Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 14-16
Today’s Reflection: 1 Corinthians 14:6-9
6) Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7) If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8) And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9) So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.
One of the issues Paul had to address with the church at Corinth was the issue of speaking in tongues. As we’ve seen throughout the book of Acts, the gift of being able to spontaneously speak in languages different than one’s own was one possible manifestation of the Holy Spirit being poured out on an apostle, disciple or new convert to the Gospel truth (Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-48). There is some dispute whether the speaking of tongues Paul references here refers to the ability to speak in different languages, or the ability to speak in a language unknown to man sometimes referred to as the language of angels. What is not in dispute is what Paul clearly and unambiguously states here: if a language is spoken that people cannot understand, it is useless for the purpose of the ministry.
Today we continue to have an issue with signs, wonders and miracles in the church. Yes, including the controversial speaking in tongues, but also things like apparitions of Jesus or Mary, bleeding statues and bread and wine turning into blood. As human beings we’re easily distracted by spectacle, but we should also remember that powers other than those with allegiance to God can also produce miracles.
Matthew 24:24 – For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
2 Thessalonians 2:9 – The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,
2 Corinthians 11:14 – And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
So there needs to be something more than just a miracle for it to come from God. There needs to be a purpose behind it. It must serve to advance the ministry of the Gospel. It must advance the kingdom of God in some tangible way. This is what Paul is essentially saying here to the church at Corinth. Speaking in different languages (or an unknown language) may be impressive, but it must agree with scripture and be effective at prophesying the truth about our God. If someone speaks in tongues but no one can understand what is being said, what good is it? Like a horn so indistinct it fails to alert soldiers to battle, it draws attention to itself without serving any useful or practical purpose. What of statues and symbols that draw attention to themselves, but fail to give glory to God? What good is a miracle that is incapable of saying anything about the grace of God? Or about the salvation offered through His son? Or about the coming of the kingdom of God, and about Jesus soon return?
Let us seek the Gospel of truth rather than getting caught up in the pursuit of signs and wonders that by themselves can also steer us astray.
Matthew 16:4 – An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.