Bible Study, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity

Bible 1 Yr – Day 166 – Why you should care about speaking in tongues!

Chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians is one of my most favorite chapters in the Bible. On the surface it is a boring list of rules for speaking in tongues in the infant Church. This phenomenon is not something that happens often these days, so why should we care? But scratch the surface and the chapter reveals a goldmine of instruction in the faith. The first sentence starts us off,

1 Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

Thus, love is the aim, that supernatural charity that Paul spoke about yesterday. Remember that supernatural charity (love as it is being used here) is when we love other out of our love for God. Notice what Paul says is the gift we should desire most … prophesy. We must note that here Paul is using “prophesy” not in the way as we might typically understand it – as in, “to predict the future”. Here prophesy means to testify, evangelize, preach and convert. The gift most readily given out by God and the one we should desire most is the gift to spread the Gospel. Why? Because that is the greatest way to show love to another person. Paul says it is OK to desire the more exotic supernatural gifts we should love first and God will give you the gifts he desires you to have.

Next, Paul tells us the purpose of Spiritual gifts:

26 What then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

Paul has made this first point before. All people have their role to play. Some are Apostles, some are teachers, some are teachers, some are healers, etc. He starts by making that point again here. Each person has something different to offer. Not every person has to speak in tongues; some will have hymns, some lessons, etc. But to what purpose?

All things, i.e. all the spiritual gifts, are to be used to build up or edify the Church. If you have a gift from God, it is to be used for this purpose. This is not what the Corinthians were doing. They were taking their ability to speak in tongues as a badge of honor. They had turned it in on themselves, saying, “look what I can do”. Paul rejects that. Gifts, any and all gifts, must be used to edify the Church.

But Paul goes further!

36 What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. 38 If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized.

Paul challenges the Corinthians. Although they were not using their gift to build up the Church they still had great love for Him and were praising the Lord. The people speaking in tongues clearly are filled with the Holy Spirit! So much so that they are routinely performing the miracle of speaking in tongues. But Paul rebukes them, basically asking them do you think that because you have the Holy Spirit that you are elevated up to some greater position? This is an important point. Having the Holy Spirit, faith, loving God and praising God is not enough. Your spiritual gifts must be used for edification – for building up the Church and evangelizing.

Then Paul makes his central point. If a person does have the Holy Spirit, “he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord”. The implications of this statement are mind blowing!

What Paul is writing to the Corinthians is the same as a “command of the Lord”. Think about that! What Paul says is the same as if Jesus himself tells you, “do this”. This is the level of authority Jesus gave the Apostles when he said, “as the Father sent me so I send you” and “he who hears you, hears me…”.

This implies many things. Jesus had the power to forgive sins, therefore the Apostles have the power to forgive sins. Jesus had the power to appoint Apostles to carry the message to the world, therefore the Apostles have the power to appoint successors, today we call them Bishops, to carry the message to the world. Jesus had the power to change the bread and wine into his Body and Blood and therefore the Apostles and their successors have the power to change the bread and wine.

But there is more…

Paul KNOWS that he is writing scripture. Since Paul knows that what he is writing to the Corinthians is “the same as a commandment of the Lord”, he knows what he is writing carries the same weight and teachings of Jesus. This means that God made it so a plain old fallible man could actually know when he is writing something that was revealed by God and all the faithful are bound to.

And there’s more…

The statement implies that if a person truly has the Holy Spirit, then they will recognize Paul’s authority. In other words, if the Holy Spirit is really in you then He will cause you to recognize who speaks for Jesus and that they have the authority to do so.

And there is still more!

1. Since there is only one God, and
2. since the Holy Spirit is God and Jesus is God, and
3. since the Apostles and their successors speak for Jesus

then

if it is truly the Holy Spirit speaking through someone, they will always teach the same things as the Apostles taught because the Holy Spirit cannot teach something different from Jesus. Paul says exactly that:

31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

This is why it is so important to look to the Fathers of the Church, especially the Apostolic Fathers. They are the early converts in the first, second and third centuries. They recorded what the Apostles taught. Their writings are not scripture but they are informative of what the Holy Spirit and the Lord were teaching through the Apostles. That is what we too must believe, that is the Christian faith. Our faith today should be the same as the faith taught by the Apostles. To find the Church that Jesus established find the Church that teaches the same thing today that the Apostolic Fathers. If you’re interested in learning more about exactly what the fathers taught I highly recommend a book called, “The Father’s Know Best” by Jimmy Akin which summarizes their teaching by subject.

13 thoughts on “Bible 1 Yr – Day 166 – Why you should care about speaking in tongues!”

  1. No, not everything he writes is a command of the Lord. For example, he might be traveling and stay as a guest in someone’s house. If he writes a thank you note when he leaves that is not going to be a “command of the Lord”. The key here (or one of them) is that Paul is TRYING to write instructions for the Corinthians. It is his intention to give them definitive instructions / teaching.

  2. I get that a thank you note is not a command from the Lord, but is what he wrote in all these letters to the churches can be considered a “command” from the Lord?

  3. Well, he writes many things, including for example greetings and personal messages. Those aren’t “commands” because they are simply not declarative statements. However, everything he writes in the canonical letters can and should be considered the word of the Lord.

  4. so then in verses 34-35, where Paul says that women shouldn’t speak in church meetings, that is the word of the Lord?

  5. Yes, but there also is a context to that. As Paul describes in the letter these Church meetings had basically become dinner parties. At dinner parties woman tend to talk a lot, particularly amongst themselves. Also, women tended to accept the Gospel first and then bring their husbands to Church (again not that different from today). So they would ask a lot of questions because they really wanted to learn. Further, back then, men tended to receive formal education and women did not. So this was new to them and they were particularly inquisitive. The overall thrust of Paul’s letter is that he is putting an end to this dinner party atmosphere and restoring an organized worship service. At that service, Men are priests and the men do the teaching. As such, this particular passage is cited a part of the evidence for the all male priesthood. Understood in its proper context this passage actually shows the dramatic shift of how participation was being opened up to woman in Christianity.

  6. with as much as Jesus ministered to women, I always thought that passage was very strange and I can see how it would be taken out of context

  7. “if it is truly the Holy Spirit speaking through someone, they will always teach the same things as the Apostles taught because the Holy Spirit cannot teach something different from Jesus. Paul says exactly that:”

    How does that mesh with the pope saying it can be “morally necessary” for a married couple to divorce? Was he talking to those outside the church or those inside?

    I’m quite certain there was child abuse and spousal abuse during Jesus’s day but the only reason He gave for divorce was adultery, after scolding them about allowing it in the first place.

  8. Actually, what Jesus taught was that divorce AND REMARRIAGE was impossible. Jesus doesn’t say you have to stay with an abusive spouse. He says that even if you get “divorced” in the eyes of God you are still married. Pope Francis’ statement about divorce is not new. It just sounds new bc of the media spin (and bc the media didn’t know the rules in the first place). If necessary, you can get civilly divorced – that has always been the case. However, you remain married in the eyes of God and the Church.

    the “adultery exception’ is another example of why we need a Church to correctly interpret Jesus’ teachings. The word used in the original Greek manuscripts is “porneia”. It is not the normal word used for adultery. It has a slightly ambiguous meaning. It’s the word from which we derive our word “pornography” and it means something more akin “unnatural union”. The fact that the exception only appears in the Gospel of Matthew is important. That’s b/c the Jewish people had strict rules for intermarriage between families. You couldn’t marry your cousin and such. But bc the Jews were such a homogeneous people these rules were more important and went a little farther. Jesus is saying these rules still apply. This is the basis for annulments. If something is wrong in the prerequisite criteria, you are not married – even if you thought you were or intended to be.

    The apostles reaction to Jesus’ teaching is telling. They kind of freak out. This makes sense if they understand him to be placing a total ban on divorce and remarriage even in the case of adultery. If Jesus banned divorce and remarriage EXCEPT for cases of adultery they wouldn’t have freaked so much b/c that’s an understandable exception.

  9. so, let me see if I get this straight. You’re telling me that Jesus says I can get married and if I want, I can divorce my wife for any reason, and as long as I don’t get remarried, I haven’t done anything wrong?

  10. No, marriage is something you enter into and when you do so you take on moral obligations to your spouse and to God. Jesus is saying that these obligations are so profound that even if other moral obligations (like protecting yourself from abuse) make it “morally necessary” (like the Pope said) to divorce that some of the bonds of marriage still remain even in those extreme situations. Thus, although you are divorced (civilly) you remain married (religiously) and thus cannot be remarried. Stated another way, one cannot divorce “for any reason” it must be “morally necessary” and even then you remain married in the eyes of God but are no longer obligated to live with and provide earthly needs of your spouse.

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