What does 1 Corinthians teach about tongues?
That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with all year as we’ve preached through 1 Corinthians. In pursuit of understanding these chapters myself, I’ve written a number of blogposts. And here is a culminating post offering 15 propositions to crystallize what Paul says and does not say about tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.
More must be said about this subject, especially as it relates to redemptive-history and the book of Acts. Moreover, more could be said comparing and contrasting Acts and the rest of the New Testament. But what follows focuses on 1 Corinthians 12–14.
Here are the 15 propositions. You can find biblical expositions below.
- Tongues, as a spiritual gift, fit into the larger categories of what Scripture says about tongues.
- Tongues reverses the strife caused by the “gift” of tongues at Genesis 11.
- Tongues is a judgment against Israel.
- Tongues is a spiritual gift.
- Tongues was the least of the gifts.
- Tongues were not given to everyone.
- Tongues is not discussed in any other letter, not even 2 Corinthians.
- Tongues does not address men, but God—maybe.
- Tongues as private prayer language is not from the Spirit.
- Tongues are nothing compared to prophesy.
- Tongues are lexical languages.
- Tongues must be interpreted.
- Tongues in the plural may be different than tongue in the singular.
- Tongues are not absolutely forbidden by Paul, but they die the death of ‘one thousand qualifications’.
- Tongues are not a normative practice today.
Proverbs says a soft answer turns away wrath. James 3 says that the tongue is a fire which can set a whole forest ablaze. 1 Corinthians 14 says to not forbid speaking in tongues, yet it also gives a long list of qualifications. With all these words about the tongue and tongues, how should we proceed?
Our words have incredible power for building up or tearing down.This is true in general and it is also true with the spiritual gift of tongues. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he learns that this gift was making divisions worse, and so he gives some important words about that gift and about how we use our tongues.
In Sunday’s sermon, I took the first step in trying to explain 1 Corinthians 14 and I spent my time focusing on the main point: build one another up in love by means of your spiritual gifts, especially prophecy. I defined what prophecy and tongues were, but I made most of the applications related to how we use our tongues. Next week we will finish up the chapter, and in two weeks, Lord willing, we will return to the whole chapter to answer questions about this confusing and often misapplied spiritual gift.
You can listen to the sermon online or read the sermon notes. Discussion questions and resources for further study are also listed below. Continue reading
This last Sunday we considered how love endures, looking at four movements in Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13.
- From the temporary to the eternal (v. 8)
- From the partial to the perfect (vv. 9-10)
- From the child to the man (v. 11)
- From the mirror to face to face (v. 12)
Sermon audio is available online; discussion question and study resources are listed below.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.