Rules That Guide Speaking At Church (1 Corinthians 14:26-33)
- 14:26-28 Paul ask a question, “How is it then, brethren?” and then goes on to describe what their chaotic gatherings must have been like: each one has a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation. Then he clearly states, “Let all things be done unto edifying.” Edification is the goal of the gathering of every church. So Paul is basically saying, whatever your church meeting is like, if it isn’t edifying then it is wrong and it needs to stop. If anyone speaks in an untranslated tongue there are a few rules to follow: (1) Only allow two or three at the most to speak; (2) they should speak “by course” or successively, in order and one at a time; (3) finally they can only speak with interpretation. But if there is no interpreter, the person who has the gift of speaking in tongues must keep silent in the church. He can’t speak publicly. Instead he can speak to himself (meditate) and speak to God (prayer) silently—obviously with language you can understand not gibberish otherwise the problem is the same, it is unfruitful.
- 14:29-31 Another gift that was part of the church at that this time was prophets (Acts 13:1; Ephesians 2:20; 4:11). They also had rules to follow: (1) Only allow two or three to speak; (2) the other prophets were to judge what was said; (3) if one of the prophets who is sitting there and not speaking receives revelations from God, then the one who is speaking should hold his peace or stop speaking and allow the other to speak; (4) they must prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and be comforted.
- 14:32-33a To clarify any other confusion, Paul states that, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”—meaning that each prophet can control himself. No one can say they can’t control what they are doing because of the Holy Spirits work in their life, etc. And finally, Paul explains the basis for all of these rules, the character of God—he states, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”. Confusion, upheaval, disorder are not characteristics of God. Instead, peace and harmony are descriptive of what God is like. Therefore, in all churches of the saints, we should reflect God’s character.
- Conclusion: Edification is important (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 15:2-3). It is the goal of meeting together as a church. When the church meets together, everything they do should not only edify but also be done in such a manner that it reflects God’s very character—that which leads to peace and not confusion. Speaking gibberish seems to be at odds with God’s character and not in line with it.
Authority, Decency And Order (1 Corinthians 14:34-40)
- 14:33b-35 As in all churches of the saints—meaning the following principles will apply to all churches—women should remain silent in the churches, because they are not permitted or allowed to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience—to be in submission—this isn’t a new principle but also mentioned in the law (1 Corinthians 11:3-15; 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Since the reason for them not to speak is because they need to be in submission, it seems this prohibition for speaking in church is focused on speaking in an authoritative manner, such as judging what the prophets were saying, speaking in tongues, or any kind of lead teaching or any type of speaking that brings down male leadership in the church. Thus, in this context, it would be a shame or disgraceful for women to speak in the church, So Paul tells them to learn by asking their husbands at home.
- 14:36-38 Paul is teaching the church with authority because he knows that some might not like to read what he is writing to them. Again he sarcastically ask them, “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?”—meaning were they the original source and authority for the Word of God, of course not. So Paul goes on to say that if any person thinks they are “a prophet, or spiritual” they should acknowledge that the things that Paul wrote unto them are “the commandments of the Lord”—they have the full authority of Scripture like the Old Testament. If anyone be ignorant—refuse to acknowledge this truth, we are to let him be ignorant—ignored, not acknowledge, not recognized (they are not to be a part of this discussion because they reject Scripture).
- 14:39-40 Finally, Paul ends the discussion by summing up his key points: (1) they were to covet or be zealous to prophesy; (2) they were not to overreact and forbid people to speak with “foreign languages” but it was to be allowed to accomplish its purpose as a sign to unbelievers and in church according to the rules—especially translation; (3) they were to let all things be done decently and in order.
- Conclusion: Paul’s teaching is authoritative and supersedes all human experience. Those who aren’t following what Paul has said are not obeying the commandments of the Lord. They weren’t to forbid tongues because it had a necessary purpose but also it wasn’t the gift that Paul told them to pursue—prophesy was.
Answering Hard Questions
- What if I spoke in tongues and it made me feel better and more joyful etc? This is your emotions and emotions don’t tell us what truth is. For example, you can listen to a good song but it has nothing to do with Jesus and it can make you feel good. We can’t just do things because it makes us fell better, energizes us, etc.
- You can say that tongues don’t exist today, but so many people around the world speak in tongues, how can you explain this? It is true that there are people all around the world claim they speak in tongues. But there are two type of tongues: false and true. “False tongues” are the gibberish nonsense that most people claim to speak. The problem is that these false tongues can’t be verified because they are not human languages. A person might claim the gift of “interpreting” but their interpretation can’t be verified either. This is convenient for those who want to speak in false tongues because there is no standard to be compared to. Thus, this also voids one of the purposes of speaking in tongues—to confirm the word that is preach with signs and miracles. How does speaking gibberish and someone claiming they can translate it confirm the word being preached? Miracles are supposed to be obvious supernatural workings of God that are undeniable (like healing a blind man, not healing someone with a cold). On the other hand, real “tongues” are authentic human languages and therefore they can be verified by the vast number of people who speak that language. How many people today claim to speak real “tongues”? Not many, because this claim can actually be verified. Thus, we most who claim to speak tongues today are just speaking gibberish.
- Doesn’t the Bible says to “forbid not to speak with tongues”? Yes, but it is referring to speaking in real “tongues” and not a false “tongue”. The Bible never encourages speaking in gibberish. We don’t forbid people to speak in real tongues, but we think it has already ceased people don’t have this gift. If someone want’s to speak at church in a foreign language they can if they follow the rules—especially that it needs to be translated.
- If I spoke in tongues before but now I am told it is wrong, what was I doing before when I was “speaking in tongues” and what should I do now? Hopefully, you are convinced by the Bible that there is a false way to speak in tongues. If you were speaking in tongues before and it wasn’t a real language then you were just speaking “happy gibberish” or just sounds from your current language that are often repeated over and over again (which Jesus gives us a warning against when praying in Matthew 6:7). You should recognize this and choose to not spend time in emotional babble, but instead focusing your efforts in prayer and Bible study with your mind fully concentrated on it.
- Why are tongues and prophesy compared? Both are gifts from the Holy Spirit, one means to speak in a foreign language supernaturally and the other means to speak God’s revelations supernaturally but not in a foreign language, thus in your native language—which is also the most likely the language of the people you are talking. So it is comparing “native languages” and “foreign languages” or “language understood by the hearers” and “language not understood by the hearers”. Thus, prophecy is proven to be superior in gift for communication, pray, praise and spreading the gospel.
- Are the tongues in Acts and 1 Corinthians that same gift of tongues? Yes, it is the same gift of the Holy Spirit and not two different gifts. A detailed comparison proves this.
Interpretation Is Needed Or It’s Useless (1 Corinthians 14:13-17)
- 14:13 Therefore—if the goal is church edification—then if a person speaks in an untranslated tongue he should pray that he may interpret—to clearly explain meaning to the hearers so that the church can be edified.
- 14:14-17 Paul continues his sarcastic tone and once again points out the silliness using an untranslated tongue or gibberish to pray. If a person prays in such a manner, he is praying with his “spirit”—his inner being, passion, human spirit, heartfelt, sincere—but his understanding or his mind is completely unfruitful. So what should this person do? Paul simple says to pray with your spirit, but also pray with understanding. This means he should stop praying in a language we don’t understand because there is no comprehension. The same thing goes for singing. We are to sing with our spirit and with our understanding. Otherwise, when we sincerely (with the spirit) bless but we are speaking gibberish or an untranslated tongue, how will others (“he that occupieth the room of the unlearned”) agree and say, “Amen” when we give thanks? They won’t because they don’t understand what we are saying. We might be giving thanks well, but the others are not edified.
- Conclusion: Any believer who was given the gift to speak another known human language that they have never studied was to only use it within the church if it was interpreted into the language of hearers in the church.
Only Speak What Can Teach Others (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)
- 14:18 Just to make sure everyone knew that Paul was not against the use of real “tongues” he thanks God because he actually spoke with tongues more than the church at Corinth. The difference is that Paul used the gift properly and for the right reasons. (Note: There is no record in the Bible of Paul speaking in tongues, which is important to note because he had the gift and used it a lot, but it wasn’t important enough to write down.)
- 14:19 Paul continues, even though he spoke with tongues more than those in the church he was writing to, he makes it very clear that in the church he would rather speak five words with his understanding, that by his voice he might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an untranslated language or gibberish.
- Conclusion: Even though Paul spoke in tongues, he never misused it or chose to speak in a foreign language instead of speaking in the language of the hearers. To Paul the important part of any gift is the ability to teach others.
The Purpose Of Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:20-25)
- 14:20 Pauls next step is for us to understand the purpose of why tongues were given as a spiritual gift. First, he chides the Corinthian believers for being children in their understanding. He tells them to be children in “malice”—(perverting moral principles) but to be men in their understanding—that is to be mature and think carefully about the situation that he is presenting to them. They need to grow up in the Lord.
- 14:21 Then he shows them the prophecy about tongues, saying that in the law it is written (Isaiah 28:11-12), “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” This was a prophecy that God was going to use people who spoke other languages (Gentiles) than that of Jews, and speak to the Jews, but they would also reject this message. This was fulfilled in Acts 2:3-12 (Jews) and 10:44-46 (Gentiles) when God gave men each different languages. (Note: Some languages the hearers could understand and some they couldn’t understand, which is probably the reason for them mocking, saying, “These men are full of new wine. ” From what we have already learned, if you don’t know what someone is saying, he is like a barbarian to you.)
- 14:22 Therefore—because of the prophecy—tongues were for a sign to unbelievers not to them that believe. But prophesying on the other hand serves for them which believe not unbelievers (1 Corinthians 2:14).
- 14:23-25 Paul makes another comparison through a hypothetical situation. He says if the whole church comes together into one place and everyone is speaking with “tongues”—all kinds of different earthly languages probably at the same time—and there comes in those that are unlearned or unbelievers they will say that the church is mad—insane, uncontrolled emotion and chaos. This is obviously not the response that we want. So this was an example of misusing a real spiritual gift. On the other hand, if everyone was prophesying—speaking one earthly language, that of the hearers—and there comes in those that are unlearned or unbelievers, there is the opportunity that they may be convinced of all, judged of all, the secrets of their hearts made manifest and so falling down on their faces they will worship God and report that God is really among you. Thus, even though tongues was a sign to unbelievers, prophecy does a better job at evangelizing the unbelievers—it is superior.
- Conclusion: The main function of tongues was to serve as negative sign to unbelievers. Thus, as tongues were properly spoken, it did positively edify the church thorough allowing people to hear in their own language the wonderful works of God—but don’t forget this fulfillment and blessing itself was the sign of judgment given to the unbelieving Jews. This also gives temperance to this gift.
Prophesy Not Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1-5)
- As a side note, before we study this chapter, the following has been noted as a helpful guide to properly understanding this chapter. In the original language (Greek), there is a singular word “tongue” and a plural word “tongues”. Some translations clearly note this difference, but sometimes it is lost in translation. Thus, for a possible clearer understanding, read the singular form “tongue” used in the following verses of this chapter: 2, 4, 13, 14, 19, 27 as “untranslated language” and the plural form “tongues” used in the following verses of this chapter 5, 6, 18, 22, 23, 39 as “foreign languages”. Other uses are as follows: verse 9—“tongue” is speaking of your actual tongue; verse 21—“tongues” uses a different word but means foreign language as well; verse 26 uses a different word but it is also in the singular and thus can be read as “untranslated language”. If this is not helpful to your study, then you can simply read all the uses of “tongue/tongues” (except verse 9) as “foreign languages” for a simpler understanding of what is meant and the problems within the church.
- 14:1 This chapter starts with three things that we should do: (1) We are to “follow after” or strive for “charity” or sacrificial love—the type of love explained in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; (2) We are to “desire” or be zealous for spiritual gifts—every person is given different gifts by the Holy Spirit for the profit of all or the church—as explained in 1 Corinthians 12:1-10; (3) We are to a greater extent (“but rather”) be zealous that we may prophesy—communicating God’s word in the known human language of the hearers.
- 14:2 Paul starts by mentioning about people speaking in an “unknown tongue”—which is an “untranslated language,” a “none human language” or “gibberish”. Whatever they are “speaking,” they are not speaking to people because no one can understand what they are saying—which voids the purpose of spiritual gifts: to profit all. Instead they are speaking unto God (or they think they are)—at first glance this seems like a good thing, but here are two considerations: (1) anyone speaking gibberish to Almighty God is not respectful of Him—it was as if they were treating God like they did their idols (1 Corinthians 12:1-2); (2) they were speaking in the untranslated language and only God knew what they were saying. Also, they were speaking by their own human spirit (not the Holy Spirit) and they spoke “mysteries”—things that were not understood. Again, this can have two understandings: (1) if speaking gibberish with new mysteries—this is opposite to the other teachings about “mysteries” because God is now “making known the mysteries” (Colossians 1:25-27; 2:2-3; Ephesians 3:5-10; 1 Corinthians 2:7-14; 1 Timothy 3:16); (2) if speaking an untranslated language—it was a mystery what they were saying because now one understood and there was not translation taking place.
- 14:3 On the other hand, the person who “prophesieth” speaks to people for their edification (upbuilding, strengthening) exhortation (encouragement, support), and comfort (consolation). This is a spiritual gift that if used properly will accomplished its intended function—especially because not translation is needed.
- 14:4 Paul then goes on to sarcastically make a comparison: a person who speaks in an untranslated language or gibberish does so to edify himself, but a person that prophesies edifies the church. This is not a prescription for how a person should edify himself and edify the church. A few possible understandings: (1) This is a contrast. One is right and one is wrong. Edification is always other focused. See the following verses for a study in edification: Romans 14:19; 2 Corinthians 12:19; Ephesians 4:12, 16, 29; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Timothy 1:4. (2) Selfishness described as self-edification is never the goal of the spiritual gifts that we are given by the Holy Spirit and therefore to use them for to edify yourself and not the church is wrong (1 Corinthians 12:7). (3) Maybe the person understands what he is saying even though the church doesn’t so he can only edify himself, but it is still not the best way.
- 14:5 Paul then says he “would” or wishes them all to speak in “tongues”—to have the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak authentic foreign language. He is not contradicting what he already stated about the gifts (the Holy Spirit distributes different gifts to different members and not all will have the same gifts; 1 Corinthians 12:11, 30), but is just emphasizing through using a hypothetical situation to show that even if he could make everyone speak in tongues (foreign languages) that he would wish to an even greater extent for everyone to have the gift of “prophesy” because it is communicating God’s word in a known human language and the church would be edified. (Compare 1 Corinthians 7:7 where Paul also said that he “would” or wished all men single.) Thus, “prophesy” is greater unless it was accompanied by interpretation—translation into the language of the hearers—and thus able to edify the church.
- Conclusion: The emphasis is on “prophesy” the superior and “tongues” as the inferior. There was a possible “false tongue” and a “real tongue” being spoken. Prophesy was better than both because of its ability to edify the church without translation. Thus, the goal of all spiritual gifts is to edify the church, in which prophecy is superior.
Excel To The Edifying Of The Church (1 Corinthians 14:6-12)
- 14:6 Paul then says that if he came speaking to the church with the real gift of “tongue” that it wouldn’t be profitable for the church unless he was transmitting, by interpretation, understandable revelation, knowledge, prophesy or doctrine.
- 14:7-8 To help our comprehension of this basic logic—understanding is needed for edification—Paul gives us some examples: (1) lifeless things that make sounds, such as a pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, we won’t know what is being played; (2) if a trumpet gives an uncertain sound then people won’t know to prepare themselves for the battle.
- 14:9-11 In the same manner as the examples above, unless we speak intelligible words —words easy to be understood—with our actual tongues, no one will know what we are saying. We are just speaking in the air. Gibberish is just speaking into the air with absolutely no benefit. There are all sorts of real human languages spoken in the world and they all have meaning and significance when they are spoken—people don’t just speak gibberish. Therefore, if someone doesn’t know a certain language when it is spoken to him, then he will be a barbarian (an incomprehensible foreigner) to the speaker and the speaker a barbarian to him. Languages spoken that can’t be understood between the speaker and listener divide not unify (Genesis 11:1-9).
- 14:12 So the same principle applies to the church and its members who are zealous (enthusiastic and fervent) of spiritual gifts: they are to seek or strive to excel to the edifying of the church. A language spoken without significance is worthless—gibberish or an untranslated language does not build up the church.
- Conclusion: All spiritual gifts should be used to edify the church, especially all the “spoken gifts”. This means real “tongues” shouldn’t be used unless there is translation and the church can be edified. Gibberish should never be used.
The Second Use Of Tongues In The Bible—Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48)
- 10:44-48 Peter was preaching the word (Acts 10:34-43) and the Gentiles heard, believed (Acts 10:43) and received the Holy Spirit. They even started to speak with tongues—because of Acts 2:1-11 this would mean to have the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak an authentic foreign language that you have never studied—and what was the content of this speaking in tongues: magnify, praising and extolling God. (It also seems apparent that the believing Jews could understand what the tongues speakers were saying.)
- Conclusion: So this is a gift for Jews and Gentiles with the common factor being that they are believers. This also seems to fulfill in part what Mark 16:16-20 had meant.
More Gentiles Speak In Tongues (Acts 19:1-7)
- 19:1-7 Paul laid hands on about 12 Ephesian male disciples and they received the Holy Spirit and they began prophesying and speaking in tongues—again because of Acts 2:1-11 this would mean to have the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak an authentic foreign language that you have never studied.
- Conclusion: More fulfillment of the purpose signs was given is taking place (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).
Tongues Is A Spiritual Gift (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)
- 12:7 There are a diversity of spiritual gifts but there is unity in all of them (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) and everyone who is given the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is for the “profit withal” or the common good.
- 12:10 Some believers were given the spiritual gift of “divers kinds” or various kinds of “tongues” or foreign languages. Thus, some believers were given the special ability to speak an authentic foreign language that was previously unknown to them. Some believers were given the spiritual gift of “interpretation” or translation of “tongues” or foreign languages. Thus, people were given the ability to translate an authentic foreign language that was previously unknown to them.
- 12:11 All the gifts are the work of the one and the same Holy Spirit, and he distributes them to each person as he will (1 Corinthians 12:18).
- Conclusion: The supernatural ability to speak foreign languages and to translate foreign languages was part of the spiritual gifts mentioned. God through the Holy Spirit gives to people according to His will and not everyone has the same gifts but we will have different gifts. The purpose of the gifts is to profit everyone not self. Thus, not everyone will be able to speak in tongues or translate tongues.
Tongues Aren’t Given To All Believers (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)
- 12:28-30 Again it is stated that God gave the church “diversities of tongues” and then the questions are asked, “Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” It is a rhetorical question—meaning the answer is an obvious “no”—not every person will have the same gifts in the church body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). He ends by telling us to covet earnestly or desire the best gifts—as this is a good thing to do—but he will show us a more excellent way—love. Spiritual gifts are good, but love is better. Some believers speak in tongues and some will translate but every believer should love.
- Conclusion: The spiritual gifts are not a sign of spiritual maturity but “love” is. Every believer will have different gifts, not the same ones. We are to covet the best gifts—tongues is not in that category (1 Corinthians 14:1, 3-6, 24, 29, 31, 39).
Tongues Are Temporary (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 8-10)
- 13:1 The clear object of this chapter is to show “love” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) is the more excellent way. It is more excellent than any spiritual gifts that we could have. He strongly states that we could be doing many great things for God, but if we didn’t have love, then it would be useless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). He uses many hypothetical situations (“though I give my body to be burned”; 1 Corinthians 1:3) to emphasize the great importance of love in every situation. There are two examples that we need to address in our study. First, “Though I speak with the tongues of men…”—Paul starts off by saying that if he spoke in “tongues of men”—which is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak authentic foreign languages and “have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal”. Tongues without love is just noise. He adds “of men” which clearly indicates he is talking about genuine human languages. Second, he adds “of angels” or the “tongues of angels”—which means to speak the same as angels do. But what do angels speak? Every time an angel speaks in the Bible, those whom the angel is speaking to understands what is being said without translation. Thus, from the evidence we have in the Bible we can guess they probably have the ability to speak human languages without studying them. So it seems then that Paul is saying that even if he has this ability but didn’t have love it would be useless. Angels serve as messengers in the Bible who always clearly give the message to the intended receiver of the message (so Paul is probably saying, “If I could be like that!”). Thus the notion that there is an “angelic language” or the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues is an “angelic language” has no Scriptural support. (Angels Speaking: Genesis 16:9-11; 21:17; 22:11; Matthew 1:20; 2:13; Luke 1:19 and many more verses.)
- 13:8 Again, love is the emphasis of this verse because love “never faileth”. Then he goes on to show “tongues” is inferior to love because “they shall cease”. The word “cease” simply means to have an end. When tongues have fulfilled their role they will no longer be a gift that the Holy Spirit gives to believers. So what was the role of tongues? (1) Tongues were a sign to confirm the message and messengers of the gospel before we had the completion of the New Testament to guide us (Mark 16:16-20; Hebrews 2:3-4); (2) Tongues were a sign of judgment to Israel and unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:21-22; Isaiah 28:11-12). Thus, in the “early church” (in Acts etc.) these two signs were fulfilled, which makes sense why this gift seems to have ended. Outside of Acts and 1 Corinthians (which were of the same time period) no other believers are recorded in Scripture to be using this gift nor is it mentioned again in Scripture. Where did it go? It seems that it fulfilled its role and then ceased. Note: the two other gifts in the verse “prophecies” and “knowledge” will also come to and end one day, but the words used are “fail or vanish away”—which technically have the same meaning “to become inactive”. But When? “When that which is perfect is come”. These two are specifically mentioned in verse 9 (but tongues is not) which leads into verse 10. This state of perfection is most likely referring to our eternal state with God when things will be completed and not “in part”.
- Conclusion: Tongues is an inferior gift. It is only useful when exercised with love. There are no known angelic languages in the Bible. Tongues will cease and it seems apparent that they have already ceased. Therefore, it seems tongues are no longer being given to believers by the Holy Spirit.
Speaking in tongues means that the Holy Spirit would give a believer the supernatural ability to speak a real human language that the person had never studied as a “sign” to the unbelievers and Jews of judgement against them. The positive side of this sign is that God was now using Gentiles and Jews as the church (and in every human language) to carry forth His mission in the world. Because it is a spiritual gift with a specific purpose it wasn’t given to every believer and the gift seems to have ceased because its function has already been accomplished. If a believer believes that this spiritual gift still exists, then it should only be used as according to the prescribed rules Paul gives us (1 Corinthians 14:26-33) with the emphasis being on interpretation—meaning it translated into an intelligible speech to the hearers so that it can edify the church, otherwise, no believer is permitted to use this gift. Non-languages or “gibberish” are not to be used because it goes against the very character of God who is not the author of confusion, but of peace.
- By “tongues” we mean an “authentic foreign languages” which are existing human languages. (For example: Chinese, English)
- By the “gift of tongues” we mean a believer miraculously speak in an authentic foreign language that was previously unknown to the speaker. (For Example: A Chinese believer can miraculously speak English.)
- By “counterfeit or false tongues” we mean a person speaks in non-languages, gibberish or speech that isn’t made up of words or the structure of known languages. This type of “tongue” can’t be translated because is contains no cognitive information.
Tongues Are Promised (Mark 16:9-20)
- 16:16-20 In the context of the great commission, it is recorded (although many doubt this passage was in the original, but was later added, either way, it has been accepted and is in the Bible) that Jesus told His disciples that certain “signs” will follow them that believe. In Jesus’ name they would perform the following signs: casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, protection from serpents and drinking any deadly thing (poison), and healing the sick. The purpose of these signs were to confirm the word or gospel that they were to preach to every creature (and new believers as they joined in preaching the word). There are three clarifications we need to make about this verse (two in relation to understanding tongues): (1) Baptism is not part of salvation. The way verse 16 reads can be taken that baptism is necessary to be saved, but it’s not, it is part of the great commission which is the reason for its inclusion. So the statement is true, a person who believes and is baptized will be saved, but as the verse continues is clarify “he that believeth not shall be damned”—meaning “believing” is the way we accept the gospel and are saved. Thus, baptism is just something that believers do as our proclamation of believing in Jesus and not something that must be done to be saved. Other verses also help us see this verse in this light: Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-9; 1 John 1:7; Colossians 1:20. (2) The signs were especially promised to the apostles of Jesus (Matthew 10:1; 2 Corinthians 12:12) and not to “every person who believes at all times,” but “some believers—those who believe and are given these gifts” would be able to perform these signs like the apostles. Every believer has been given different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). (3) These signs are not meant to be a test for true salvation—meaning we aren’t saved because we can or can’t perform these miracles. Only believers can truly perform these signs but not all believers will perform these signs. (4) Signs have a purpose. The purpose here is to confirm the word that was preached everywhere. After it was done, the sign ceases. Also, the signs are not to be used for other purposes or reasons apart from what the Bible describes. For example, the goal of healing someone is to cause others to believe the gospel, not the actual healing itself (otherwise no one would ever have to die, we would just continually heal people). (5) One fo the signs is “new tongues” or to miraculously speak a language that is “new to you” (you never studied it before) which we see happen in Acts 2:4.
- Conclusion: Once the Holy Spirit came and the apostles started to fulfill the great commission, there would be signs to follow and confirm the word they preached. Speaking in tongues would be one of those signs.
The First Use Of Tongues In The Bible—Jews (Acts 2:1-11)
- Acts 2:3-11 The twelve Apostles and about 120 disciples (Acts 1:15) on the day of Pentecost (Exodus 23:14-19) were all with one accord in one place. Then, suddenly they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Each person received divided (coven) “tongues” and they began to speak with “other tongues”—other known human languages than their mother tongue—as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. At this time, there were devout Jewish men out of every nation under heaven dwelling at Jerusalem. (This included the following: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, dwellers in Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and visitors from Rome—both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretes and Arabians. This list includes as least 15 different places.) So when the believers started speaking in tongues, people started to hear this sound of probably 120 people speaking different languages and wondered what was going on. The multitude came together and were confounded because that every man heard them speak in “his own language”—this proves they were speaking real human languages. They go on to say that they even heard every man in their “own tongue, wherein we were born”—meaning they were even speaking in the very dialect of their home towns. The disciples who were speaking were “Galilaeans” and they supposedly weren’t known for being part of the intellectual class of society—which gives reason for everyone being amazed and marveling that they were speaking other languages that they obviously didn’t study.
- The “listeners” which came from “every nation under heaven” had one similar response: they all understood. But they also had two different responses: (1) amazement—they were astounded but also “in doubt”—meaning they were perplexed not knowing exactly what they were experiencing meant. (2) mockery—others mockingly said they had too much wine to drink and were drunk. Why would they say this? The following are possible explanations: they could understand the one person who was speaking their language, but they couldn’t understand what everyone else was saying (so many people speaking different languages) and so it seemed that they were drunk because they didn’t know the other languages; because they didn’t understand, maybe they thought they were just speaking gibberish like a drunk person might do, but in reality it was another language they didn’t understand; or they understood the message they were proclaiming “the wonderful works of God” and because they didn’t like or agree with the content they claimed they were drunk—like a drunk person who just babbles about a certain topic—as a form of contempt for the message they proclaimed.
- Conclusion: Since this is the first and most descriptive use of the gift of tongues, we should use it as foundation in our understanding of what it actually is: (1) Speaking in tongues is a work of the Holy Spirit. (2) Tongues is speaking real human languages and dialects, not gibberish. (3) The message of speaking in tongues was the wonderful works of God. (4) It fulfilled its purpose as a sign to the unbelieving Jews and confirming the word (1 Corinthians 14:21-22; Mark 16:16-20).
Holidays are any days we set aside for a special purpose and celebrate instead of working (or doing the normal daily routine). From a biblical perspective, there is no moral mandate to celebrate any specific holiday. Instead, believers are given the freedom to choose how they will engage the holidays as long as it is pleasing and glorifying to the Lord.
There Are No Biblical Holidays For Believers
- The Bible does not command believers to celebrate or avoid any holidays (including the Old Testament celebrations). It does not commend or condemn any special or holy days that we have to observe as part of our faith. Believers have the liberty to apply biblical principles and being fully persuaded by their conscience as they choose wether or not to celebrate the holidays of the surrounding culture or traditions they have grown up with. This means that it is possible for different believers to come to different views about the same holiday and both are permissible.
Romans 14:5; Galatians 4:9-10; Colossians 2:16-17
- Traditionally, Sunday has been seen as the “Christian Sabbath,” or the day that believers are to not work in order to gather together as a church to remember and worship the resurrected Lord Jesus. It is true that Jesus resurrected on Sunday and that we are commanded to meet together as local churches, but we are never prescribed to do it on Sunday. The bible does describe that the early church meeting on Sundays (as well as other days) and this has become norm for most churches but it is not the law. As believers, we can’t be legalistic about Sunday, but we should be committed to our local churches and the necessity to attend its services. (Note: Because of the New Testament example and church unity, I do think Sunday is the possibly the best and greatest choice.)
Acts 2:46; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 10:25
Christian Cultural Holiday Wars
- Traditions: Many popular holidays that are celebrated by Christians, especially those in the Western part of the world and that have spread to the church globally, have become sacred traditions among believers (such as Christmas and Easter). Secular culture and retailers have also secularized and commercialized these holidays which has caused a culture war between believers and unbelievers. When unbelievers don’t recognize the holiday with the same credence as believers do (and vice versa) a cultural war is started. As believers, we should remember the following:
- Our traditions, no matter what biblical significance we bestow upon them, are not mandated by scripture and are just traditions. Defending them and their significance is not the same as defending the Bible and its truths.
- We can’t and shouldn’t compel unbelievers to participate in what we deem a Christian holiday. There is no reason we should expect other believers, let alone unbelievers, to cater to the specific way the we choose to obverse a day.
- Misleading: Often believers look for historical significance to dictate their desire to claim a holiday or to justify their behavior in celebration a certain tradition or holiday. But it is often misleading to the newer generation of believers, because even though historically many holidays have Christian roots they also have pagan roots. Because we live in a fallen world, our cultures often get mixed together. As believers, we need to make sure that we are redeeming the culture around us.
- Secularization and Commercialization: We can expect the culture that we live in around us to secularize and commercial any holiday where they can cease from work to find pleasure, entertainment or make a profit. Maybe this is why the Bible doesn’t give us any holidays. The one observance that we are given is the Lord’s Supper (although it is not necessarily a holiday). This was given to the church. Only believers can participate. (Who would even think of inviting an unbeliever to participate?). There is no specific day that it must be observed but the observance is irregular. It is beautifully designed to be guarded from secular and commercial influences so that its observance stays pure and true.
Being A Witness In The Culture
- Salt and Light: As believers, we are salt and light among the unbelievers around us. Jesus doesn’t want us to war against them for not following our traditions or go into hiding because their traditions are evil, but He wants us to be engage the culture so that we can keep truth from decaying and people from spoiling their lives. We are to enhance their lives through the works, gospel and word of God. We should be aware that those around us are watching us and they know what our works are like (wether good or bad). Therefore, we should intentionally live out our good works, not so we can receive praise like the Pharisees, but so that they will glorify our Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16; John 1:14; Matthew 20:28; Acts 17:22-34; Luke 5:29
- All believers are faced with deciding what they are going to do with the culture around them. There are parts of the culture that we see as morally bad and other parts that we see as morally good. Many things fall into the category of just being amoral—not right or wrong. Therefore, believers who desire to engage the world as salt and light need to remember the following biblical principles:
- Don’t love the world—any human way or system that is against God. If something is obviously morally bad or sin is involved in the celebration of a holiday, then believers should not participate. We are called out from the unbelievers around us at this point and should shine our light through our difference.
1 John 2:15-16
- Do glorify God. As believers we can take the morally bad and transform it—not through participation in the sinful ways, but through exchanging the sinful with the God glorifying. Just as the thief who is redeemed stops stealing and starts giving—he doesn’t avoid money or material possessions altogether. We should look at every situation saying, “How can I transform this to please and glory God in this?” It doesn’t matter if the thing is originally good, bad or amoral, we have a new motivation that says to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God.
Romans 14:4-8; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17
- Pilgrims: As believers, we need to remember that this world is not our home. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Our lives should be more characteristic of the gospel. Therefore, we are to set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth
Philippians 1:27, 3:20; Matthew 6:20; John 17:24; Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:4; Colossians 3:2
- What holidays does the Bible commend or condemn?
- What are two things we should remember to avoid culture wars over holidays?
- What does it mean to be salt and light?
- What two principles do we need to apply when engaging culture?
- What does it mean to be a pilgrim?
The Bible is full of examples of women in proper complementary roles in the Old and New Testaments. Some of these examples are models that help us understand the authority structure inside the New Testament church (although some are not). Women are permitted to teach in the proper complementary roles and should be actively serving the Lord.
Old Testament Examples
- In the Old Testament there are some examples of women who have the title and ministry of “prophetess”. From these examples we can conclude that: (1) God does use women to accomplish His will and can do great and mighty things through them. (2) God rarely uses women in this role or to address His people through this means. (3) We aren’t given a lot of information about the extent or the characteristics that come with the roles of a prophetess. (4) From the examples that we do have it doesn’t seem like an ongoing ministry but only for a certain time and for certain occasions. (5) None of the Old Testament examples are models for the authority structure in the New Testament church.
- Miriam was a prophetess. She is the first women mentioned in the Bible with this title. In this first mention we also find her spiritually leading other women. She was the sister of Aaron and Moses. She spoke against Moses and was cursed with leprosy for seven days. But she is also listed as being one of the three (also with Moses and Aaron) sent by God to the Israelites who were in bondage in land of Egypt.
Exodus 15:20-21; Numbers 12:1-15; 26:59; Micah 6:4
- Deborah was a prophetess, a judge of Israel, a mother in Israel. When the children of Israel were being mightily oppressed, she speaks with Barak about the Lord’s command for victory, but he failed to courageously lead—saying he would only go forward into battle if Deborah would go with him. She agreed to go with him, but as a result he wouldn’t get the glory of winning the battle but a women would. That is what happened and there is a song that reflects this in the following chapter.
Judges 4:4-24; 5:1-31
- Huldah was a prophetess. She delivered a message to Josiah through his messengers declaring “thus saith the Lord God of Israel”.
2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:22-28
- Noadiah was called a prophetess but is listed with Nehemiah’s enemies. Thus, this is hardly a positive or useful example.
- Isaiah called his wife “the prophetess” which she was possibly given this title because she bore a son that was of prophetic nature. We aren’t told more about her.
New Testament Examples
- In the New Testament, before the start of the church and after Jesus was born, we are introduced to one prophetess named Anna. She was a prophetess who lived at the temple as a widow and served God with fastings and prayers night and day. When Jesus was born she spoke about the child Jesus to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Her title was prophetess and her actions were described as fasting, praying and speaking to others about Jesus.
- After the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus; the coming of the Holy Spirit at pentecost; and the establishment of the church we have many examples that help us understand what the proper complimentary roles for women looks like in the outworking of the New Testament church.
- Philip the evangelist had four daughters who did prophesy—prophetesses. We are not given anymore details about this (ongoing or only one time), but we can simply suggest is was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18).
- Priscilla was a helper in Jesus Christ to Paul and whom he appreciated along with her husband. She and her husband, Aquila, together explained the way of God more perfectly to others in a private setting. (Note: this was together and not individually; privately and not to a congregation.)
Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19
- Phebe was a women who was a servant (deaconess) of the church at Cenchrea. The word used here can mean servant/deacon/deaconess. For a women this wasn’t the official “office of a deacon” but was an additional type of female servant (deaconess) who had the following requirements: being grave—worthy of respect; not slanderers—not malicious talkers; sober—temperate; faithful in all things—trustworthy in everything (1 Timothy 3:11). It was normal for women to teach other women to love their husbands and take care of their children (Titus 2:3-5), as well as, being full of good works, caring for the sick and reaching out to the poor and destitute (Acts 9:36; 1 Timothy 5:10).
- Junia—(assuming a women) was a Jew and fellow-prisoner with Paul. She was appreciated by Paul along with her husband, Andronicus. Junia and her husband were well known to the apostles, but they themselves were not apostles like Paul was. It is possible they were “missionaries” and thus Junia would have had the normal role for women in the church—probably similar to that of Phebe.
- Euodias and Syntyche were women who laboured with Paul in the gospel. But here they are mentioned because they have some disagreement and Paul wants them to be of the same mind in the Lord. We aren’t given any more details about these two women nor are they mentioned again in scripture.
- Finally, when Paul addresses a problem in the church at Corinth with regard to gender he says that “women” will pray or prophesy (or proclaim—but this does not contradict his clear injunction [1 Corinthians 14:34] for women to not hold main positions of teaching and authority over men in the assembly of the church). Then he continues to show that women who minster in the church in a normal manner should do so in accordance with the gender roles that God has ordained—no matter the culture—and not in rebellion against God’s authority structure or against “symbols of authority” according to the culture they are ministering in (the gospel doesn’t void gender distinctions). He even states that if anyone wants to be contentious (not accept this truth—or disagrees with him) about this that they should know that the churches of God have “no such custom” of voiding gender distinctions but always act in a way that properly displays God’s authority structure and our distinctive gender identities—both female and male.
1 Corinthians 11:5-16
- What are some of the Old Testament examples?
- What can we conclude about the Old Testament “prophetess”?
- What examples do we have before the New Testament church?
- What examples do we have after the New Testament church?
- How does Paul help the church at Corinth understand this problem?