The Gift Of Tongues

Q. Could you please help me understand 1 Corinthians 2:1-14? I teach the teens on Sunday morning and would like to explain the true wisdom of God and how he is a Spirit so that when they see people speaking in tongues and how his spirit can move you into praise that they can understand what is happening and not be frightened.

A. Corinth, like Athens before it, was known for its skilled orators. Paul didn’t attempt to be like them but instead relied on the Holy Spirit to get his message across. His demonstrations of the Spirit’s power apparently included visible signs, since the Greek language contains legal terms that normally describe evidence admissible in court. This way the Corinthians weren’t persuaded by his oratorical skills but by the Spirit’s power.

Paul likely performed miracles of healing, speaking and understanding languages he had no way of learning (tongues) and revealing things about people he had no way of knowing (prophecy). The manifestation of these gifts would have drawn people to God.

Paul then described a secret wisdom, one that not even Satan and his followers could understand. He says that if they had understood it, they’d have done everything possible to prevent the Lord’s crucifixion. This secret wisdom was that God would use the death of Jesus to settle mankind’s debt of sin and open wide the gates of heaven to all who choose to enter. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit it’s impossible for man to comprehend how or why God would do this, because our understanding comes directly from the Spirit of God communicating with our spirit.

As a teacher you know that Paul cautioned against the indiscriminate use of tongues and other ecstatic gifts, especially in the presence of seekers or when there was no interpreter present to help others understand. He devoted a whole chapter to the dangers of this in 1 Cor. 14, saying that the manifestation of a gift should be for the purpose of edifying the entire body not just the individual.

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