Friday 06 March 2015

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

“Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (v. 19)

1 Corinthians 14:13-19 Friday 6 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 119:81-96


In this passage, Paul continues to reflect on "speaking in atongue". Following on from what he has said about the importance ofbuilding up the church, he writes that any one who speaks in atongue should also "pray for the power to interpret [it]" (v.13).

However, this is not simply about making tongues comprehensibleto others in order to encourage them; it's also about engaging thewhole person in prayer and worship, mind as well as spirit. Paulreminds them that "if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but mymind is unproductive" (v. 14). What is true for prayer is equallytrue for singing praises. And it applies also even to the saying ofblessings, for if said only with the spirit, how will anyonelistening but not understanding know when to say "Amen"? "You maygive thanks well enough, but the other person is not built up" (v.17).

Paul closes this section with another personal testimony whichperhaps indicates just how serious an issue this was, not only forthe unity of the congregation at Corinth but also for theirwillingness to accept his leadership, given the presence of otherswho claimed to a greater possession of spiritual gifts. Paul isquite clear that he can speak in tongues, indeed he thanks God thathe does this "more than all of you" (v. 18); but he is equallyclear that this is not what the Corinthians most need. Hisconclusion is that "in church I would rather speak five words withmy mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in atongue" (v. 19).

The close attention which Paul has given to this topic indicatesjust how important and how potentially divisive the issue ofspiritual gifts, and particularly speaking in tongues, can be. Whatis important for us, reading his letters all this time later, isthat Paul doesn't dismiss such gifts, but that in assessing theirrole he stresses time and again that what matters most is whatserves to encourage and build up the life of the Church as anorganic whole. 

To Ponder

  • Is the presence of spiritual gifts potentially divisive in ourchurches today? Why or why not?
  • Do you find Paul's advice about engaging with the whole personin worship, body, mind and spirit, helpful? In what way?
  • How does Paul's testimony affect your understanding ofleadership in the church?

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