It all began at the tower of Babel
Where did languages come from? What are tongues? Tongues are real languages, and language is communication – information transmission. Without information, all you have
is inanimate matter. Information can only come from intelligence. Consequently, the fact that we can speak and share our minds with others points us to God who wants to communicate with us. He is the God of communication. He gave us his Bible so we can know his mind. In the beginning, all the people on earth spoke the same language. Rather than move all over the globe to replenish the earth with people in obedience to God’s command to Noah, rebellious mankind, thinking that they could outwit God, built a tower to prevent God from scattering them. But, God divided the nations and confused their languages. In essence, God created the different languages at that time. Then as they spread to the farthest corners of the earth the languages morphed and changed even further to what we have today. But God is not content to leave them on their own. God has always wanted his message to reach the farthest people groups so that all may have a chance at hearing in their own language the message of forgiveness and salvation. God chose the Jews to be the channel for this message to the nations, but the Jews were not interested in propagating God’s message. Once again, God stepped in and changed it up again on the day of Pentecost with the birth of the church in Acts chpts 2- 10 so that his message would go to all the nations. This brings us to today’s lesson.
Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues
1 Cor 14 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.
6 Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
13 For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16 If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:
“Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.
22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God of communication which is for all humans everywhere. My message is simple. I love you and want you to be with me and commune together and know me truly, but you cannot because of your sin. This is what my message is all about – how I have dealt with your sin so that we can be together. My church is for all the nations. Every tongue, every ethnos, every tribe must hear of this good news. “Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything that I have told you”. This is what language is about – transmitting life to those who are lost. I AM Life. My information gives you life. This information comes from my Word into your real languages. Your languages transmit my information to those who do not know me. “In this is eternal life that they might know you, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” – Jn 17:3
I AM the God who invented language. “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That is me. I divided the languages so that mankind would fill the earth. I included all the languages at Pentecost to be joined into one church from all the earth. No one language alone describes my person. No one culture has the corner on understanding my ways. It takes all nations joined together in the unity of my church to reflect the glory of who I AM. This is why the church is called MY body and is made up of many parts.
Tongues validated God’s new revelation
The Jews were to represent God’s blessing to the world with the coming of the Messiah to save mankind from its inherent sinfulness. The Jews instead built up their walls to keep a separation from the rest of the world. When the Apostles came on the scene with the new revelation of the New Testament, it took signs and wonders and tongues to prove to the Jewish Apostles and Jewish Christian leaders that God had truly incorporated the Samaritans Acts 8 as well as the Gentiles into the Church Acts 10 and part of God’s family. Since the new revelation (New Testament) was completed, Christians do not need to show off supernatural powers to prove their acceptance by God to anyone. The Christian’s ONLY authority is the Word of God which guarantees our acceptance to the Father and the indwelling Holy Spirit. His Word is what our faith rests on, and not some internal emotionalism or existential experience, especially in this relativistic and subjective age.
2500 languages don’t have God’s Word
Since the goal of language is understanding information, information that is transmitted by some secret language has no value to anyone other than to himself. It might as well be gibberish and not considered a real language for all practical and useful purposes. This is why Paul says that he would rather speak 5 words in real language than 10,000 in an unknown language (gibberish). So many people lack true understanding of the information of God’s word around the globe. Why then are we so caught up with self edification rather than learning how to transmit God’s Word to the 2500 languages that do not have God’s Word in them. Most people of the West with their basic understanding of God’s Word and his Gospel could have a dramatic impact on the spiritual lives of the countless lost people of developing countries. But the attendees of churches in the west seems to be more concerned with how to make this life more comfortable as they wait for Christ’s return than being about God’s great commission.
More to come,