Saturday, February 5, 2011

1 Corinthians 14 and the Danger of Ambiguity

1 Corinthians 14: reads:

      6Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? 7And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 9So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. 10There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 11Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. 12Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Each member of the body of Christ has been endowed with spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. ). These gifts are not for the praise of man, but for the glory of God through the building up of the church! If you’re not currently using your gift, then find a creative way to use it to help your brothers and sisters in Christ! If you do not know or are unsure of your gift, please take the test at Eleven Talents. Though I do not particularly agree with everything within the test I believe it to be a help in this area.

But this particular passage is not simply teaching that we are to use spiritual gifts. Though this, in context, is speaking directly to the issue of the gift of tongues, Paul nonetheless rightly points out that if what is spoken is not easily understood, we risk engaging in a fruitless enterprise. It’s like we’re talking to the air (v. 9)! Our message cannot be given ambiguously. We should not be so imprecise with our teachings that our students do not know much more than when they came in; we should not be so technical that our audience cannot follow us in any way. There is a level of appropriateness which we must meet in each situation. We who would aspire to be Christian teachers (which ought to be, in some way or another, every mature Christian) ought to make sure the meaning (or “signification” in v. 10) of our message is imparted in such a way as to “excel to the edifying of the church.”

What are some of your thoughts on this issue? Have any good stories that happened to you or to someone else you know? In what ways can we communicate both the message of the Gospel and the truths of Christian doctrine and theology without compromising the message itself? How important is it that we communicate effectively within the body of Christ?

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