Bible Questions and Answers

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Paul writes in 1 Corinthians to the church at Corinth:

1Corinthians 1:7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (NIV)

By this he means that the church, as a body, had received a full complement of Holy Spirit gifts.

In chapter 12 he lists the gifts and it seems clear that different gifts were given to different people to serve in different capacities in the church.

1Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. (NIV)

Note that ‘Speaking in tongues’ comes at the end of the list.

He goes on to write:

12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?

30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

The answer the Greek requires to each question is ‘no’. This clearly shows that in the first century church at Corinth they couldn’t all speak in tongues.

In verse 12 he has already written:

12 ¶ The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (NIV)

And in verses 17-20:

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (NIV)

Individual churches were designed by God to function as a single unity with each member having a different part to play for the building up of the whole and so had differing gifts.

Speaking in tongues was not the ‘unintelligible speech’ as professed today but rather speaking in foreign languages so that the Gospel could be preached to people in their own native ‘tongue’.

As Luke describes at Pentecost.

Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 ¶ Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.

6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?

8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?

9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome

11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs— we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" (NIV)

Speaking in tongues is described as a sign not to believers but unbelievers.

1Corinthians 14:22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.

23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone (ie. if they were all able) speaks in tongues (that is a language they cannot understand), and some who do not understand (the Gospel) or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody (that is. if they were all able) is prophesying (that is publically expounding the Gospel) , he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged (convicted) by all, (NIV)

If members of the church wanted a gift they should rather ask for the gift of prophecy (meaning the ability to publically expound the Gospel in their own language) than for the ability to speak in tongues.

14:5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified. (NIV)

Speaking in tongues in the church was not to be permitted unless someone who understood the language being spoken could interpret for the benefit of the rest.

14:27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three— should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.

28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.(NIV)

Conclusion: it is not important for everyone to speak in tongues.

It is not important for anyone to speak in tongues.

Speaking in tongues is not said to be essential for salvation in the same way that belief, baptism and keeping the commandments of Christ are.

It was rated last of the list of spiritual gifts by Paul – a less desirable gift than the ability to publically expound scripture in their own language – for an obvious reason.

It remains to be proved that the Holy Spirit Gifts given in the first century are available today.

Those that profess them often belong to different denominations and it seems to me unlikely that gifts intended to enable many members of a church to function together as one body to preach one Gospel would be given to different churches who cannot agree a common Gospel.

Is Christ divided? Does he bestow gifts on churches that preach different Gospels?

The prime purpose of the Holy Spirit baptism at Pentecost was to guide into TRUTH.

John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth... (NIV)

"What is truth?" asked Pilate. We do well to ask the same question.

I hope this helps