You are currently browsing the daily archive for May 23, 2021.

Bible oldThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 14:20-25

20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign[a] not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians to speak and sing in worship in clear language so that everyone in attendance could understand and say ‘Amen’ with confidence that they had grasped the message of a prayer or hymn.

The Christians of Corinth claimed to have the gift of tongues, but they did not. They were reverting to their pagan habit of ecstatic, incoherent babbling as they used to do before a man-made deity.

It is a blessing to be covering Paul’s teaching on tongues on Pentecost Sunday, the Church’s birthday.

My exegesis on Acts 2:1-21 explains the proper use of speaking in tongues, which served to evangelise to the Jews in Jerusalem for the feast of Shavuot, which occurs around the time of Pentecost. By the end of that miraculous preaching in different foreign languages, 3,000 converts had been gathered into the fledgling Church.

John MacArthur explains the divine message behind the use of tongues on that marvellous day (emphases mine):

The tongues at Pentecost were saying, “Look, God’s not going to any longer work through one nation. God’s not any longer going to speak just one language. God’s not any longer going to favor one people. God’s going to go to the world, and through the world to build His church, see, the kingdom for all nations.”

And, you know, the very fact that they spoke in all those languages was God’s way of saying, “It’s all over for the uniqueness of Israel, and I’m going to speak in the world’s languages, and build that church that’s hidden in the Old Testament.” So tongues speak primarily as a sign of a curse on Israel.

But notice, no sooner have I said that, than I have to say they speak too of the blessing that’s going to come to the whole world; because as Christ turned away from a rebellious people, He opened His arms to the world. So it becomes a sign of blessing, residually. It’s like Romans 11, you know, where Paul says, “The fall of them is become the riches of the world.” Jerusalem destroyed, Israel set aside; and yet, in their setting aside, we became beneficiaries – don’t we? – because God reaches out to us.

So God’s New Testament apostles and God’s New Testament prophets suddenly burst out spontaneously declaring the wonderful works of God in every language. Read Acts 2: an unmistakable sign that a transition had come; a curse on one hand, but then a blessing on another hand; because even Jews could still come, couldn’t they? Three thousand did on the day of Pentecost. So, in a sense, while being a judicial sign of a curse, residually it’s also a sign of blessing.

MacArthur thinks that the true gift of tongues ceased with the destruction of the temple, which had not yet taken place when Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians:

Seems to me that once the destruction of Jerusalem came in 70 A.D., the whole purpose for the gift of languages ceased. That’s what the text says; that’s not my opinion. It never was intended to be something for a Christian, it’s for one who doesn’t believe. Which one? A Jew, one of this people, that they might know God is acting in judgment.

Jesus said, in Luke 13:35, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate.” And then in Luke chapter 20 in verse 21, He carried it a step further. He said – let’s see, Luke chapter 21, verse 20 rather: “And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then you know that its desolation is near.” And verse 24, “They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles.”

Jesus said, “Hey, judgment, judgment.” All through the apostles’ ministries judgment was coming on Israel. Jesus preached it, and the sign of languages again showed it.

I’m not sure I fully agree that it died out that soon, if the purpose of tongues was also to spread the Good News to the many nations in the ancient world. In any event, that gift of the Holy Spirit was limited in time in order for the Church to grow and expand. It no longer exists.

In today’s reading, Paul continues his discourse on tongues by saying that Christians must not think as children do, rather they must be ‘infants in evil’, yet display clear, mature thinking (verse 20).

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains why Paul gave the Corinthians that particular instruction:

Children are apt to be struck with novelty and strange appearances. They are taken with an outward show, without enquiring into the true nature and worth of things. Do not you act like them, and prefer noise and show to worth and substance; show a greater ripeness of judgment, and act a more manly part; be like children in nothing but an innocent and inoffensive disposition. A double rebuke is couched in this passage, both of their pride upon account of their gifts, and their arrogance and haughtiness towards each other, and the contests and quarrels proceeding from them.

Paul then cites Isaiah 28:11-12 and Deuteronomy 28:49 (verse 21), which warn impenitent Jews of God’s judgement on them delivered by a people who speak a foreign language.

MacArthur takes us through the history behind those verses, beginning with Isaiah:

when they began to hear that unintelligible language of Babylonia that they couldn’t understand, they would know the judgment of God had fallen. And it happened in 588 B.C. And because of their unbelief and apostasy, God brought a terrible judgment.

This wasn’t the only time they’d been warned. Back in Deuteronomy chapter 28 in verse 49, back in the 15th century before Christ, listen to this, 28:49. “The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand.” I believe that most likely could have reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. So in the 15th century, God warned them that when they heard a strange language it would be judgment.

In the 8th century, Isaiah, God warned them that when they heard a strange language it would be judgment. “Jeremiah” – that great weeping prophet – “said, ‘Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel,’ saith the Lord. ‘It is a mighty nation. It is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you know not, neither understand you what they say,’” Jeremiah 5:15. And God had clearly pointed out in their minds that when they were going to be judged, there was going to be a sign, and the sign was they would hear a language they couldn’t understand. Do you see?

He thinks that Paul was preoccupied with the temple in Jerusalem:

When Paul quotes that here, he is saying, “Look, just as when Isaiah said it, just as when Moses said it, just as when Jeremiah said it, those languages are a sign to the unbeliever that God is about to act in judgment.” That’s what he’s saying.

You say, “Well, what did it mean in this generation in which Paul lived?” Well, listen; when they began to speak those languages on the day of Pentecost, every Jew should have known that the judgment of God was eminent. And do you know it wasn’t but just about thirty years later when the Roman Emperor came in and wiped out Jerusalem, and with it, Judaism as such. The sacrificial system ended and it’s never been restored. They should have known the judgment of God was going to fall.

Henry gives us Paul’s purpose in those citations for the Corinthians — that God might abandon the church in Corinth if they persist in speaking in false tongues:

surely the apostle’s discourse implies, “You should not be fond of the tokens of divine displeasure. God can have no gracious regards to those who are left merely to this sort of instruction, and taught in language which they cannot understand. They can never be benefited by such teaching as this; and, when they are left to it, it is a sad sign that God gives them over as past cure.” And should Christians covet to be in such a state, or to bring the churches into it? Yet thus did the Corinthian preachers in effect, who would always deliver their inspirations in an unknown tongue.

Paul goes on to say that the true gift of tongues is intended to evangelise to unbelievers while the gift of preaching is for the benefit of believers (verse 22).

Henry says:

The gift of tongues was necessary to spread Christianity, and gather churches; it was proper and intended to convince unbelievers of that doctrine which Christians had already embraced; but prophesying, and interpreting scripture in their own language, were most for the edification of such as did already believe: so that speaking with tongues in Christians assemblies was altogether out of time and place; neither one nor the other was proper for it. Note, That gifts may be rightly used, it is proper to know the ends which they are intended to serve. To go about the conversion of infidels, as the apostles did, had been a vain undertaking without the gift of tongues, and the discovery of this gift; but, in an assembly of Christians already converted to the Christian faith, to make use and ostentation of this gift would be perfectly impertinent, because it would be of no advantage to the assembly; not for conviction of truth, because they had already embraced it; not for their edification, because they did not understand, and could not get benefit without understanding, what they heard.

Paul warns them that outsiders or unbelievers will think if they walk into an assembly of Corinthians babbling in gibberish; they would think the Corinthians were mad (verse 23), something that God would find deeply displeasing.

Henry says:

Note, The Christian religion is a sober and reasonable thing in itself, and should not, by the ministers of it, be made to look wild or senseless. Those disgrace their religion, and vilify their own character, who do any thing that has this aspect.

Paul says that when an outsider or an unbeliever enters an assembly of Christian worshippers, he should feel convicted by what he hears (verse 24) with the secrets of his heart disclosed so that he comes to be humbled and worship God, declaring that He is truly present in that place (verse 25).

Henry explains:

Note, Scripture–truth, plainly and duly taught, has a marvellous aptness to awaken the conscience, and touch the heart. And is not this much more for the honour of our religion than that infidels should conclude the ministers of it a set of madmen, and their religious exercises only fits of frenzy? This last would at once cast contempt on them and their religion too. Instead of procuring applause for them, it would render them ridiculous, and involve their profession in the same censure: whereas prophesying would certainly edify the church, much better keep up their credit, and might probably convince and convert infidels who might occasionally hear them. Note, Religious exercises in Christian assemblies should be such as are fit to edify the faithful, and convince, affect, and convert unbelievers. The ministry was not instituted to make ostentation of gifts and parts, but to save souls.

That provides us with a good segue to Paul’s next topic: worshipping in an orderly manner.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 14:26-33a

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,533 other followers

Archive

Calendar of posts

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,660,861 hits