Speaking in Tongues is not the point – 1st Corinthians 14:1-25

3 Sep

Last week I mentioned that this past Sunday’s sermon was going to be about speaking in tongues.  We have been working our way section by section through the book of 1st Corinthians, and on Sunday we finally made it to chapter 14, which is all about speaking in tongues.  Feel free to listen to the sermon here.

I started the sermon off with a audio example of speaking in tongues.  See what you think of it.

What Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 14 is that speaking in tongues, while very dramatic and potentially spiritually encouraging, is not the point of worship.  Over and over throughout the chapter he says there is another point, edification. That’s not a word we use very much in our regular conversation.

What does edifying mean? Paul uses it a bunch a times in this passage. The NIV also translates it “strengthening” in verse 3 and “build up” in verse 12. And through those two words you get a clue. It means “to increase the potential of someone or something, with focus upon the process involved” (Louw & Nida). This is a great word for the process discipleship, for growing in Christ.

But you can’t be built up if your mind isn’t involved in the process! That is huge. Paul is emphasizing how important our minds are in the process of becoming like Christ. As Christians we don’t check our brains at the door. But Paul is concerned that the overuse or the improper use of tongues is like checking your brains at the door. Turning them off. Look again at what he says in verses 13-17. Our priority should be for communication in a real language that leads to understanding and edification!

That’s why Paul’s comments in the next few verses are so helpful. While he is glad that he speaks in tongues, what he really wants is intelligible words. In verse 19 he says that five intelligible words to instruct are superior to 10,000 words in a tongue.five_words Obviously Paul is speaking hyperbolically, with exaggeration for effect, to make a point. Churches and individuals who gather for worship should be emphasizing clearly understood teaching far, far above speaking in tongues.

To grow into a mature disciple we need to move in the direction of understanding, of knowing the Word of God, of learning who God is, what his heart beats for, and what it means to love and obey him.

This is why I emphasize that you get a Bible you can really understand. Get the Life Application Study Bible in the New International Version, and read it, including the study notes. Be involved in a small group for further Bible Study. Don’t just come to worship and then leave. Stay for sermon discussion or a Sunday School class. Join us on Wednesday evenings for Bible study and prayer.

Examine your motivation. Excel in gifts that build up (edify) the church, Paul says. That means that the focus of serving should not be on us. We should not serve so that people can see us serve and thus think that we are good servants. We should serve to build up the church. Not to get credit for ourselves, but to encourage and strengthen others. The focus of the use of our gifts, of serving in the church is others.

The point of worship is edification.  So let’s be passionate about edification!

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