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As a nation, the Jews were always seeking a sign (Matt. 12:38, I Cor. 1:22). At Pentecost, the fact that the apostles spoke in tongues was a sign to the unbelieving Jews who were there celebrating the feast. The miracle of tongues aroused their interest, but it did not convict their hearts. It took Peter’s preaching (in Aramaic, which all the people understood) to bring them to the place of conviction and conversion.
When Paul taught, he used koine Greek and Aramaic, which all the Jews spoke. He also spoke in ancient Hebrew. His New Testament epistles were written in Greek. He could rightly say that he spoke more in foreign languages than any of his audience (v. 18). Nevertheless, he insisted that he would rather speak five words that could be understood than ten thousand words in a language with which his hearers were unfamiliar (v. 19).
In this passage Paul makes it plain that it is not quantity of words but the quality of understanding that is important. He says that in their tongues speaking, the church members in Corinth are acting like children playing with toys and not as mature men (v. 20). Paul associates the gift of tongues with spiritual immaturity. The purpose of tongues was to demonstrate God’s divine power to the unbeliever (v. 22). It took preaching in the language that people understood to bring them to the place of conviction and conversion. A message in a language that the people could not understand(unless interpreted) could never bring conviction to a lost sinner. In fact, unsaved people may leave the service thinking the whole assembly was crazy (v. 23).
This should be a vivid reminder to me that when I share the Word of God, it must be understood if it is to do anyone any good. That is why the appropriate use of illustrations provides a window of understanding to truth in the Word that is unfamiliar to the listener.
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I Corinthians 14:33b-40Rapping Up Spiritual Gifts
I Corinthians 11:1-16Head Covering in the Church
I Corinthians 11:17-22Conduct surrounding the Love Feasts
I Corinthians 11:23-34Conduct surrounding the Lord’s Supper
I Corinthians 12:1-11Speaking Various Languages
I Corinthians 12:12-20Diversity of Spiritual Gifts
I Corinthians 12:21-26Spiritual Gifts That Unite
I Corinthians 12:27-31God Assigns Spiritual Gifts
I Corinthians 13:1-7Qualities of the Greatest Gift
I Corinthians 13:8-13The Supremacy of Love
I Corinthians 14:1-9Preoccupation with Tongues
I Corinthians 14:10-17Tongues Must Be Interpreted
I Corinthians 14:18-25Tongues a Sign to Unbelievers
I Corinthians 14:26-33aInstructions for Tongues Speakers
I Corinthians 15:1-11Three Proofs of the Resurrection
I Corinthians 15:12-19Consequences of Denying the Resurrection
I Corinthians 15:20-28The Resurrection of Christians
I Corinthians 15:29-34Effects of Denying the Resurrection
I Corinthians 15:35-44What Our Resurrection Body Will Be Like
I Corinthians 15:45-50Comparison of the Natural and Spiritual Body
I Corinthians 15:51-58Victory is Coming
I Corinthians 16:1-12Giving of Money and Time
I Corinthians 16:13-18Qualifications for Leadership
I Corinthians 16:19-24Paul’s Closing Remarks