To those who maintain that tongues are a gift that only SOME Christians have and that is the way God meant it to be.

To those who maintain that there is not such thing as tongues or gifts of the Spirit today:

Whether one accepts all of my exegesis of 1 Corinthians 12:12,13 or not, the point is this? Paul reminds the Corinthians that they all have received the Spirit, and the Spirit manifests himself in the miraculous ways he listed in verses 7-11. If we receive the same Spirit today (and no one would deny that we do) then He still manifest Himself theses ways today. There is nothing in Paul’s discussion to suggest He does not. To maintain that every believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit at salvation and yet none of the manifestations of the Spirit listed in verses 1-11 occur is still to fall woefully short of what was meant to be the normal life and experience of the church. According to 1 Corinthians 12, we have been baptized into Christ and His body and been made to drink of the Spirit for the purpose of fulfilling a specific function in His body, which includes participation in and expression of the miraculous demonstration of the Spirit’ s power.

The first part of chapter 12 talks about the body of Christ comparing it to the body of an individual. Paul makes the point that each part of the body of man is necessary to the function of the entire body. The same is true for the church. The Body of Christ is made up of many different individuals but all are necessary to the function of the entire body and cannot do without the other parts. (me and not a quote. The rest is a quote.)

“The thing to keep in mind concerning this passage is how it all applies to the subject of the chapter – – the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Certainly people who speak in tongues should never boast that they have no need of believers who do not or that believers who do not speak in tongues are not part of the body of Christ,. Something like this may have been the attitude of some at Corinth, but this same principle works in just the opposite way also. Today it is far more likely that Christians and churches say of tongues or those who speak in them, “We have no need of you!” And it is well within the ream of possibility, in the light of certain statements Paul makes in these chapters, that there were individuals in the church at Corinth who were disparaging tongues as unimportant or dispensable and wanted them silenced.


What do people consider the “weakest,” “least honorable,” and most “unpresentable” gift of the Spirit? Speaking of tongues, of course. Far from arguing that the Corinthians should discard this gift in favor of others, however, as most non-pentecostals say Paul was doing in these chapters, he was in fact doing just the opposite, He was pointing out the indispensability, special honor, and special modesty that characterizes and is due speaking in tongues. If tongues are, are many people say, the least of the gifts, the weakest, most dishonorable and unpresentable gift, then it falls under Paul’s admonition here that it be regarded as “indispensable,” and “treated with special honor and special modesty”! Treating tongues with special modesty certainly fits the rest of his discussion in these three chapters, as he calls for special restrictions of the public use of tongues due to the fact that the ignorant or unbelievers will be shocked if they come in and hear everyone speaking in tongues, Treating them as indispensable as well as with special modesty is certainly in keeping with statements Paul makes in chapter 14 encouraging their private, while restricting their public, exercise, just we would do concerning certain body parts or activities.

Private and public exercise of tongues.

12:29-31a 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret

The questions are rhetorical: the obvious answer to each is, “No.” Not everyone is an apostle, a prophet, or a teacher. Not everyone works miracles or has the gifts of healing. And not everyone speaks in tongues or interprets. But this presents an apparent problem for the pentecostal position that everyone does indeed speak in tongues when filled with or baptized in the Holy Spirit as we see in Acts. In fact, this text, “Do all speak . . . in tongues?” (or, given the answer, “All do not space in tongues”) has often been used in non-pentecostals . . . to assert that not everyone speaks in tongues when baptized in the Holy Spirit. The pentecostal response is to point out that here in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is not discussing the baptism in the Holy Spirit as we see it occurring in Acts but the gifts of the Spirit as manifested through those who have already been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals maintain that there is a difference at leas in the administration between speaking in tongues upon being filled with the Spirit as in Acts and the gift of different kinds of tongues discussed in 1 Corinthians. Everyone spaks in tongues when filled with the Spirit, but not everyone who has been filled with the Spirit and speaks in tongues is used in the gift of tongues in public ministry. Of course this may seem like an incredible piece of sophistry or doubletalk to outsiders, but it makes a lot of sense to Pentecostals simply because this is exactly the case with most of those in their ranks – – they spoke in tongues when filled with the Spirit and continue to do so in prayer as the apostle Paul says he himself did (14:14, 15, 18), but they have never been used to give a public utterance in tongues in an assembly.
Another difference between the private and public exercise of tongues is that the former is initiated by the speaker at will while the latter can only come about . . by the unction and direction of the Holy Spirit: when He wills. All of this is perfectly in harmony with what Paul goes on to say in the 14th chapter. He encourages the unlimited exercise of tongues in private prayer but restricts their public use.

“Do all speak in tongues?” no, not in the gift of different kinds of tongues in pulic exercise. But all do speak in tongues when filled with the Spirit as we see in Acts. There, everyone on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, all 120, spoke in tongues when filled with the Spirit. All those present at Cornelius’ house in Acts 10 spoke in tongues when they were filled with the Spirit. All twelve men at Ephesus in Acts 19 spoke in tongues when Paul laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit.

Those who maintain on the basis of 1 Corinthians 12:30 that not everyone speaks in tongues when baptized in the Holy Spirit must account for the fact that all those at Pentecostal, Cornelius’ house, and Ephesus spoke in tongues. If what they assert is true, then surely not all of those people in those three cases would have spoken in tongues. Only a few would have done so while the others would have exercised one of the other eight gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12″7-11. But they didn’t. They all spoke in tongues, and yet none of their utterances were interpreted, so far as we know. This fits the pentecostal position that the speaking in tongues in Acts on being filled with the Spirit was not the gift of tongues per se.

Actually it would be great if those who do not believe everyone speaks in tongues when filled with the Spirit would be consistent and acknowledge that at least some do. But almost always, if not always, those groups that insist that “not all speak in tongues” don’t’ have any that do. The “not all” becomes “not any.” It would seem to me somewhat disingenuous to use “not all speak in tongues” as a mere shift, when the real intent is to keep any from speaking in tongues.


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