Monday, January 25, 2010

1 Corinthians 14 (Appraising Gifts Part 2)

Gifts are not only judged by whether they are used in love or not; they can also be measured by how helpful they are to the body. In chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, Paul takes two gifts and measures them against each other. Presumably he chose these gifts based on their high esteem in the church in Corinth, or at least due to the high esteem one of the gifts received there. It seems that having a particular gift in Corinth made you very popular and everyone wanted to have it—speaking in tongues.

Paul argues that prophecy, proclamation, or sharing truth from God is a better gift than tongues because the benefits to the body are greater. If the body is gathered together and someone shares a truth they have received through Scripture or the Spirit that is something the body can understand and apply and grow as a result. On the other hand, if someone stands up and babbles incoherently, (presumably to everyone but God) then no one but God benefits. Paul says that in this case it is quite clear that one gift is more beneficial to the church than the other.

Paul does make a case for tongues to be used if there is an interpreter. This is something witnessed all the time across the world when an American goes to share the Gospel in a “foreign land.” They do so by going to already established churches and preaching sermons in English while the locals listen to a translator. The trick is making sure that the “interpreter” actually translates what the preacher is saying. Come to think of it, sometimes the translation—while actually a quite different sermon—is a far better message.

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