Paul's Passing Thoughts

Exercising Spiritual Gifts in Love – Lesson 4: The Priority of Gifts – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 1, 2017

The following is part four of a four-part series.
Taken from Andy Young’s fourth session at the 2016 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny

Click here for lesson oneClick here for lesson two Click here for lesson three
(Links to the archived files are found below)

In this next section in 1 Corinthians 14:20-25 Paul begins an entirely different line of thought. There is a dramatic shift in thought in verse 20. He just concluded his last point about how giving thanks to God is more effective in words that are clearly understood than all the words ever spoken that no one could understand. And then he says this:

“Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:20

If you are only reading this casually this verse seems like it doesn’t have anything to do with anything. Its seems blatantly out of place. But this is Paul’s was of getting your attention. This is Paul’s way of saying, listen up, I’m about to make a very important point and I want to make sure you understand this.

In both places in this verse the word “understanding” is the word φρην (phrane). I want you to see this is a different word than the one used up in verse 15 when he talks about praying with understanding. That’s the word “nous” that has to do with intellectual understanding. The mind. The word “phrane” literally refers to the midriff; the middle part of the body. In this culture the center of the body was the center of the deepest part of human emotion and cognitive faculties. The center of reason. In our culture we would refer to the heart. When we want to express the deepest parts of our being we refer to our heart. I love my wife with all my heart. From the bottom of my heart. This is where that expression comes from.

This goes far deeper than just an intellectual acceptance of facts. Paul is talking about something that he wants them to commit to the deepest part of their cognitive abilities, their deepest faculties of reason. And he announces this as a way to get their attention. Listen up. Don’t be children in this regard. Don’t be children when it comes to your capacity to reason with what I’m about to tell you. Be like a man. Have this fully developed because I’m about to share with you something that is vital that you understand. So this verse is like a big flashing strobe light to get their attention.

What does he want them to understand? The next four verses deals with the gift of tongues as it relates to the Jews. How do we know this? Because he starts out by referencing the Law.

21In the law it is written, “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 28:11-12)

“In the law.” This is the Greek word nomo. Generally it can refer to the Mosaic Law, or the whole of the OT scriptures. In this case it would be the more general usage for the OT because this citation is from Isaiah 28:11-12. In this case, who is the “this people”? It would be the Jews because we’re dealing with the law and also the source of the citation tells us that. It was written to Jews. The sentiment in this verse is very similar to what is found in Deuteronomy 32:21

“They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” ~ Deuteronomy 32:21

Now look at what we have here. Paul is addressing Gentiles with a passage that was addressing Jews. Paul quotes this passage in Romans 10:19. But the idea is the same, that God would convict Israel of their rejection of Him and of Christ. They would see salvation being offered to the Gentiles and this would provoke them to jealousy to the point that it would ultimately cause them to turn back to God.

Here is the actual reference from Isaiah.

“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” ~ Isaiah 6:9-10

Jesus also quoted this passage in Matthew 13:14-15 when He was asked why He spoke in parables.

And the Apostle Paul quotes this same passage at the end of Acts in chapter 28 when he met with the Jewish leaders in Rome, and they refused to be persuaded by the things he taught them. You have this rejection of the gospel by Jews on the whole, especially the religious leaders. And you have them being provoked to jealousy by the Gentiles being saved.

In addition to being a reference to Jews, it is also a reference to the actual gift of tongues. Paul makes the connection between the prophesy in Isaiah and how this prophesy is fulfilled by Gentiles being saved and some of them being given this gift of tongues. It was to be a sigh to the Jews specifically. And since the gift was the ability to speak in the vernacular of an actual human language, something other than Aramaic or some local dialect in Galilee, you have believers speaking in the language of dispersed Jews at first. But then you actually have Gentiles speaking in tongues in Acts 10, and I think it reasonable to assume that Gentiles would be speaking in Gentile dialects. So it makes perfect sense that Paul would cite this passage from Isaiah as an example because it fits right in with this notion of provoking the Jews to jealousy.

So Paul starts out by reminding the Corinthians that the Jews would be provoked to jealousy by men of other tongues – Gentiles. Having this in mind he goes on to say in verse 22:

22Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not:

Stop right there. Paul has just placed the limiting factor on the gift of tongues. This is why tongues is a minor gift in the assembly. It is a sign to them that do not believe which in this context are Jews. See, it’s not that tongues isn’t able to edify the body. It’s that is has a very specific role; to serve as a sign to unbelieving Jews. So all he is doing here in verse 21 and the first part of 22 is to explain the limited scope of tongues.

Now he switches again. He switches back to prophesy to establish why prophesy is a superior gift.

but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

The context is still the same. Those who “believe not” are still the Jews. What makes the gift of prophesy truly superior to tongues is that it is truly edifying to the Body. And he gives another reason for that. Why is prophesy better? Well consider another hypothetical situation. Remember in lesson two I talked about the grammatical structure in the Greek of a 3rd class condition? We have another 3rd class condition in verses 23 and 24. Another hypothetical situation.

23If therefore the whole assembly be come together into one place,

Consider for a moment that if hypothetically every believer in Corinth were all gathered together in one location…

and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

Now this is not an argument for a church purpose building. Paul is not advocating for the gathering of all believers into one building for worship. Paul is saying, let’s assume that you have every believer in Corinth who just happened to be gathered together into one place and in walks an unbeliever, or those who are ignorant of the gospel. Now the context has changed. He is no longer showing why tongues is limited and how it is a sign the unbelieving Jews. The context is now the superiority of prophesy among the assembly for the purpose of edifying the body. So an unbeliever in this case would be any unlearned or ignorant unbeliever, who might just happen to walk into this group of believers, and witnesses them all jabbering away in disparate foreign languages. What’s his reaction going to be? Are you all nuts? Why? To him it’s not going to make any sense. It’s going to look like mass confusion. What is going to be his impression of Christianity?

But…Verse 24:

24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

More than that. If he hears you talking about God, preaching and admonishing each other, building each other up and encouraging each other, showing LOVE to each other, he’s not going to be able to speak anything bad about you. His testimony to others about what he witnessed is going to be a positive one. Let me remind you of a couple of passages I cited in lesson two.

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh (that which makes something attractive, pleasant, or desirable) the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;” ~ Philippians 1:27

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;” ~ Philippians 2:14-15

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” ~ John 13:34-35

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:16

See this is the same sentiment of verse 25. The way we show love to each other speaks volumes to a lost world around us who is watching us and carefully scrutinizing us. And he summarizes his point here:

26How is it then, brethren?(How should it be done? What’s the right way?) when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

Simple enough. So how then should this be done? How are they to keep order in the assembly so that things don’t get out of hand and the Body is edified? Verse 27:

27If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.  28But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the assembly; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

I think this is pretty self-explanatory. How should prophesy be handled.   Notice, it’s pretty much the same way. Verse 29

29Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all assemblies of the saints.

Let’s look at verse 32 first, because that is the concluding statement in his argument. “The spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” The expression “are subject” is the Greek word υποτασσω (hoo-poh-TASS-oh) – to put under an orderly arrangement. The same word is used to describe the way a wife “submits” to the husband. This does not have to do with any notion of authority or subservience. This is referring to the way one defers to another in a orderly fashion. It’s not about a hierarchy or a spiritual pecking order or caste system. What you see here is the idea of being willing to let someone else have the floor. To defer to someone else to get their input. And that’s exactly what Paul describes in this paragraph. You have two or three people prophesying, speaking before the assembly, and teaching is implied in this.

Think about it this way. Let me use the example of a Sunday School class.  Depending on the type of church you came from maybe your teacher didn’t allow discussion. But you know what’s like when you’re discussing a topic and someone raises his hand and he makes a point, and someone else makes a point, and pretty soon you have everybody wanting to contribute to the discussion, and then before you know it the discussion gets out of hand and you end up off track, and then the time is up and you realize you never really learned anything.

I think that is what Paul might be describing here. Everybody wants to contribute to the teaching time, but that’s not practical. Let’s limit it to two or three comments and then move on. And then lets say someone is speaking, and while he’s making his point someone else says, um, hold on, excuse me, that’s not quite right let me correct that, Paul says that speaker needs to stop and allow the other person to make his clarifying remark. We all defer to each other. And in this way we keep the fellowship of the assembly moving on in an orderly fashion.  God’s Body should not be characterized by confusion.

Now let’s look at this next paragraph.

34Let your women keep silence in the assemblies: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the assembly.

I want you first to notice that I replaced the word “church” which most of you have in your Bibles with the word “assembly”.  Consider this. The word translated “church” is the Greek word “ekklesia” and it means “assembly”. It is not a place or building. It is not a religious term. In fact, it is a secular term used to describe ANY ad hoc assembly of the populace for a political purpose.

The Roman government was very strict about keeping law and order throughout the empire.  Rioting was considered to be a treasonous offense.  Roman law allowed for public assemblies, but the key to this was that is had to be carried out in a lawful manner, otherwise the participants could be arrested for inciting a riot or any other kind of unruly behavior.

This is precisely what almost occurred in Ephesus in Acts 19.  The craftsmen who fashioned statues and shrines for the goddess Diana provoked the crowd to a frenzy.  But what is key to note in this account is the usage of the word “assembly”

“Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.” ~ Acts 19:32

“But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.” ~ Acts 19:39-40

“And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.” ~ Acts 19:41

In all three places the word translated “assembly” is the Greek word “ekklesia”.  This same word everywhere else in the NT is translated “church”.  I want to stress once again that an “ekklesia” is a secular word that is used to describe ANY ad hoc gathering of people for some political purpose.  In this context, Christ referred to His Body as an “ekklesia”, an “assembly”.  When believers gather together for fellowship it is called an “ekklesia”, an “assembly”.  There is nothing at all “religious” about this term.  It is simply the word used to describe the gathering together of people for a specific purpose.

Now think about this in relation to our text here dealing with the assembly of believers. And I have a couple of thoughts on this, and I think either one f these could be valid.

It could be that the assembly of believers had to adhere to the same laws that governed secular assemblies, and the stipulation for women to keep silent was a matter of Roman law pertaining to such (since women were afforded little if any rights as citizens)

It could also be that Paul was referring not to the assembly of believers, but rather when believers participated in secular political assemblies (remember the same word is used for both), instructing the women to remember that they needed to obey the Roman laws and not to be emboldened by their Christian liberty to voice their political concerns in public.

This last paragraph puts the concluding remarks on this subject and wraps everything up.

36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40Let all things be done decently and in order.

And I just want to focus on that last verse. That just so perfectly puts the final word on the whole matter. Think back of everything we’ve studied in these four lessons. Exercising our gifts in love. Loving the members of the Body.  Caring for each other. Not coveting each other’s gifts. Not seeking to gain any kind of personal recognition for our gifts but using our gifts to help build up the Body. If the members of the Body are showing love for each other, then really all of the problems should take care of themselves. We want all things to be done decently an in order because that is characteristic of our God.   That is characteristic of our Father. That’s how the word will know that we are God’s children, when they see the way we love each other.

~ Andy

Andy Young 2016 Session 4 Archive Video (YouTube) Audio Only (mp3)

4 Responses

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  1. John said, on August 1, 2017 at 6:21 PM

    Good stuff. Thanks, Andy.
    I once visited a Charismatic Pentecostal church with a friend . . . chaos. It sounded like “Black Friday” and looked liked it too (and very sexual, true). “Sex with clothes on,” I said as we fled. Good. Grief.

    I’ve always believed that true believers’ line is a thin one, right in the middle of this chaos that calls itself Christianity. One foot off the line, either to the left or the right, and something will try to cling to it . . . either Calvinism/Reformed nonsense or the “Holy Spirit please fall down on me and flatten me” lot. Anyway, our line may be thin, but it’s there; it’s secure, and it’s a-heading to heaven.

    “Fire on you, Andy!” On second thoughts, rather not. Good. Grief.


    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on August 1, 2017 at 6:52 PM

      I don’t want to turn this into a lets-bash-Pentecostals/charismatics discussion (and I’m not suggesting that’s what you are doing), but the preoccupation with tongues among that denomination is what I find suspicious, especially when they view tongues as a true manifestation of the Holy Spirit and look upon those who do not practice tongues as second-class christians. I know this is not true with all charismatics, and I am sure there are those who could testify otherwise.

      Here’s what I know: I know for certain that I personally do not possess the gift of tongues…I have a hard enough time with English. LOL


      • John said, on August 2, 2017 at 4:22 AM

        No, not bashing them in general, but only this one specific one I attended; it was horrible. we were told that only true believers speak in tongues (the nonsensical gibberish they were talking) and that there was a class to “teach” it. So I’m happy to bash that specific lot, as they were as fake as a two-legged tripod.

        I have found most Charismatics to be sincere and truly born-again; it’s these extreme groups I will speak against. The ones where they believe the Holy Spirit falls on you; that fire falls on you. It’s plain and simple heresy and rather blasphemous: When one is born-again, one receives the Holy Spirit. He does not come and go; He does not grow; He does not fall on you from the ceiling, and He does not make you wriggle in suggestive ways . . . we know who causes chaos.

        But nothing is as deadly and diabolical as Calvinism and all its tentacles. Nothing. That is Satan’s masterpiece; his revolting pièce de résistance.


      • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on August 2, 2017 at 7:50 AM

        “…there was a class to “teach” it.”

        Yeah, that should be a big give-away right there. You don’t have to be “taught” a spiritual gift…the Holy Spirit gives it to you, thus the “gift” part.


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