After discussing what unknown tongues were, what the tongues of angels were, and what the tongues of men were, we finally get to the portion of scripture that causes so many debates in the Christian world. This scripture passage is the reason I started these series of teachings on speaking in tongues.
These famous scriptures are none other than 1 Corinthians 12-14, which is written by Paul to the church of Corinth. He wrote this letter to address some issues that had arisen in the congregation. One of those issues involved the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.
The congregation of Corinth consisted of a lot of people whom the world considered foolish. Many of them were not of noble birth, wealthy, or wise in the world’s eyes. But God had enriched them in the power of speech and the depth of knowledge with every spiritual gift. Yet, the Corinthian congregation was going through division. No one was agreeing on anything. Some thought they were better than others. Others thought they were worth much. Can you see any resemblance to today’s church?
Paul begins Chapter 12 by telling the people that he doesn’t want them to be ignorant when it comes to the things of the Spirit. Therefore, he is about to explain some things so their understanding can be complete.
During that time the city of Corinth was known for its wealth, luxury, and sexual vices. There were several temples being honored by different gods. Each temple had its own rules and regulations. The largest temple belonged to Aphrodite, who had over 1,000 temple prostitutes. It was okay to worship as many gods as you liked.
One Spirit, One Lord, One God
So Paul had to explain to them that there was only one Spirit who gave them different gifts, only one Lord being served in many ways, and only one God working in their lives in diverse ways. Everything being done was for the whole body of Yeshua. Unlike the pagans, they weren’t serving a host of gods. Therefore, there shouldn’t be any division among them and yet there was. Paul was not pleased with this.
Paul went on to explain that even though there were many gifts being operated, it was only one Spirit doing the operating. There wasn’t nine different spirits like the Greek culture indicated. There was only one Spirit who gave them nine different gifts to build up the body of Yeshua.
Paul lists nine gifts the Spirit gives to whomever he chooses to. These gifts began to cause a major problem in the congregation – spiritual pride. People were going around trying to make their selves more important by esteeming one gift above another. They made it seem like their gift was the best gift and the only one that matter.
Of the nine gifts being used, one gift seemed to be held in the highest regards – the gift of speaking in different kinds of tongues. For whatever reason, this gift was the gift to have and if you didn’t have this gift you didn’t have anything. This is how many today’s churches behave.
At the end of chapter 12 Paul clearly shows just how important speaking in tongues are compared to other areas of the body of Yeshua. It ranks last. He goes on to say not everyone speaks in tongues as well as the other items mentioned in this list. Finally, he tells them to seek the better gifts. This let them know that there were better gifts to have than speaking in tongues. The bottom line is that speaking in tongues do not make you more spiritual.
Gifts without Love
Paul begins chapter 13 talking about how tongues, whether they are of men or angels, do not mean a thing if there is no love behind it. Without love, everything is meaningless. The fact that he mentions tongues first shows just how highly they esteemed tongues. If no love is involved it’s like hearing broken instruments out of tune. No one wants to hear that mess, not even God.
Other gifts esteemed were prophecy, wisdom, knowledge, and faith. Yet, none of these mattered either if there was no love attached to it. He actually considered himself as nothing, being worthless if he operated in these gifts without love.
The final item he talked about was giving. I can only imagine how it was then based on how it is now. Those who give the most are honored and respected more than those who give little. If a person gives enough he can be noticed by leadership and brought into the inner circle. He receives special attention and personal attention when needed. But Paul says if there is no love behind the giving, the person hasn’t gained anything at all. This too was obviously a problem also.
Because Corinth was a society who often confused lust with love, Paul defined what real love meant. He needed them to know that everything they had learned about love up to this point in their lives was the wisdom of the world. Now he was going to give them the wisdom of God and how love really is meant to be. He defines that in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
When there is no love for others there can be no love for God. When there is no love for God there can only be love of self. When there is love of self there is pride. When pride comes, disgrace, strife and destruction follow.
Paul understood that no gift was worth the division and hurt of the congregation. His desired this congregation to grow in Yeshua and be well. He wanted them to come together in unity and to stop the madness of esteeming one gift above another.
How do you feel about the gift of speaking in tongues? Do you feel you are better than someone because you have it and she doesn’t? Do you feel less of a believer because you don’t speak in tongues? Share your thoughts on this topic below. I would love to hear from you.
We will continue this discussion on chapters 13 and 14 later. Be bless.
Our Heavenly Father, who is in heaven,
In everything we do help us to do it in love. Help our every decision be based on love – love for you, love for others, and love for ourselves. Help us to walk, talk, and live the way Yeshua did when he walked this earth.
In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, Amen.
“Now there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NLT)
“When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2 KJV)
“Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10 KJV)
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 KJV)