Monday, June 14, 2010

Edification of Others

Paul said that "one who speaks in a tongue builds up
himself" (1 Corinthians 14:4), and now repeats his
insistence that it is preferable to build up the church
rather than one's self. He does not say to do both of these
things, but contrasts them as if they are in opposition to
one another. And rightly so! The contrast is between
self-service and service to others, between
self-centeredness and Christian service, between the pride
of self-concern and the humility of concern for others. In
self-service the love and attention flows inward, to one's
self. In Christian service the love and attention flows
outward, to others.

And again we note that the word "gifts" has been added to
the English. It is not in the Greek. And again we see that
it is not necessarily wrong to add it, but it tends to
limit Paul's admonition. And again, I think that Jay Green
gets it almost right in his Literal Version, "since you are
zealots of spiritual things, seek to build up the assembly
that you may abound." Other translations use the adjective
"zealous" rather than the noun "zealots," and the adjective
is to be preferred. The meaning is: since you are zealous
for the spirit or for spiritual things, then work to build
up (edify) other Christians so that you may grow in the

Paul has identified those who speak in tongues as being
zealous for the Spirit of God. They are full of enthusiasm,
zeal and eagerness to be used by God's Holy Spirit, and
Paul knows that such desire is a good thing. So, he
encourages it while at the same time redirecting it. He
wants people to use their zeal (enthusiasm) to serve the
growth and maturity of the church, and in the process they
will themselves grow and mature in faithfulness. Since they
want to think of themselves as being special because they
think that they have a "higher" gift or experience in that
they can speak some special fango-dango language, or can
speak a real but unknown language of the Spirit, Paul
advises them to actually become special by serving the
growth and maturity of other Christians. And if they do
that well, they will actually grow in maturity themselves
and will then have the real thing -- a true tongue that
speaks meaningfully about God, Jesus and Scripture rather
than a counterfeit tongue that speaks unknown or
meaningless babble.

The desire to be used by God is good, but it should not be
self-directed. It should be other-directed. We are not to
try to use God for our own edification, but rather we
should try to be used by God for the edification of other
believers. To speak in a tongue that others don't
understand does nothing for anyone else. It is just a way
to draw one's attention to one's self, as if a higher truth
lies within one's own heart and mind. Rather, said Paul,
build up the body of believers by prophesying, by speaking
meaningfully about God and Jesus and Scripture. Seek to
excel in the ability to prophesy, to explain Scripture.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:13 that the person who speaks
in a tongue -- in a foreign language (human or angelic) --
would do better to pray to be able to interpret, to say
something meaningful. Again Paul contrasts speaking
meaninglessly with speaking meaningfully. The Greek word
translated as "interpret" literally means to explain
thoroughly or expound. The speaking in tongues that Paul
encourages involves the translation and explanation of
God's Word in foreign languages, which is important. But
Paul knows that the words alone, even completely accurate
words, are not enough.

While anything is possible with God, it is God's preferable
means of grace that the words of Scripture be accompanied
with the right understanding, the right explanation from a
regenerate or Spirit-filled (Spirit-led, Spirit-dominated)
perspective (Romans 10:14). Anyone can read the words of
Scripture, but only born again, Spirit-filled disciples can
understand it -- not perfectly, but sufficiently. The Holy
Spirit must be in the words spoken in order to communicate
to the Holy Spirit in others. Of course God can send His
Holy Spirit through someone who doesn't know what he is
talking about, but again God's preferred method is to use
people who have some understanding of the gospel.

"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is
unfruitful" (1 Corinthians 14:14). Verse 14 is a lament.
But Paul is not saying that it is a bad thing for a
person's spirit to pray (or to pray in the spirit). In
fact, such prayer is good. People should pray. But there is
something about this kind of prayer that is not quite
right. The emotional impetus is good, but without
meaningful, communicable content the prayer is not all that
it could be, not all that it should be.

The Greek word "nous" can be translated as mind or
understanding and points to the rational ability of the
mind or the rational content of thinking. Paul does not
want one's thinking, praying or communicating to be
unfruitful, to be without reason or without meaning.
Indeed, all Christian thought, prayer and communication
should overflow with rational, communicable meaning.

"What are we to conclude from this?" Paul asks in 1
Corinthians 14:15. He concludes that the best approach is
to join the enthusiasm of the spirit with the understanding
of the mind, whether praying, singing, speaking or
thinking. For a Christian, heart and mind are one.
Christians are not to be torn between matters of the heart
and matters of the head. Rather, Christians are whole,
complete -- even perfect in Christ, who joins heart, mind,
soul and strength (Matthew 12:30) as an element of
Christian unity.

In Christ, not only are believers in unity with other
believers, but each believer is in unity with him- or
herself. Each believer is a whole, a unit. Satan is divided
against himself (Luke 11:18), Christians are not (Matthew
6:22). The first step toward genuine Christian unity is not
unity among denominations, but the unity of heart, mind,
soul, and strength in the presence and power of the Holy
Spirit in the lives of individual believers. Individual
believers must be in personal unity before groups of
believers can be in unity.

Paul's mention of singing suggests an application of this
regarding Christian music. Good Christian music must be
meaningful. Lyrics must be biblical and meaningfully
biblical. Singing is a very effective way of teaching and
reaching -- teaching the saints and reaching the lost.
Indeed, when biblical lyrics, rich in doctrine and
teaching, are supported with godly tunes, tunes that are
excellent, appropriate, and passionate, God's Word will
better accomplish its purpose. It should also be noted that
God's people sing. They are not all great singers, but they
do sing greatly by giving themselves enthusiastically to
the song. To refuse to sing in worship is to refuse to
worship God, to fail to share in the praise of worship. The
failure to sing is a failure of faithfulness.

1 Corinthians 14:16 shows an application to evangelism.
Paul's emphasis is not just on the edification of
believers, but is on evangelism as well. The meaningful
content that is to be communicated between and among
believers for their edification is also to be shared with
"outsiders" (Greek: idiotes). Other versions translate the
word as unlearned or uninformed. A literal translation
would be ignoramuses or idiots. "Else, if you bless in the
spirit, he occupying the place of the unlearned
(ignoramuses or idiots -- the unbeliever), how will he say
the amen at your giving of thanks, since he does not know
what you say?" (1 Corinthians 14:16).

It's the same concern that Paul has been pressing for
several chapters now -- that communication must be
meaningful, comprehensible, and rational. Meaningful
communication about the content of Scripture from a born
again perspective will serve to edify believers and
evangelize unbelievers. This is so basic, so simple, so
much a function of common sense that it is hard to imagine
how people can get it wrong. And yet, legions of Christians
throughout the ages have gotten it wrong in their quest for
a "higher" spirituality or a "mystical" experience. It is
well past time to close the door on this kind of nonsense,
to call it what it is, to call it what Paul calls it in 1
Corinthians 14:33 -- akatastasia (instability, a state of
disorder, disturbance, confusion).

Phillip A. Ross is the author of many Christian books. is loaded with information
about historic Christianity. Demonstrating the Apostle
Paul's opposition to worldly Christianity, he published an
exposition First Corinthians in 2008. Ross's book, Arsy
Varsy -- Reclaiming the Gospel in First Corinthians, shows
how Paul turned the world upside down.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Communication & Tongues

"The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the
one who prophesies builds up the church" (1 Corinthians
14:4). If you are saying something that only you
understand, you are talking to yourself, building yourself
up, edifying yourself, or making yourself understand. But
if you are saying something that others can understand,
then you are building them up, edifying them, making them
understand. This is so basic that it is hard to get a hold
of. The purpose of language (tongues) is communication,
common understanding. So, if the language (a particular
tongue) is meaningless to those who hear it, it is useless
to them. Giving the benefit of the doubt, Paul suggests
that it may mean something to the speaker, and so it may be
useful to the speaker. But again Paul doesn't really know
because he doesn't understand it.

1 Corinthians 14:5 authorizes the practice of speaking in
tongues. "Now I want you all to speak in tongues...." Paul
does not forbid speaking in tongues. But the question is,
what does he mean? Paul uses the word "tongues" with two
meanings: 1) foreign languages and 2) babbling (unknown or
spirit languages). Actually, both kinds of tongues are
foreign languages. One is foreign to other nationalities,
and one is foreign to humanity. So, by encouraging speaking
in tongues Paul is saying that he wants the gospel
translated and spoken in foreign languages. He wants people
to speak in languages that they know, languages other than

It seems that Paul doesn't mind even if someone is intent
upon speaking in some unknown or angelic language. It can't
hurt anything because no one knows what is being said. It
might be helpful to the person speaking it, who knows? But
it is at best a waste of time for the gathered body of

Paul understands that the gospel of Jesus Christ stretches
the very limits of human language as people struggle to
proclaim the magnitude and miracles of Christ to the
watching world. Is it any wonder that Christians stutter
when they try to speak about the gospel, the virgin birth,
Christ's resurrection, or the Holy Trinity?

Paul spoke of groaning when he wrote to the Romans, "For we
know that the whole creation has been groaning together in
the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the
creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the
Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as
sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:22-23). And
again in his second letter to the Corinthians, "For in this
tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if
indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For
while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened
-- not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be
further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up
by life" (2 Corinthians 5:2-4). Indeed, explaining the
gospel of Jesus Christ pushes human language beyond its

Is it any wonder that Christians struggle and stutter and
groan when speaking of Christ? No, not at all. Paul himself
groaned in frustration at the limits of language to express
the gospel of Christ. Human language is inadequate to the
excellencies of Christ, but we try to understand it and to
explain it as best we can, trusting that the presence and
power of the Holy Spirit will convey what we cannot.

And that is Paul's next point. As much as Paul wants people
of every language to speak the gospel, he wants even more
for them to speak with understanding, to explain Scripture
meaningfully. Listen again to Paul's words: "Now I want you
all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one
who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in
tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may
be built up" (1 Corinthians 14:5). Do you hear it?

The one who speaks meaningfully is greater than the one who
speaks without meaning, unless someone interprets the
foreign tongue. It doesn't do me any good to hear someone
speaking Russian, unless someone interprets it for me. Or
we could understand Paul to say, "Speaking a foreign
language is good. You all should master a foreign language.
But it is even better to speak meaningfully about God's

Of course! It is so basic, so simple a statement that
people are tempted to read some mystical meaning into it to
make it "spiritual" in some abstract, Greek, Gnostic way.
My point is that the mystical meaning related to
charismatic angelic languages is completely unnecessary and
foreign to the text. It introduces what Paul doesn't say.

We don't have to go so far as to say that mystical
glossolalia is demonic. Who knows if something is demonic
or not unless they understand the meaning. Paul was just
saying that it isn't helpful to the church, to those
gathered. So, don't waste our time with it.

"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? If even lifeless
instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give
distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if
the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for
battle? 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. There are
doubtless many different languages in the world, and none
is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the
language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the
speaker a foreigner to me" (1 Corinthians 14:6-11). Even
musical instruments convey meaning. This is so clear.
Meaning of some kind -- revelation, knowledge or prophecy
-- must accompany speech. If it doesn't you may as well be
baying at the moon.

I think it was Robert McCloskey who said, "I know that you
believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not
sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
For communication to be successful there needs to be a
common, agreed upon understanding of the meaning of the
words spoken. If truth is relative and people are free to
assign their own meanings to words, then communication will
be impossible. Maybe that's what happened in the Tower of

Phillip A. Ross founded ,
which is loaded with information about historic
Christianity. He published a exposition First Corinthians
In 2008 that demonstrates the Apostle Paul's opposition to
worldly Christianity. Ross recounts how Paul turned the
world upside down in his book, Arsy Varsy -- Reclaiming the
Gospel in First Corinthians.

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The Lost Message of Pentecost

When it comes to Pentecost, what exactly do we celebrate?
We are told that the celebration is all about commemorating
the descent of the holy spirit upon the Apostles. That
event was recorded with a number of details in the book of
Acts. But is Pentecost of even greater importance and
significance than the birth of Christ?

There are a number of popular celebrations on the Church
calendar. The biggest and most popular is Christmas.
People understand they are celebrating the birth of Christ.
But when it comes to Pentecost, there are many who wonder
what it is really all about.

What is the real significance of what occurred to those
twelve apostles? Is it possible that it was the greatest
event to date in the history of mankind? Has the great
message of Pentecost been lost?

Ever since the book of Genesis, when man first came on the
scene, having body, soul and spirit, there have been a
number of events that have affected all of mankind.
Through the centuries there have been hurricanes,
tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes. But what happened in
the Garden when Adam sinned was the worst disaster for
human beings that has ever happened.

Even though there were only two people immediately
affected, the consequences would be felt by billions and
billions; the consequences would affect every single human
being ever born, with the exception of Jesus Christ.

It is because of not understanding what happened when Adam
sinned that results in not understanding what happened on
the original day of Pentecost. Adam was told that if he
ate of the tree in the midst of the garden he would surely
die. If you are familiar with the record then you know
that both Adam and Eve ate of that fruit.

Yet, if you continue reading in the Bible, they both lived
for many, many years. But God had said, "In the day you
eat, you will die," meaning that very day. By taking a
closer look one can see that Adam and Eve were formed made
and created with two life forms: soul and spirit.

The absence of life is indicated by the word, "death."
What died that day for Adam and Eve was the spirit life
that God intended for all human beings to have. It is very
significant to note that it was the spirit life that
enabled them to have a close personal relationship with God.

When they lost spirit life, they still had body and soul
life. But they had lost their connection with the Creator.
And, this loss was passed on to all men and women. This was
a cataclysmic event, with devastating consequences on all
of mankind.

Since very few understand what happened back in the Garden
of Eden with Adam and Eve, they fail to see its connection
to Pentecost. But it was after the fall of mankind that
God set in motion a plan to redeem mankind. Because of
Adam's sin, human beings were now incomplete; they were
lacking the spirit of God.

During the process of God's plan, you can read about how
God gave certain individuals His spirit on a temporary
basis. But it was not available to any and all human
beings. It took the completed work of Jesus Christ, the
savior of mankind, to fulfill all that was necessary.

On that first day of Pentecost, Peter delivered quite a
sermon. It contained a number of references to God's gift
of holy spirit. He concluded his message by exhorting
those listening to change their minds, get baptized, and
told them that they too would receive the gift holy spirit.
About 5,000 accepted the invitation.

Jesus taught his followers on many occasions about the
coming of holy spirit. It was a major topic at the last
Supper. And after he was resurrected, the first time he
got together with his disciples he talks to them about
receiving the holy spirit.

On the day of the ascension, right before he left, the very
last thing he talked about was about receiving the holy

If you look closely at Peter's message on the day of
Pentecost, it is filled with information about the spirit
of God.

The lost message of Pentecost is the beginning of holy
spirit for all of mankind. That was the day when God
officially made His holy spirit available to anyone and
everyone. The reason God wants everyone to have His spirit
is so that He can have a close personal relationship just
like He had with Adam and Eve in the Garden before the fall.

And while Adam and Eve could and did, lose the spirit of
God, this time around, God made it permanent. He has given
us all eternal life which means you cannot lose it.

What a great day in the history of mankind Pentecost was!
God has opened the door for anyone and everyone to receive
His gift of holy spirit. No wonder Peter later referred to
that day as, "the beginning." Now it is up to us to learn
how to utilize and operate this gift of holy spirit that
God has freely given us.

Michael A. Verdicchio offers a FREE LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP to,
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Michael is a husband, father, minister, author, and
broadcaster. He has also been the voice on numerous
projects and productions including Mike's Pep Talks!

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