Impact Your World : Older Men

titus2spicWhat is the age range of the “older men” in the church in Crete? According to Philo, older men are in the 50-56 yrs. old bracket. Timothy was in his 30s but Paul called him “young.” Following Aulus Gellius, soldiers were young up to age 46. (Marshall)

Older men are to be godly in four ways. First, you are to be “sober-minded” (nephalios), which means literally, “‘temperate’ (in use of wine).” (Marshall) Figuratively, it means “sober, clearheaded, self-controlled.” (Gingrich) Older men, you are to be sober, clearheaded, and self-controlled.

Second, you are to be “dignified” (semnos), which means “worthy of respect, dignified” (Gingrich) or “of good character.” (Friberg)

Third, you are to be “self-controlled” (sophron), which means “prudent, thoughtful, self-controlled.” (Gingrich)

Last week I went to Western Union to receive money for office rent. The lady said, “Sir, your driver’s license is expired.” I replied, “The LTO has issued this Official Receipt that serves as a temporary license. It will expire 2021.” “Sorry, sir, we won’t accept it,” the lady said.

I could have raised my voice and argued with her. I could have called her manager. I could have said that their policy is stupid. (I did say that they needed to change their policy.) But I need to have self-control with my emotions and my temper. So I just asked her what other ID they would accept, what time will Western Union at Fuente open tomorrow, etc.

Paul wrote in Tit. 2:12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled [sophron], upright, and godly lives in the present age.” He says that self-control is an effect of grace. He connects self-control in the present age as we wait for the future age of Christ.

Self-control is the mark of Christ in one’s life. It is the fruit of the Spirit. If you know Christ as Savior, you will practice self-control for Christ’s sake. Be self-controlled.


The Apostolic Rules for Speaking in Tongues

hand-on-biblePaul then closes this chapter with rules for orderly worship. I note eight apostolic rules for speaking in tongues in church.

  1. Let all things be done for building up the church. “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26).
  1. Only two or three will speak in tongues in church, and no more than three. “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three” (v. 27).
  1. Each must speak in tongues in turn, not all at the same time. “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn” (v. 27).
  1. Let someone interpret each tongues speaking. “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret” (v. 27).
  1. If no one will interpret, let each one keep silent in church. “But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church” (v. 28). To keep silent is to stop speaking in tongues in church.
  1. While he is silent, let him speak to himself and to God—silently. “But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God” (v. 28) It means silent speaking or silent praying.
  1. Women should keep silent (or not speak in tongues) during the evaluation of tongues. “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” (vv. 33-34; cf. vv. 29-31).
  1. Do not forbid speaking in tongues—so long as it is done God’s way. (Oster) “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (v. 39; cf. v. 26).

Sadly, many churches disregard and disobey these apostolic rules. Yet the true Spirit-filled church is the Word-obeying church (Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16).

Some say that the prohibition in Rule 7 applies only to women prophesying, according to the immediate context (vv. 29-33). But the general context is speaking in tongues.

More, tongues speaking may involve prophesying. Peter called the speaking in tongues prophesying at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18). Tongues speaking was a medium of revelation. It revealed God’s Word. The interpretation of tongues may itself be a prophecy. Thus, the rule against women speaking may apply to women prophesying in tongues.

Paul said do not forbid speaking in tongues (v. 39). But he also said that if there is no interpretation of tongues, the speaker must stop speaking in tongues (v. 28). To stop the speaking in tongues is to forbid it in effect. Is Paul contradicting himself?

The answer is, no. Paul wants to stop the speaking in tongues without interpretation. Yet he does not forbid the speaking of tongues with interpretation. So long as there is the interpretation of tongues and it builds up the church, they should not forbid it. But if there is no interpretation of tongues, Paul himself forbids it (v. 28).

Further, God’s Word was not yet complete at Paul’s writing. The Spirit spoke God’s Word through tongues and prophecy. Tongues speaking and prophesying were channels of revelation of God’s Word at the time. Hence, to forbid the speaking in tongues was to forbid the revelation of God’s Word in effect. So that they will not hinder the revelation of God’s Word through tongues, they were not to forbid it.

Nonetheless, God’s special revelation is now complete in its final form—the Scriptures. Thus, there is no more need to speak in tongues or prophecy, since we now have the full revelation of God’s Word—the Bible. The Bible is the more sure word of prophecy–our sufficient guide for faith and practice. Peter wrote, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to which you do well that you take heed,” the “prophecy of the Scripture” (2 Pet. 1:19-20, KJV 2000).

What does Paul aim to achieve with these rules? He wants to fulfill the fundamental purpose of spiritual gifts—to serve the common good, the spiritual growth of the church.

Let us use our spiritual gifts for one central purpose—to build up the body of Christ. What is your spiritual ability? Use it to build up the church. Use it to edify others in the church. Use it for the common good.

Five Words are More Important Than Ten Thousand Tongues

tongues-and-intelligibilityPaul then moves from elevating prophecy to degrading tongues speaking without interpretation. The whole tenor of Paul in 1 Cor. 14 is against the pursuit of tongues without interpretation, which does not edify the church. Instead, he presses the pursuit of the gift that builds up the church. Paul argues that tongues speaking without interpretation is practically useless in church. But prophesying or teaching is useful. The reason—prophesying is intelligible while tongues speaking without interpretation is unintelligible.

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? 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. (1 Cor. 14:6-9).

Hence, speaking in tongues is useless in church if nobody understands what you are saying.

Further, Paul explains the need to know the meaning of the spoken tongues (v. 10). He cites the speaking in tongues in the context of speaking in languages of the world. “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” (vv. 10-11). He uses the world of languages to illustrate speaking in tongues. Note Paul’s words—“none is without meaning.” Hence, one must know the meaning of the tongues by interpreting it. All tongues speaking should be interpreted, so that all can know the meaning of the tongues.

Thus, Paul wrote, “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (v. 12). How do they do that? By ensuring the interpretation of tongues. When you interpret the tongues, people will understand its meaning. When they understand its meaning, they will be edified.

“Therefore,” Paul wrote, “One who speaks in tongues should pray for the power to interpret” (1 Cor. 14:13). The reason for this instruction is apparent. The interpretation of tongues will build up the church. The spiritual growth of the church is the central purpose of all spiritual gifts, including the gift of tongues.

Paul then hammers the importance of understanding the tongues spoken.

14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Indeed, what is the use of praying in tongues when you do not know what you are praying? What is the benefit of praising in tongues in church when others do not know what you are praising? Interpreting the tongues brings understanding; and with understanding comes edification.

Note Paul’s purpose, “to instruct others” (v. 19). To instruct others is to build up others. To build up others is to bring good to others. Paul would rather speak a few words “with my mind,” i. e., with the understanding, than many words in a tongue that nobody understands. The motive is obvious. He wants to edify the church.

Why Prophecy Instead of Speaking in Tongues

slide_1Why does Paul stress prophesying instead of tongues speaking? First, Paul says that speaking in tongues is speaking to God but not to people in the church. But prophesying speaks to people in the church, for their edification. Paul wrote,

For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. (1 Cor. 14:2-3)

Second, tongues builds up the tongues-speaker only, but prophecy builds up the church. “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church” (1 Cor. 14:4).

Third, the prophet is greater than the tongues speaker. “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 Cor. 14:5). Why does Paul stress that concept of “building up the church” again and again? Why does Paul allow for tongues with interpretation only? We go back to that one fundamental purpose of spiritual gifts—for the common good, for the edification of the church, for the spiritual growth of the church.

Paul’s Pushback Against the Abuse of Tongues in Corinth

Paul continues to stress the theme of seeking the common good in 1 Cor. 14. 1-cor-14-1-ww-notrace1“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1). Note Paul’s command—“pursue love.” Then he follows it up with another command—“desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”

In the following section, Paul then cites the disadvantages of speaking in tongues vs. prophesying. Why did Paul raise this issue? The Corinthian church loved the gift of speaking in tongues. They thought that it was the spiritual thing in church. The problem is that they did not use their gift of tongues out of love for others. They did not care that nobody understood the tongues speakers. They did not mind that they did not bless people in church. They did not bless people because people did not understand what they were talking in tongues. There was no interpretation of tongues. Their practice of tongues speaking was self-serving. They were preoccupied with self-edification, which is the antithesis of the common good. In sum, their practice of tongues did not build up the church. They did not realize the fundamental purpose of all spiritual gifts—to build up the church.

Thus, Paul attacks not merely the misuse and abuse of tongues in Corinth, but also the wrong theology of tongues behind that misuse as well. First, Paul taught that not all can speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:31). They believed that all can speak in tongues. Second, Paul stressed that speaking in tongues without love or concern for others is nothing (1 Cor. 13). They spoke in tongues without concern for the common good. Third, Paul instructed them to pursue love, practice prophecy, and interpret the tongues for one purpose—to build up the church (1 Cor. 14). They spoke in tongues simultaneously and without interpretation.

The More Excellent Way

amoreexcellentway-690x449Then in v. 31, Paul tells the Corinthians to eagerly desire the higher gifts. “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). The greater gifts are those gifts that build up the church. (R. Oster) Again, the emphasis is on using the gifts that serve the church.

Paul mentions the “more excellent way,” which is the way of love  in 1 Cor. 13. No, he is not talking about romantic love or marital love. The context is about loving others in church. He is talking about how love seeks the common good in church. He shows that love for one another should drive our use of spiritual gifts in church.

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Paul talks of the utter worthlessness of using spiritual gifts without love. If Paul has the gift of tongues but without love, he is just making noise. If he has the gift of prophecy but without love, he is nothing. If he has the gift of faith to move mountains but without love, he is nothing. If he has the gift of giving but without love, he gains nothing.

Paul’s point is that spiritual gifts are nothing without love. For Paul, the most excellent way is not being a gifted church, but being a loving church. It is not being a gifted church, but being the church that uses its gifts out of concern for each other. The failure of the Corinthian church was the failure to seek out the good of others. We see the same problem then and now in many churches.

Now if you use your gifts with love, you bless others. You bring good to others. You achieve the purpose of spiritual gifts—the common good. This is the more excellent way—using your spiritual gifts out of love for others in the church.

Different Gifts, But One Fundamental Purpose

(Part 34 under the Category, “Connect. Grow. Serve.”)

imagesIn our study of 1 Cor. 12, we noted two things. First, there are different spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. Second, there are different gifts for everyone in the body of Christ.

Third, in the body of Christ, there are different gifts given to everyone, but for one fundamental purpose. Paul wrote, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7, emphasis added). The preposition “for” (pros) in the accusative case speaks of a goal—“for, for the purpose of.” (Gingrich) Paul is saying that the Spirit gives the gifts for the purpose of the “common good.”

What is this “common good”? The Greek is just one word—sumphero. It means, “to be of an advantage to someone.” (Louw-Nida) Paul used the same word in Acts 20:20. He told the Ephesian elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable [sumphero], and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of    repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thus, the meaning of sumphero is what is advantageous, what is beneficial, and what is profitable to others. In the context of the church, Paul is concerned with the common good—the spiritual benefit of the members of the church.

In 1 Cor. 12:7, Paul mentions “the manifestation of the Spirit.” The context is clear. The manifestation of the Spirit refers to the spiritual gifts of the Spirit. To teach that the manifestation of the Spirit refers to the slaying, dancing, and miracle working of the Spirit is to teach what is alien to Paul. Paul is saying that the manifestation of the Spirit are the gifts of the Spirit. Now the gifts of the Spirit are meant for the spiritual benefit of the church—for the common good. The Spirit gives the gifts for the spiritual growth of all members of the body. That is the fundamental purpose of the gifts of the Spirit.

Conversely, the gifts of the Spirit are not given for the good of an individual only. The gifts are not given for your personal benefit. The gifts are not given for your self-edification. Paul is not concerned with individual gratification of the gifts. Instead, he is concerned with communal satisfaction. He does not encourage personal edification. Rather, he emphasizes church edification.

We see Paul’s emphasis on church edification in Chapters 12, 13, and 14. In 1 Cor. 12:7, he says that the gifts are for the common good. In vv. 21-24, he writes that we should value the less honorable parts of the body—the hands and feet.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it

In v. 25, he gives the reason why. “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25). It is to prevent division in the body. To prevent division, everyone must give the same care to others. We should give the same concern for the less honorable members that we give to more honorable members in church. There should be no discrimination.

This is a good question for us today. Do we give the same care for the less important and the less honorable members of our church? God honors the less honorable parts of the body of Christ. We are to give the same care for them. If you care for one another, you seek the good of each other—the common good.

Gifts are Given By the Will of the Spirit

(Part 33 Under the Category, “Connect. Grow. Serve.”)

ledspirit_slideFifth, it means that everyone receives the gifts by His will. Paul wrote, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11, emphasis added). The verb “wills” (boulomai) means “wish, be willing, want, desire.” (Gingrich). The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts to each one as He wishes. He gives gifts as He wants. He apportions gifts as He wills.

There are three ways how we do NOT receive the gifts. One, we do not receive the gifts by our will. Some pastors want people to speak in tongues. But it is not what you want, but what the Spirit wants. Some people want to receive the gift of healing. Yet it is not what you will, but what the Spirit wills.

Two, we do not receive the gifts by our works. Some people think that if you serve God faithfully, you will receive this gift or that gift. However, it is not by your works, but by the Spirit’s will.

Three, we do not receive the gifts by our spiritual walk. Some people think that if you pray hard enough, you will receive the gift you desire. Yet it is not by the way you pray, but by the will of the Spirit. Some people believe that if you worship passionately, you will receive the gifts of the Spirit. Still, it is not by your worship, but by the wish of the Spirit.

The Spirit knows what each church needs. He gives each church every gift that it needs to grow in Christ. Our responsibility is to identify our gifts and use it to build up each other in the body of Christ.

Sixth, it means that each one with a different gift is needed to build the body of Christ. Paul wrote, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). No one gift can edify the body of Christ. But different gifts in different people build the body of Christ. Each one of you is important and indispensable in the church. Your spiritual ability is essential in the body of Christ. You are invaluable in the body of Christ.

Therefore, use your spiritual ability to build up the body of Christ.

Each One Receives a Gift Individually

imagesFourth, it means that each one receives a gift individually. Paul wrote, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11, emphasis added). The adjective “individually” (Gk. idios) is “a reference to each one individually.” (Louw-Nida) Thus, the Spirit gives a spiritual ability to each one on an individual basis, and not to the whole church. He gives a spiritual gift for one person and another spiritual gift for another person.

A workman was repairing a stained-glass window when the pastor came along, so they went outside together to admire the workmanship. “That looks very good, but isn’t that piece a bit loose?” asked the pastor.

Just as he finished saying it, a piece of glass dislodged, fell out of the window, and cut the workman’s ear off. “Aughh,” screamed the workman, “I’ve lost my ear.”

Immediately the pastor remembered the way Peter had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, and how the Lord had healed him, and he thought, “This is my moment. I was born for such a time as this. I can be a man of faith and power.”

He bent down and picked up the ear, held it out to the workman and asked, “Is this your ear?”

“No!” the workman yelled. “That’s not mine! Mine had a pencil behind it.”[1]

The Spirit gives gifts “one by one.” (Robertson/Plummer) He distributes different gifts individually and separately.

[1] Tony Llewellyn, “Sermon Illustrations: Power.” Cited December 28, 2016. Online:

You Have Received At Least One Gift

(Part 31 Under the Category, “Connect. Grow. Serve.” Based on the Sermon Series, “Grow Pa More: Knowing Your Part in the Body of Christ”)

gifts-and-talentsSecond, it means that each one receives at least one gift. No one is “gift-less.” Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 12:8-11,

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

In Rom. 6, Paul cites the gifts of prophecy, teaching, sharing, and mercy. But in 1 Cor. 12, he cites the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, tongues, etc. It indicates that this list is not exhaustive. There are many other spiritual gifts of the Spirit. But for the Corinthian church, these gifts were prevalent there.

The point is—you have received at least one special gift from the Holy Spirit. Find out what is your special ability. Use it to build up others in the body of Christ.

Third, it means that everyone receives different gifts. Conversely, no one same gift is given to everyone. Paul keeps on saying, “to one,” and then, “to another.” Everyone does not receive the same gift.

Afterward, Paul added these words,

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Cor. 12:27-31)

The answer is, No. Not everyone are apostles. Not everyone are prophets. Not everyone are teachers. Not everyone can work miracles. Not everyone can heal diseases. Not everyone can speak in tongues. It is therefore wrong to teach that everyone should speak in tongues.

I heard of a church leader who addressed a small group of young men. He said, “Now you can all speak in tongues.” I don’t know why he said that. But that is a false teaching.

Paul does not teach that each one receives the gift of tongues. Rather, he teaches that each one receives a different ability. It is wrong therefore to teach that everyone can speak in tongues. It is right to teach that everyone receives a different gift.