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1 Corinthians & Isaiah 28:11 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 7 secs

Baptism of the Holy Spirit & Tongues
Selected Verses
John Lesson #015
August 16, 1998

We began to look at the question: Is there a connection between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gift of tongues? We saw that the spiritual gift of tongues was prophesied in the Old Testament in Isaiah 28:11, and referred to in 1 Corinthians 14:21 by the apostle Paul that it was prophesied as a warning sign of impending divine judgment on the nation Israel. So the purpose underlying the spiritual gift of tongues has to do with God's plan and purpose for Israel. It is not related to something that would be normative in the church age. There are three occasions in the Acts narrative that relate to speaking in tongues. One happens on the day of Pentecost, the second at the Gentile Pentecost in Acts 10 & 11, the third in Acts 19 when Paul gives the gospel to some disciples of John the Baptist. They represent Old Testament saints. They speak in tongues and are filled with the Holy Spirit as a sign that Old Testament saints are brought into the body of Christ on the same basis as Gentiles and Jews, therefore to show the unity of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."   

Is the gift of tongues for today? Unfortunately when we come to this subject it is usually very emotional with people. They immediately react and say that because we don't believe in the gift of tongues we are missing out and we can't really know what the Scripture says because we don't have the Holy Spirit. All of that is easy to say for people who do not want to grapple with what the Word of God actually means. Unfortunately, in the charismatic movement it is dominated by a lot of mystical thought which is based on irrationalism and emotionalism, and what really matters is not all this slavery to the literal Word of the Bible, let's just let God speak directly to us. If God is going to speak directly to us, though, it will not contradict what God spoke directly through the apostles in the Word of God. Therefore if the Bible is the Word of God and is infallible, and is our absolute guide to faith and practice, then we must look at what the Scripture says about the subject.

To understand the answer to this question we must begin with a little background to the epistle to the Corinthians. We must understand something about this area called Corinth. For centuries before the coming of Christ itinerate sailors and retired soldiers had flocked to Corinth as a retirement location. They brought with them all of their various gods and goddesses which created a religious melting pot in Corinth. There you could find temples to the gods of Egypt, the gods of Persia, and the gods of Anatolea, along with all of the degenerate rites of the phallic cult. All of these religious ideas were assimilated into the Greek religions of Mount Olympus. In fact, Corinth was known for its temples to Athena where over a thousand temple prostitutes enticed the religious devotees and immorality as a basis for having a relationship with the goddess. Over the years prior to the New Testament respect for the traditional gods of Greece deteriorated.

Just a historical note here. There is always a the following trend in history. There develops a strong basis for rationalism. Rationalism always emphasizes human reason as a basis for interpreting everything, and usually with rationalism comes a lot of religious skepticism. So rationalism is usually followed by religious skepticism and on the basis of skepticism there is very little hope left. Rationalism debunks the gods and goddesses of the culture, as a result there is no skepticism, there is no hope, there is no eternal life, there is no basis for that, and since rationalism can't provide ultimate answers skepticism is hollow and empty and is always followed by mysticism. This happened in the ancient world. Rationalism came with the great philosophers. From Socrates through Plato and Aristotle there was the rise of Greek rationalism. That produced skepticism which dominated in the following centuries so that by the second century and into then first century BC and the first century AD. There was the rise of oriental mysticism and the popularity of the oriental mystery religions in Greece. The same thing has happened in our history. Rationalism arose in the 16th-17th centuries and by the 19th century there was the development of religious skepticism which played itself out in the 19th century religious liberalism, the rise of Darwinistic evolution. Now, starting really in the 60s was the development of mysticism, religious mysticism and the rise of the New Age movement, postmodernist philosophy, and all of this is ultimately based on mysticism. Wee see the same trends.

As mysticism dominated in the ancient world in Corinth and provided the ideological and religious context as a backdrop to understanding the problems in Corinth and the problems they had with tongues, it is also the backdrop for understanding what is going on in the 20th century as a backdrop to the rise of Pentecostalism. Why is it that among all of the epistles that Paul wrote to various cities in the ancient world that it was only the Corinthians that had a problem with tongues? It is never mentioned in any other epistle. It must have something to do with the matrix of culture and ideas in Corinth. Why is it that the tongues movement that we see today around us—the Pentecostal movement, the charismatic movement, etc.—that it did not develop until the end of the 19th century and literally the first day of the 20th century. It arose out of a cultural context and it is within that cultural context of 19th century skepticism that we see people starting to react to this rationalistic skepticism to emotion and experience. So there are a lot of parallels in our world to what happened in the ancient world.

At that time in Corinth when the apostle Paul arrived in the autumn of 49 AD to proclaim the gospel he began by going to the Jewish synagogue. He got a few converts, created some dissention, was kicked out, and then he went to the Gentiles. In Acts 18:8 we are told, "Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized." So we can say safely that the emerging congregation, this new spiritually infant congregation was the product of this Greek culture. That is their backdrop, their frame of reference for understanding spirituality and religion. So they came from a background of extreme immorality, humanistic philosophies and heathen mythologies. That had formed the context of their thinking. So of we are going to understand these passages in Corinthians we must understand a little bit about their culture.

The mystery religions were called such because they said there was some kind of mystery knowledge, unrevealed knowledge, not mystery in the sense of a who-dunnit, but mystery in the sense of unrevealed knowledge; that there was some secret knowledge that you had to learn about if you were going to have a relationship with the gods. Usually they would go to various religious centres up in the hills and in the temples and they would have an ecstatic experience, and emotional high, and something would happen when the god's spoke to them and they gave them this key. So this was their initiation into this religious system.

There were three major cults that dominated the thinking in Greece. The first had to do with the worship of Apollo, the second had to do with the worship of Dionysus, and the third revolved around the Sibiline cult. Apollo had a major shrine at Delphi, just across the isthmus from Corinth. At that shrine was a high priestess who was called the Oracle at Delphi, and people would go to the Oracle to find out all kinds of things about their future. The priestess spoke in ecstatic utterances. That means gibberish to most of us but it was claimed to be a language of the gods. She was said to be possessed by a spirit called Spirit of the Python. The basis for this mythologically was that at this location there had once been this enormous python, and Apollo came down and killed it. They established a shrine to him at that location and it was there that the prophetess would speak in a mysterious "divine" language. Her priestess attendant would then translate that mysterious language. Several centuries later a Christian writer by the name of Chrysostom wrote: "This same pythoness is said, being a female, to sit at times upon the tripod of Apollo astride, and thus the evil spirit ascending from beneath and entering the lower part of her body fills the woman with madness. And she with dishevelled hair begins to foam at the mouth, and thus being in a frenzy, to utter the words of her madness." The second cult was the Dionysus cult. There is a connection between Dionysus and Apollo because the Dionysian cult came out of Turkey and was brought into Greece and assimilated. What would happen was Apollo would go on vacation for six months of the year from Delphi and he was replaced by Dionysus. In these mystery religions the thrust that formed the foundation was that they offered to the religious devotee immortality through initiation into a secret experience would then save the soul after death. According to Aristotle the emphasis was not on learning anything but on feeling certain emotions and entering into a certain frame of mind. And this was the mindset of the typical Corinthians who had just become a believer. They would have these secret rites where the emotions of the participants were inflamed in a torch-light ceremony and a parade up into a mountain grove, with the throbbing beat of the drums and erotic dancing, and at times they would get so worked up they would tear the sacrificial animals limb from limb while the animal was still alive and they would eat the raw flesh. At the height of this ritual the idolater was said to be mystically united with the gods so that the god indwelt him and spoke through him in a mysterious language. The Dionysian cult was one of the most extreme forms of these mystery religions and as part of Dionysian worship they spoke in ecstatic languages, and they emphasised healing and miracles as evidence of being filled by this god. See the parallel. This was a Satanic counterfeit of what would be part of the spiritual life is obvious.

The point is that the Corinthians made the same conclusion. Coming out of this background, when they heard about the spiritual gift of tongues they interpreted it within the framework of their mystery religions, and so instead of understanding it as speaking in legitimate human languages they interpreted it as this emotional, mystical experience as the sign of the god indwelling them. Any Gentile initiate of the Dionysian cult would believe that emotional excitement and speaking in a ecstatic utterances which were "used by the gods and spirits in heaven" was evidence of a special relationship with the gods. In other words, emotion became their criterion for evaluating the spiritual life. The other point to make is that when they spoke in ecstatic utterances the benefit was personal. It was only personal. If you were in a mystery religion the only person who go any benefit out of it was the individual who was performing the action. No one else understood what was being said so it was just the fact that you had this sort of emotional experience that got you jazzed up so that you could go out and live on the basis of this experience. The third mystery religion at this time was came from the Sibile cult which in Anatolea (Turkey) was intimately connected with the worship of Dionysus. As part of their practice they would try would try to invoke the gods with clashing symbols, banging drums and loud gongs.

What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 13:1? "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." He is making a direct reference to these religious practices that dominated in Corinth.

In their emotional excitement they would dance in a frenzy. Their goal was to achieve the status of emotional ecstasy so that they could speak in a mysterious gibberish. So all three of these mystery religions encouraged their pupils to get emotionally excited and speak in this gibberish in order to give evidence that they had a relationship with God. So emotion was confused with spirituality. But this wasn't unique to this particular time in the first century. A hundred years later there was a man by the name of Montanus arise in the same area. Before he was saved he was a priest of Sibile, so he had been a part of that cult. He began a Christian sect which espoused these same heretical views emphasizing irrational ecstatic prophecy about the return of Christ, miracles and emotional experience as a criterion for spirituality. Since these later Montanists one hundred years later con fused emotion, frenzy and ecstatics with spirituality, it is really clear that the 1st century Corinthians were making same error. And it is the same error that underlies the Pentecostal-charismatic movement today.

Now we have to understand something about the Corinthians believers themselves. Remember, in the original Pentecostal understanding of the gift of tongues you had to have a second work of grace after salvation in order to have everything that God has for you. That second work of grace would sort of elevate you to a higher level of spirituality. They called that second work of grace the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it was evidenced by speaking in tongues, and you had to have that if you were really going to be spiritual because the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what would make you spiritual. The issue here is, is that what happened in Corinth?

Let's see what Paul says about the Corinthians in his epistle. The Corinthians were perhaps the most carnal, screwed up, out-of-fellowship bunch in the entire New Testament. Paul confronts them with the fact that they are operating on hum viewpoint rather than Bible doctrine in 1 Corinthians chapters one through three. Positionally they had become new creatures in Christ, they were believers, nevertheless they are the same old sinners with the same old human viewpoint dominating the mentality of their souls. Their sin list is appalling. They are accused of pride, envy, jealousy, childishness, pettiness, gossip, maligning, adultery, incest and drunkenness. As a result it is the most fragmented congregation in the New Testament era. Yet, because of the abundance of God's grace the church was filled with spiritual gifts, according to 1 Corinthians 1:7. But because they were in carnality, according to 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, they couldn't use their spiritual gifts, they were operating out of the sin nature. So we have to understand the carnal background of the Corinthians. They were divided; they were confused; they were carnal. There was little if anything to commend this group of believers. Paul nailed them for their competition over baptism in 1 Corinthians 1:11-17, he rebuked them for their excessive carnality and lack of spiritual growth in 1 Corinthians 3:3. They rejected Bible doctrine and those who communicated doctrine in 1 Corinthians 3:18-22. They were arrogant in a variety of areas, including dragging fellow believers before unbelieving judges to resolve their disputes, and contentious women in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. They were split according to the various trends in the sin natures, towards legalism and asceticism. Those who were involved legalism and asceticism were confused and self-righteous concerning marriage, divorce and sexuality in 1 Corinthians chapter seven. These legalists created discord over eating meat sacrificed to idols in chapter eight. They accused Paul of money lust because he was remunerated for his teaching ministry, in 1 Corinthians chapter nine. Those who followed the trend toward antinomianism returned to the licentious patterns of their Greek culture. They tolerated incest in 1 Corinthians 5:1, fornication in 1 Corinthians 6, participated in the phallic cult in 1 Corinthians 6:15, and they exploited the Lord's table as an excuse for gluttony and drunkenness in 1 Corinthians 11:17. So we are not talking about a group of people here who are really excited about their relationship with the Lord and walking by means of the Holy Spirit, are we? This is as screwed up bunch of Christians that can be found at any time in church history. Just because they spoke in tongues had nothing to do with their spirituality. In fact, what we can guess from our background study is what they were doing in calling speaking in tongues wasn't the biblical gift of tongues at all. What they were doing in their carnality was imitating the pagan practices of the mystery religions that they had grown up with. They were taking those ideas over into their experience in Christianity and trying to identify it. The result was division and emotionalism and nobody knew what was going on at all in Corinth.

One thing we want to emphasize here is 1 Corinthians 14:4 NASB "One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church." Paul is simply making the point that if you go out here and have this ecstatic utterance the only Paul is simply making the point that if you go out here and have this ecstatic utterance the only person who is benefiting from it is you. The biblical gift of tongues is a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift by definition is given to the believer to edify others in the body of Christ, not himself. If he uses his spiritual gift for personal benefit then he is in arrogance and self-absorption and is distorting the spiritual gift. So therefore, what is our conclusion? The spiritual gift was never designed for devotions, the spiritual gift of tongues was never designed as a prayer language, because all of that violates its fundamental definition as a spiritual gift. So whatever else the apostle Paul is saying in chapter 14 he concludes later on that he would rather speak five words with his mind than ten thousand words in a tongue. Because when these people got involved in ecstatic utterance the mind was disengaged, and it is the mind, the mentality of the soul, that is the basis for much of spiritual life. Remember, the Christian life is a life based on thought. It is based on thinking the thoughts of Christ, having in us the mind of Christ.

Everybody is given a spiritual gift at the point of salvation and no spiritual gift is more important than any other spiritual gift to the body of Christ. Some have greater significance in one area or another but all are of value. Paul uses the analogy in 1 Corinthians 12:14-22 of the foot and the hand, etc. In other words, if your spiritual gift is one of the less seen of the spiritual gifts, and not as obvious as the gift of evangelism or pastor-teacher which are more overt gifts, you don't have any right to say your gift isn't relevant. Every gift is important.

When we look at the issue of spiritual gifts we realize that the present conception of spiritual gifts in the charismatic-Pentecostal movement is in direct contradiction to what is taught in 1 Corinthians chapter twelve. The highest priority gifts were related to the communication of doctrine, because that is the only way that we can grow in the spiritual life. We need to remind ourselves that the spiritual life is based on thinking doctrine, it is not based on emotion. Emotion should never be the basis for making decisions or evaluating the Christian life. Emotions can never learn, cannot analyse, solve problems, cannot produce spiritual growth. It is easier for people to rely on emotion, though, than invest their energy in concentrating on doctrine and in having the self-discipline to think and to go to Bible class and listen to somebody teach for 45 minutes or an hour, or even longer. God designed emotion to be the responder to the mentality in the soul, not to be the initiator. When emotion overruns the mentality in the soul the result is subjectivity, irrationality and self-absorption. Emotion was a rampant problem in the Corinthians church. So let us remind ourselves of what the Bible says:   

Proverbs 23:7 NASB "For as he thinks within himself, so he is."

Colossians 3:2 NASB "Set your mind [not emotions] on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."

Ephesians 4:23 NASB "and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind."

Philippians 2:5 NASB "Have this attitude [phroneo: objective thinking] in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."

How do we learn to think like Christ? By learning doctrine. The Word of God is called the mind/thinking of Christ in 1 Corinthians 2:16. Therefore we conclude that what God says is more important than how we feel. What God says is the only thing that matters in terms of our spiritual life, not how we feel. When God's Word becomes more real to the believer than any emotion, any circumstance or any experience, then he is beginning to move forward in the spiritual life. Only by learning Bible doctrine can we come to know God; only by learning doctrine can we know God and then love God. We cannot love who we do not know, and we cannot know what we haven't taken the time and the discipline to learn. We have to renovate our thinking through Bible doctrine. Romans 12:2 NASB "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." So the spiritual life is a life based on thought, on thinking Bible doctrine.

The key verse that we want to look at in 1 Corinthians 13 to ask the question, is the gift of tongues for today, is verse 10: "but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away." This is the whole issue. What does it mean when it says "when the perfect comes"? The Greek word for "perfect" here is teleios [teleioj], a neuter adjective. In the ancient world there were two categories of meaning to this word. One had to do with the quality of a thing, the other had to do with quantity. It can't mean both, it is either/or. Quality has to do with something that has no imperfections in it, so in terms of a qualitative idea we would translate it as "perfect." A quantity idea has to do with how much there is of something, a little or a lot. If something is partial then when  it is teleios it is made complete, brought to completion. So these are the two different ideas: moral perfection or completion. A perfect state indicates a quality situation; incomplete or complete indicates a quantity or how much. So we have to use the context to determine whether what is translated "perfect" here has a quality idea or a quantity idea. "When the perfect comes the partial will be done away." So it is obvious that partial is a quantity idea. If this is going to have any meaning then the word must be translated "complete" to be consistent with the context.

Applying this in terms of interpretation. When the word is understood as having a quantity idea it is interpreted to refer to the second coming of Christ, or when the believer dies and is face to face with the Lord. They try to derive that out of verse 12 and we will see that is the wrong idea; it won't fit. The context is comparing knowledge and prophecy which are partial to teleios which is "complete"; the idea of perfection doesn't enter in. The context here is talking about partial and complete rather than partial and perfect. Obviously this category of interpretation—the second coming or being face to face with the Lord, the Millennial kingdom or any of the ideas there—just don't fit the context, they totally violate the basic meaning of the word.

1 Corinthians 13:8 NASB "Love never fails; but if {there are gifts of} prophecy, they will be done away; if {there are} tongues, they will cease; if {there is} knowledge, it will be done away." Love is going to continue, it is never going to be abrogated, "but" (contrast), three things are going to be abrogated. If there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away. If there are tongues, they will cease. Knowledge will be done away. So he is talking about three spiritual gifts here: prophecy, tongues, knowledge. Prophecy and knowledge are revelatory gifts. They were used by God to reveal doctrine to people. Tongues was a sign gift, a sign of judgment to the Jews. Prophecy and knowledge are said to be abolished—katargeo [katargew], passive voice. Something is going to happen which will knock these two completely, they will be acted upon. But tongues is not abolished, a different word is used. Paul uses the word pauo [pauw], middle voice, and it is a dynamic middle which indicates that tongues is just going to die out. Tongues is not mentioned again in this passage, which indicates that tongues probably would die out before the other two gifts were abolished. We know from history that it did. In 70 AD when Israel was taken out under the fifth cycle of discipline she no longer existed as a nation and the purpose for tongues as a sign of judgment therefore no longer existed. What the sign signified had come to pass, so it was no longer necessary for the gift to function. But prophecy and knowledge were still in operation. It wasn't until 95 AD that the apostle John received the prophecy in the book of Revelation.

Then it goes on in verse 9 to talk about these two subjects, prophecy and knowledge: "For we know in part and we prophesy in part." So what characterizes prophecy and knowledge is that they are both partial. The Greek word here is ek merous [e)k merouj]. Knowledge and prophecy are partial because no prophet, no apostle, no one with the gift of knowledge was given all of the information in the New Testament at one time. Even the apostle Paul didn't understand everything. Prophecy and knowledge are talking about revelation. So if we are talking about revelation then that which is partial is going to be completed. Verse 10: "but when the perfect [that which completes] comes, the partial [partial revelatory gifts] will be done away [abolished]." There we have the word katargeo again. What completes partial revelation is complete revelation. And it is only when we have the complete revelation of God that we are able to complete our spiritual life and grow to spiritual maturity. If we only have incomplete revelation we don't have everything we need to know to pursue spiritual maturity, bit once revelation is complete we have everything we need in order to grow to spiritual maturity.

Paul is talking about knowledge and prophecy. Now he illustrates, and illustration # 1 relates to knowledge, moving from partial to complete. Verse 11 NASB "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." The difference between a child and an adult is incomplete versus complete. Verse 12 NASB "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." "Now" is a critical word, arti [a)rti]. There are two different Greek words that can be used to express the concept of present time, arti and numi [numi], and we find both of them in this passage. In verse 13: NASB "But now [numi] faith, hope, love, abide these three…" Why does the apostle shift from arti to numi in these two verses? Is there some difference? In about 95 per cent of cases these two words are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. But when they are used within the same context then the writer emphasizes different aspects of "now." The arti is used to indicate the exact present time; the numi is a little broader and would indicate more the present age. So what we find in verse 13 is:  "But now in the church age continues faith, hope and love." Remember, it is faith, hope and love that continues. Love never fails, v. 8. And what Paul is saying in v. 12 is, "But now—right now in this present time in this present pre-canon period—we see in a mirror dimly." The mirror we look at is the mirror of the Word of God, the perfect law of liberty James calls it. God's Word reflects who we are. We look in the mirror to see what we are truly like. That is the Word of God.

1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB " For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." What does this refer to? Most of the time when we read something written on this passage we are going to read that the face to face here is face to face with the Lord, but that doesn't fit the analogy. When we look into the mirror we are looking face to face with the mirror, not with some other person; there is a reflection going on. When I am face to face with the Lord He is not reflecting anything. When I am face to face with the Word of God it is reflecting me. What is important here is to understand that analogy. It is based on Numbers 12:6 NASB "He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. [7] Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; [8]  With him I speak mouth to mouth [face to face], Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?" The words "dark sayings" is the word "ainigma," [a)inigma]. That is the word from which we get our English word "enigma" – a kind of mystery, something we don't know about. "For now we see in a mirror enigmatically." So Paul's illustration in verse 12 is an illustration of prophecy moving from partial, and incomplete mirror that just reveals things to us somewhat enigmatically because we don't have the whole story to the fact that when we have the completed canon of Scripture we see ourselves perfectly in that mirror face to face: "…but then [when I have a completed canon of Scripture] I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." In other words, the Scripture fully knows you and fully reveals who you are to yourself. That is the point of this illustration. 

1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three…" What doesn't abide? Prophecy, tongues and knowledge. That is the point of this passage. So when we ask the question, does the spiritual gift of tongues continue today? It is clear it does not. It had a temporary purpose related to divine judgment on the nation Israel. Furthermore, there were other gifts that had to do with revelation that were also temporary—apostle, prophet, wisdom, knowledge. Those had to do with revelation but once revelation was complete, the completed canon of Scripture, they died off. We became mature in our understanding of doctrine because we had a complete mirror. That complete mirror is perspicacious, it reveals to us all that we are and who we are in brutal honesty, and we have a choice then to go to God's Word and to respond to it as it is, or to say no, I don't really believe that, I prefer to revel in my emotions and to feel good and to have these ecstatic experiences so that I can evaluate my spiritual life by how I feel and not by the objective, clear grammar and words of the New Testament. Who cares what the Bible says? My experience is more important. And that is exactly what the charismatics say, you can find it in a number of their writings. Doctrine is where truth resides. It is doctrine that gives us the mind of Christ and it is doctrine that is the basis for worshipping God, not experience.