Lesson 45

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

14:6 But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking with other languages, what would I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching? 14:7 Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they didn't give a distinction in the sounds, how would it be known what is piped or harped? 14:8 For if the trumpet gave an uncertain sound, who would prepare himself for war? 14:9 So also you, unless you uttered by the tongue words easy to understand, how would it be known what is spoken? For you would be speaking into the air. 14:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of sounds in the world, and none of them is without meaning. 14:11 If then I don't know the meaning of the sound, I would be to him who speaks a foreigner, and he who speaks would be a foreigner to me. 14:12 So also you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek that you may abound to the building up of the assembly. 14:13 Therefore let him who speaks in another language pray that he may interpret. 14:14 For if I pray in another language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.  

Today's Lesson 

In today's scripture Paul continues to address a specific problem that was plaguing the Corinthian church. There were Christians who were disrupting the gatherings of the church in Corinth by an abuse of a spiritual gift. These people had the gift of speaking in a language for which there was no interpretation. They would pray aloud in this unknown language, but no one other than the speaker was edified because no one could understand what was being said. In the last lesson Paul began to address this issue by reminding the Corinthians that every spiritual gift was given for the building up of the body of Christ. Spiritual gifts are not an end in themselves, they are meant to be exercised through Christian love for the advancement of the church.


In this section Paul explains why this practice should be discouraged during the assembly. It is important to note at the beginning that Paul does not deny the gift or tell the Corinthians that it must never be used. What Paul tells them is that speaking in a language that no one understands should be discouraged DURING the gatherings. He goes on to give them several reasons why this should be.


He begins by asking them what it would be like if he came to them and spoke in such a way that they couldn't understand him. Would his visit profit them? Or, he goes on to write, don't inanimate objects that make sounds have purpose and meaning? The trumpet in war must make intelligible sounds or no one could follow the instructions of the warlords. The pipe and the harp must play intelligible music or they are deemed to be worthless noise.


If a man speaks in a language that we do not understand, he is a foreigner to us. The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is to draw people together into unity in Christ. The exercise of this particular gift in Corinth was having the opposite effect. Instead of uniting the people, it was producing strife and envy. So Paul tells them that they should pray for the gift of interpretation or for the gift of prophecy. Through these gifts, God explains the mysteries of His will.


There has been much conflict in the church over the last decade about the charismatic gift of tongues. While this passage directly addresses its use in worship services, it does not address many of the issues about which people have disagreed. Paul's purpose in this passage is to admonish the Corinthians not to use their gifts to disrupt the body of Christ. He encourages them to only do that which builds up the church and to avoid that which is divisive and disruptive.


The practical application of Paul's message is for us to consider how we each exercise the gifts that God has given us. We should use our gifts in such a way as to cooperate with the Spirit of God so that the cause of Christ is advanced through their use. God does not give His gifts for our own personal benefit. They are given to the servants of Christ for the glory of Christ. Misuse of these gifts creates confusion and disunity.


Are you a source of peace and unity for those around you? Do you use what God has given you to bring glory to Christ or to glorify yourself?


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