WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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BUILD UP YOUR NEIGHBOR
(Use your gifts from GOD to build up the Church)
(1 Corinthians 14:1-25)
Strangely, it has always been a matter of considerable debate, just what the Apostle Paul means by “speaking in tongues”. In chapters 12-14 of his first letter to the Corinthians, he uses the Greek expression “glossa” (gloce-sah) 21 times for “Tongues” and it is by definition “the organ in one’s mouth that is used primarily for taste and speech; and it is a learned spoken language or dialect, not naturally acquired”.
Nowhere in its biblical use, or its Greek or English definition does the word “glossa” or “tongue” refer to “ecstatic speech”, not in any of Paul’s letters (used only three other times), and, not when used anywhere else in the New Testament. Whether it is used literally of the physical organ (Mark 7:33, James 3:5, Revelations 16:10), or figuratively of human languages (Acts 2:11, Revelations 5:9, 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 13:7, 14:6, & 17:15) the word is always the same.
What Paul is saying in verse two of this chapter (1 Corinthians 14), is that, if a person were sitting in a Church assembly in France, for instance, and everyone in the assembly, except that person, could only speak in the French tongue, then, if that one person was to stand up and start speaking in, say, the German tongue, no one would be able to understand them but GOD. And while that person, who may be gifted to teach in more than one language, or, tongue, and, could be uttering something that may be totally GODly and spiritual, it wouldn’t be of benefit to anyone in the assembly because none of them are gifted in the German dialect. They simply would not be able to comprehend what the, more gifted, person were saying, as it would sound to them like “utter non-sense” or “mumble jumble” (1 Corinthians 14:2).
However, one who has the gift of prophecy, which is a “Spiritual gift”, is helping people grow in the LORD, encouraging them, and comforting them (v.3). The person who speaks in various tongues, a “learned gift”, through GOD-given intellectual capabilities”, is only strengthened “personally” in the LORD, while one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire Church (v.4).
In verse 5 Paul says, “I wish you all had the gift of speaking in tongues, but even more I wish you were all able to prophesy. For prophecy is a greater and more useful gift than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so the whole church can get some good out of it”. Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in tongues, how would that help you? But if I bring you some revelation or some special knowledge or some prophecy or some teaching, that is what will help you (NLT).
Paul himself spoke in various tongues, in fact, the bible tells us that he was able to speak and write in at least three different languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. However, he tells us in verses 9-12 that “If you talk to people in a language they don’t understand, how will they know what you mean? You might as well be talking to an empty room. There are many different languages in the world, and all are excellent for those who understand them, but to me they mean nothing. I will not understand people who speak those languages, and they will not understand me. Since you are all so eager to have spiritual gifts, ask GOD for those that will be of real help to the whole church (NLT).
Languages that are interpreted can benefit the assembly (Acts 19:6) as well as prophesy, therefore, the gift of interpretation should be requested from GOD also. This means that someone independent of the person, who is speaking a different language, must be present and able to interpret what that person is saying to the assembly (v.13).
Gifts are not given by GOD, so much for personal use, as they are for use in helping others, and building them up. “Personal edification” is something that should be a by-product, or a result, that is reserved for someone who has shared their gift to help better the Christian community as a whole. Personal edification should not be a result of one helping himself, or taking advantage of others.
Some people try to make a distinction between the word “tongues” in this epistle, and the use of the word “tongues” in the book of Acts on Pentecost. However, there is no difference as the same Greek term “glossa” is used in both instances. The only difference is that the HOLY SPIRIT acted on several people on that Pentecost day, giving them special supernatural abilities to communicate, for the benefit of the many foreigners who were in Jerusalem at that time, and, who spoke in many different languages. GOD wanted everyone, regardless of native tongue, to participate in, and understand the significance of this “distinctive act” when HE first allowed HIS HOLY SPIRIT to embody all those who choose to believe in CHRIST JESUS.
Paul says that unbelievers view “strange tongues” as being some sort of a sign, while believers are not of that opinion (v.22). However, in order for unbelievers to become convicted of their sins, they must first hear the Gospel in their own native languages before they can begin to comprehend the things of GOD. The Word of GOD should convict and condemn by what it says to us personally. However, it can’t do that unless it is first understood by those who hear and see it. But among those who see, hear, and understand, their secret thoughts are laid bare, and they can then, fall to their knees and worship GOD with their whole heart, as they should.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website