Discipleship and the New Covenant II
I Corinthians 14:20-22
We’re going to talk about tongues again, but I need to remind you that tongues are just a tiny part of the greatest gift God has ever given the Christian world—the indwelling Holy Spirit. If you are a born-again child of God you possess the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry “Abba,” “Father.” He’s the Spirit of truth who leads us into truth. Because He dwells within us, we find “rivers of living water” flowing from deep within. Because He dwells within us we are in Christ, we are new creations in Christ Jesus. We are baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ, and by the Spirit we are supernaturally empowered to minister to one another. This is the context in which we must consider the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.
20 Brothers, don’t be childish in your thinking, but be infants in regard to evil and adult in your thinking. 21 It is written in the law:
I will speak to these people
by people of other languages
and by the lips of foreigners,
and even then, they will not listen to Me, (Isaiah 28:11-12)
says the Lord. 22 It follows that speaking in other languages is intended as a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers (unbelieving Jews). But prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.
Summary from previous Sundays
1. We can conclude that when the Bible says tongues it means languages, and that in every Biblical usage the languages are identifiable as languages.
2. It is regrettable that the KJV translators sought to “explain” the gift of tongues by inserting the word “unknown,” in I Cor. 14. Not only is the word not in the original text, the idea is contradicted by the listing of the languages spoken in Acts 2.
3. On the surface, the phenomenon of languages is more related to a clear communication of the gospel than anything else.
4. The gift is still given today.
a. Bud Fuchs: Cross-cultural Equipper and International Student Ministry Worker in Utah County, Utah (Utah Valley University) (Spoke perfect pidgin with no training)
b. Bruce Olson, missionary to Motilones in Colombia, South America
Two Purposes of Tongues
1. To aid in witnessing (Acts 2)
2. To serve as a sign and a warning to unbelieving Jews during the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant
I Cor. 14:21
It is written in the law: “I will speak to these people by people of other languages and by the lips of foreigners, and even then, they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.
This is a quote from Isaiah 28:11-12. (b.c. 700)
Long before Isaiah gave his prophecy, God made a covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai. He promised to bless the Israelites if they obeyed His commands, and He also promised to curse the Israelites if they disobeyed Him. Here’s how Moses summed it up God’s arrangement with Israel. (b.c.1450)
Deut. 28:15 “But if you do not obey the Lord your God by carefully following all His commands and statutes I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overtake you . . .” 49 The Lord will bring a nation from far away, from the ends of the earth, to swoop down on you like an eagle, a nation whose language you don’t understand, 50 a ruthless nation, showing no respect for the old and not sparing the young.
Paul’s Biblical explanation of tongues
In Isaiah 28, God is using the prophet to warn that because of idolatry judgement will soon fall on the northern kingdom of Israel. In essence God is saying: “If you won’t listen to me, a true prophet, then God will speak to you through the Assyrians in a language that is at once barbaric, yet too plain to miss. The only problem will be that at that point God’s judgment will be irrevocable. “You will be exiled without appeal.” (Parker paraphrase)
But since it is the Holy Spirit Who inspires Isaiah’s prophecy, He has more in mind than the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, or the first exile of God’s chosen people to Babylon. He is also looking toward a time when God’s chosen people will bring doom on themselves a second time by formally rejecting the true Messiah, as is made clear in verse 16 of the same chapter.
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed” (Isaiah 28:16). (see Matt. 21:42, I Peter 2:6).
But, Isaiah warns, resistance against the Cornerstone will be futile and disastrous.
“The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror. The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you. The Lord will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim, he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon—to do his work, his strange work, and perform his task, his alien task.” (Isaiah 28:19-21)
Languages, the final sign of impending wrath
Do you see, then, that in addition to being a marvelous way of witnessing the gospel, the gift of tongues as described in Acts and I Corinthians is a sign of God’s covenant judgment against unbelieving Israel, a sign of His coming wrath? It is God’s sign that after the ultimate blasphemy of rejecting Jesus the Messiah He will reject the people who rejected Him and cut them off from the Olive tree, that is from Spiritual Israel, which is Christ.
Why languages in Corinth?
1. Corinth was the crossroads of the Mediterranean (a 6.4 kilometre ship path saved 190 kilometres when going around). Corinth was the equivalent of Heath Row or Chicago; everyone went through there.
2. Jews were still coming from the ends of the earth to worship in Jerusalem. They needed warning that the Messiah had come and that a day would soon come when they would have to choose Jesus or Jerusalem. What could be more jolting than to hear this message in an obscure dialect that no one in Corinth should know?
What about us?
1. Is it possible that we should examine all the gifts in light of the shift from Old Covenant to New Covenant? (Three major lists: Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)
2. Just as some were using tongues (languages) at Corinth to gain influence over other people, so today we need to be more discerning about those who project some sort of super-spirituality in order to gain a wrong kind of influence, a controlling influence in peoples’ lives.
3. Whatever the truth about particular spiritual gifts, the Bible is clear that all Christians are supernaturally gifted to serve one another.
4. We should have confidence that God’s Holy Spirit still inspires witnessing today!