A Theological Pilgrimage: Chapter 12
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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3 | 4 |
5 | 6 |
7 | 8 |
9 | 10 |
11 | 12 | 13
| 14 |
15 | 16 | Conclusion
| Abbreviations |
The Greater Gifts
This paper intends to be an exegetical and theological reflection
stemming from the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:31a: "zeloute
de ta charismata ta meizona"-"but earnestly desire the
What are the "greater gifts," the meizona charismata,
and how do they relate to the life of the church in our time?
Based on Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 12 up to verse 31 two possibilities
may be suggested. First, since in the delineation of nine charismata2
(vv. 8-10), he begins with "word of wisdom" and "word
of knowledge" and ends with "tongues" and "interpretation
of tongues," "the greater" could be those first listed,
hence "word of wisdom" and "word of knowledge."3
Second, since shortly before Paul speaks of earnestly desiring the greater
gifts, he declares that "God has appointed in the church, first
apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts
of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues" (v.
28), the greater gifts could be "apostles" and "prophets"
(perhaps also "teachers").
The latter possibility may readily suggest itself as Paul's intention
both in light of the fact that he has just spoken of "apostles"
and "prophets" and since he has also specifically given a
prioritized listing: "first apostles," "second
prophets," "third teachers." Accordingly, "apostles,"
"prophets," and possibly "teachers" could be the
greater gifts to be desired. However, this interpretation immediately
runs into a twofold difficulty. First, the listing is not designated
by Paul as gifts (charismata) but as "appointments"-
-"God has appointed4
in the church...." In the earlier listing (vv. 8-10), the background
is: "Now there are varieties of gifts [charismata], but
the same Spirit"; hence "word of wisdom," "word
of knowledge," etc. are specified as spiritual charismata. But
in verse 28 Paul is referring to divine appointments (settings, placements)
within the church, consisting both of certain offices (prioritized),
namely, apostles, prophets, and teachers5
and certain spheres in which the gifts function, namely, miracles, healing,
helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.6
Both offices and spheres are divine placements within the church- -but
they are not charismata.7
Second, it is quite foreign to Paul's writing, indeed, to the New Testament,
to view the offices of apostles and prophets (and teachers) as something
to be "earnestly desired." In the language of Ephesians 4
they are divine domata (v. 9)- -not charismata8-
-the sovereign Lord gives as He wills. They are "callings"
of God.9 Thus it can scarcely
be the case that Paul is referring to the appointments listed in 1 Corinthians
12:28 when he adds- -"earnestly desire the greater gifts."
What then may we say of the list in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10? As observed,
they are designated charismata by Paul, hence might seem more likely
to contain the greater gifts, the meizona charismata. In other
words- -to recall our earlier quotation- -they would be "word of
wisdom" and "word of knowledge" (and possibly the next
one or two charisms on the list). But, again, certain difficulties emerge.
First, unlike the listing of appointments in verse 28, which contains
some specific priorities- -"first," "second," "third"-
-there is no such enumeration in verses 8-10. Of course, it is possible
to assume that the gifts in the list first mentioned by Paul would be
"the greater gifts" by virtue of their prior listing, but
such is only an assumption.10
Indeed, since Paul speaks of "varieties of gifts"11
(v. 4) prior to listing them, it would seem that the emphasis falls
not on priority but diversity.12
Second- -and here we look beyond, into 1 Corinthians 14:1- -Paul will
later say, "desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that13
you may prophesy." If prophecy, or prophesying, is especially to
be desired, then it would clearly seem to be of high priority. However,
in the listing of the charismata in 12:8-10 Paul mentions prophecy after
five other gifts. This alone is sufficient evidence to refute any idea
that Paul is giving a hierarchical list in this first account.
Before we proceed further, it is to be noted that Paul, immediately
after saying, "But earnestly desire the greater gifts," adds:
"And I show you a still more excellent way" (12:31b). This
translation of the Greek text14
seems to point another direction in Paul's thought, namely, that rather
than encouraging his readers to desire earnestly the charismata, he
will show a way far better than striving after these gifts. If such
be the case, the whole question of what are the "greater gifts"
becomes moot in light of there being a "more excellent way"
than zeal for the greater gifts. However, a more precise rendering of
the Greek text- -if nothing else- -points a quite different direction;
literally it reads: "And [yet] I show you a way beyond measure."15
Thus it is that Paul is not here setting forth an alternative
to desiring the greater gifts: he does not intend to show something
better. Rather Paul is declaring that he will show a super-excellent
way- -"a way beyond measure"- -wherein the gifts, including
"the greater," are to be exercised.
From this understanding of Paul's words, what he has to say in 1 Corinthians
13, the "love" chapter that immediately follows, falls into
proper perspective. Verse after verse, from 1 through 13 (the last),
Paul is describing the way beyond measure of love. All the gifts- -tongues
(v. 1), prophecy, knowledge, faith (v. 2)- -must be exercised in love;
else they are noisy, abrasive, and virtually worthless. Hence, the importance
of love cannot be exaggerated. Moreover "love never ends"16
(RSV), whereas the gifts will pass away when "the perfect"
has come (vv. 8-10)- -"as for prophecies, they will pass away;
as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away...but
when the perfect comes, the imperfect (lit., "that which is in
part" [KJV]) will pass away" (RSV). "The perfect"17
refers to the perfection of the glory to come, for Paul shortly adds,
"For now we see in a mirror dimly; but then face to face"
(v. 12). When we are "face to face" with the majestic glory,
tongues, prophecy, knowledge- -indeed all the charismata- -fall away,
for they belong to the present age, and are utterly transcended in the
visio dei. So it is that in the glory to come (as Paul reaches
his climax): "faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest
of these is love" (v. 13 RSV).
But- -to return to our earlier point- -Paul is by no means saying
that love is a better way than the charismata, hence to be earnestly
desired rather than the gifts. To be sure, the gifts will some day be
no more, but while they are available in our present life they are much
to be desired. However, they must be exercised in love, if there
is to be genuine edification. Thus, it is not at all proper to say that
the concern for gifts should be transcended by the pursuit of love.
Indeed, as Paul makes his transition to chapter 14, just after saying,
"the greatest of these is love," he writes, "Pursue love,
yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts."18
It is not either/or but both/and: with love as the way- -the way beyond
measure wherein the gifts find their truly meaningful expression.
Now- -going back to chapter 13- -we need to mention an additional
matter, another error sometimes made: that of viewing the greatest of
the gifts as love. We have reflected upon the mistake of considering
love as a superior way to the gifts; but we need also to observe that
love is in no sense the greatest- -or "the greater"- -of the
gifts. Paul does indeed say that "the greatest [lit., "the
these is love"; however, it is apparent that he is not talking
about the greater among the charismata, but the greater (or greatest)
among the triad of faith, hope, and love. Paul is speaking of eternal
verities: those realities of faith, hope, and love that "abide"
he is not referring to gifts, that for all their greatness, pass away
in eternity.21 It should
be added that love- -neither here nor elsewhere in the Scriptures- -is
depicted as a gift, or charism. Rather it is a fruit of the Spirit
(Gal. 5:22- -the first mentioned fruit). It is an effect of the
Holy Spirit's inner presence: "the love of God has been poured
out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us"
(Rom. 5:5); but love is not a charism. Since love is not a gift, it
cannot be one of the "greater gifts" about which Paul speaks.
Incidentally, it is not always recognized that this classic chapter22
on love is set in the midst of a discussion of the gifts. Paul writes
to those who know the gifts and who are experiencing them. He urges
them to desire earnestly the "greater gifts," indeed "spiritual
gifts" in general (1 Cor. 14). Chapter 13 is not basically
a dissertation by Paul on the Christian life at large, the way of love,
and so forth.23 It is
mainly a discourse on the way the gifts are to be exercised. Paul's
words (it is apparent from the still larger context) were written to
people who were not lacking in any spiritual gift, but who obviously
lacked much in love.24
Hence, the apostle's words are surely applicable to believers today
who need to be encouraged to seek after the charismata and in their
every expression to exhibit the spirit of love.
With all this by way of background, we may turn again to Paul's injunction:
"but earnestly desire the greater gifts." Since these gifts
cannot be identified with the top listing of the charismata of
1 Corinthians 12:8-10, or with the primary placements (the offices)
of 12:28-29, and since- -according to 1 Corinthians 13- -the charismata
are not to be superseded by love (or by faith, hope, and love), what
then are these "greater gifts"?
One answer has already been mentioned- -prophecy. For after his injunction
to "pursue love" and "desire earnestly spiritual gifts,"
Paul adds, "but especially that you may prophesy" (1 Cor.
14: 1). It is scarcely to be doubted, therefore, that prophesying is
to be viewed under the heading of "greater gifts,"25
if not the greatest- -or the "greater of the great," if Paul
has only two gifts in mind. And the reason given for desiring to prophesy,
Paul shortly thereafter states: "one who prophesies speaks to men
for edification and exhortation and consolation" (v. 3). For truly,
Paul adds, "one who prophesies edifies the church" (v. 4).
Apparently, the measure of a gift, a charisma, is the measure
of its ability to build up the body of Christ. And nothing can stand
higher than prophecy in that regard.
Inasmuch as prophecy is a direct, intelligible communication from God
primarily addressed to believers, it cannot be surpassed by any other
manifestation of the Spirit. Prophecy is a "speaking for"26
God wherein He provides the words and the message; the result is that
the whole body, or its various members are built up in the faith. Little
wonder that Paul, in reference to seeking the spiritual gifts says,
"especially that you may prophesy." He also adds later, "desire
earnestly to prophesy" (1 Cor. 14:39).
Does Paul give information concerning any other "greater"
gift? Unmistakably, prophecy is such a gift, but what else? The answer
is that- -in an extraordinary kind of way- -speaking in tongues may
also occupy the top position. Let us follow Paul carefully here. It
would seem at first glance that Paul places glossolalia on a rather
low level. This might be deduced from the list of charismata in 1 Corinthians
12:8-10, where speaking in tongues is mentioned next to last, or from
the list of placements in 1 Corinthians 12:28 which mentions tongues
last. However, as we have seen, the listing in verses 8-10 is clearly
not by rank,27 and that
in verse 28 is not a gradation of gifts.28
Now moving on to chapter 14, where Paul begins to discuss the relationship
between prophecy and tongues, he may initially seem to hold a lower
view of tongues: "One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but
one who prophesies edifies the church" (v. 4). Since edification
of the church is the purpose of the gifts,29
and the "greatness" of a gift is measured by its capacity
to edify, or build up, the church, and since tongues are said to edify
the speaker, the conclusion would seem to be that tongues in relation
to the body would have little or no value. Any other gift presumably
would rank higher. But let us listen further to Paul, for shortly after
the above quoted statement, he declares: "greater is one who prophesies
than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church
may receive edifying" (v. 5). This means in the event that interpretation
follows upon tongues the gift of prophecy is not greater.30
Indeed speaking in tongues, then, may be recognized, along with prophecy,
as a "greater gift" which has none higher or greater. Prophecy,
for all its ability to upbuild, exhort, and console is not, therefore,
greater than tongues. But why? How can tongues with interpretation following
compare with such edification?
For an answer to this question we may now turn back to verse 2: "One
who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands
him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit"31
(RSV). Since glossolalia is on the high level of speaking to God, even
that of speaking mysteries in the Holy Spirit, if there is an interpretation,
the church will be immensely edified. The reason is clear: there will
be the unfolding of divine mysteries. Paul does not reveal the nature
of these mysteries, but by definition they are "hidden things."32
Such things are declared by the one speaking in tongues, for no one
understands what he is saying,33
and only the Spirit can make them known. When this occurs through the
gift of interpretation, the church is greatly edified.34
How could it be otherwise?
It follows that prophecy could not possibly be "greater"
than tongues when there is interpretation. The one speaking in tongues
is at least on the same level as the prophet,35
because in both cases there is genuine edification from God, even though
the content of the speech may be different.36
Further, another point now needs to be made: both prophecy and tongues
are direct spiritual utterances. This has already been mentioned
in relation to prophecy- -a "speaking for" God in which He
provides the message. In the case of tongues it is a "speaking
to" God wherein the Holy Spirit provides the language.37
Though the human aspect is not denied- -persons do the speaking in both
cases- -it is apparent that in a way beyond any other charismata, prophecy
and tongues are operations of divine directness and immediacy.
For all of this it is not hard to conclude that prophecy and tongues
are both numbered as "greater gifts" which are much to be
desired. However, once again it needs to be emphasized that the latter
only occupies that high level in the body of Christ if interpretation
also occurs. When Paul speaks of tongues alone, he states a preference
for prophecy: "Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even
more that you would prophesy" (1 Cor. 14:5).38
Moreover, he makes many statements beginning with verse 6 about the
unedifying character of uninterpreted tongues in the body,39
and climaxes with the words, "Therefore let one who speaks in a
tongue pray that he may interpret" (v. 13). Paul in none of this
is depreciating all tongues,40
but only tongues that are not interpreted.
Just following his statement that a person who speaks in tongues should
pray for interpretation of this speech, Paul adds, "For if I pray
in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the
outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the
mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind
also" (1 Cor. 14:14-15).
First, praying in a tongue, praying with the spirit, and singing with
the spirit are all references to essentially the same phenomenon: glossolalia,
whether spoken, prayed, or sung.41
What is striking is Paul's very mention of the variety of glossolalic
utterance- -in speech, prayer, song- -which he by no means discounts
or devalues; rather, he declares that he will do them all. There is,
further, no suggestion that such utterance should be superseded by something
other,42 perhaps higher.
Second, the introduction of the terminology of "praying with
the spirit" and "singing with the spirit" are obviously
further amplifications of speaking in tongues. Glossolalia is an utterance
in prayer and/or song; and since it is done "with the spirit,"
not the mind, it refers to something other than communication through
the mind (be it word of wisdom, prophecy, teaching, or anything else
similar). It is undoubtedly a spiritual utterance in which the Holy
Spirit within the human spirit speaks forth through human lips prayer43
and praise to God. Thus praying with the spirit and in the Spirit (recall
1 Cor. 14:15), singing with the spirit and in the Spirit are actually
the same phenomenon.
Moreover- -and here let us look briefly beyond 1 Corinthians- -there
is affirmative mention elsewhere of such spiritual utterance. In Ephesians
Paul urges his readers to "pray at all times in the Spirit"
(6:18), even as he earlier urged them to be "filled with the Spirit,
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs"44
(5:18-19). Thus praying in the S(s)pirit and singing in the S(s)pirit
("spiritual songs") are both spoken of very highly. It is
to be recognized that in his letter to the Ephesians Paul's reference
to praying in the Spirit does not call for interpretation since such
praying is for the individual's own edification and strengthening45;
however, its great importance cannot be minimized: "pray at all
times in the Spirit." Nor is there any suggestion that "spiritual
songs" done by the assembly are to be followed by interpretation;
perhaps the point is that such is not needed in the context of "psalms
and hymns" which, being sung in the vernacular, are understood
by all. Additional references to praying and singing in the Spirit occur
in Jude 20-"praying in the Holy Spirit"46-
-and Colossians 3:16- -"spiritual songs."47
These additional statements in Ephesians, Colossians, and Jude- -related
to speaking in tongues- -point further to their great importance. Accordingly,
as we return to 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, it is with enhanced recognition
of the high significance of glossolalia- -whether prayed or sung- -for
both individual and community.
Third, since Paul is vitally concerned about the edification of the
body in the Corinthian situation, he emphasizes repeatedly the urgency
of interpretation. What is done in the S(s)pirit, whether prayer or
song, is to be followed by prayer and song "with the mind,"
or "understanding" (KJV). In no way does Paul suggest that
spiritual utterance should be eschewed in favor of comprehensible articulation-
-even though with the former the mind is "unfruitful." Rather,
what happens in spiritual utterance is far too important for its being
minimized or set aside.48
However, in the body there definitely should be interpretation that
all may be edified.
Now we move on to Paul's next statement- -in 1 Corinthians 14:16-
-where again he stresses both the high value of spiritual utterance
and the importance of interpretation: "Otherwise if you bless49
in the spirit only [i.e., in tongues only], how will the one who fills
the place of the ungifted50
say the 'Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what
you are saying?" We may first recognize here the vital significance
of speaking in tongues, in this case as a way of blessing and giving
thanks to God that is superlative: "...thou verily givest thanks
well" (v. 17 KJV).51
Second, however, once again an interpretation is immediately needed
(to return to v. 16) for the "ungifted" person, so that he
may be able to participate in the blessing.52
Thus, despite the high value of praising and thanking God in tongues-
-as Paul continues (in v. 17)- -"the other man is not edified."
Hence, the apostle again stresses the need for interpretation that other
believers may be edified.
The conclusion- -stated quite vigorously- -is this: "I thank
God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I
desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others
also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue" (vv. 18-19).
First again is the high valuation placed on tongues ("I thank God"),
but in church (where both "gifted" and "ungifted"
believers are present) five words that are understood by all are preferable
to any number, however many, of words spoken in tongues. This is not
a devaluation of tongues as if Paul were saying that speaking with the
mind is better53 or
that speaking in tongues does not really belong in church. The basic
point rather, as the whole context shows, is that speaking a multitude
of words without interpretation will not edify a congregation with its
wide range of experienced and inexperienced believers.
As we look back over the words in 1 Corinthians 14:6-19, it is apparent
that Paul is not denying the great value of tongues with interpretation
in the assembly (as declared in v. 5). But he is speaking throughout
against uninterpreted tongues;54
they simply do not edify the body.
Therefore, it is not that revelation and knowledge, prophecy and teaching
are profitable, whereas glossolalia is not; words with the mind are
not better than words spoken in tongues; thanksgiving in understandable
speech is not preferable to blessing with spiritual utterance. To be
sure, when there is no interpretation given, all these comprehensible
operations of speech are far more significant- -simply because they
edify all. But tongues with interpretation occurring-
-which greatly edifies- -remains among the "greater gifts."
It would seem proper to say from Paul's discussion of prophecy and
tongues that both represent "greater gifts" that are much
to be desired. The only difference is that prophecy in its very utterance
edifies the assembled body of believers, whereas tongues must be followed
by interpretation for the same to occur. Nevertheless, one is not "greater"
than the other; each carries its own message and by their functioning
together the church may be richly blessed.
Further evidence that Paul is referring to tongues and prophecy as
the "greater gifts" is the fact that in all the discussion
of the way of love in 1 Corinthians 13, tongues and prophecy are mentioned
first (cf. vv. 1-2 and v. 8)55
and that in the whole of chapter 14 (vv. 1-40) the only gifts that Paul
discusses in detail are prophecy and tongues. In our reflection on 1
Corinthians 14 thus far we have only considered verses 1-19; however,
even a cursory glance over the remaining verses of the chapter shows
Paul's continuing great concern with these gifts. To be more specific,
verses 20-25 are a presentation of the relationship of tongues and prophecy
primarily to unbelievers56;
in 26-33, after a brief mention of "psalm...teaching...revelation
...tongues...interpretation" (that all should be practiced for
edification), Paul devotes his complete attention to the proper ordering
of tongues with interpretation and prophecy57;
and 37-40 contain a final comment on prophecy and tongues.
Let us particularly consider these last verses in 14:37-40. According
to the common reading of the passage, tongues and prophecy are mentioned
only in verse 39- -and in that verse the presumption usually is that
Paul suggests a greater desirability for prophecy than tongues ("Therefore,
my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak
But let us first note the interesting statement of Paul's in verse 37-
-then we shall return to verse 39.
Paul begins this passage (v. 37) with the statement, "If any
one thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the
things which I wrote are the Lord's commandment." The word translated
pneumatikos, is a substantival adjective paralleling the noun
"prophet," thus literally such a one is "a spiritual."
Thus "a prophet or a spiritual" is the literal rendering of
the text. But who is "a spiritual?" Some would say "a
however, a prophet- -a prophetes- - is surely "Spirit-filled,"
and yet he is mentioned in contradistinction to the one designated as
a pneumatikos. Accordingly, there is a further meaning, namely,
that Paul is referring to one who speaks in tongues. This is clearly
suggested by the parallelism with verse 39 where prophecy and speaking
in tongues are specifically mentioned, and in the same order as verse
37 (prophetes first, pneumatikos second). Thus the one
who is a pneumatikos is peculiarly one who speaks in tongues.61
Hence, climactically in Paul's discourse of chapters 12-14, the speaker
in tongues bears the title of pneumatikos.62
In a unique fashion he is a pneumatic, a Spirit-endowed person63-
-not by any means more "spiritual" than others; but pneumatikos
because through the language of the Spirit, i.e., tongues, he speaks
directly to God. If such is the case, this is an additional reason for
viewing speaking in tongues as a "greater gift."
But let us proceed to a more careful look at 14:39. Even if it be
granted that Paul is referring to prophecy and tongues- -speech in verse
37, that a pneumatikos is one who speaks in tongues- -all of
which sounds like a high evaluation of tongues- -it might seem here
that Paul is finally subordinating tongues to prophecy. For, to repeat,
according to a common reading of the text- -"desire earnestly to
prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues"- -there seems
to be a definite lowering of the place of tongues. Does not such an
injunction afford positive affirmation for the one, and give only a
negative permission for the other? That is to say, speaking in tongues,
unlike prophecy, is not to be sought after or desired; such is not to
be forbidden either.64
If this is what Paul is stating here, it would seem quite out
of harmony with any idea that tongues belong to the category of "greater
gifts" to be desired. Rather, tongues are perhaps only reluctantly
to be permitted. The answer, I believe, to this seeming shift of emphasis,
almost to a self-contradiction, rests in a misapprehension of Paul's
meaning in this verse- -and it stems from the usual English translation,
"Do not forbid." However, from another understanding of the
meaning of the Greek word, and against the background of what Paul has
been stating, the apostle is much more likely to be saying: "Do
not restrain65 speaking
in tongues." It is not a matter of granting negative,
perhaps grudging, permission, but of declaring that tongues should
not be hindered or checked. In other words, what is often read as negative
permission is more likely a positive affirmation. Paul is saying to
any who would view tongues as only tolerable, thus not to be sought
after, "Let them be spoken!" From this perspective, he is
not saying prophecy is desirable whereas speaking in tongues
is not to be desired. It is rather that any restraint upon tongues needs
to be removed so that they may have their proper expression and significance
in the body of believers.66
Paul concludes with the words: "But let all things be done properly
and in an orderly67
manner" (14:40). Since this final statement is the conclusion of
his injunction, "desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not restrain
speaking in tongues," it points up Paul's great concern that especially
these highly potent charismata of prophecy and tongues be properly
ordered. As was mentioned, Paul devotes a rather lengthy statement to
this matter (14:27-33), specifying in part, "if any speak in a
tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and
let one interpret.... Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others
weigh68 what is said"
(RSV). Propriety and orderliness call for both the interpretation of
tongues and the weighing or discerning of prophecy.69
Therefore, while tongues and prophecy are greatly to be desired, of
all the gifts they doubtless need the most judicious exercise.
Possibly enough has now been written to substantiate the thesis that
Paul's words "earnestly desire the greater gifts" refer to
prophecy and tongues.70
No attempt will be made to summarize the evidence set forth in the preceding
pages. However, one point made earlier that indicates their being "greater
gifts" needs further emphasis, namely, that prophecy and tongues
are uniquely (among the charisms) direct utterances relating
to Almighty God. In prophecy the words spoken are the speaker's own
language, but the message is given by the Spirit of God71;
there is no mental involvement on the part of the speaker.72
The words are God's message in human language73;
hence the one prophesying simply speaks it forth. Thus there is direct
utterance from God. In the case of tongues the directness is even more
apparent since the words first spoken (before interpretation) are not
in the speaker's own language; the words themselves are given by the
Holy Spirit and addressed directly to God. The interpretation (in the
body), as with prophecy, does not actually involve the mind, but sets
forth directly in the common language what has been declared in and
by the Holy Spirit.74
Thus, prophecy and tongues represent, as no other charismata,75
a directness, even an immediacy, of communication between God and humanity.
This being the case it seems again all the more surely that they are
the "greater gifts."
Here we may- -leaving Paul for a moment- -also be reminded from the
Book of Acts that in the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit prophecy
and tongues occupy a high place. On the Day of Pentecost speaking in
tongues (2:1-4) and prophecy (2:14-18) are the primary demonstrations
of the Holy Spirit, indeed his direct workings- -"And they were
all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues
as the Spirit was giving them utterance" (v. 4); "I will pour
forth of my Spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy" (v. 17). It is the Holy Spirit giving persons utterance
in tongues; the same Holy Spirit outpoured upon people brings forth
prophecy through them.76
Whatever else will happen on that day (and surely much will, including
the salvation of some three thousand persons and the formation of the
first Christian community), and however much the Holy Spirit will be
involved in it all (and surely He will: convicting of sin, bringing
about faith, enabling koinonia)- -the prior and direct
workings are unmistakably tongues and prophecy.77
One further note concerning the Book of Acts should be made. It is
significant that on another occasion in the early mission of the church,
there is reference to both tongues and prophecy. Paul had been ministering
to some Ephesians with the result that "the Holy Spirit came on
them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying" (19:6).
What the Ephesians said is not disclosed; but that the
primary manifestation of the Holy Spirit's coming was tongues and prophecy
is apparent. Again glossolalia and prophecy are shown to be His primary
and immediate working.
It would seem to follow from the Book of Acts that if prophecy and
tongues are ongoing possibilities,78
they would rank as the most to be desired. For as no other manifestations
of the Spirit they express directly the presence and power of the Holy
Spirit. Of course, this brings us full circle; for Paul clearly speaks
of continuing manifestations of the Spirit, stressing the desirability
of all and urging the seeking of the "greater gifts," one
of which he specifies as prophecy. Our conclusion is based primarily
on the inner evidence of 1 Corinthians 12-14; and from a quick review
of Acts, tongues surely qualifies for inclusion in "the greater."
In sum: prophecy and tongues, in their proper functioning, are gifts
of the Spirit greatly to be desired.
A concluding word: this article has been written under the growing
conviction that prophecy and tongues are of a potency and value seldom
realized in the church. This is said not simply to those who may have
difficulty accepting their validity at all (at least for the church
today), but also to those who do claim their continuance. It is to this
latter group that some closing remarks follow.
My point is this: I believe that we have scarcely begun to realize
the basic importance of prophecy and tongues. If they are direct,
immediate utterances of the Holy Spirit for the body, they should have
primacy in all gatherings of assembled believers.79
This is not in any way to minimize the importance of evangelizing and
teaching,80 of liberality
and mercy,81 or of any
of the other ninefold gifts of the Holy Spirit. All just mentioned are
gifts of grace,82 hence
of great value, but none of these are quite as powerful and direct expressions
of Almighty God as are prophecy and tongues. For what else can correspond
to a prophetic "Thus says the Lord"? If God is truly speaking
therein, then prophecy calls for the highest place and consideration.
Again, what else can transcend an utterance in tongues that declares
divine mysteries, the hidden things of God? If God's secret truth
is being declared thereby for His gathered people, there can be nothing
else of more importance to comprehend.
It is quite a sad thing that even where the gifts of the Spirit are
recognized, and prophecy and tongues are expected, far too often there
is a failure both to appreciate their extraordinary character and their
proper functioning. There should, on the one hand, be a holy awe in
the presence of Him who is now speaking, an eagerness to hear every
word spoken, and a yearning to appropriate and act upon whatever is
being declared. On the other hand, realizing the human element in all
prophetic utterance and interpretation of tongues, there should be a
fresh sense of urgency in discerning the truth that is being proclaimed,
not hesitating if need be to separate out what is not truly of God,
and thereupon earnestly and faithfully seeking to fulfill whatever God
has spoken. It could be a new day in the church when the "greater
gifts" are both earnestly desired and truly exercised. May the
Lord grant us fresh zeal and determination!
translation (here and throughout the article, unless otherwise noted).
The Greek word meizona is rendered as "best" in the
KJV, "higher" in the RSV and NEB. "Greater"-also
so translated in the NIV-seems closer to the root meaning (meizona
from megas, usually translated "large" or "great").
4 Paul speaks of "varieties of gifts" or "charismata"-also
"varieties of ministries" (v. 5) and "varieties of effects"
(v. 6). Then he adds: "But to each one is given the manifestation
of the Spirit" (v. 7). Thus Paul will be setting forth charismata
of the Spirit, spiritual gifts, in verses 8-10.
suggests at least two gifts; however, if Paul is giving a hierarchy
of gifts in verses 8-10, the next one "faith," perhaps also
next "gifts of healings," might be viewed as in the "greater"
category. Actually, from a hierarchical perspective any gift in the
list might be viewed as greater than the next one listed.
Greek word is etheto-also "set" (KJV) or "placed."
parallel with Ephesians 4:11 is unmistakable-"He [Christ] gave
some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and
some as pastors and teachers." The order-omitting "evangelists"
and "pastors"-is the same. Although the word "appointed"
is not used, there is clearly a sense that these are set offices. The
word "gave" (edoken) expresses a completed and fixed
latter listing of spheres is not said to be fourth, fifth, sixth, etc.
The Greek word preceding "miracles" is epeita, translated
as "then" in the NASB, but perhaps better as "after that"
(as in the KJV). Thus there is succession in the spheres, but not necessarily
a prioritized listing. Epeita also precedes "gifts of healing,"
but is not used in reference to the last three spheres, namely, helps,
administrations, tongues. Hence, this suggests even more strongly that
the prioritized listing by no means includes them.
for example, the charisma of "prophecy" (v. 10) is
one thing, the office of "prophets" is another. All may prophesy
(see Paul's later words, "you can all prophesy" [14:31]),
thus the charisma-but not all are prophets (see Paul's question
with implied negative answer: "Are all prophets?" [12:29]).
Also, there is both the charism of "the effecting [or working]
of miracles" (v. 10), and the sphere of "miracles" (v.
28). Because God has placed miracles in the church, the workings of
miracles can happen: the placement is antecedent to the charism.
domata and charismata are "gifts," but the former
refers to gifts of office: they are "for the equipping of the saints
for the work of service [or 'ministry']" (Eph. 4:12).
Paul speaks of himself as "called to be an apostle" (Rom.
1:1; cf. Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:15); but neither had he "earnestly desired"
it, nor does he ever urge anyone else so to desire.
speaks of faith, hope, and love in 1 Corinthians 13:13 in that order,
but declares that the greatest is love. The first mentioned in this
case is not specified as the greatest!
as we have noted, "varieties of ministries" and "varieties
of effects" (or "workings").
translates as "diversities of gift," KJV-"differences
of gifts"; the Greek phrase is diaireseis charismaton.
Greek phrase is mallon de. KJV translates as "rather that"
which gives an adversative sense. Though mallon de often carries
that connotation (e.g., Eph. 4:28), it may have a supplementary meaning
(Thayer: it "marks what has the preference: more willingly,
more readily, sooner") as in the NASB translation (similarly
in RSV, NIV; NEB has "above all").
identical in the RSV. KJV omits "still," NIV has "the
most excellent way." All are essentially the same.
Greek phrase is kath' hyperbolen-"beyond measure" or
"comparison" (see, e.g., Gal. 1:13- "beyond measure";
2 Cor. 4:17-"beyond all comparison" [also RSV]). Thus the
translation earlier given, "a still more excellent way" (with
parallels in other versions) is quite misleading. According to EGT,
"kath' hyperbolen...is superlative, not comparative; Paul
is not pointing out a more excellent way than that of seeking and using
the charisms of chapter xii, but a super-excellent way to win them."
Although I might differ on the last phrase, "to win them,"
EGT is surely right in speaking out against the comparative idea.
Greek word is piptei-"fails" (NASB, NIV; KJV-"faileth").
NEB, as RSV, has "ends." "Ends" is the more likely
translation in view of verse 13.
Greek phrase is to teleion. The attempt on the part of some to
identify to teleion with the completion of the canon of Scripture
hardly needs comment. Such an attempt-which actually is only a device
to seek invalidation of the gifts as continuing in the church-is utterly
word here is not charismata but pneumatika, literally
"spirituals" (as also in 1 Cor. 12:1). However, English translations
regularly render pneumatika as "spiritual gifts" in
light of the context (in both 1 Cor. 12 and 14).
Greek word is meizon.
translates: "there are three things that last forever: faith, hope,
(pistis) uniquely functions both as a gift of the Spirit (see
1 Cor. 12:9) and as one of the eternal verities. However, a fuller discussion
(not possible here) would show that faith as a charism is a special
faith for healing, working of miracles, etc. The faith that "abides"
is eternal faith and trust in the living God.
course, there is no chapter in the original letter. Unfortunately, the
chapter separation can easily lead to isolation from the overall context.
is not to say that the chapter has no relevance to the general Christian
walk. Quite the contrary, there is much of great edification (note esp.
vv. 4-7), regardless of the gifts. But the chapter both begins specifically
with the gifts (vv. 1-3), and later continues with them (vv. 8-10).
Thus it is clear that, however much Paul goes beyond the gifts as he
speaks of love, the context is the charismata.
especially chapter 1. Whereas Paul expresses his thanksgiving to God
that the Corinthians were "not lacking in any gift [charisma]"
(vv. 4-7), he also-immediately thereafter-speaks of "the quarrels"
(v. 11) and divisions among them.
Paul uses the word "greater" in describing prophecy as it
relates to speaking in tongues: "greater is the one who prophesies"
(1 Cor. 14:5). The Greek for "greater" is meizon, the
same as the meizona in "greater gifts."
Greek is pro + phemi.
prophecy is mentioned sixth, and yet is especially to be desired, the
listing of tongues thereafter-actually eighth-does not imply inferiority.
previously noted, though 28 contains a prioritized listing of offices
and a designation of various spheres of charismatic activity, it is
not a hierarchy of gifts.
Paul first discusses the gifts, he speaks of them as "the manifestation
of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:7). "The common
good" is the edification, or upbuilding, of all in the body.
is apparent even though Paul speaks (in v. 5) more specifically of the
person who is the channel for the gift than the gift itself.
KJV, and NIV have lower case "s." NASB and NIV give "by
the Spirit" as possible renderings (see margins). Since Paul has
earlier characterized tongues as a manifestation of Spirit (not spirit),
I believe that the RSV reading (and NASB, NIV margins) of "Spirit"
Greek word mysterion is "a hidden thing, secret, mystery...not
obvious to the understanding" (Thayer), thus mysteries are "hidden
one who speaks in tongues...utters secret truths in the Spirit which
he alone shares with God, and which his fellow-man, even a Christian,
does not understand" (musthrion, BAGD).
is important to add that mysteries uttered in tongues and made known
by the Spirit through interpretation are not "new truths"
beyond what are recorded in Scripture. They are rather in line with
Paul's prayer that believers may have "all the riches of assured
understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom
are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:2-3
RSV). In that sense God's mystery is Christ, with all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge contained in Him. Hence, a mystery spoken in
tongues, when interpreted, will in some sense be a declaration of those
treasures both in themselves and in relation to His body.
EGT the following interesting comment is to be found: "The power
to interpret superadded to the glossolalia...puts the mystic
speaker on a level with the prophet: first 'uttering mysteries' (2)
and then making them plain to his hearers, he accomplishes in two acts
what the prophet does in one" (2:903). Note especially "...on
a level with the prophet."
is revealed in the interpretation of a mystery may not be the same as
what is contained in a message that upbuilds, exhorts, and consoles.
The two may overlap, even at times prove identical, but there
is not necessarily an equivalence. Tongues plus interpretation may equal
prophecy (as is often said), but equality is not equivalency.
They are equal in value to the community when properly exercised.
may recall that in the first occurrence of glossolalia on the Day of
Pentecost, those assembled "began to speak with other tongues,
as the Spirit was giving them utterance" (Acts 2:4).
immediately precedes the words: "greater is the one who prophesies
than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets."
such is of no more value than a bugle that gives an indistinct sound,
and thus prepares no one for battle; also it is but a "speaking
into the air" (v. 9).
6 is sometimes read as a devaluation: "But now, brethren, if I
come to you speaking in tongues what shall I profit you, unless I speak
to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or
of teaching?" A first impression could be that tongues are of no
profit to the body of believers: there is profit only if one speaks
rather by revelation, knowledge, prophecy or teaching. However,
such a reading of Paul's words seems unwarranted, first of all, by the
fact that they follow immediately from his statement about the need
for interpretation "so that the church may receive edifying."
Hence what Paul is emphasizing is that speaking in tongues alone
(i.e., without interpretation following) is of no profit.
It has been proposed by some that Paul's words, "if
I come to you speaking in tongues what shall I profit you, unless I
speak to you either by way of revelation...knowledge... prophecy...teaching,"
refer to the great value of tongues plus interpretation, namely, that
through the interpretation revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching
will occur. If this is Paul's meaning, tongues (with interpretation)
unquestionably transcends all other gifts (even revelation itself) as
a channel of their functioning. (See Howard M. Ervin, These are Not
Drunken, as Ye Suppose, pp. 163-65; Ray Hubbard, Gifts of Grace,
pp. 92-94.) Although I like the strong emphasis on tongues in this view,
it really says too much. For Paul is not speaking of tongues' interpretation
as bringing revelation, knowledge, prophecy, teaching. This is especially
clear in light of Paul's later statement, "When you assemble, each
one has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation"
(1 Cor. 14:26). In this verse "tongue" and "interpretation"
are set alongside "revelation" and "teaching";
the latter do not come by way of interpretation of the former. Thus
for all the importance of tongues, it is an overstatement to view their
interpretation as bringing about revelation, teaching, etc.
reference back to verse 13 makes clear.
emphasizes all the more that Paul did not mean earlier (recall v. 6)
that there is no profit in tongues unless one also speaks by way of
revelation, prophecy, etc.
rather than rendering 1 Corinthians 14:14a as "if I pray in a tongue,
my spirit prays" (as NASB and many others similarly), translates
the latter phrase as "the Spirit in me prays." The NEB correctly
catches the deeper meaning.
Greek phrase is odais pneumatikais; "pneumatic odes,"
songs given by the Spirit.
may recall 1 Corinthians 14:4-"One who speaks in a tongue edifies
you, beloved, building yourself up on your most holy faith; praying
in the Holy Spirit." The focus here is also on personal edification
with Ephesians 5:19-"psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."
An interesting comment on "spiritual songs" (in Col. 3:16)
is made by a footnote in the Jerusalem Bible stating that they "could
be charismatic improvisations suggested by the Spirit during liturgical
assembly"(!). Accordingly, I would add, such "improvisations"
are "singing in the Spirit."
observed earlier, "mysteries in the Spirit" are being uttered.
See the next paragraph for the further significance of tongues.
Greek word is euloges. The better translation may be "praise"
(as in NIV and NEB). In any event it is directed to God and contains
the note of thanksgiving (as the continuation of the verse shows).
Greek word is idiotou-"unlearned" (KJV); "those
who do not understand" (NIV); "outsider" (RSV); "him
that is without gifts"(RSV mg.); "the plain man" (NEB).
The idiotai seem to represent those who are not unbelievers but
are "outsiders" to spiritual gifts ("unversed in spiritual
gifts" NASB mg.). Incidental note: perhaps the idiotai are
represented today by believers unfamiliar with and unversed in charismatic
KJV is quoted here because most other translations produce a misimpression.
"For you are giving thanks well enough" (NASB), "you
may give thanks well enough" (RSV, similarly NIV), "your prayer
of thanksgiving may be all that could be desired" (NEB)-all sound
like a grudging admission of the value of this blessing of God in the
Spirit. The KJV is on target, since the Greek text literally reads:
"For you indeed give thanks well (sy men gar kalos eucharisteis)."
might wonder why Paul here singles out the "ungifted" as not
being edified by uninterpreted tongues. Would that not be true of all
believers present? The point, however, is that tongues described here
are peculiarly expressions of blessing and thanksgiving to God. The
"gifted" among believers would know what is going on, hence
could very well say an "Amen" to such an uninterpreted expression;
but the "ungifted," not comprehending, would be quite at a
loss to do so.
the words of Paul, "I desire [or 'would rather'-RSV, NIV, NEB]
speak five words with my mind," are understood to mean, "It
is better to speak comprehensively." However, Paul never
(here or elsewhere) deemphasizes the extraordinary value of glossalalic
the Corinthians were out of order in this regard. In the midst of the
passage Paul writes: "since you are zealous of spirits (lit. 'pneumaton'),
seek to abound for the edification of the church" (v. 12). The
Corinthians being "zealous (or zealots-zelotai) of spirits"
signifies zealous for spiritual realities in general (not simply spiritual
gifts-which are pneumatika [see earlier note] and for which Paul
urges them to be zealous). Being thus zealous, they should be all the
more concerned to abound in what edifies the church. Interpretation
of tongues (which Paul discusses immediately thereafter in verse 13)
is urgent if this is to happen.
order in verses 1-2 is tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith; in verse
8 it is prophecy, tongues, knowledge (incidentally, "knowledge"
probably refers to word of knowledge" in 12:8; "faith"
to the gift of faith in 12:9).
concern about unbelievers (apistoi) in the church assembly goes
largely beyond Paul's earlier concern about the "ungifted"
(idiotai). The question now is an additional one: not
how do tongues and prophecy edify the believer, but what are their effects
on the unbeliever? Tongues, Paul says, are a sign (of judgment) for
the unbeliever, but not so for the believer; prophecy on the other hand
can bring an unbeliever (also an "ungifted" person) into a
profound experience: "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or
an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account
by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall
on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you"
57The parity of tongues
with interpretation and prophecy is further suggested by the fact that
Paul directs that there be "two or at most three" speakers
in tongues, "two or three" who prophesy. The high importance
of both is also implied in that Paul does not speak of two or three
with "word of wisdom," "word of knowledge," etc.
This again suggests that Paul views tongues and prophecy as the "greater
in KJV, RSV, NIV, NEB, and other translations.
in KJV, RSV.
Thayer-in references to pneumatikos-"one who is filled with
and governed by the Spirit of God. " BAGD-in regard to pneumatikoi-"spirit-filled
may be called to Hermann Günkel's seminal work, The Influence
of the Holy Spirit, in which he says forcefully: "In 1 Cor.
14:37; pneumatikos in contrast to prophetes...clearly
denotes glossolalia" (p. 31). A. T. Robertson likewise views
the pneumatikos as the speaker in tongues: "The prophet
or the one with the gift of tongues" (Word Pictures in the New
Testament, 4:185). (I owe this quotation to Howard M. Ervin's These
Are Not Drunken, as Ye Suppose, 114).
is interesting to observe that Paul begins 1 Corinthians 12-14 thus:
"Now concerning pneumatikon...." The word "gifts"
is usually added; however, it could be "matters" or "things,"
or even "persons." I am inclined to the usual translation
of "gifts"; however, there is undoubtedly some attractiveness
in thinking that Paul at the outset is primarily concerned with those
who speak in tongues. (For a helpful discussion of 1 Corinthians 12:1
see Ervin's These Are Not Drunken, chap. 14.)
Bultmann writes similarly: "Since Paul can say, 'If anyone thinks
that he is a prophet or one Spirit-endowed...' he presupposes a usage
of speech according to which the ecstatic [sic] speaker in tongues
(in the context it can mean only him [italics: mine]) is the
'Spirit-endowed' par excellence" (Theology of the New
Testament, tr. by Kendrick Grobel, 1:158).
regard to speaking in tongues from this perspective, a good rule
of thumb would indeed be: "Seek not, forbid not."
Greek word is kolyete. The translation for kolyo often
is "forbid." However, "restrain" or "check"
is far more likely in this context. We may note the use of kolyo
in 2 Peter 2:16, where only "restrained" or "checked"
makes good sense: "a dumb donkey, speaking with the voice of a
man, restrained (ekolysen) the madness of the prophet" (KJV
translates ekolysen as "forbid," but such unfortunately
only confuses the meaning; RSV and NIV, like NASB, translate as "restrained").
Incidentally, BAGD refers to 2 Peter 2:16, and the translation as "restrained,"
in the context of discussing 1 Corinthians 14:39 (see article on kwluw).
In line with this (and the overall context), I repeat that "do
not restrain speaking in tongues" is surely Paul's meaning. Weymouth's
New Testament in Modern Speech is one of the few versions that translates
in similar fashion thus: "Do not check speaking with tongues."
Also see Moffatt's New Translation: "Do not put any check
upon speaking in 'tongues.'"
is interesting to observe that Paul writes similarly about prophecy
in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-"do not despise prophetic utterances."
A restraint upon speaking in tongues and a despising of prophecy are
both serious handicaps for the body of Christ. Incidentally, in words
just preceding "do not despise prophetic utterance," Paul
says: "Do not quench the Spirit" (v. 19). It is quite possible
that this first exhortation concerns speaking in tongues (e.g., Günkel
writes: "in 1 Thess. 5:19 pneuma is set next to propheteia
as the capacity for speaking in tongues" [The Influence of the
Spirit, p. 31]); if so there is a close parallel between 1 Corinthians
14:39-"desire earnestly to prophesy and do not restrain speaking
in tongues"-and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20-"Do not quench the
Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances."
Greek word is euschemonos-"decently" (KJV, RSV, NEB),
"in a fitting way" (NIV). "Becomingly" is another
good translation (cf. Rom. 13:13; 1 Thess. 4:12).
Greek word is diakrinetosan-judge" (KJV); "pass judgment"
(NASB); "exercise judgment upon" (NEB). "Weigh"
(RSV and NIV) avoids any negative impression that may be contained in
the idea of judging or judgment. "Discern" is another helpful
translation. Since prophecy is "in part," not everything said
may be a word from the Lord; thus there is particular need for weighing,
is probably not without significance that in the listing of the nine
charismata of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 that the sixth
and seventh relate to prophecy and the "discernings (diakriseis-from
the same root as diakrinetosan in 14:29) of spirits," the
eighth and ninth to tongues and interpretation of tongues. Although
"discernings" (weighing, judging) may refer to more than prophecy,
it surely has a connection therewith. Thus prophecy needs discernment
even as tongues need interpretation. In accordance with this is the
climactic listing of the nine gifts in 12:8-10-and to the same matters
Paul returns in 14:27-33.
as in the prior observation: "prophecy with discernment"
and "tongues with interpretation." The shorthand for
this is simply "prophecy and tongues."
in mind that prophecy is "in part," or partial; hence not
everything said may come from the Holy Spirit (thus the need for discernment).
of wisdom" and "word of knowledge," on the other hand,
are gifts in which the mind while anointed by the Holy Spirit is fully
involved. In these two gifts, or manifestations of the Holy Spirit,
the Spirit inspires the utterance of wisdom and knowledge which is given
by the speaker. But no such "word of wisdom" or "knowledge"
comes forth with the directness of a prophetic "Thus says the Lord."
language" includes a person's natural way of speaking, his own
inflection and tone, even his peculiarities of speech. The Holy Spirit,
while speaking directly, does not reduce the human instrument to a mere
with prophecy, since the interpretation comes through a human vessel,
it may likewise be "in part." This could mean that because
of human limitations only a part of the message is given, or that the
interpretation of it contains elements which are not fully consonant
with what is spoken in the tongue.
other spiritual charismata (after word of wisdom and word of knowledge
and before prophecy and tongues), namely, faith, gifts of healing, and
working of miracles are of course not in the realm of communication.
They are supernatural powers but not supernatural utterances.
is significant to note that the same Greek word, apophthengomai,
is used in Acts 2:4 and Acts 2:14 for communication regarding both tongues
and prophecy. The word for "utterance" in 2:4 is "apopthengesthai";
likewise in the preface to the words concerning the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit the text reads: "Peter...declared to them," the
word for "declared" being apephthenxato. English translations
do not carry the full force of apophthengomai, which contains
the note of inspired speech. According to BAGD, in Greek literature,
the word is used "of the speech of the wise man...but also of the
oracle-giver, diviner, prophet, exorcist, and other 'inspired persons.'"
Against that background the New Testament usage of the word signifies
speech inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the one case it was speech in
tongues, in the other it was speech in prophecy-both given directly
from the Holy Spirit.
writes in his The Influence of the Holy Spirit that in "the
Pentecost narrative...the Spirit directly [italics mine] works
only glossolalia and prophecy" (p. 16). This, I believe, is a correct
regard to prophecy, the words of Peter (quoting Joel)-"your sons
and your daughters shall prophesy..."-clearly point to such a possibility.
Also there is continuing prophetic activity recorded in various places
in Acts. There is, however, no reference as such to the continuation
of tongues beyond the initial events (in Acts 2, 19; cf. Acts 10:46).
In the latter case we need to turn to other portions of the New Testament-as
we have previously done-which imply continuance. Mark 16:17-not previously
mentioned-"they shall speak with new tongues"-underscores
an ongoing reality.
course, I do not mean by this that words spoken in prophecy and tongues
stand above Scripture, for the Scriptures are normative, decisive, and
unerring; whereas, as observed before, prophecy calls for discernment,
and tongues need interpretation. Accordingly, in both prophecy and tongues
the human element is present. Neither gift in its exercise can be normative,
nor can it have the assurance of being free of all error. However, in
spite of this, through prophecy and tongues the living God, whose
written word is in Holy Scripture, speaks in and to His people today.
in Ephesians 4:11-two domata among five (or four-if "pastors"
and "teachers" are the same office).
in Romans 12:8-two charismata among seven.
domata or charismata.
| 2 |
3 | 4 |
5 | 6 |
7 | 8 |
9 | 10 |
11 | 12 | 13
| 14 |
15 | 16 | Conclusion
| Abbreviations |
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