Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Speaking In Tongues (part 29)

Fifteen thousand words of foundational material in this study allow for what comes next from Paul to be quite readily consumed, grasped, and comprehended, with proper conclusions readily drawn.  So moving along then, Paul writes “What should you do then, brothers and sisters?  When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation” (1 Corinthians 14:26a). 

Here, Paul again deploys “brothers and sisters,” which feels like a way for him, as this is discerned from the contextual and textual flow of the entire letter, to produce unity of mind and of purpose within the congregation gathered at their standard assembly to hear this letter read in its entirety and as a group.  With this, one cannot escape the fact any more than the divided and possibly stratified Corinthian believers could escape the fact, that Paul emphasizes and expects an equal participation by all in the events of the assembly. 

One must not take it lightly when Paul says that “each one” should have a song, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  This does not mean that each should have the ability to demonstrate all of these things, though this would not be problematic and could certainly be encouraged as long as it did not result in an unwarranted accrual of honor to anybody but the Creator God and His Christ, but that each one is encouraged to participate at some level, doing so, at least initially one would expect, in one of the ways that is being recognized as being influenced and directed by the covenant God through the Holy Spirit. 

Of course, the rest of verse twenty-six falls directly in line with all that Paul has said concerning tongues to this point, which is “Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church” (14:26b).  This is always the crux of the matter for Paul in his letter to Corinth.  The strengthening of the church is the matter at hand in this letter.  What they have been doing, which is what Paul is criticizing on multiple levels, apparently exacerbated with the elevation of the speech act of glossolalia, has led to, in his opinion, the weakening of the church.  One is then able to come to the conclusion that Paul sees a weakened and discouraged church through his constant exhortation that expresses the need for strengthening and encouraging. 

If the church is weakened, then by definition the kingdom of the Creator God (the bringing of heaven to earth---causing the overlap of God’s realm of existence with man’s realm of existence, manifested whenever selfless and sacrificial love that reveals the character of God that is also to be the calling card of those that are His image-bearers is being put on display) is damaged, as it is the church that functions as the ambassadorial arm of that kingdom. 

It is with such thoughts (including in these thoughts that there were problems, including the bestowal of honor in competition with other spiritual gifts or other factions within the church, being created and exacerbated through the displays of speaking in tongues) under consideration that one then goes on to hear “If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret” (14:27).  

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