anyone else.
howbeit in malice be ye children,
but in understanding be men.
-1 Corinthians 14:20
Paul tells them straight out that this type of thinking is childish and he exhorts them to “grow up” and get their priorities in order. Mature Christians should realize the primary importance of understanding the Word of God.
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.
(22)Wherefore tongues [ethnic languages] 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.
-1 Corinthians 14:21-22
Paul goes back to the law of God and begins this passage by expounding the Word of God for the congregation.
He further explains that even when some people hear the Gospel clearly in their own ethnic language, they still may not have ears to hear what God is really telling them. Some people just do not have the capacity to receive the Word of God, even in their own language.
Furthermore, Paul makes it clear that the gift of ethnic languages was given by God for the purpose of preaching the Gospel to unbelievers. When the gift of languages was first given, each unbelieving person was able to hear (not speak) the Word of God in his own ethnic language.
It was initially a unique method which God used to reach a special group of unbelievers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. While meant to be a special “sign” and an amazing occurrence, it was not intended to be a mystical experience, but a very practical indication that the message they were receiving was really from God, so they could understand the Word and believe in Jesus. (See the Book of Acts).
On the other hand, prophesying or expounding the Word of God in the common language, was given to all believers so they could be personally, spiritually strengthened and restored by understanding the Word of God.
be come together into one place,
and all speak with tongues,
[other ethnic languages]
and there come in those
that are unlearned,
[in the specific languages being spoken]
will they not say that ye are mad?
-1 Corinthians 14:23
People who do not understand the specific ethnic languages that are being spoken in some churches and observe everyone speaking in confusion at the same time, will think that those who ramble in unintelligible speech are “mad” or insane.
Actually we see this today. The senseless babble and mutterings of some professing Christians really does cause many unbelievers to think that Christianity is comprised of wackos and makes it impossible for true believers to understand what is actually being said, when they find themselves in the midst of babble-speakers.
This unbiblical behavior is one significant means whereby the first love was lost (See the book, “Mystery of the First Love Lost” at this blog which is based on the warning of Jesus in Revelation 2:4-5. This passage of Scripture confirms that if those who call themselves the followers of Christ do not remember what they have lost, they and their “church” will be removed from their presumed relationship with Christ).
The unbiblical behavior of the Corinthian Church, as recorded in the Word of God, continues to be a means of:
1) interrupting, fragmenting, and breaking our focus on the Word and Spirit of God
2) a stumbling block to unbelievers
3) a reproach to Christ’s Name/blasphemy [# G989 = reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty] against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31) because it is interrupting and quenching the Spirit of God in Christian assemblies
4) misrepresenting the true nature of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit
5) hiding the truth about how we are to really communicate with God and fellowship with one another through His Word
Because our communication with God and others depends on understanding the Word of God, it is an outright attack against His Word.
one that believeth not, or one unlearned,
he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
(25)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.
(26)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.
(27)If any man speak in an unknown tongue,
let it be by two, or at the most by three,
[in orderly manner—one at a time]
and that by course; and let one interpret.
(28)But if there be no interpreter,
let him keep silence in the church;
and let him speak to himself, and to God.
-1 Corinthians 14:24-28
When the Word of God is clearly proclaimed and understood, unbelievers will be convicted of their sin, their lives will begin harmonizing with the Word of God, they will begin worshipping God as He has specified, and everyone who hears will realize that Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, is in their midst.
Everything in the Church must be done for the explicit purpose of spiritually strengthening and firmly establishing others in the Word of God.
This is how the power of God is really manifested.
While the incoherent babble of the church at Corinth is assumed by many scholars to have been influenced by the pagan practices of Delphi, Paul does not need to specifically address that issue in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 14, because he has already defined the genuine gift of tongues as the unique ability to speak in any other ethnic language(s) which would also automatically exclude any other strange utterances from what is permissible in the church.
Therefore, Paul establishes the rules of conduct in this passage for those desiring to speak in a genuine unknown/foreign (ethnic) language:
1) No more than three are allowed to speak in an ethnic language at the same time.
2) Those speaking must do so in an orderly manner, one at a time.
3) There must be an interpreter present who is gifted in interpreting the specific language being spoken.
4) If there is not an interpreter present, then those desiring to speak a foreign language must remain silent.
Does this mean that a genuine gift of tongues no longer exists today?
On the contrary, when we realize that the gift of tongues is the ability to speak and interpret ethnic languages, it becomes obvious that some people do have a very real gift, specifically as it pertains to accurately translating the Word of God from the original languages into many languages that can be understood by a multitude of people living in the many different countries and speaking many different languages in the world today.
Through Paul’s Scriptural reproval of the Corinthian Church, God is reminding the followers of Christ; again, that believing does not depend on some mystical apostate sign. This is not the way to a relationship with God or eternal life. Jesus did not come to promote a mystical or sensational approach to His Holy Word.
Jesus Christ was simply teaching His followers how to clearly understand God’s Word so they could obey it.
(Dear Reader...When God pours out His wrath upon the Earth, will you be among those who will receive His wrath because you have not been loving Him and listening to His Voice? If you are ready to turn from going your own way, desire to have a relationship with the living God, and want to live with Him forever, go to left side of this page and click on the picture near the top titled, "God's Gift of Salvation.")