Face To Face With Tongues

A Verse by Verse Examination and Exposition On the Subject of Tongues


1st Corinthians 12

INTRODUCTION: Among the many problems believers were having at Corinth, tongues were probably the worst.  Paul spends more time in attempting to correct this problem than he does any other.  Three chapters are used, going into great detail, covering most aspects concerning tongues.

In Chapter 12, the many gifts are enumerated, emphasizing what the believer's proper attitude toward the gifts should be.  Then, as it is today, the gift of tongues was misused, counterfeited by a Satanic spirit, and held in preeminence over all the other gifts.

Chapter 13 informs us exactly how long God will extend the gift of tongues and when they will cease.

Chapter 14 give the instructions concerning the purpose and regulation of tongues until they cease.  We will not expound on every Verse, only those that have a bearing upon tongues.

  1. God's Gifts to the Individual. (Verses 1-11)

    (Verse 1).  "...I would not have you ignorant."  This is the purpose for the next three chapters.  After Paul concludes dealing with tongues, he closes with "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant" (14:38).  In other words, if a person will not study and take God's Word concerning tongues, they will have to go on and remain ignorant as there is nothing else that can be done for them.

    (Verse 3).  "...no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed..."  A very interesting statement, for it informs us that some were speaking in tongues by a false or counterfeit spirit and were actually cursing Jesus.  The sad thing is--those who were responsible thought they were speaking by the Holy Spirit, when they were not.  The demons were having a field day in Corinth, cursing Jesus through the tongues speakers without their knowledge.  These questions arise: "How is it possible for this counterfeit spirit to work through people and actually curse Jesus?  What did these people do wrong that enabled this to happen?"  The answers are given in the remainder of the Chapter. 

    (Verses 4-6).  Three times we are told there are different gifts: "...there are diversities of gifts" (Vs. 4),  "there are differences of administrations" (Vs. 5), "there are diversities of operations" (Vs. 6).  Notice how these Verses present the Trinity: Verse 4, the Spirit; Verse 5, the Lord; Verse 6, God.  The Lord is telling us that there are many different gifts.  All of the gifts are not for one person and all people do not have the same gift. 

    (Verse 7).  "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal."  This is the conclusion to Verses 4-6.  That is, every Christian possesses at least one gift with which to profit.  Notice the Words, "every man."  Every Christian has at least one gift from the Lord.  The Lord is now laying the foundation concerning His gifts to the believer.  Remember, those in Corinth were seeking the gift they wanted, tongues, instead of realizing there were many gifts in addition to tongues.  This was their first error which allowed a counterfeit spirit to operate with and through them.

    (Verses 8-10).  Here the Lord elaborates upon the gifts, so there will be no mistake or speculation as to what some of them could be.  Notice the gift of interpretation in Verse 10.  At Corinth, it was always to accompany tongues.  This was their second grave error which allowed a counterfeit spirit to work.  In 14:5, one was to interpret; in 14:26, an interpretation is expected; in 14:28, one was prohibited from speaking in any assembly unless one interpreted.  This way a counterfeit spirit would be exposed, as the spirit of the interpreter (through the Holy Spirit) would not bear witness with that of the speaker speaking by a false spirit.  Those in Corinth were so zealous of tongues they were speaking without an interpreter; therefore, the counterfeit spirit could operate unmolested, undetected, and even curse Jesus Christ.  The reason ... no one knew what was being said.

    (Verse 11).  "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."  Here is the danger of not knowing God's Word or will.  At Corinth they wanted the gifts they had chosen, instead of God's will.  Notice carefully, the gift, or gifts, given by the Holy Spirit are divided "to every man severally as he (God) will."

    The Charismatic movement today is parallel in error to the Charismatics at Corinth.  Speaking in tongues signaled to them that they must be in touch with God.  I have, literally, talked to hundreds of Charismatics and, almost without exception, have been advised by them that "anyone can have the gift of tongues if they want it."  A comparison of this Charismatic claim against the Word of God illuminates the darkness of this movement.  Let us read Verse 30 of this Chapter,

"Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?"

The original Greek of this passage reveals that these are rhetorical questions to which a negative answer is assumed.  Therefore, the answer to all questions of Verse 30 is, "No!"  It could not be any clearer.  Not everyone was to have the gift of tongues.  The Lord would be the One Who decided what gift, or gifts, He would give to each believer.

  1. God's Gifts to the Church (12-31)

    (Verses 12-17).  In these Verses the Lord likens each believer and his gift, or gifts, unto the human body as a means of explaining the Body of Christ and how each believer, with his gifts, fits in.  The human body needs all parts to function effectively; so all believers who make up the Body of Christ have various gifts so it will operate in the same way.

    Verse 13 of the above passage reveals two major errors in the beliefs of Pentecostalism and tongues speakers of today.

"For 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."

  1. The Baptism of the Spirit is into the Body of Christ, not into tongues.
  2. This Verse says all have been made to drink (same as "baptized") into one Spirit.  Tongues cannot be evidence of the Baptism of the Spirit, since not all speak with tongues (Verse 30); but, all believers are baptized into the Body of Christ.  Verse 13 refutes one of the major errors of Pentecostalism, who say that speaking in tongues is evidence of the Baptism of the Spirit.

Verse 18 gives the conclusion to these Verses:

"But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, AS IT HATH PLEASED HIM."

(Verses 18-24).  These Verses emphasize one central point--no matter who has what gift, each are of equal importance.  God's Word emphasizes this.  Personally, I hear a thousand times more about the gift of tongues than any of the other gifts.  Something is wrong--God says they were all equal.

(Verse 25).  This adjusted their attitude to the proper level.  In Corinth, tongues had become an obsession.  Their attitude toward others incited division because of tongues.  One should never consider themselves a more spiritual being because of a particular gift.  We must remember, we possess a gift because God gave it to us.  With this attitude, we will have the same care for one another and there will be no division.  This is exactly what Verse 25 states,

"That there should be no schism (division) in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another."

(Verses 28-31).  In closing Chapter 12, the Lord reminds them again that not all have the same gift, not all are to speak in tongues.  "But covet earnestly the best gifts;..."  This is the one, or more, that God has given you!  It is interesting to note that the gift of tongues is listed last of all the gifts; yet, the Corinthians had put them first.  Everyone wanted the lesser gift of tongues which, outwardly, appeared spiritual; but, in reality, was the most carnal.

"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ."

The "more excellent way" in Verse 31 is the love, or "charity," of Chapter 13.  It does not matter how spiritual you might appear to be by speaking in tongues.  Is the true Holy Spirit working in your life to manifest the true love which is evidenced by unity and caring one for another? (Verse 25)

Let us summarize the teaching and correction concerning tongues given in this Chapter:

  1. The Corinthians were ignorant concerning tongues (Verse 1)
  2. They were ignorant about other things as, in the past, they had worshipped dumb idols (Verse 2).
  3. Spiritual baptism is not evidenced by speaking in tongues; but, the placing of the believer in the Body of Christ instantaneously with faith in Christ (Verse 13).
  4. There was division because of tongues (Verse 25).
  5. There was lack of care for one another which resulted from overemphasis on tongues (Verse 25).
  6. Tongues are given last (Verses 10,28).  They placed them first.
  7. Tongues were not for everyone (Verse 30).  The Corinthians thought they were.
  8. They were so obsessed with tongues they put the other gifts in a "feeble" class, and considered them of little necessity (Verse 22).
  9. They were self-centered and lacked the true love of God by the true Holy Spirit (Verse 31).  The "more excellent way" is the word, "charity," in Chapter 13 and, literally, means "love."  They lacked the true love of God that produces harmony and care one for another (Verse 25).
  10. The gifts were not to be selected by the believer; but, given to each as God willed (Verses 11,18).

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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

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