Paul's Passing Thoughts

Exercising Spiritual Gifts in Love – Lesson 3: The Priority of Gifts – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 31, 2017

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

Click here for lesson oneClick here for lesson twoClick here for part four
(Links to the archived files are found below)

In the first two lessons we’ve worked our way through 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 13. It is very common to hear lessons on chapter 13 – the great love chapter. It’s a very popular chapter to use in marriage counseling, or something you most likely will get a sermon on at a couples’ retreat. And that can be a very effective use of the passage. It certainly has application to all aspects of life.

But I think if we are going to be responsible students of scripture, if we are going to be good Bereans, if we are going to make any progress in undoing over 500 years of protestant orthodoxy and doublespeak, we need to be very careful to understand the context of every passage. We can no longer just take any text and wrest some application out of it that might make us feel good or might support our pre-suppositions, our assumptions, our theological bias. We must understand that the author of EVERY passage of scripture had a specific message he wanted to communicate. He has a specific context, and if we are going to understand truth we must understand that it can only be found if the application is made in that context, and only in that context. Otherwise we run the risk of doctrinal error. This is what happens when you begin with an assumption and read that assumption into the text (eisegesis), rather than reading the text and drawing the conclusion out of it (exegesis).

So lets continue on where we left off. This entire subject of exercising spiritual gifts in love covers 3 chapters, 12-14.  The entire passage is really a rebuke to the Corinthians. Paul is attempting to correct faulty behavior that has arisen because of bad thinking – bad assumptions. And the bad thinking was the result of bad teaching.

Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians was that they were being taught to covet tongues. In our first two lessons we explored the reality of being part of the Body of Christ and how we are all members. Our spiritual gift is analogous to the function of a body part. His first argument was that you can’t all be the same body part. The body needs to have all the parts with different functions if it’s going to work properly.

His next argument was that by coveting after tongues you were not showing love because you sought to edify yourself and not the body, and this prompts him to launch into his dissertation on love in chapter 13. At the end of that dissertation, he makes the point that our gifts are merely an installment payment on our inheritance. The Holy Spirit is the down payment, the gifts are an installment, and something better is yet to come – our full reward and inheritance. Tongues is just one of many gifts that have a purpose in the here and now but have no real eternal value.

Now as Paul moves into chapter 14, he starts to get into the practical application of spiritual gifts, specifically comparing and contrasting tongues and prophesy. The whole chapter is devoted to practical examples of the how and why gifts are exercised in love.   Keep in mind the context. He is rebuking the Corinthians for allowing themselves to be swayed by this teaching that tongues are to be coveted after. He picks up once again with that point, and his next argument is that when it comes right down to it, tongues is an inferior gift.

Now that is not to say that tongues has no value. But from a comparative standpoint, tongues is inferior. Remember in lesson one I showed you the list where Paul prioritized the gifts, and in that list tongues was listed last. It’s not to say that tongues does not have value, but there are other gifts that have more value, just like we said the heart is more valuable than the pinky toe. The pinky toe has value. AND, we would not just arbitrarily decide to cut off our pinky toe. But if we had to prioritize parts of the body, we would all agree that some parts are more valuable than others.

What is ironic about all of this is that the Corinthians thought they were being zealous for a very important gift. They all wanted it. And the irony is that in the grand scheme of things, they all wanted to be pinky toes. And Paul begins chapter 14 by driving home this point.

14:1Follow after love, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.”

Look what he’s saying here. You can almost hear the sarcasm in this. He’s just finished making his case that coveting after any gift is not showing love, and that to make that point even more profound, he says, you’re not even coveting the best gift. I mean, if you’re going to covet a gift, you should at least covet prophesy. Prophesy is a superior gift. It’s at the top of that list. So he starts out almost mocking them here.

So this next paragraph he makes his case WHY prophesy is superior and tongues is inferior, why it’s of lesser value. Why tongues is only a pinky toe.

2For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 3But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the assembly. 5I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the assembly may receive edifying.”

Here’s his point. If you covet prophesy- now again he doesn’t condone this; his whole case is to be thankful for whatever gift the Spirit gives us- but if you covet prophesy it may be for your own benefit, but at least you would also be edifying the whole Body as well. Why? Because everyone would understand what you’re saying. With tongues, no one but you would be edified. Unless there is someone there who can interpret what you’re saying, which implies that someone is present who speaks that language. There is also the implication that the one speaking in tongues doesn’t even know what he’s saying. I’ll talk about that more in a little while.

But go back for a moment. Remember in Acts 2, those who were speaking in tongues were actually speaking real native languages, the vernacular of those Hellenistic Jews who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem from different lands. They sounded like native speakers, and the ethnic Jews there thought they were all speaking gibberish because they couldn’t understand them. They said they were drunk. The ethnic Jews in Jerusalem weren’t edified, UNTIL, the Hellenistic Jews told them what they heard and Peter explained the purpose; the fulfillment of Joel 2. Then you can be sure that MANY were edified. Who? The Hellenistic Jews who heard the wonderful works of God in their own language, and the ethnic Jews who saw the sign performed in fulfillment of Joel 2 and believed in the name of Jesus as a result.

As far as the Corinthians go, if we are to make the correct application here by comparing the use of tongues among these Gentiles with how we see tongues used in Acts, if tongues was to serve any edifying purpose, there would have to be Jews present, or there would have to be foreigners present; those who would hear whatever the tongues-speaker was teaching in their own native language. It would seem to me that that would be a valid and consistent use of tongues within the assembly for the purpose of edifying the body.

Now Paul goes on to use himself as an example. Paul says, what if, hypothetically, I came to you speaking in tongues. Here he might even be referencing the first time he ever came to Corinth and brought the gospel to them or any time that he returned to teach them. Paul says what if I came and taught you in a language you didn’t understand?

Or we can make this even more personal. I took 3 years of French in high school. Now I can hardly call myself fluent in French. I can congugate a few verbs and I know a few conversational phrases. But let’s suppose hypothetically that I have the ability to speak French like a native speaker. What if I stood up here right now and started speaking to you in French. Would you be edified? No? Why not? Wouldn’t you be impressed by my ability? Wouldn’t that make you want to speak French, too, so you could impress everyone with how well you can speak French? What’s the motivation? Me trying to impress you with my ability. Is that love? No, and you’re not edified. So Paul uses himself as an example in verse 6. He says:

6Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?”

There is no benefit to you if I speak in tongues. You’re only going to benefit if I teach you in your own language. It has to be something you understand. It has to be clear and distinct. I go back to Acts 2 again. It said the disciples spoke as the spirit gave them utterance. And that word “utterance” was the word αποφθεγγομαι – “ap-off-THENG-oh-my” – to speak forth plainly and distinctly. Now look how Paul emphasizes this idea of being plain and distinct.

7And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 9So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.”

See how he’s making this case that tongues is not as important as you think it is? He’s making the case that tongues is an inferior gift. It has a very limited purpose. It is of no benefit to anyone unless it can be understood. He uses the example of a musical instrument. And he uses the phrase that refers to distinct musical notes. Perhaps we can think of it this way. It would be like going to a concert that is supposed to be a Mozart flute concerto, and the flutist, instead of playing Mozart, starts playing Beethoven while the rest of the orchestra is playing Mozart. What are you going to have? It’s going to be an unintelligible mess.

Now the flutist might be giving superior performance. He may be playing Beethoven the best he ever has. He would probably be very impressed with himself. But everyone else in the orchestra will be looking at him like, “Dude, what are you doing?” People in the audience might start booing. They came to hear Mozart. They came to hear a famous flutist. He might be good, but we can’t tell how good he is because he’s doing his own thing. We can’t discern what he’s playing.

Or suppose you have an army back in the days of the American Revolution, and the commanding general wants the reserve battalion to go in and support the front line. And he sends a message to the bugler to play the call to support, and the bugler starts playing “Yankee Doodle.” Now, he might be playing “Yankee Doodle” the best he ever has. But the battalion is going to hear that during battle and they will be like, “What’s that supposed to mean? Are we supposed to charge, are we supposed to retreat, are we supposed to flank right?”  And someone else would reply, ” I don’t know, but man, can that guy play the bugle or what!”

No. It’s useless. It is unintelligible, useless noise. It does not edify anyone except the one doing it, and that is not using your gift in love.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. If nothing else, he is thorough when he develops his arguments. Now he uses tongues as a language itself. And this I think gives even more support to the idea that the gift of tongues is a real spoken, human language. He talks about the importance of language. Look at verse 10:

10There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.”

None of them is without signification. The word here is αφωνον (a-PHOH-non), and it means “without sound.” He’s referring to all the various languages in the world. Think about all of the languages there are, and none of them are useless. None of them are without meaning. Each language has its own ability to communicate. Each language is able to be understood. Each language is distinct. Now if I can’t understand the language, what does that make me to be? Look at verse 11:

11Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.”

A barbarian is the term that was used to describe an uneducated or an uncultured person. The people who lived in the remote islands in those regions were separated from Greek and Roman culture, and so they had their own culture and their own language, and they generally didn’t fit in to the Roman society. So this term “barbarian” was a pejorative term that was used for those groups of people. We might say savages. You might think of the way the American Indians were viewed by colonial settlers. So if I start talking to someone in a language he doesn’t understand, I would seem like a savage or a barbarian to him. I would seem as if I were uneducated, like I had no skill in relating to his culture. Just like that flutist who played Beethoven when the rest of the orchestra was playing Mozart.   Everyone would be like, what is the matter with him. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s not a very skilled musician. He’s a barbarian.

And likewise, I might think someone else was a barbarian or uneducated or uncivilized if they tried to communicate to me and I didn’t know what they were saying. And we tend to do that don’t we, if you’ve ever tried to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t have a good grasp of English, and you have a hard time understanding them, don’t you somewhere in the back of your mind, maybe just a little, you kind of think they aren’t very smart.   I think that’s part of human nature, and I think Paul understands that. The ability to communicate is perceived to be indicative of your intelligence. Right or wrong I think that is just a reality of life.

And then in verse 12 here he uses a word I love. Take a look:

12Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the assembly.”

That ye may excel to the edifying of the assembly. The word “excel” is the word περισσευω (peri-syoo-oh), it is literally translated “super-abound.” Not just abound, but SUPERabound! The prefix “peri” means to go over and above. Seek after being “super-abounding” towards the edifying of the body. So, if you’re going to zealous for spiritual gifts, make sure your zealousness is in the right place. Be zealous for gifts insofar as it accomplishes the edifying of the body. Be zealous for that. Not just zealous, but super-abounding!

So going along with this exhortaion that Paul just gave, he now gives some practical instruction for how to carry that out. If someone in the assembly has the gift of tongues, how should he exercise it? How would he use his gift in a way that is done in love so that it edifies the body? Verse 13:

13Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. 14For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.”

If someone begins speaking in tongues, he should pray for an interpreter. Ok, well that brings up several questions.   I think we need to ask these things. Does the tongue-speaker understand what he’s saying? Because if he does, why doesn’t he just interpret what he just said? I think the implication is that for the most part, the tongue-speaker does NOT understand what he’s saying. But somebody would. Whatever that native language is, someone else who does speak that language would understand it.

Now Paul, says, “let him pray that someone should interpret.” Does that mean he prays in that tongue? If he doesn’t understand what he’s saying how can he pray for an interpreter? Does someone else need to pray for an interpreter?

So there are all these questions, and I don’t know if we can answer them. You know I’m with Paul Dohse on this matter, and this is what we mean when we say we’re coming out of a Protestant dark age. There is so much that we are re-learning here. We’re undoing over 500 years of orthodoxy. But these are the kinds of questions the laity needs to be asking, and we need to be earnestly trying to find out the answers to the kinds of questions.   This is going to take a lot of work, and we are bit by bit trying to put the pieces together.

But I think what the apostle Paul is doing here is setting up a test for authenticity. He’s allowing for a way for those in the assembly to discern if someone who is exercising tongues is exercising a real gift or a counterfeit one.

Let me show you something here real quick. This might be off topic, but it’s a good example to illustrate what I mean. Turn over real quick to 2 Timothy 3:8. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, in chapter 3 he’s warning about false teachers coming into the assemblies, and he’s describing what they look like, what they do. And then in verse 8 he compares them this way:

“Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:8

Jannes and Jambres, in case you don’t know, are the names traditionally given to Pharaoh’s magicians. You remember what they did. God told Moses to perform certain signs before Pharaoh. He told Moses to throw down Aaron’s rod and it turned into a snake and he picked it up and it turned back into a rod. You remember this. And what happened, they said, oh that’s no big deal, we can do that too, watch. And they threw down their rods and they turned into snakes. Only problem was that Moses snake ate up their snakes.

But the point is, Jannes and Jambres were able to reproduce the same sign that Moses did. The only difference is that what Jannes and Jambres did was counterfeit. 2 Timothy 3:8 uses the word reprobate, but that’s what reprobate means, “counterfeit.” Now you know what counterfeit means right? Think of counterfeit money. It looks real, it’s the same size, has the same markings. It might feel real. And unless you know what to look for, you can’t tell it apart from the real thing. And that’s how Paul describes false teachers to Timothy. They come in looking real, sounding real, they might work some of the same signs or exercise some of the same gifts, but their deception is subtle, and you have to know what to look for.

What if spotting a false teacher was this easy?

You know that’s how the Fed trains people to identify counterfeit money. They don’t study the fake bills. They spend all their time studying the real thing. They get them to the point of being so intimately familiar with what a real bill looks like and feels like that they can tell a fake one immediately. Identifying false teachers takes the same kind of skill, and Paul wants Timothy to be so familiar with sound doctrine that when false teachers come in, they give themselves away immediately!

I think he’s doing the same here with tongues. Because remember we said in lesson one that there must have been some teaching that worked its way in teaching these Corinthian believers to be earnestly seeking after the gift of tongues. They all wanted tongues. And we know that some people should have had the gift already. That’s reasonable to assume. But what about those who didn’t have the gift of tongues but coveted after it? Is it possible that in their desire to speak in tongues that some of them may have developed a counterfeit form of it? In other words, an utterance that was not a real language that could be understood, but was really nothing but gibberish?

So basically here is the test he gives. If someone starts speaking in tongues, if there is no one there who can understand him, then he needs to stop. Plain and simple. If no one understands him, no one is being edified. And here we are right back at the original point. Exercising gifts in love for the purpose of edifying. These statements he makes in these next verses allude to that. Paul shows us a better way. Look at verse 15.

15What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say ‘Amen’ at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?”

Got that? This is the better thing to do. If no one can understand you, then be quiet. It’s better that you be understood because that edifies the body. That is love. If you’re praying in an unknown tongue, how can anybody rationally say “Amen” to what you just prayed? He has no idea what you said. It’s vain and meaningless and certainly doesn’t edify anyone.

Now, I like these next verses because here is Paul’s sarcasm coming through again. Verse 17:

17For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:”

You know what Paul is saying here? This is one of those really confusing verses in the Bible that theologians twist themselves into a pretzel trying to explain it. Really they are trying to make it fit their theology. But the problem is the verse suffers from a really bad translation. And if you look at this verse in the Greek it is understandable. But when it comes right down to it, the answer is very simple. I think Young’s Literal Translation has the best rendering of this verse.

“I give thanks to God – more than you all with tongue-speaking” (YLT)

See what he’s getting at? See he’s giving them the benefit of the doubt. Ok, you might be giving thanks to God praying in that tongue that no one can understand. I’ll give you that, but so what? No one is edified. When I give thanks to God, when I pray, since I’m praying in a language that you speak and understand, everyone is edified. It’s more effective. My thanksgiving to God is more effective than all of you put together with your tongue-speaking.

See that? See how simple that is? That’s all he’s saying. And then he piles on even more. He makes his point even harder. Verse 19:

19Yet in the assembly I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”

For all the importance you guys put on tongues, I’d rather speak a few words and be understood and have everyone be edified, than make a show of all the words I can speak in an unknown language and not have anyone understand me. Now you tell me which is better? You tell me, which one is showing love? Which is the better way?

…To be continued

Andy Young 2016 Session 3 Archive Video (YouTube) Audio Only (mp3)

Exercising Spiritual Gifts in Love – Lesson 2: What is Love?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 27, 2017

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

Click here for lesson oneClick here for lesson threeClick here for part four
(Links to the archived files are found below)

In part one we began by looking at this idea of a physical body being a metaphor for a spiritual body, specifically the body of Christ. We spent a good deal of time developing this argument and why it is so important to understand, because if we understand that the Body of Christ is just like a physical body it will help us to understand how we must relate to each other in love.

If you want to further study the doctrine of the Body of Christ, the entire book of Ephesians is an excellent study. We looked at one small passage in the last session, but in the entire book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul makes an lengthy argument for the Body of Christ and how believers are to behave with regard to each other. We won’t get into that any more here because our focus is love, but I do want to show you one particular point in Ephesians 5, because this ties in to what we talked about in part one and will help us make the transition into this lesson on chapter 13. One theme that is repeated in the book of Ephesians is this head/body relationship. There is no more Jew and Gentile, but all are now part of one Body that Paul calls the New Man. There is one body and Christ is the Head.

So you have this head-body relationship. And Paul spends 2 or three chapters developing this idea, and then in chapter 5 he gets into the practical application of this. He uses three examples of other head/body relationships. The first is the husband-wife relationship, where the husband is the head of the wife; the parent-child relationship, or the home relationship, where the family unit is the body and the father is the head of the family; and the servant-master relationship, where the master is the head of the servant.

In using the example of the husband-wife relationship, Paul goes to great length to describe how and why husbands are to care for their wives. And it can be summed up in this one passage in Ephesians 5:28-29:

“So (thus, in this manner) ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:”
~ Ephesians 5:28-29

So this is the point. No one hates his own body. We talked about that a little last time. You don’t take a hammer and purposefully hit your thumb. You take care of your body because you love it.  You value life in general, and you value your own life and you take action to protect and preserve your life and your body.  So if the husband and wife are one body, and the husband is the head, he should be just as protective of his wife as he would his own body, because she IS his body. They are one.

So therefore by extension this idea of caring for the body extends to the Body of Christ. The way we love the Body of Christ should be the same as the way we love ourselves. This is nothing new. Jesus said this very thing. You are very familiar with this passage:

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Paul reiterated this same sentiment on his great treatise on the law in the book of Galatians.

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word (saying, statement), even in this; ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’”
~ Galatians 5:14

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
~ Galatians 6:2

Here the command is directed right at how believers are to care for each other as members of the same Body. But the point is well taken. We are to use the Law to show love to God and to others, especially to other believers. And that is especially important when it comes to the way we conduct ourselves in this life, because the world is watching us. The unsaved are looking at us, and they are very aware of not just the way we treat them, not just our disposition towards them, but especially the way we treat other believers. This is another point repeated in the New Testament over and over.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God…Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
~ 1 John 4:7, 11

“Only let your conversation (how you conduct your life) 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

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”
~ Ephesians 5:1-2

“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
~ Ephesians 4:16

“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
~ Romans 13:10

“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

That last one doesn’t use the word love specifically. But the implication is there isn’t it? What are the good works? Is Jesus not talking about using the Law to show love to others? Is that not the light that Jesus is talking about? The light of our lives that shines into a world full of darkness.

We have all these statements about how believers are to show love to each other and why. And when we get to the end of 1 Corinthians 12, we learn that the Corinthian believers are doing just the opposite when it comes to exercising their spiritual gifts. Paul makes this fantastic argument for how the Body of Christ is just like a physical body. Now you couple that with this truth about we all love our own bodies and we care for them, so the conclusion is that every member of the Body of Christ ought to be taking care of itself.  Every member of the Body should be using his gift to benefit the body; helping the body to grow, caring for the body. But instead of showing love, they are not content with the gift the Jesus gave them through the Holy Spirit. They are all coveting one gift in particular, and that happens to be this gift of tongues.

This is not something that has just arisen spontaneously. We looked at the grammatical construction of verse 31 last time, and it appears that this seems to have been a teaching trend going around in these assemblies. Covet the better gift. Be zealous for the better gift. Don’t be content with just being a pinky toe. This is ironic, because as we saw last time, Paul prioritizes the gifts, and we saw that in the grand scheme of things, tongues is the equivalent of a pinky toe. It’s only a minor gift, but yet they are being taught that they should all want to be pinky toes; that somehow, tongues is really important. This teaching is elevating tongues to a higher level than it really is.

Paul says, no, I’m going to show you the best way. And that brings us to chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians – the great love chapter. We’re going to apply this chapter to the exercising of spiritual gifts, because that was the purpose for Paul writing this. It wasn’t meant to be a standalone treatise on love. It was not meant to be an exhortation to married couples on how to treat each other, although that is a valid application. But there is so much more to this chapter that you miss if you take it out of context. So today I’m going to attempt to put it into it’s proper context, and you will see that the application, Paul’s intent, for this chapter runs far deeper than just marriage counseling.

Remember our context. We are a body, we are to love each other, love the body (because we love our own bodies), care for the body, use our gifts to help edify the body so that we can be equipped to go out and tell people about the gospel of the Kingdom. Paul gives them a rebuke and says here is the best way. He starts out at the beginning of chapter 13 with a series of hypothetical arguments. Now the King James uses the word “charity” but the Greek word is “agape”, so I am going to use the word “love” throughout this chapter.

13:1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. 3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

There are a series of hypothetical situations here. Get this. I want to stress that these are hypothetical. The grammatical structure of these statements tells us they are hypothetical. That’s what’s wonderful about the Greek language. The structure and tense and voice and mood and case of the words provide for us the intended meaning.

In each of the situations that Paul gives in verse 1 through 3, the structure is exactly the same. We have what is called a 3rd class condition. A third class condition has the following structure: you have the Greek word εαν which means “if ever” coupled with a verb in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is called the “mood of probability.” In English we typically use the words “should or “would” to indicate the subjunctive mood. Take note that the subjunctive mood implies a future tense; something that we might possibly do in the future.

So each of these three verses could be read like this:

If ever I should speak…

If there should ever be a time in the future where I would speak with tongues of men and angels, and I’m not doing it out of a motivation of love for the Body, I am just unintelligible noise.

Now contrast that with what we learned about the gift of tongues from Acts 2 and Acts 10. We learned that the gift of tongues was a literal human language that was meant to be understood by the hearer. It was clear and distinct.

I also want to point out the implied future tense of the passage. Paul is not saying that I DO right now have this gift and that I CAN right now presently speak with some heavenly language of the angels that no one else can. This is a hypothetical situation. He is saying, if it were ever possible, or if the possibility existed that there was some special angelic language, but no one understood me, I am not showing love, and I am nothing but noise. Unintelligible noise. And we know for certain that the gift of tongues was meant to be understood by the hearers so that they could be edified.

That should also give us another clue into what Paul was rebuking them over. Paul is acknowledging that there IS a genuine gift of tongues, but he just spent all this time making the point that everyone has their own gift and that not everyone has the same gift. But they were all coveting some gift of tongues, and it appears that what they were coveting after may have been some counterfeit use of the gift. Do you understand how this could be the case? If they were exercising what they thought was the gift of tongues, and we know for certain that not everyone could have this gift, then it is reasonable to conclude that many of them were exercising some counterfeit form. In which case, they would be uttering nothing but gibberish.

Now look at the next hypothetical argument. This one has to do with prophecy. The word prophecy simply means “to speak before” or “to speak in front of.” Usually we think of this word having to do with the revelation of future events. But prophecy is more broad than that. It can refer to the forth-telling of ANY kind of revelation from God. So in the technical sense of the word, what I am doing right now is prophesying. I am standing in front of you and speaking. I am speaking before you. And while I am not giving you any NEW revelation, I am speaking to you about what God has already revealed in His word.

Now quickly lets look at the next two verses. Because while we are focusing on tongues, Paul does something rather clever here. The poetry in these lines are not just beautiful prose, but they are an intellectual progression. In fact he seems to be addressing the summation of spiritual gifts he just mentioned in chapter 12. I’ll put them in chart here to help us see this.

Spiritual Gift
(1 Corinthians 12)
Contrasting Argument
Wisdom …so that I might understand wisdom…
Knowledge …and that I might understand knowledge…
Faith …if ever I should have faith…
Prophesy …if ever I should have prophecy…
Miracles …so as to transport a mountain…
Tongues …though I speak with tongues…
Helps …if ever I should give all I have to the poor…

Now this is clever the way Paul presents this, because you could take each one of these on its own and you could say whichever gift you have, if you aren’t using it in love it doesn’t do you any good. Let me come back to this idea of “doing us any good” in just a second.

There is also a cumulative effect in his progression of thought. Each statement builds on the next. He says, even if you have this gift, and you add another gift, and then you add another, and then you add another, no matter how many gifts you may have, even if you have every gift possible, if you don’t have love, it doesn’t do you any good.

Now why is that? Well first of all, we should ask, should the spiritual gifts be of any benefit to us personally to begin with? No. Why? Because the gifts are to be used to edify the Body. Why were the Corinthians being taught to covet tongues? Perhaps there was a perceived personal benefit. Personal spiritually because it was a sign of their new birth; a sign of them having the Holy Spirit perhaps. Personal from a social aspect; and here we see a little bit of the caste mentality maybe creeping in, those who had tongues were viewed as more mature, more spiritual, more holy, more whatever, fill in the blank.

Well Paul throws water all over this notion of a personal benefit. In the first place, the whole idea of love is antithetical to personal gain. And he will elaborate on that in the next several verses. And since love should be the motivation, the whole notion of personal benefit becomes moot. And that is his point in these first three verses. The only way you are going to get a personal benefit from your gift would be a by-product of exercising it for the purpose of benefiting the whole body. So you benefit only as the Body benefits together. So if you don’t exercise you gifts in love, all your efforts are fruitless. You are nothing, and you profit nothing.

So what is love then? We are talking about something that is other than seeking your own benefit. Honoring and respecting the rights and the benefits of others. That really is the definition of love.

(Author’s note: It is understood that love and values are closely tied because this is dealing with the philosophical discipline of ethics.  We love someone because we ascribe value to them.  As John Immel taught us in his 2016 TANC sessions, values are the result of individuals seeking out those things necessary to sustain life.  While we would not say that we value/love another person because we directly “feed” off of them to sustain our lives, we do recognize the emotional enrichment certain people bring to our lives, especially those with whom we have close personal relationships.  But fundamentally we ascribe value to others because in others we recognize the value of our own life.)

Paul engages in this very comprehensive discourse now to explain to us what this looks like. What does it look like not just when we are using our gifts in love but just loving God and others in general. I don’t think it needs to be said that “others” doesn’t just mean other believers, but this should apply to the way we show love to unbelievers as well.

The complexity of the poetry in this chapter is astounding. It is a fantastic work. They way Paul organizes his thoughts into a logical progression, builds his argument, and then does so in such a poetic way is such an epic work that can be appreciated for its aesthetics alone.  We’ll take a look at the structure, but before we do that I want to do a quick word study on these verses. Let’s take a quick look at each of these – let’s call them characteristics of love – and then we’ll dissect the poetical structure.

“Suffereth long”
μακροθυμει (mak-ROTH-oo-my) – To be long-spirited. Forbearing or patient. Love hangs in there for the long run.

“Is kind”
χρηστευνεται (chray-STYOO-neh-tie) – Derived from the word χρηομαι (CHRAY-oh-my), and this has to do with the hand in the sense where one is furnishing that which is needed. “Lending a hand”. To show oneself useful. Acting useful. Benevolent. Love does what is needed for another’s benefit.

“Envieth not”
ου ζηλοι (oo dzay-loy) – “oo” being the negative particle meaning “no” or “not”. “Dzay-loy” is derived from the word which means “heat”. To be boiling with heat. Zeal in an unfavorable sense. “Hot headed”; petulant. Love does not behave like a petulant child who doesn’t get his way.

“Vaunteth not itself”
ου περπερευεται (per-per-you-eh-tie) – The prefix “peri” has the meaning of going beyond or further. The double use of “per” in this word gives emphasis of going farther beyond what is necessary, which is what a braggart does. Giving oneself more honor than one should; elevating oneself. Love does not boast, brag, or elevate itself.

“Is not puffed up”
ου φυσιουται (foo-see-OO-tie) – This comes from the root word φυω (foo-oh) meaning to swell up or grow. To inflate or puff up. Used figuratively, to become proud. Love is not proud.

“Doth not behave itself unseemly”
ουκ ασχημονει (ah-SCHAY-mo-nie) – A compound word with the negative particle “a” meaning “no” or “without” and a derivative of two closely related words; εχω (ech-oh) which means to possess some ability, and σχημα (schay-ma) which is some figure, form, or pattern. Literally, it means “not being able to possess its form.” If someone is behaving in a manner that is considered indecent, he is not behaving the way one would expect him to.  Love behaves in a way that would be congruent with what one should expect of love.

“Seeketh not her own”
ου ζητει τα εαυτης (“oo DZAY-tie ta heh-OW-tays) – Literally, “not seek of herself”. The key word in this expression is ζητει (dzay-tie), and it has the idea of plotting or making a plan. But it is also used as a “Hebraism” (a Jewish idiom or figure of speech) to indicate worship to God. Either meaning has application. Love does not plan for its own self-interest. Love does not worship itself.

“Is not easily provoked”
ου παροξυνεται (par-ox-OO-na-tie) – A compound word from the prefix παρα (para), meaning along or beside, and οξυς (ox-zoos) meaning keen or sharp or swift. Literally, “to sharpen beside.” To make “on edge”. If you think about this figuratively, if someone is “on edge” they are irritated or frustrated. Love does not become frustrated quickly. Think about how this is related to the first quality of “suffering long”.

“Thinketh no evil”
ου λογιζεται το κακον (oo log-idz-eh-tie to ka-kon). The key word in this expression is λογιζεται (log-id-zeh-tie), and it means to take an inventory. Love does not take an inventory of evil. Or as Paul Dohse says, “don’t keep a sin list.”

“Rejoiceth not in iniquity”
ου χαιρει επι τη αδικια (oo CHAI-rie epi tay ah-di-KEE-ah) – The word αδικια (ah-di-kee-ah) is a compound word from the negative particle “a” meaning “no” or “without”, and the word δικη (dee-kay) meaning right or just. So this expression literally means “not cheerful about unjustness.” Love does not show joy over unrighteousness.

“Rejoiceth in the truth”
συγχαιρει δε τη αληθεια (soon-CHAI-rie deh tay a-lay-THIE-ah) – The word for truth is interesting;  “a-lay-thee-ah”.  It is a compound word from a negative particle “a” meaning “no” or “without”, and the word “lathano” which means “to lie hidden” or “to be ignorant”. Truth in this sense is literally that which is no longer hidden, or something revealed. Truth is the opposite of ignorance. But notice now that the word “rejoice” translated here has the prefix “soon” before it. The prefix “soon” means “together”. In this one statement, we are to understand that two things are joyful; love AND truth. Each are dependent upon the other. Love shares a joyful symbiotic relationship with truth.

Paul sums up his dissertation on love with four concluding statements.

“Beareth all things”
παντα στεγει (PAN-ta steh-GEH-ee) – Literally, “to roof over”, that is, “to cover with silence”. In other words, to keep quiet about something. Think about how this relates to “suffering long” and “not taking an inventory of evil”. Love does not bring up past wrongs. It is all-enduring.

“Believeth all things”
παντα πιστευει (PAN-ta pis-tyoo-EH-ee) – To have faith in someone or something. To have faith in someone means that you assume the best about them. Love does not automatically think the worst about others. It is all-believing.

“Hopeth all things”
παντα ελπιζει (PAN-ta el-PID-zie) – To anticipate with joyful expectation. The Greek word for “hope” does not describe a wishful sort of thinking. It is a looking forward to with absolute certainty, like a child anticipates Christmas morning. He knows it’s going to happen. Love anticipates with certainty the best from others. It is all-expecting.

“Endureth all things”
παντα υπομενει (PAN-ta hoo-poh-MEH-nie) – A compound word from the prefix “hupo”, meaning “under” and the word “meno”, meaning “to stay or remain”. Literally, “to remain under” like the foundation or some other supporting structure. The implications here are both one of submission but also one of support. Love remains supporting even when it has been wronged. It is all-supporting.

Something you should notice about chapter 13 is that there is a distinct change in the literary style. In chapter 12, Paul’s style was logical and conversational. But Paul’s Hebrew cultural influence becomes apparent in chapter 13 as he switches to a very poetic style. One of the most defining characteristics of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. This can be seen in Psalms, where the writer expresses a thought and then restates that same though another way in the next line. The thoughts can either be comparative or contrasting. Paul uses a more complex form of parallelism called inverse parallelism, and you can see it here in 1 Corinthians 13:7. The relationship between these four aspects of love looks like this:

With inverse parallelism, what you have is a structure where the two outer statements are related, and the two inner are related. Rather than just a simple parallelism where you have a statement followed by a restatement or a contrasting statement. Here is another way you can look at it.

Paul uses parallelism as a poetic way to express his thoughts by restating the same idea in a different way in order to make his point understood. If you look closely at the definitions you will see that the ideas of “bearing” and “enduring” are very much the same thought. Love does not bring up past wrongs (all-bearing/enduring); The parallel thought is, it remains supporting even when it has been wronged (all-enduring/supporting). It endures those wrongs. Likewise, the ideas of “believing” and “hoping” are also very much the same thought. Love does not automatically think the worst (all-believing), and the parallel thought is, it anticipates the best with certainty (all-hoping/expecting).

In fact, if you go back and consider the first 8 characteristics of love in verses 4 through 6, they are also arranged in a much larger and even more complex inverse parallelism construct. Let me show you what that looks like.

But, here you have the first 8 characteristics of love. And I’ve drawn brackets around the lines of parallel thought, and you can see how they are nested inside of each other. This is a good way to help you visualize the lines of parallel thought.

Look also at this group in the middle that actually begins with the last clause of verse 5 and includes verse 6. Paul says love “thinketh no evil,” and then to reinforce that statement, he uses a pair of parallel statement to clarify it or enhance or embellish what he means by that. In what way does love not think evil?

Now the structure of the chapter changes again here. And I want us to try and see the parallelism. Paul makes a grand summarizing statement about love and then contrasts that with three examples. So what is the grand summarizing statement? One generalized, overall characteristic of love.

Love never fails.

ουδεποτε εκπιπτει (oo-deh-POH-teh ek-PIP-tie) – The word for “faileth” is a compound word from the prefix “ek”, meaning “out of” and the word “pipto”, meaning “to fall”, literally or figuratively. In this sense, it does not describe something that comes to an end, but rather something that no longer measures up to a perceived standard of excellence. Love will never let another down. Another way to think about this is that love will never not live up to its expectations.

BUT! Compare that to other things. And Paul uses three examples, and notice that he chooses three spiritual gifts to use as examples. Take note of the progression.

8Love never faileth: but

whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;
καταργεω (kat-ar-GEH-oh) – to be rendered entirely useless

whether there be tongues, they shall cease;
παυω (POW-oh) – to pause or stop

whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
καταργεω (kat-ar-GEH-oh) – to be rendered entirely useless

I’m not sure why the translators of the King James used a different expression for the same word, but they did. I think they took some liberties with the poetry there to make it seem to say something it doesn’t. But what I do want to mention is that all three of these verbs are in the passive voice. That means the subject is the recipient of the action. So prophecies don’t just fail, prophecies will be rendered entirely useless.  Tongues don’t just cease, tongues will be stopped.  Knowledge doesn’t just vanish away. Knowledge will be rendered entirely useless.

Now Paul has only referenced three gifts here. He could have used all of them couldn’t he? But usually when you’re making an argument it is sufficient to cite three examples. So really, what Paul is saying about these three gifts can really be said about all the gifts can’t they? Why is that? What do you suppose Paul is getting at? What’s his point?

I think the point is the temporary nature of spiritual gifts. All of them. And I don’t mean temporary from standpoint of any given age or dispensation or era, but temporary in the sense that we shouldn’t make more out of gifts that what is intended. The transient nature of gifts. Again, what is the purpose of gifts? It is for mutual edification of the Body. Not for the edification of the individual. The Body isn’t always going to be here. One day it’s going to be taken in the rapture, or individual members are doing to die and await the resurrection, so you can already see this transient nature of spiritual gifts. They only serve a rather immediate purpose only.

So I think what Paul is getting at here is that it’s foolish to spend all this time coveting after something that you can’t have in the first place, is of no benefit to you personally, and is really only temporal in nature for the time that you are here in this world fellowshipping with the Body of Christ.

To drive home this point, Paul takes each of the three examples and develops each of them with a now/then comparison. So here we see the parallelism come into play again. Using this kind of comparison he going to show the incompleteness of each gift, and you will see the transient, temporal nature of spiritual gifts; how they serve a purpose now, but something better is coming.

So here’s the first one, in verses 9 and 10:

9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

So what is the “now”? What is true about now? Knowledge and prophesy are incomplete. The word in the Greek actually refers to it as an installment. And that is really interesting the way Paul puts this. What does Paul call the Holy Spirit elsewhere in the New Testmant? Doesn’t he refer to the Holy Spirit as the “earnest” of our inheritance? What is an earnest? That’s an Old English term that means like a down payment. It’s a good faith payment that signifies that the rest of the payment in full is coming. Now isn’t it interesting to think of spiritual gifts as an installment. So God has an inheritance waiting for us. But He didn’t give it to us all at once. He gave us a down payment on it when He gave us the Holy Spirit, and He made an installment payment when He gave us our spiritual gifts.

Isn’t that an even more important reason why we should not covet after someone else’s gift? It’s a payment that isn’t ours. It’s not owed to us. It’s owed to someone else. Do you think we should covet after someone else’s installment payment that’s really owed to them? So for now, gifts are only a partial payment, but something better is coming.

THEN, something perfect is coming. The word here for “perfect” actually means mature or complete. So, why settle for a partial payment when the complete payment is yet to come? When we get our inheritance, the partial payment, the installment, the gift, is no longer needed. So NOW, we have only an installment, but THEN full and complete reward.

Ok, next one. Verse 11:

11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

And this one builds on this idea of maturity or completeness. I used to be a child. I talked, behaved, and though like a child did because I was immature. I was not grown up yet. But I grew up and became a man, and so I don’t behave like a child anymore. So here is a great metaphor that Paul uses to make this point. We understand this. We understand what it means to grow up. So NOW, restating this idea of incompleteness, NOW we are not mature or complete, but THEN, one day in the future, we will be mature and complete. So let’s understand that these gifts that we are coveting after that we think are so important and we place such significance on, in the grand scheme of things, one day we are going to put them away. They are childish. Not childish in the sense of pettiness, but childish in the sense of being not complete or not mature. Maturity should be our goal. That’s where our aim should be.

Last one. Verse 12:

12For now we see through a glass, darkly;
but then face to face:
(now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known.)”

Notice this one even has a parenthetical thought inside of it, another parallel thought that restates this parallel thought. What is the “now”? NOW we see through a glass darkly. And we can assume that this implies knowledge, but we don’t have to assume because he tells us in the parenthesis, my knowledge is incomplete. Now I know in part. With that word for “in part” he again refers to it as an installment. I don’t have full knowledge.   It is like looking at my reflection in a foggy mirror.  If I have the gift of knowledge, guess what, it’s only an installment payment. There is more coming.

Well when will that be? THEN – face to face. When I see the Father face to face I will be complete. How complete will I be? “Even as I am known.” Everything God knows about me – which is everything. God knows everything about me, so we will know just like God knows about us. The suggestion here is that we’ll know everything God knows.

You see why love is so important? You see why Paul rebukes the Corinthians. Let’s put our gifts into perspective. There is something better coming. Don’t get so hung up on the here and now. Just love each other and don’t worry about what everyone else has.

You know I heard a good saying some weeks ago. I can’t remember who said it, but I use it with my kids at meal time. You know how kids are, kids are all about fairness, so they always get stressed out if one of their siblings is taking too much corn, or too many potatoes, or the bigger piece of chicken. But I heard this, and this is what I tell them. Don’t look into your neighbor’s bowl to see if he has too much. Look into you neighbor’s bowl to make sure he has enough. And I though, what a great statement! That’s what love is about. Not coveting after what your neighbor has and comparing it with what you don’t have. No, love says, hey brother, do YOU have enough?

Paul says the spiritual gifts are only an installment. They have a purpose only for now, to edify the body. The full payment is coming.

But there is something that is going to stay. There is something that IS now and will remain forever. What is of lasting value? There are three things.

Faith, Hope, and Love.

And out of all of these, the greatest is love. Why is love the greatest? Because love fulfills the law. Love is the antithesis of fear.  Fear is all about condemnation and judgment and death. But love is all about life!

…To be continued

Andy Young 2016 Session 2 Archive Video (YouTube)  Audio Only (mp3)

Exercising Spiritual Gifts in Love – Lesson 1: The Body as a Metaphor

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 26, 2017

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

Click here for lesson twoClick here for lesson threeClick here for part four
(Links to the archived files are found below)

I usually have trouble trying to decide on what my sessions are going to be about for these conferences. Those of you who are familiar with the Tuesday Night Bible study endeavor, you know that I am very comfortable taking a book of the bible and just methodically working through it like we did with our Acts study. I am not very comfortable with topical studies because you run into the danger of proof-texting. (stacking verses to support your topic). And I think I explained that somewhat at the beginning of my first session at the 2014 conference a couple of years ago.

Some time ago when Paul and Susan and John Immel and I were first getting into the planning stages for this year’s conference, Paul was wanting to go with this theme of coming out of a Protestant Dark Age. This Dark Age has been characterized by fear. This protestant gospel keeps men under condemnation, and so as a result you have millions of Christians walking around in constant fear that they are going to do something to mess up their salvation because they are still worried about condemnation, even though Romans 8:1 PLAINLY states that there is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Rather than living lives characterized by fear, the life of the believer should be characterized by love. So with this “awakening” as it were, as we try to help believers come out of this Dark Age, what we need to be doing as believers, as we seek to disciple others, as we seek to build up each other and equip each other, we need to help people overcome this fear of condemnation and help each other learn how to love. I really think if we spent more of our time, our effort, our energy focused on loving others there wouldn’t be any time to think about fear.

A few months ago I wrote an article for Paul’s Passing Thoughts, on 1 Corinthians 13. It was basically a word study on the definition of love. As I was trying to decide on a topic that would fit in with the theme for this year’s conference I decided that I would take what I wrote for that article and expand on it. What the apostle Paul is dealing with in chapter 13 is not just a treatise on love. Chapter 13 is great study on its own, but there is so much more to be learned in the larger context, and so I want us to be able to see where this definition of love fits in, what is Paul’s larger message that he’s trying to communicate. What exactly is Paul addressing here in this section of 1 Corinthians?

So I think this will work, because it allows me to be able to speak on a particular topic, but at the same time we will go through an exegetical study of a larger passage, and so we will avoid the risk of “proof-texting”.

To put it in a nutshell, this section of 1 Corinthians is actually about spiritual gifts. And while chapter 13 is a wonderful treatise on love, it is really about how believers are supposed to use their gifts. This topic entails all of chapters 12 through 14, and we are going to go through all of it.

So here’s how I’m going to do this. I don’t intend to get bogged down in a detailed look at each of the gifts. If we wanted to do that we could probably spend months on that kind of study, and frankly I don’t think the canon of scripture we have is an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts. I really think that there are other gifts that some believers possess that aren’t listed in scripture. And I could give you various reasons for that.

As we go through this study we are going to see Paul discusses the gift of tongues at length. Because of that, I think it would be helpful in our study if we began with a review of tongues. So before we get into 1 Corinthians, lets begin by going to Acts 2.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” ~ Acts 2:1-4

They were filled with the Holy Ghost (furnished).  And as a result of being furnish with the Holy Ghost, what happened? Verse 4

“…[they] began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Here is the first reference to what many call gift of tongues. Now I’m using the King James, and it is translated “tongues”

γλοσσα – “glos-sah” – the tongue. By implication, a language.

This is where we get our English word “glossary.” Not some mystical, spirit-language. I would assert that this means an actual literal spoken language. There is more evidence that supports this later on in Acts 2, but I want you to look at this other word.

utterance – αποφθεγγομαι – “ap-off-THENG-oh-my” – to speak forth plainly and distinctly

“As the Spirit gave them the ability to enunciate plainly!”

Do you see here, the implication is that these disciples were speaking a language that was meant to be understood by those who heard it because it was plain and distinct. And later on when we get to chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, we’ll see this notion of plain and distinct come up again.

What else do we learn about tongues from this passage? Jump down to verse 6

“Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?…we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” ~ Acts 2:6-11

Once again we see in this passage the word “tongue”. I want you to see something here. This is not the same word that was used in verse 4. This is not “glossa,” it’s a different word. The word here in the Greek is:

διαλεκτος – “dee-ah-lek-tos”, dialect, more specifically, vernacular.

Now what do I mean by that? What is vernacular? Well let’s think about it this way. We all speak English here right?  I was born and raised in a suburb of Buffalo, NY. When I moved to Columbus I didn’t really think I talked much differently from people around me, but people used to ask me all the time if I was from Cleveland. If you’re not familiar with Ohio, Columbus is in the middle of the state, and Cleveland is in the north end of the state right on Lake Erie. Buffalo is also on Lake Erie, and so it makes sense that people in Columbus thought I sounded like I came from further north.

We all know that there are many verbal cues that people use that immediately tells others something about what part of the world they come from.

– Accents
– word usage

pop, soda, Coke.
grocery bag, sack, poke
athletic shoes, tennis shoes, sneakers
cookie, biscuit
diaper, “nappy”
elevator, lift

– idioms and figures of speech.

All these things are not just unique to a particular language but also to various regions within the same country that speak the same language.

So this is important to keep in mind with what we see happening here in Jerusalem on Pentecost. You have thousands of people who have made this pilgrimage. These are Hellenistic Jews who live in various regions all over Asia Minor and Persia and northern Africa as a result of the dispersion following the Jewish captivity in Assyria and Babylon, and they have made this trek to Jerusalem to observe Pentecost. And suddenly they hear native Jews speaking in their home language of these Hellenistic Jews.

And not just speaking their language. See, when you learn a foreign language, it’s one thing to learn the words and the grammar and sentence structure. But what most people have a hard time getting right is the accent. You can tell right away when you hear someone talk, if they have an accent that gives it away, they’re not from here.

But these Jews said, “These men from Jerusalem, they sound just like us! We hear them in our own dialect, our own vernacular.” The same accent. They sound just like a native speaker. They sound just like someone who spoke this language all their life. That’s not something everyone can master. But when the Spirit filled these disciples in the upper room, they began to speak and they sounded just like those from their native countries. I think this is yet one more point that supports this idea of an actual human language. It certainly was plain and it certainly was distinct. Distinct enough that these men were amazed that Galileans could speak and sound just like them!

So we have established that the gift of tongues from the very beginning was a real language meant to be understood by the hearer. In fact, they said it again in verse 11. We hear them in our own tongue.   It’s the same word again, “dialektos”.   And just like any other spiritual gift, it was given to men for the purpose of building up the body of Christ and equipping believers to do their work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11, 12 tells us that. And we see that very thing happening in Acts 2. When the disciples were speaking in tongues they were preaching the wonderful works of God! They were giving the gospel, in languages that were foreign to them, but could be understood by those who heard it.

But tongues also served a more specific purpose. Being a spiritual gift, it was to be used for edifying the body, but Peter explained in Acts 2 that this gift of tongues was a sign. And it was a sign specifically to the Jews. And I won’t get into it here, but Peter goes on to cite Joel 2 and he says that this sign of tongues was part of the fulfillment of the Joel 2 prophecy. The Jews would see this sign of tongues and it would be an indication to them that what was happening was authentic. It stated to the Jews that being born again by faith in the name of Jesus Christ was the real thing.

This was vitally important to understand because when we fast-forward to Acts 10, and we have this account with Cornelius, we have this first account of a mass-conversion of Gentiles. And what happened to them? Acts 10 says while Peter was yet speaking, the people (Gentiles) listening were persuaded, and they believed and they were born again. How do we know that? Because THEY (Gentiles) started speaking in tongues!

Up to this point the Jews thought that being born again was a Jewish thing. They still didn’t really understand the concept of the New Man that would be comprised of both Jew and Gentile. So this was a major lesson for Peter and the rest of these Jews present at Cornelius’ house. They see Gentiles all of sudden speaking in tongues, and now this sign has relevance for them as well. It was God’s way of saying, “See, just like when this happened to you at Pentecost, the same thing is happening with these Gentiles.” And Peter and the rest say, “Wow, so I guess God means to bring salvation to the Gentiles too, because now they have the Holy Spirit just like we do!”

So this gift of tongues was important because it was a sign that indicated outwardly to everyone who witnessed it that indeed this person was truly born again. But! – and let me emphasize this – it’s purpose as a sign was meant for the Jews.

So now we finally come to 1 Corinthians 12, and this gift of tongues comes up again, because it appears as if there was some confusion. The Corinthian believers were a confused bunch weren’t they? And I’m not going to take the time here to try and get into the details of what Paul is responding to. This letter is a response. It is reactive and not proactive. Paul is reacting to things that have been brought to his attention.

I will go so far as to say that this is true of not just Paul’s letters but all of the letters of the New Testament. The only exception might be the letters Paul wrote to Timothy. But what we see throughout 1 Corinthians is Paul attempting to correct wrong thinking or wrong teaching and ultimately wrong behavior in these assemblies. In the first part of the letter he’s dealing with a man having an inappropriate relationship with his step-mother. In the chapter just prior to our passage he’s dealing with their unruliness when they fellowship in general and observing the Lord’s Table in particular.

When we come to chapter 12, you can see there is a dramatic change of subject. Paul puts a period at the end of chapter 11. “Ok, I’m done with that subject, let’s move on to the next issue,” as if he’s marking off a checklist of topics.  That next issue has to do with spiritual gifts.

So like I said, I don’t want to get into the details of speculating about what exactly Paul is responding to or more specifically, what was the issue that the Corinthian assemblies brought to Paul’s attention. The beginning of chapter 12 gives a little indication, but as we go through this we come to learn that it has something to do with spiritual gifts in general and tongues in particular.

So Paul starts out here giving kind of an overview about the function of spiritual gifts, particularly in regard to this idea of a body.

12For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot shall say, “Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body;” is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear shall say, “Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body;” is it therefore not of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21And the eye cannot say unto the hand, “I have no need of thee:” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: (23and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24For our comely parts have no need). But God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

This is Paul’s reasoning. He’s using a physical body as a metaphor to describe the Body of Christ. These are the assumptions, the premise, the starting point. “Let’s assume this to be true.” He’s using an example that everyone is familiar with. He is establishing reality. People can relate to this because they can observe this. That’s how we organize reality. We observe how things work and we come up with assumptions and draw conclusions. So we have these assumptions about a physical body, and then Paul says, well, this is how the spiritual body works as well, and then we take action accordingly.

So let’s ask ourselves some questions.

How is the Body of Christ like a physical body?
– A body is one.

Now I don’t want to digress into a discussion about if a body is a collective or is it an individual, or get into this argument about was Paul promoting collectivism or the notion of the destruction of the individual for the benefit of the group, because that is not the point here at all. This passage should not be used as a proof text for either side of that argument. This is a metaphor. It is a figure of speech used to aid in the understanding of truth.

13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free;

This isn’t the only time Paul has used this kind of language to describe believers. If you go back to one of the things I talked about at last year’s conference, you remember I spoke about the believer’s identity, and how a believer is part of the body. We looked at this passage in Ephesians 2:11-17.

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” ~ Ephesians 2:11-17

So a body is one. It is whole. It functions as one. But even though it functions as one whole…

– A body is made up of parts.

14For the body is not one member, but many...
But now are they many members, yet but one body…

This next point I think is most important because this is where we start to get into the meat of the passage.

– All the parts are necessary!
God put all the parts together to make the body work properly. If there is no nose, the body can’t smell. If there is no eye, the body can’t see. Remember these things. We’re going to come back to this in a minute, but there is one other thing I want to mention before we go on to the next point. A body with a missing part is still a body, but its ability to function is hindered. Let me say that again… A body with a missing part is still a body, but its ability to function is hindered.

– The parts are not envious of each other!
This ties in with the previous point. Just because a foot is not a hand doesn’t mean it’s not a body part. The foot doesn’t go around wishing that it were a hand. Just because an arm is not a leg doesn’t mean it’s not a body part. The arm doesn’t go around wishing it were a leg.

Taking this point a little further…

A body that is nothing but arms is not much of a body. Unless you’re an octopus, a body that’s all arms (or all feet or all hands) is pretty useless. If your body is all hands, it can’t see or hear or taste or smell or run or jump or speak.

So remember how we just said that a body that is missing a part is hindered in function, so also is a body that has too many of a particular part. It’s not going to be very effective at what it was designed to do.

Now, Paul says that believers are part of a body; the Body of Christ; the New Man. What is this spiritual body designed to do? Go out and make disciples. Or think Ephesians 4:12, the “work of the ministry.” This body has a job to do. And just like a physical body, the spiritual body is made up of parts, and those parts are put in place by God to carry out a particular function that enables the body to do its job.

The functions of the physical body parts are analogous to spiritual gifts. Every person who is added to the Body of Christ is given a particular gift, as God sees fit, that will best help the Body to accomplish its job. And Paul lists some of these gifts. This list is by no means exhaustive. We can look in some other places in the New Testament and find other gifts listed that aren’t mentioned here, but there is this list in starting in verse 8. Words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

Now a little later on in the chapter he is actually going to prioritize these, so we’ll get to the in a minute. But the point is, God has given different gifts to every believer.

• Not everyone has the same gift.


• No one has every gift.

I think that’s important to notice. What if everyone had every gift? We wouldn’t need each other would we? There would be no need for us to fellowship together. The Greek word is koinania. It means having in common. What do believers have in common? Do we all have the same gift? No. We are all part of the same body. That’s what we have in common. We’re all part of the Body of Christ. And for the body to function, we need to come together from time to time for fellowship, and edify each other by exercising our gifts. When we come together as a body, and the whole body is working as one, and every part is doing what it’s supposed to do, every part of the body grows. It’s edified.

More than that, the whole body grows. We are edified to do the work of the ministry, and that is to go out and make disciples. We go out and give people the gospel of the Kingdom, and they hear it, and they are persuaded, and they believe, and then they are added to the body, and they receive a gift so that they can in turn edify and be edified. Mutual edification of the body, and they grow and mature, and then they go out and give the gospel, and it goes on and on and on and the pattern repeats itself over and over.

This by the way, is God’s method for church growth. Notice there is nothing here about a building program, or a week of special services, or an evangelical outreach committee, or a youth mission retreat, or inviting your lost friends to church. It’s the body that goes out and finds them. The body gives the message. This is by the way the one task that is common to every believer despite whatever happens to be their particular dispensation of gifting. This is not a task only for pastors. This is not a task only for evangelists. This is not a task only for specially trained missionaries going to a particular country. This is the task of EVERY believer. And when the whole body is working together, when everyone is exercising their specific gift, then each member is edified, and EVERYONE has everything they need to go out and make disciples themselves!

So where does love fit into all of this? Well another point that Paul makes about the body, and I touched on this before, is that every part is vital. Paul acknowledges in this passage that there are some parts that are of greater importance than others. Now I need to be careful here because I don’t want to give the wrong idea. We understand that every part is important because it is part of the body. But we also understand that the heart is more important than the pinky toe. We can live without our pinky toe, but we can’t live without our heart. That being said, none of us would ever say, I don’t need my pinky toe so I’m just going to cut it off right now.

But Paul goes on to say that those parts of our body that seem insignificant we take special care of. Your pinky toe might not seem to be all that important, but have you ever smashed your pinky toe? If you have a broken toe, you know it with every step you take. It’s there. Or how about this; you’re pounding a nail, and the hammer misses and you hit your thumb. What is the first thing you do? Other than scream a few choice words that believers would never utter, what do we do? We grab our thumb with the other hand and hold it tight. Notice, that when one part of the body hurts, other parts of the body come to its aid. And also as a body, we would never hit our thumb on purpose. I tell that to my kids. Kids do that, they can often get into the practice of cutting each other down and calling names. But I tell them, hey we’re a family. We’re all part of a body. Why are you trying to hurt your body? Why are you hitting your thumb with a hammer on purpose?

When one member hurts, the whole body hurts. And conversely, when one member is praised or honored, the whole body rejoices with it. What affects one member affects the whole body, whether positively or negatively.  Paul made this same point in Romans:

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
~ Romans 12:15

This is love. Now Paul doesn’t come right out and call this love. He’s going to develop that in chapter 13. But these are the points he makes.

This is love:

  • Recognizing that we are all part of the same body
  • That we all have a particular function (gift)
  • Each member’s gift is important to helping the body grow
  • Each member’s gift is important to helping the body do its job
  • I should not be envious of another member’s gift
  • I should be exhorting other members to use/develop their gifts.

Now Paul begins to address the specific issue. The problem is that the Corinthians weren’t doing this. They weren’t showing love when it came to exercising spiritual gifts. Go back to our passage in 1 Corinthians 12, and go to verse 27. Paul makes the connection here for us in this passage. Paul draws this conclusion that we’ve already discussed. Just like a physical body, believers are members of Christ’s Body. Look at verse 27.

27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28And God hath set some in the assembly, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31But [you] covet earnestly the best [better] gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Ok, so there’s the connection. Now Paul has already given us a list of gifts up in verses 8-10. But notice what he does here. He prioritizes them. Remember we made that point that some gifts were more important than others. Some part of the body were more “comely” than others, but that doesn’t mean we despise those parts that seem less important. We don’t cut them off and say we don’t need them. So Paul prioritizes them for us, in order of importance. Apostles, then prophets, then teachers, then miracles, then healings, then helps (think of Tabitha in Acts 9), then governments (this Greek word is a Latin derivative meaning “pilotage” or having to do with the steering of ships; the implication is leadership/administration), then tongues.

Notice that tongues is listed last in priority, below all the other gifts. And we won’t see this now, not until we get to chapter 14, but Paul makes the case that tongues is a minor gift. It’s not even the most important one. It serves a purpose, but when we get to chapter 14, Paul states that there is another gift that is more important than tongues. So there is a priority of importance.

Then next he draws another parallel. Remember how we said that if you have a body that is nothing but arms, it is not going to be a very useful body. And so Paul says here, is everyone an apostle? Is everyone a prophet? And so forth. The question is, in this assembly, does everyone have the same gift? Are you all the same body part? No, obviously no. It’s a rhetorical question, and Paul uses this argument very effectively, to the extent that here is his accusation: Why are you all trying to covet the same gift?

That is the point in verse 31. Now we have a bad translation here in the King James. For sake of comparison let’s look at verse 31 in some different translations.

(KJV) “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”

(ESV) “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

(NASB) “But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.”

For the most part they all translate this verse the same way, but I think the point is lost in the poor translation. Two things we need to point out. You have this expression “covet earnestly” which in the Greek is the word “dzay-LAW-oh”, which means to be zealous over. This word is in the present tense imperative mood. And we know that an imperative is a command. So in the first part of the verse the Corinthians are being commanded to do something. What is that? Be zealous for the best gifts. The word “best” is also mistranslated, because the word in the Greek is the comparative form and not the superlative form. It should be translated “better” or “greater”.

I think the God’s Word translation actually has the best rendering of this verse

(GW) “You only want the better (comparative not superlative) gifts, but I will show you the best thing to do.”

Now there are two ways you can understand this. Since we are dealing with a command, the question then is who is giving the command? Since it is Paul writing, one could assume that Paul is commanding them. So you could understand it this way:

I, Paul, command you to be zealous for the better gifts.

But what if someone else is commanding them instead. What if Paul is calling attention to the fact that their behavior is a result of what someone else has been teaching erroneously them?

You are commanded to be zealous for the better gifts.

Notice the tense hasn’t changed. It’s still present tense. But now there is a different implication. And this seems to be the source of the problem that Paul is addressing. They were being taught in these assemblies that they need to be zealous for better gifts, better than the ones they may have already been given. And in the context of the whole passage (and that runs all the way through chapter 14) it seems like they were coveting tongues. It would appear that there was a teaching going around these assemblies that, well yes you may have a particular gift, but you all should be speaking tongues, and so they were all going around coveting tongues, to the point of jealousy. Which is not…love. They all wanted something that not all of them had.

And later on when we get to chapter 14, Paul is going to say, look, if you’re going to covet after a gift, you should covet prophecy because prophesy is more important because more people in the assembly can be edified by it. Now, not that Paul was condoning coveting ANY gift, because clearly here at the end of chapter 12 he’s rebuking them. But hypothetically speaking, if you are going to covet a gift, why are you coveting an inferior one. It’s almost sarcasm.

Paul says you are not showing love because you are not interested in gifts for the sake of how it will edify the body. You want this because you think it is somehow superior, or maybe that it is indicative of your spiritual state. And look at Paul’s final statement at the end of verse 31. “Let me show you a more excellent way.” Let me show you a better way. Let me teach you about love. Let me show you why it is important to have a proper view regarding spiritual gifts. And he launches into this fantastic treatise on the definition of love. And that is what we will look at in the next session.

…To be continued

Andy Young 2016 Session 1 Archive Video (YouTube)  Audio Only (mp3)