Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 51

What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 14.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 14: 20-25, “Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking. Instead, be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. It is written in the law: “By people with strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, yet not even in this way will they listen to me,” says the Lord. So then, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and unbelievers or uninformed people enter, will they not say that you have lost your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or uninformed person enters, he will be convicted by all, he will be called to account by all. The secrets of his heart are disclosed, and in this way he will fall down with his face to the ground and worship God, declaring, “God is really among you.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

In my early ministry, I was working for an organization that partnered with several churches in the area to have an outreach on local high school campuses. This required that I build relationships with the pastors and youth pastors at all these local churches, which was really one of the best parts of the job.

I started my ministry with some dogmatic stances regarding doctrine, and these relationships sharpened me to the point where I could at least understand my friends in ministry and where they were coming from.

This was highlighted when I’d had an event where several teens walked an aisle and “received Christ.” I usually just viewed these as a chance to find out where each of these kids were spiritually and was hesitant to tell people they became Christians until I’d spent a few hours with them at McDonald’s talking about it. Granted, I worked for a ministry that felt it important to count them as at least a “recommitment” on all our forms.

I was mentioning my struggle with this to the gathering of youth ministers we held once a month. I’d read some statistic that said if you added up all the ministries’ in America’s reports of salvations, every man, woman and child in the U.S. had been saved 3 times over. Or something like that.

One of my friends said, “It’s really not that hard to see if they’re really saved. All you have to do is see whether or not they’ve had the gift of tongues. It’s called the Second Blessing. Then you can no for sure. That’s why we don’t have the problem you have at our Full Gospel church. We know who is saved and who isn’t, eventually.”

This blew my tiny mind.

Because I wasn’t sure he was correct…I mean, how was he ignoring the passage I quoted here? Says right there that the gift of tongues is a sign for unbelievers, right?

We had an excellent discussion around lunch. I mean that. It was curiosity by all of us with more conservative backgrounds and he was well-versed in the doctrine of his church. We asked questions about the nature of revelation, about exactly what tongues was (he had two different “types”) and about interpretation and the nature of spiritual growth/life and all that stuff. It was fun to hear from someone who knew their stuff on the matter and see where he was coming from.

At the end, I wasn’t swayed. Nor was he. Nor was anyone else at the table. But it was pretty cool to leave in respectful disagreement, knowing that we all loved teens, we all cared about each other, and that we could understand the place everyone was coming from.

But I thought maybe I should pray for the gift of tongues–at least the prayer language he talked about. I mean, if God has something intended for the spiritual life, I want it, right? I don’t want to experience less that what God has intended for us.

I’m still waiting on the gift, I suppose.

However, I’m of the opinion that my mind can answer the question as to why I haven’t gotten it. I’ll spare you the long & drawn out reasoning of where I stand on the issue, is that I believe that the gift of tongues (speaking a known language in which you’ve never been trained, and interpreted by someone who has never been trained in that language) has ceased AS A NORMATIVE GIFT.

Like many of you, I’ve heard instances of “tongues” taking place on the mission field by people I deeply respect that are hard to deny given the circumstances that lead me to believe that “tongues” can be used in an instance by people who don’t claim to have the gift itself. So, while I think the gift is dormant, I don’t deny that God can reveal Himself in this manner on occasion in ways that lead to people coming to Christ.

It’s a gift intended for UNBELIEVERS.

The gift of prophecy, on the other hand, is for believers. The revelation of the Word of God is something intended to edify believers and help them mature in their relationship with Him.

No matter where you fall on the “issue” of tongues, it’s clear that Paul is downplaying it (my guess is that it was being abused to no end in the Corinthian church, possibly by vocal women, given the context). He asks that if an unbeliever comes in and the ENTIRE CHURCH were speaking in tongues (out of control) the visitor would think everyone had gone nuts. By contrast, if the ENTIRE CHURCH were speaking the Word of God, they’d be likely convicted.

Again the issue is more one of order here. The idea that God is a God of order in the worship service and not to let the gifts, no matter what they are, run amok and unchecked. Paul highlights the use of his mind. Paul highlights the reality that he’d rather speak 5 intelligible words with his mind than 10,000 in a tongue–and this is from a guy who had spoken in tongues and was having the Holy Spirit write Scripture through him!

But on my mind today is the idea of how those outside the faith see us in our corporate gathering. Even when we bicker among ourselves about the nature of our walk with God and what all is a part of that or what is not…

…or whether or not the gifts exist today…

…or whether or not a prayer language exists…

…or whether or not revelation happens in certain ways…

(even though I still have hard and fast opinions on the matter whether or not I’ll talk much about them to others)

…I think Paul’s point is well taken:

We need to experience God moving among us all through His living and active Word in our ordered worship services. The rest are just details.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 15-16)