Now, Paul also says that in the church, the gift of tongues is only one gift. There’s no way that everybody has got the gift. He says, “Does everybody speak with tongues?” No they don’t. In the early church each person had a different gift. So it cannot be that, as some Pentecostals teach, that you must receive the gift of tongues to be saved and if you don’t have the gift of tongues you’re not saved, because that’s not what the Bible says. In fact I consider that abusive, sending people on a guilt trip if they can’t speak in tongues or if they don't fall down 'slain in the spirit'. They didn’t all have the gift in the first century. And apart from that, all this hype about tongues is simply not reflecting the Biblical status that’s given to it. Now if you were to turn to the 1st of Corinthians chapter 14, there is there a clear outline of how those gifts should be used. And again there clearly the gifts relate to foreign languages. And having given a load of commands about how the gift of tongues should be used, Paul concludes by saying, “If anyone thinks that he’s spiritually gifted, he must agree that what I said is really so”. So with that background, let’s have a look at what he says. He starts off by saying, “You guys in Corinth are using the gifts wrongly because you are jabbering away in languages that cannot be understood, as per 'slain in the spirit'. And what’s the point of this” he says, “If I don’t know the meaning of the voice, I’m like a barbarian.” And so he says, “If you speak in an unknown tongue” (in another language)… “Unknown” is a wrong translation there- it’s just added in by some translators. “If you speak in a tongue, you must pray that you can interpret”. So there was a gift of interpretation.
In other words, let’s imagine that…that we’re here preaching to you and…and you’re say Russians and you don’t know any language apart from Russian. And so I start to speak to you in Russian, and some guy walks in and he speaks only in English. So what’s the point for me to speak to you only in Russian when the guy there doesn’t know the language? There must be an interpreter to interpret back into the other language so that the whole church is kept together. And this he points out, going on in this: “We must do these things with understanding. The words that you speak by the gift of tongues must be words obviously that you understand. Or otherwise, when you pray, how can somebody say ‘Amen, so be it, I agree with it’, if it’s a load of sounds and noises that you can’t possibly understand?”
And he says, “I thank God I speak with tongues more than you all.” Why was that? Because he travelled so much in the preaching of the gospel that he used this gift of tongues (of languages) more than any other person did. But he says, “I’d rather speak five words that are understandable so that I might teach somebody else than 10,000 words in a language you don’t know.” Verse 22 “Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe”, not in some back-street church when believers get together…where one starts to speak in tongues and they all start doing it. They are a sign to those who don’t believe. Acts 2 is the great example. So it’s not something to confirm the faith of those who already believe. “Now, if you’re all speaking in tongues”, he says, “if everybody’s speaking (you in Korean, you in Chinese, you in Russian, you in English, you in Spanish) all at the same time, what is the point of this?” he says. “If anyone speak in a tongue, it only needs to be 2 or 3.” Why 2 or 3? Because it’s unlikely that there will be more than 2 or 3 language groups in any meeting. For example, here there might just be somebody who’s a Spanish speaker who knows no English. Ok, we would then use the gift of tongues to speak it in Spanish to that person, and then to translate back into English for the rest of you. It’s unlikely there would then be another language group that knew neither Spanish nor English. And there must be an interpreter. And he goes on, “but if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent.” But this is not the case in the Pentecostal movement. People do speak in tongues, in languages, without an interpreter at all.
“The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”. Does that sound like ‘slain in the Spirit’? It doesn’t to me. God is not the author of confusion. I’m sorry to say this, but Paul goes on to say, “Let your women keep silent in the churches”, and the context is that they should not speak in tongues. It is not permitted unto them to speak (in tongues) in the church. And yet this is simply not obeyed. It really is not obeyed. And don’t forget we started off by Paul saying, “If you don’t accept that these things are so, then you’re not really gifted.”
So, the gifts of the Spirit were given in the early church and they were then taken away. All the gifts of the Spirit were in order to achieve specific things at specific times. But actually there are other reasons to believe they were taken away. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are going to be poured out when Jesus comes back. Hebrews 6 talks about the gifts as the “powers of the age to come”. And in Joel, we read that during the last days, the gifts are going to be poured out again, after Israel have repented and been invaded by a northern invader. So then the gifts are going to be given when Jesus comes back. So therefore, they’re not going to be now possessed before he comes back, if they’re going to be given when he comes back, yet they were possessed in the first century. So there must be a time between the first century and the last days when they’ve been withdrawn. And that is exactly what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says, “Wherever they are these gifts of prophesies and tongues, knowledge they’re going to finish.” Now he says, “we know from parts”. Someone had a gift of prophesy, they gave the Word of God and the knowledge of the early church was built up sort of incrementally, by all these different prophesyings that were made under the Spirit. But he says, in contrast to that, “There is going to come, something which is perfect”, he says there. And perfect really means complete. It does not mean sinless. That’s the context in which it’s being used. It’s a poor translation, which goes through into the English translation, sadly. Just to confirm that, just look at these other times when this word that’s translated “perfect” is used. In Hebrews 5 he talks about the early believers were not yet perfect, were not yet of full age; as if they soon would be and they should be mature enough (or “perfect” enough). In Philippi some of them, along with Paul, he says, had reached the “perfect” or mature state. “We speak wisdom (1 Corinthians 2) amongst them that are perfect.” In understanding be men, be mature – it’s all the same word. Be complete. So, “when that which is complete is come, there will be no need for the gifts of the Spirit any longer”. So there was going to come a time, according to 1 Corinthians 13, when the gifts would be taken away. And we submit to you that the…the thing that was complete, the completed prophecies of the New Testament church: is the New Testament. That once the New Testament had been completed, the prophecies, the knowing things “from parts”, had been completed. Ephesians 4 says the same: That Jesus went to heaven and gave the gifts of the Spirit unto men for the building up of the body until we come to the knowledge of the son of God…. unto a mature man. Those in Philippi had got there. Paul himself had got there. So they were no longer children tossed to and fro.