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A Theological Pilgrimage
The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today
The Pentecostal Reality
Published Online Writings
Prophecy by the Book
Scripture: God's Written Word
The Holy Spirit in the Early Church
Chapter 12 - The Greater Gifts
This paper intends to be an exegetical and theological reflection stemming from the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:31a: "zeloute de ta charismata ta meizona"-"but earnestly desire the greater1 gifts." What are the "greater gifts," the meizona charismata, and how do they relate to the life of the church in our time?
Based on Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 12 up to verse 31 two possibilities may be suggested. First, since in the delineation of nine charismata2 (vv. 8-10), he begins with "word of wisdom" and "word of knowledge" and ends with "tongues" and "interpretation of tongues," "the greater" could be those first listed, hence "word of wisdom" and "word of knowledge."3 Second, since shortly before Paul speaks of earnestly desiring the greater gifts, he declares that "God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues" (v. 28), the greater gifts could be "apostles" and "prophets" (perhaps also "teachers").
The latter possibility may readily suggest itself as Paul's intention
both in light of the fact that he has just spoken of "apostles"
and "prophets" and since he has also specifically given
a prioritized listing: "first apostles," "second prophets," "third teachers." Accordingly,
"apostles," "prophets," and possibly "teachers"
could be the greater gifts to be desired. However, this interpretation
immediately runs into a twofold difficulty. First, the listing
is not designated by Paul as gifts (charismata) but as
"appointments"- -"God has appointed4 in the church...."
In the earlier listing (vv. 8-10), the background is: "Now
there are varieties of gifts [charismata], but the same
Spirit"; hence "word of wisdom," "word of
knowledge," etc. are specified as spiritual charismata. But
in verse 28 Paul is referring to divine appointments (settings,
placements) within the church, consisting both of certain offices
(prioritized), namely, apostles, prophets, and teachers5 and certain
spheres in which the gifts function, namely, miracles, healing,
helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.6 Both offices
and spheres are divine placements within the church- -but they are
not charismata.7 Second, it is quite foreign to Paul's writing,
indeed, to the New Testament, to view the offices of apostles
and prophets (and teachers) as something to be "earnestly
desired." In the language of Ephesians 4 they are divine domata (v. 9)- -not charismata8- -the sovereign Lord
gives as He wills. They are "callings" of God.9 Thus it can scarcely be the case that Paul is referring to the appointments listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28 when he adds- -"earnestly desire the greater gifts."
What then may we say of the list in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10? As
observed, they are designated charismata by Paul, hence might
seem more likely to contain the greater gifts, the meizona charismata. In other words- -to recall our earlier quotation- -they would be "word of wisdom" and "word of knowledge"
(and possibly the next one or two charisms on the list). But,
again, certain difficulties emerge. First, unlike the listing
of appointments in verse 28, which contains some specific priorities- -"first,"
"second," "third"- -there is no such enumeration
in verses 8-10. Of course, it is possible to assume that the gifts
in the list first mentioned by Paul would be "the greater
gifts" by virtue of their prior listing, but such is only
an assumption.10 Indeed, since Paul speaks of "varieties of
gifts"11 (v. 4) prior to listing them, it would seem that the
emphasis falls not on priority but diversity.12 Second- -and here
we look beyond, into 1 Corinthians 14:1- -Paul will later say, "desire
earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that13 you may prophesy."
If prophecy, or prophesying, is especially to be desired, then
it would clearly seem to be of high priority. However, in the
listing of the charismata in 12:8-10 Paul mentions prophecy after five other gifts. This alone is sufficient evidence to refute
any idea that Paul is giving a hierarchical list in this first
Before we proceed further, it is to be noted that Paul, immediately
after saying, "But earnestly desire the greater gifts,"
adds: "And I show you a still more excellent way" (12:31b).
This translation of the Greek text14 seems to point another direction
in Paul's thought, namely, that rather than encouraging his readers
to desire earnestly the charismata, he will show a way far better
than striving after these gifts. If such be the case, the whole
question of what are the "greater gifts" becomes moot
in light of there being a "more excellent way" than
zeal for the greater gifts. However, a more precise rendering
of the Greek text- -if nothing else- -points a quite different direction;
literally it reads: "And [yet] I show you a way beyond measure."15 Thus it is that Paul is not here setting forth an alternative
to desiring the greater gifts: he does not intend to show something
better. Rather Paul is declaring that he will show a super-excellent
way- -"a way beyond measure"- -wherein the gifts, including
"the greater," are to be exercised.
From this understanding of Paul's words, what he has to say in
1 Corinthians 13, the "love" chapter that immediately
follows, falls into proper perspective. Verse after verse, from
1 through 13 (the last), Paul is describing the way beyond measure
of love. All the gifts- -tongues (v. 1), prophecy, knowledge, faith
(v. 2)- -must be exercised in love; else they are noisy, abrasive,
and virtually worthless. Hence, the importance of love cannot
be exaggerated. Moreover "love never ends"16 (RSV), whereas
the gifts will pass away when "the perfect" has come
(vv. 8-10)- -"as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for
tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away...but
when the perfect comes, the imperfect (lit., "that which
is in part" [KJV]) will pass away" (RSV). "The
perfect"17 refers to the perfection of the glory to come, for
Paul shortly adds, "For now we see in a mirror dimly; but
then face to face" (v. 12). When we are "face to face"
with the majestic glory, tongues, prophecy, knowledge- -indeed all
the charismata- -fall away, for they belong to the present age,
and are utterly transcended in the visio dei. So it is
that in the glory to come (as Paul reaches his climax): "faith,
hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love"
(v. 13 RSV).
But- -to return to our earlier point- -Paul is by no means saying
that love is a better way than the charismata, hence to be earnestly
desired rather than the gifts. To be sure, the gifts will some
day be no more, but while they are available in our present life
they are much to be desired. However, they must be exercised
in love, if there is to be genuine edification. Thus, it is not
at all proper to say that the concern for gifts should be transcended
by the pursuit of love. Indeed, as Paul makes his transition to
chapter 14, just after saying, "the greatest of these is
love," he writes, "Pursue love, yet desire earnestly
spiritual gifts."18 It is not either/or but both/and: with
love as the way- -the way beyond measure wherein the gifts find
their truly meaningful expression.
Now- -going back to chapter 13- -we need to mention an additional
matter, another error sometimes made: that of viewing the greatest
of the gifts as love. We have reflected upon the mistake of considering
love as a superior way to the gifts; but we need also to observe
that love is in no sense the greatest- -or "the greater"- -of
the gifts. Paul does indeed say that "the greatest [lit.,
"the greater"19] of these is love"; however, it is
apparent that he is not talking about the greater among the charismata,
but the greater (or greatest) among the triad of faith, hope,
and love. Paul is speaking of eternal verities: those realities
of faith, hope, and love that "abide" or "remain"20;
he is not referring to gifts, that for all their greatness, pass
away in eternity.21 It should be added that love- -neither here nor
elsewhere in the Scriptures- -is depicted as a gift, or charism.
Rather it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22- -the first
mentioned fruit). It is an effect of the Holy Spirit's
inner presence: "the love of God has been poured out within
our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom.
5:5); but love is not a charism. Since love is not a gift, it
cannot be one of the "greater gifts" about which Paul
Incidentally, it is not always recognized that this classic chapter22 on love is set in the midst of a discussion of the gifts. Paul
writes to those who know the gifts and who are experiencing them.
He urges them to desire earnestly the "greater gifts,"
indeed "spiritual gifts" in general (1 Cor. 14). Chapter
13 is not basically a dissertation by Paul on the Christian
life at large, the way of love, and so forth.23 It is mainly
a discourse on the way the gifts are to be exercised. Paul's words
(it is apparent from the still larger context) were written to
people who were not lacking in any spiritual gift, but who obviously
lacked much in love.24 Hence, the apostle's words are surely applicable
to believers today who need to be encouraged to seek after the
charismata and in their every expression to exhibit the spirit
With all this by way of background, we may turn again to Paul's
injunction: "but earnestly desire the greater gifts."
Since these gifts cannot be identified with the top listing of
the charismata of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, or with the primary
placements (the offices) of 12:28-29, and since- -according to 1
Corinthians 13- -the charismata are not to be superseded by love
(or by faith, hope, and love), what then are these "greater
One answer has already been mentioned- -prophecy. For after his
injunction to "pursue love" and "desire earnestly
spiritual gifts," Paul adds, "but especially that you
may prophesy" (1 Cor. 14: 1). It is scarcely to be doubted,
therefore, that prophesying is to be viewed under the heading
of "greater gifts,"25 if not the greatest- -or the "greater
of the great," if Paul has only two gifts in mind. And the
reason given for desiring to prophesy, Paul shortly thereafter
states: "one who prophesies speaks to men for edification
and exhortation and consolation" (v. 3). For truly, Paul
adds, "one who prophesies edifies the church" (v. 4).
Apparently, the measure of a gift, a charisma, is the measure
of its ability to build up the body of Christ. And nothing can
stand higher than prophecy in that regard.
Inasmuch as prophecy is a direct, intelligible communication from
God primarily addressed to believers, it cannot be surpassed by
any other manifestation of the Spirit. Prophecy is a "speaking
for"26 God wherein He provides the words and the message; the
result is that the whole body, or its various members are built
up in the faith. Little wonder that Paul, in reference to seeking
the spiritual gifts says, "especially that you may prophesy."
He also adds later, "desire earnestly to prophesy" (1
Does Paul give information concerning any other "greater"
gift? Unmistakably, prophecy is such a gift, but what else? The
answer is that- -in an extraordinary kind of way- -speaking in tongues
may also occupy the top position. Let us follow Paul carefully
here. It would seem at first glance that Paul places glossolalia
on a rather low level. This might be deduced from the list of
charismata in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, where speaking in tongues
is mentioned next to last, or from the list of placements in 1
Corinthians 12:28 which mentions tongues last. However, as we
have seen, the listing in verses 8-10 is clearly not by rank,27 and that in verse 28 is not a gradation of gifts.28
Now moving on to chapter 14, where Paul begins to discuss the
relationship between prophecy and tongues, he may initially seem
to hold a lower view of tongues: "One who speaks in a tongue
edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church"
(v. 4). Since edification of the church is the purpose of the
gifts,29 and the "greatness" of a gift is measured by
its capacity to edify, or build up, the church, and since tongues
are said to edify the speaker, the conclusion would seem to be
that tongues in relation to the body would have little or no value.
Any other gift presumably would rank higher. But let us listen
further to Paul, for shortly after the above quoted statement,
he declares: "greater is one who prophesies than one who
speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may
receive edifying" (v. 5). This means in the event that interpretation
follows upon tongues the gift of prophecy is not greater.30 Indeed
speaking in tongues, then, may be recognized, along with prophecy,
as a "greater gift" which has none higher or greater.
Prophecy, for all its ability to upbuild, exhort, and console
is not, therefore, greater than tongues. But why? How can tongues
with interpretation following compare with such edification?
For an answer to this question we may now turn back to verse 2:
"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"31 (RSV). Since glossolalia is on the high level of speaking to God,
even that of speaking mysteries in the Holy Spirit, if there is
an interpretation, the church will be immensely edified. The reason
is clear: there will be the unfolding of divine mysteries. Paul
does not reveal the nature of these mysteries, but by definition
they are "hidden things."32 Such things are declared by
the one speaking in tongues, for no one understands what he is
saying,33 and only the Spirit can make them known. When this occurs
through the gift of interpretation, the church is greatly edified.34 How could it be otherwise?
It follows that prophecy could not possibly be "greater"
than tongues when there is interpretation. The one speaking in
tongues is at least on the same level as the prophet,35 because
in both cases there is genuine edification from God, even though
the content of the speech may be different.36 Further, another point
now needs to be made: both prophecy and tongues are direct spiritual utterances. This has already been mentioned in relation
to prophecy- -a "speaking for" God in which He provides
the message. In the case of tongues it is a "speaking to"
God wherein the Holy Spirit provides the language.37 Though the
human aspect is not denied- -persons do the speaking in both cases- -it
is apparent that in a way beyond any other charismata, prophecy
and tongues are operations of divine directness and immediacy.
For all of this it is not hard to conclude that prophecy and tongues
are both numbered as "greater gifts" which are much
to be desired. However, once again it needs to be emphasized that
the latter only occupies that high level in the body of Christ
if interpretation also occurs. When Paul speaks of tongues alone,
he states a preference for prophecy: "Now I wish that you
all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy"
(1 Cor. 14:5).38 Moreover, he makes many statements beginning with
verse 6 about the unedifying character of uninterpreted tongues
in the body,39 and climaxes with the words, "Therefore let
one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret" (v.
13). Paul in none of this is depreciating all tongues,40 but only
tongues that are not interpreted.
First, praying in a tongue, praying with the spirit, and singing
with the spirit are all references to essentially the same phenomenon:
glossolalia, whether spoken, prayed, or sung.41 What is striking
is Paul's very mention of the variety of glossolalic utterance- -in
speech, prayer, song- -which he by no means discounts or devalues;
rather, he declares that he will do them all. There is, further,
no suggestion that such utterance should be superseded by something
other,42 perhaps higher.
Second, the introduction of the terminology of "praying with
the spirit" and "singing with the spirit" are obviously
further amplifications of speaking in tongues. Glossolalia is
an utterance in prayer and/or song; and since it is done "with
the spirit," not the mind, it refers to something other than
communication through the mind (be it word of wisdom, prophecy,
teaching, or anything else similar). It is undoubtedly a spiritual
utterance in which the Holy Spirit within the human spirit speaks
forth through human lips prayer43 and praise to God. Thus praying
with the spirit and in the Spirit (recall 1 Cor. 14:15), singing
with the spirit and in the Spirit are actually the same phenomenon.
Moreover- -and here let us look briefly beyond 1 Corinthians- -there
is affirmative mention elsewhere of such spiritual utterance.
In Ephesians Paul urges his readers to "pray at all times
in the Spirit" (6:18), even as he earlier urged them to be
"filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs"44 (5:18-19). Thus praying in
the S(s)pirit and singing in the S(s)pirit ("spiritual songs")
are both spoken of very highly. It is to be recognized that in
his letter to the Ephesians Paul's reference to praying in the
Spirit does not call for interpretation since such praying is
for the individual's own edification and strengthening45; however,
its great importance cannot be minimized: "pray at all
times in the Spirit." Nor is there any suggestion that
"spiritual songs" done by the assembly are to be followed
by interpretation; perhaps the point is that such is not needed
in the context of "psalms and hymns" which, being sung
in the vernacular, are understood by all. Additional references
to praying and singing in the Spirit occur in Jude 20-"praying
in the Holy Spirit"46- -and Colossians 3:16- -"spiritual songs."47 These additional statements in Ephesians, Colossians, and Jude- -related
to speaking in tongues- -point further to their great importance.
Accordingly, as we return to 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, it is with
enhanced recognition of the high significance of glossolalia- -whether
prayed or sung- -for both individual and community.
Third, since Paul is vitally concerned about the edification of
the body in the Corinthian situation, he emphasizes repeatedly
the urgency of interpretation. What is done in the S(s)pirit,
whether prayer or song, is to be followed by prayer and song "with
the mind," or "understanding" (KJV). In no way
does Paul suggest that spiritual utterance should be eschewed
in favor of comprehensible articulation- -even though with the former
the mind is "unfruitful." Rather, what happens in spiritual
utterance is far too important for its being minimized or set
aside.48 However, in the body there definitely should be interpretation
that all may be edified.
Now we move on to Paul's next statement- -in 1 Corinthians 14:16- -where
again he stresses both the high value of spiritual utterance and
the importance of interpretation: "Otherwise if you bless49 in the spirit only [i.e., in tongues only], how will the one who
fills the place of the ungifted50 say the 'Amen' at your giving
of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?" We
may first recognize here the vital significance of speaking in
tongues, in this case as a way of blessing and giving thanks to
God that is superlative: "...thou verily givest thanks well"
(v. 17 KJV).51 Second, however, once again an interpretation is
immediately needed (to return to v. 16) for the "ungifted"
person, so that he may be able to participate in the blessing.52 Thus, despite the high value of praising and thanking God in tongues- -as
Paul continues (in v. 17)- -"the other man is not edified."
Hence, the apostle again stresses the need for interpretation
that other believers may be edified.
The conclusion- -stated quite vigorously- -is this: "I thank
God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church
I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct
others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue"
(vv. 18-19). First again is the high valuation placed on tongues
("I thank God"), but in church (where both "gifted"
and "ungifted" believers are present) five words that
are understood by all are preferable to any number, however many,
of words spoken in tongues. This is not a devaluation of tongues
as if Paul were saying that speaking with the mind is better53 or
that speaking in tongues does not really belong in church. The
basic point rather, as the whole context shows, is that speaking
a multitude of words without interpretation will not edify a congregation
with its wide range of experienced and inexperienced believers.
As we look back over the words in 1 Corinthians 14:6-19, it is
apparent that Paul is not denying the great value of tongues with
interpretation in the assembly (as declared in v. 5). But he is
speaking throughout against uninterpreted tongues;54 they simply
do not edify the body.
Therefore, it is not that revelation and knowledge, prophecy and
teaching are profitable, whereas glossolalia is not; words with
the mind are not better than words spoken in tongues; thanksgiving
in understandable speech is not preferable to blessing with spiritual
utterance. To be sure, when there is no interpretation given,
all these comprehensible operations of speech are far more significant- -simply
because they edify all. But tongues with interpretation occurring- -which greatly edifies- -remains among the "greater
It would seem proper to say from Paul's discussion of prophecy
and tongues that both represent "greater gifts" that
are much to be desired. The only difference is that prophecy in
its very utterance edifies the assembled body of believers, whereas
tongues must be followed by interpretation for the same to occur.
Nevertheless, one is not "greater" than the other; each
carries its own message and by their functioning together the
church may be richly blessed.
Further evidence that Paul is referring to tongues and prophecy
as the "greater gifts" is the fact that in all the discussion
of the way of love in 1 Corinthians 13, tongues and prophecy are
mentioned first (cf. vv. 1-2 and v. 8)55 and that in the whole of
chapter 14 (vv. 1-40) the only gifts that Paul discusses in detail
are prophecy and tongues. In our reflection on 1 Corinthians 14
thus far we have only considered verses 1-19; however, even a
cursory glance over the remaining verses of the chapter shows
Paul's continuing great concern with these gifts. To be more specific,
verses 20-25 are a presentation of the relationship of tongues
and prophecy primarily to unbelievers56; in 26-33, after a brief
mention of "psalm...teaching...revelation ...tongues...interpretation"
(that all should be practiced for edification), Paul devotes his
complete attention to the proper ordering of tongues with interpretation
and prophecy57; and 37-40 contain a final comment on prophecy and
Let us particularly consider these last verses in 14:37-40. According
to the common reading of the passage, tongues and prophecy are
mentioned only in verse 39- -and in that verse the presumption usually
is that Paul suggests a greater desirability for prophecy than
tongues ("Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy,
and do not forbid to speak in tongues").58 But let us first
note the interesting statement of Paul's in verse 37- -then we shall
return to verse 39.
Paul begins this passage (v. 37) with the statement, "If
any one thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize
that the things which I wrote are the Lord's commandment."
The word translated "spiritual,"59 pneumatikos,
is a substantival adjective paralleling the noun "prophet,"
thus literally such a one is "a spiritual." Thus "a
prophet or a spiritual" is the literal rendering of the text.
But who is "a spiritual?" Some would say "a Spirit-filled"
person60; however, a prophet- -a prophetes- - is surely "Spirit-filled,"
and yet he is mentioned in contradistinction to the one designated
as a pneumatikos. Accordingly, there is a further meaning,
namely, that Paul is referring to one who speaks in tongues. This
is clearly suggested by the parallelism with verse 39 where prophecy
and speaking in tongues are specifically mentioned, and in the
same order as verse 37 (prophetes first, pneumatikos second). Thus the one who is a pneumatikos is peculiarly
one who speaks in tongues.61 Hence, climactically in Paul's discourse
of chapters 12-14, the speaker in tongues bears the title of pneumatikos.62 In a unique fashion he is a pneumatic, a Spirit-endowed person63- -not
by any means more "spiritual" than others; but pneumatikos because through the language of the Spirit, i.e., tongues, he
speaks directly to God. If such is the case, this is an additional
reason for viewing speaking in tongues as a "greater gift."
But let us proceed to a more careful look at 14:39. Even if it be granted that Paul is referring to prophecy and tongues- -speech in verse 37, that a pneumatikos is one who speaks in tongues- -all of which sounds like a high evaluation of tongues- -it might seem here that Paul is finally subordinating tongues to prophecy. For, to repeat, according to a common reading of the text- -"desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues"- -there seems to be a definite lowering of the place of tongues. Does not such an injunction afford positive affirmation for the one, and give only a negative permission for the other? That is to say, speaking in tongues, unlike prophecy, is not to be sought after or desired; such is not to be forbidden either.64 If this is what Paul is stating here, it would seem quite out of harmony with any idea that tongues belong to the category of "greater gifts" to be desired. Rather, tongues are perhaps only reluctantly to be permitted. The answer, I believe, to this seeming shift of emphasis, almost to a self-contradiction, rests in a misapprehension of Paul's meaning in this verse- -and it stems from the usual English translation, "Do not forbid." However, from another understanding of the meaning of the Greek word, and against the background of what Paul has been stating, the apostle is much more likely to be saying: "Do not restrain65 speaking in tongues." It is not a matter of granting negative,
permission, but of declaring that tongues should not be hindered
or checked. In other words, what is often read as negative permission
is more likely a positive affirmation. Paul is saying to any who
would view tongues as only tolerable, thus not to be sought after,
"Let them be spoken!" From this perspective, he is not saying prophecy is desirable whereas speaking in tongues is not
to be desired. It is rather that any restraint upon tongues needs
to be removed so that they may have their proper expression and
significance in the body of believers.66
Paul concludes with the words: "But let all things be done
properly and in an orderly67 manner" (14:40). Since this final
statement is the conclusion of his injunction, "desire earnestly
to prophesy, and do not restrain speaking in tongues," it
points up Paul's great concern that especially these highly potent charismata of prophecy and tongues be properly ordered.
As was mentioned, Paul devotes a rather lengthy statement to this
matter (14:27-33), specifying in part, "if any speak in a
tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn;
and let one interpret.... Let two or three prophets speak, and
let the others weigh68 what is said" (RSV). Propriety and orderliness
call for both the interpretation of tongues and the weighing or
discerning of prophecy.69 Therefore, while tongues and prophecy
are greatly to be desired, of all the gifts they doubtless need
the most judicious exercise.
Possibly enough has now been written to substantiate the thesis that Paul's words "earnestly desire the greater gifts" refer to prophecy and tongues.70 No attempt will be made to summarize the evidence set forth in the preceding pages. However, one point made earlier that indicates their being "greater gifts" needs further emphasis, namely, that prophecy and tongues are uniquely (among the charisms) direct utterances relating to Almighty God. In prophecy the words spoken are the speaker's own language, but the message is given by the Spirit of God71; there is no mental involvement on the part of the speaker.72 The words are God's message in human language73; hence the one prophesying simply speaks it forth. Thus there is direct utterance from God. In the case of tongues the directness is even more apparent since the words first spoken (before interpretation) are not in the speaker's own language; the words themselves are given by the Holy Spirit and addressed directly to God. The interpretation (in the body), as with prophecy, does not actually involve the mind, but sets forth directly in the common language what has been declared in and by the Holy Spirit.74 Thus, prophecy and tongues represent, as no other charismata,75 a directness, even an immediacy, of communication between God and humanity. This being the case it seems again all the more surely that they are the "greater gifts."
Here we may- -leaving Paul for a moment- -also be reminded from the
Book of Acts that in the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit
prophecy and tongues occupy a high place. On the Day of Pentecost
speaking in tongues (2:1-4) and prophecy (2:14-18) are the primary
demonstrations of the Holy Spirit, indeed his direct workings- -"And
they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with
other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance" (v.
4); "I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all mankind; and
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy" (v. 17). It
is the Holy Spirit giving persons utterance in tongues; the same
Holy Spirit outpoured upon people brings forth prophecy through
them.76 Whatever else will happen on that day (and surely much will,
including the salvation of some three thousand persons and the
formation of the first Christian community), and however much
the Holy Spirit will be involved in it all (and surely He will:
convicting of sin, bringing about faith, enabling koinonia)- -the prior and direct workings are unmistakably tongues
One further note concerning the Book of Acts should be made. It is significant that on another occasion in the early mission of the church, there is reference to both tongues and prophecy. Paul had been ministering to some Ephesians with the result that "the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying" (19:6). What the Ephesians said is not disclosed; but that the primary manifestation of the Holy Spirit's coming was tongues and prophecy is apparent. Again glossolalia and prophecy are shown to be His primary and immediate working.
It would seem to follow from the Book of Acts that if prophecy and tongues are ongoing possibilities,78 they would rank as the most to be desired. For as no other manifestations of the Spirit they express directly the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Of course, this brings us full circle; for Paul clearly speaks of continuing manifestations of the Spirit, stressing the desirability of all and urging the seeking of the "greater gifts," one of which he specifies as prophecy. Our conclusion is based primarily on the inner evidence of 1 Corinthians 12-14; and from a quick review of Acts, tongues surely qualifies for inclusion in "the greater." In sum: prophecy and tongues, in their proper functioning, are gifts of the Spirit greatly to be desired.
A concluding word: this article has been written under the growing
conviction that prophecy and tongues are of a potency and value
seldom realized in the church. This is said not simply to those
who may have difficulty accepting their validity at all (at least
for the church today), but also to those who do claim their continuance.
It is to this latter group that some closing remarks follow.
My point is this: I believe that we have scarcely begun to realize
the basic importance of prophecy and tongues. If they are
direct, immediate utterances of the Holy Spirit for the body,
they should have primacy in all gatherings of assembled believers.79 This is not in any way to minimize the importance of evangelizing
and teaching,80 of liberality and mercy,81 or of any of the other
ninefold gifts of the Holy Spirit. All just mentioned are gifts
of grace,82 hence of great value, but none of these are quite as
powerful and direct expressions of Almighty God as are prophecy
and tongues. For what else can correspond to a prophetic "Thus
says the Lord"? If God is truly speaking therein,
then prophecy calls for the highest place and consideration. Again,
what else can transcend an utterance in tongues that declares
divine mysteries, the hidden things of God? If God's secret
truth is being declared thereby for His gathered people, there
can be nothing else of more importance to comprehend.
It is quite a sad thing that even where the gifts of the Spirit are recognized, and prophecy and tongues are expected, far too often there is a failure both to appreciate their extraordinary character and their proper functioning. There should, on the one hand, be a holy awe in the presence of Him who is now speaking, an eagerness to hear every word spoken, and a yearning to appropriate and act upon whatever is being declared. On the other hand, realizing the human element in all prophetic utterance and interpretation of tongues, there should be a fresh sense of urgency in discerning the truth that is being proclaimed, not hesitating if need be to separate out what is not truly of God, and thereupon earnestly and faithfully seeking to fulfill whatever God has spoken. It could be a new day in the church when the "greater gifts" are both earnestly desired and truly exercised. May the Lord grant us fresh zeal and determination!
1NASB translation (here and throughout the article, unless otherwise noted). The Greek word meizona is rendered as "best" in the KJV, "higher" in the RSV and NEB. "Greater"-also so translated in the NIV-seems closer to the root meaning (meizona from megas, usually translated "large" or "great").
2In verse 4 Paul speaks of "varieties of gifts" or "charismata"-also "varieties of ministries" (v. 5) and "varieties of effects" (v. 6). Then he adds: "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit" (v. 7). Thus Paul will be setting forth charismata of the Spirit, spiritual gifts, in verses 8-10.
3"Greater" suggests at least two gifts; however, if Paul is giving a hierarchy of gifts in verses 8-10, the next one "faith," perhaps also next "gifts of healings," might be viewed as in the "greater" category. Actually, from a hierarchical perspective any gift in the list might be viewed as greater than the next one listed.
4The Greek word is etheto-also "set" (KJV) or "placed."
5The parallel with Ephesians 4:11 is unmistakable-"He [Christ] gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers." The order-omitting "evangelists" and "pastors"-is the same. Although the word "appointed" is not used, there is clearly a sense that these are set offices. The word "gave" (edoken) expresses a completed and fixed action.
6The latter listing of spheres is not said to be fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. The Greek word preceding "miracles" is epeita, translated as "then" in the NASB, but perhaps better as "after that" (as in the KJV). Thus there is succession in the spheres, but not necessarily a prioritized listing. Epeita also precedes "gifts of healing," but is not used in reference to the last three spheres, namely, helps, administrations, tongues. Hence, this suggests even more strongly that the prioritized listing by no means includes them.
7Hence, for example, the charisma of "prophecy" (v. 10) is one thing, the office of "prophets" is another. All may prophesy (see Paul's later words, "you can all prophesy" [14:31]), thus the charisma-but not all are prophets (see Paul's question with implied negative answer: "Are all prophets?" [12:29]). Also, there is both the charism of "the effecting [or working] of miracles" (v. 10), and the sphere of "miracles" (v. 28). Because God has placed miracles in the church, the workings of miracles can happen: the placement is antecedent to the charism.
8Both domata and charismata are "gifts," but the former refers to gifts of office: they are "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service [or 'ministry']" (Eph. 4:12).
9E.g., Paul speaks of himself as "called to be an apostle" (Rom. 1:1; cf. Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:15); but neither had he "earnestly desired" it, nor does he ever urge anyone else so to desire.
10Paul speaks of faith, hope, and love in 1 Corinthians 13:13 in that order, but declares that the greatest is love. The first mentioned in this case is not specified as the greatest!
11Also, as we have noted, "varieties of ministries" and "varieties of effects" (or "workings").
12RSV translates as "diversities of gift," KJV-"differences of gifts"; the Greek phrase is diaireseis charismaton.
13The Greek phrase is mallon de. KJV translates as "rather that" which gives an adversative sense. Though mallon de often carries that connotation (e.g., Eph. 4:28), it may have a supplementary meaning (Thayer: it "marks what has the preference: more willingly, more readily, sooner") as in the NASB translation (similarly in RSV, NIV; NEB has "above all").
14Almost identical in the RSV. KJV omits "still," NIV has "the most excellent way." All are essentially the same.
15The Greek phrase is kath' hyperbolen-"beyond measure" or "comparison" (see, e.g., Gal. 1:13- "beyond measure"; 2 Cor. 4:17-"beyond all comparison" [also RSV]). Thus the translation earlier given, "a still more excellent way" (with parallels in other versions) is quite misleading. According to EGT, "kath' hyperbolen...is superlative, not comparative; Paul is not pointing out a more excellent way than that of seeking and using the charisms of chapter xii, but a super-excellent way to win them." Although I might differ on the last phrase, "to win them," EGT is surely right in speaking out against the comparative idea.
16The Greek word is piptei-"fails" (NASB, NIV; KJV-"faileth"). NEB, as RSV, has "ends." "Ends" is the more likely translation in view of verse 13.
17The Greek phrase is to teleion. The attempt on the part of some to identify to teleion with the completion of the canon of Scripture hardly needs comment. Such an attempt-which actually is only a device to seek invalidation of the gifts as continuing in the church-is utterly futile.
18The word here is not charismata but pneumatika, literally "spirituals" (as also in 1 Cor. 12:1). However, English translations regularly render pneumatika as "spiritual gifts" in light of the context (in both 1 Cor. 12 and 14).
19The Greek word is meizon.
20NEB translates: "there are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and love."
21Faith (pistis) uniquely functions both as a gift of the Spirit (see 1 Cor. 12:9) and as one of the eternal verities. However, a fuller discussion (not possible here) would show that faith as a charism is a special faith for healing, working of miracles, etc. The faith that "abides" is eternal faith and trust in the living God.
22Of course, there is no chapter in the original letter. Unfortunately, the chapter separation can easily lead to isolation from the overall context.
23This is not to say that the chapter has no relevance to the general Christian walk. Quite the contrary, there is much of great edification (note esp. vv. 4-7), regardless of the gifts. But the chapter both begins specifically with the gifts (vv. 1-3), and later continues with them (vv. 8-10). Thus it is clear that, however much Paul goes beyond the gifts as he speaks of love, the context is the charismata.
24See especially chapter 1. Whereas Paul expresses his thanksgiving to God that the Corinthians were "not lacking in any gift [charisma]" (vv. 4-7), he also-immediately thereafter-speaks of "the quarrels" (v. 11) and divisions among them.
25Later Paul uses the word "greater" in describing prophecy as it relates to speaking in tongues: "greater is the one who prophesies" (1 Cor. 14:5). The Greek for "greater" is meizon, the same as the meizona in "greater gifts."
26The Greek is pro + phemi.
27Since prophecy is mentioned sixth, and yet is especially to be desired, the listing of tongues thereafter-actually eighth-does not imply inferiority.
28As previously noted, though 28 contains a prioritized listing of offices and a designation of various spheres of charismatic activity, it is not a hierarchy of gifts.
29When Paul first discusses the gifts, he speaks of them as "the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:7). "The common good" is the edification, or upbuilding, of all in the body.
30This is apparent even though Paul speaks (in v. 5) more specifically of the person who is the channel for the gift than the gift itself.
31NASB, KJV, and NIV have lower case "s." NASB and NIV give "by the Spirit" as possible renderings (see margins). Since Paul has earlier characterized tongues as a manifestation of Spirit (not spirit), I believe that the RSV reading (and NASB, NIV margins) of "Spirit" is preferable.
32The Greek word mysterion is "a hidden thing, secret, mystery...not obvious to the understanding" (Thayer), thus mysteries are "hidden things."
33"The one who speaks in tongues...utters secret truths in the Spirit which he alone shares with God, and which his fellow-man, even a Christian, does not understand" (musthrion, BAGD).
34It is important to add that mysteries uttered in tongues and made known by the Spirit through interpretation are not "new truths" beyond what are recorded in Scripture. They are rather in line with Paul's prayer that believers may have "all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:2-3 RSV). In that sense God's mystery is Christ, with all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge contained in Him. Hence, a mystery spoken in tongues, when interpreted, will in some sense be a declaration of those treasures both in themselves and in relation to His body.
35In EGT the following interesting comment is to be found: "The power to interpret superadded to the glossolalia...puts the mystic speaker on a level with the prophet: first 'uttering mysteries' (2) and then making them plain to his hearers, he accomplishes in two acts what the prophet does in one" (2:903). Note especially "...on a level with the prophet."
36What is revealed in the interpretation of a mystery may not be the same as what is contained in a message that upbuilds, exhorts, and consoles. The two may overlap, even at times prove identical, but there is not necessarily an equivalence. Tongues plus interpretation may equal prophecy (as is often said), but equality is not equivalency. They are equal in value to the community when properly exercised.
37We may recall that in the first occurrence of glossolalia on the Day of Pentecost, those assembled "began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance" (Acts 2:4).
38This immediately precedes the words: "greater is the one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets."
39E.g., such is of no more value than a bugle that gives an indistinct sound, and thus prepares no one for battle; also it is but a "speaking into the air" (v. 9).
40Verse 6 is sometimes read as a devaluation: "But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?" A first impression could be that tongues are of no profit to the body of believers: there is profit only if one speaks rather by revelation, knowledge, prophecy or teaching. However, such a reading of Paul's words seems unwarranted, first of all, by the fact that they follow immediately from his statement about the need for interpretation "so that the church may receive edifying." Hence what Paul is emphasizing is that speaking in tongues alone (i.e., without interpretation following) is of no profit.
It has been proposed by some that Paul's words, "if I come to you speaking in tongues what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation...knowledge... prophecy...teaching," refer to the great value of tongues plus interpretation, namely, that through the interpretation revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching will occur. If this is Paul's meaning, tongues (with interpretation) unquestionably transcends all other gifts (even revelation itself) as a channel of their functioning. (See Howard M. Ervin, These are Not Drunken, as Ye Suppose, pp. 163-65; Ray Hubbard, Gifts of Grace, pp. 92-94.) Although I like the strong emphasis on tongues in this view, it really says too much. For Paul is not speaking of tongues' interpretation as bringing revelation, knowledge, prophecy, teaching. This is especially clear in light of Paul's later statement, "When you assemble, each one has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation" (1 Cor. 14:26). In this verse "tongue" and "interpretation" are set alongside "revelation" and "teaching"; the latter do not come by way of interpretation of the former. Thus for all the importance of tongues, it is an overstatement to view their interpretation as bringing about revelation, teaching, etc.
41As reference back to verse 13 makes clear.
42This emphasizes all the more that Paul did not mean earlier (recall v. 6) that there is no profit in tongues unless one also speaks by way of revelation, prophecy, etc.
43NEB, rather than rendering 1 Corinthians 14:14a as "if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays" (as NASB and many others similarly), translates the latter phrase as "the Spirit in me prays." The NEB correctly catches the deeper meaning.
44The Greek phrase is odais pneumatikais; "pneumatic odes," songs given by the Spirit.
45We may recall 1 Corinthians 14:4-"One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself."
46"But you, beloved, building yourself up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit." The focus here is also on personal edification through tongues.
47Identical with Ephesians 5:19-"psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." An interesting comment on "spiritual songs" (in Col. 3:16) is made by a footnote in the Jerusalem Bible stating that they "could be charismatic improvisations suggested by the Spirit during liturgical assembly"(!). Accordingly, I would add, such "improvisations" are "singing in the Spirit."
48As observed earlier, "mysteries in the Spirit" are being uttered. See the next paragraph for the further significance of tongues.
49The Greek word is euloges. The better translation may be "praise" (as in NIV and NEB). In any event it is directed to God and contains the note of thanksgiving (as the continuation of the verse shows).
50The Greek word is idiotou-"unlearned" (KJV); "those who do not understand" (NIV); "outsider" (RSV); "him that is without gifts"(RSV mg.); "the plain man" (NEB). The idiotai seem to represent those who are not unbelievers but are "outsiders" to spiritual gifts ("unversed in spiritual gifts" NASB mg.). Incidental note: perhaps the idiotai are represented today by believers unfamiliar with and unversed in charismatic experience.
51The KJV is quoted here because most other translations produce a misimpression. "For you are giving thanks well enough" (NASB), "you may give thanks well enough" (RSV, similarly NIV), "your prayer of thanksgiving may be all that could be desired" (NEB)-all sound like a grudging admission of the value of this blessing of God in the Spirit. The KJV is on target, since the Greek text literally reads: "For you indeed give thanks well (sy men gar kalos eucharisteis)."
52One might wonder why Paul here singles out the "ungifted" as not being edified by uninterpreted tongues. Would that not be true of all believers present? The point, however, is that tongues described here are peculiarly expressions of blessing and thanksgiving to God. The "gifted" among believers would know what is going on, hence could very well say an "Amen" to such an uninterpreted expression; but the "ungifted," not comprehending, would be quite at a loss to do so.
53Sometimes the words of Paul, "I desire [or 'would rather'-RSV, NIV, NEB] speak five words with my mind," are understood to mean, "It is better to speak comprehensively." However, Paul never (here or elsewhere) deemphasizes the extraordinary value of glossalalic utterance.
54Undoubtedly the Corinthians were out of order in this regard. In the midst of the passage Paul writes: "since you are zealous of spirits (lit. 'pneumaton'), seek to abound for the edification of the church" (v. 12). The Corinthians being "zealous (or zealots-zelotai) of spirits" signifies zealous for spiritual realities in general (not simply spiritual gifts-which are pneumatika [see earlier note] and for which Paul urges them to be zealous). Being thus zealous, they should be all the more concerned to abound in what edifies the church. Interpretation of tongues (which Paul discusses immediately thereafter in verse 13) is urgent if this is to happen.
55The order in verses 1-2 is tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith; in verse 8 it is prophecy, tongues, knowledge (incidentally, "knowledge" probably refers to word of knowledge" in 12:8; "faith" to the gift of faith in 12:9).
56The concern about unbelievers (apistoi) in the church assembly goes largely beyond Paul's earlier concern about the "ungifted" (idiotai). The question now is an additional one: not how do tongues and prophecy edify the believer, but what are their effects on the unbeliever? Tongues, Paul says, are a sign (of judgment) for the unbeliever, but not so for the believer; prophecy on the other hand can bring an unbeliever (also an "ungifted" person) into a profound experience: "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you" (vv. 24-25).
57The parity of tongues with interpretation and prophecy is further suggested by the fact that Paul directs that there be "two or at most three" speakers in tongues, "two or three" who prophesy. The high importance of both is also implied in that Paul does not speak of two or three with "word of wisdom," "word of knowledge," etc. This again suggests that Paul views tongues and prophecy as the "greater gifts."
58Similarly in KJV, RSV, NIV, NEB, and other translations.
59Also in KJV, RSV.
60E.g., Thayer-in references to pneumatikos-"one who is filled with and governed by the Spirit of God. " BAGD-in regard to pneumatikoi-"spirit-filled people."
61Attention may be called to Hermann Günkel's seminal work, The Influence of the Holy Spirit, in which he says forcefully: "In 1 Cor. 14:37; pneumatikos in contrast to prophetes...clearly denotes glossolalia" (p. 31). A. T. Robertson likewise views the pneumatikos as the speaker in tongues: "The prophet or the one with the gift of tongues" (Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4:185). (I owe this quotation to Howard M. Ervin's These Are Not Drunken, as Ye Suppose, 114).
62It is interesting to observe that Paul begins 1 Corinthians 12-14 thus: "Now concerning pneumatikon...." The word "gifts" is usually added; however, it could be "matters" or "things," or even "persons." I am inclined to the usual translation of "gifts"; however, there is undoubtedly some attractiveness in thinking that Paul at the outset is primarily concerned with those who speak in tongues. (For a helpful discussion of 1 Corinthians 12:1 see Ervin's These Are Not Drunken, chap. 14.)
63Rudolf Bultmann writes similarly: "Since Paul can say, 'If anyone thinks that he is a prophet or one Spirit-endowed...' he presupposes a usage of speech according to which the ecstatic [sic] speaker in tongues (in the context it can mean only him [italics: mine]) is the 'Spirit-endowed' par excellence" (Theology of the New Testament, tr. by Kendrick Grobel, 1:158).
64In regard to speaking in tongues from this perspective, a good rule of thumb would indeed be: "Seek not, forbid not."
65The Greek word is kolyete. The translation for kolyo often is "forbid." However, "restrain" or "check" is far more likely in this context. We may note the use of kolyo in 2 Peter 2:16, where only "restrained" or "checked" makes good sense: "a dumb donkey, speaking with the voice of a man, restrained (ekolysen) the madness of the prophet" (KJV translates ekolysen as "forbid," but such unfortunately only confuses the meaning; RSV and NIV, like NASB, translate as "restrained"). Incidentally, BAGD refers to 2 Peter 2:16, and the translation as "restrained," in the context of discussing 1 Corinthians 14:39 (see article on kwluw). In line with this (and the overall context), I repeat that "do not restrain speaking in tongues" is surely Paul's meaning. Weymouth's New Testament in Modern Speech is one of the few versions that translates in similar fashion thus: "Do not check speaking with tongues." Also see Moffatt's New Translation: "Do not put any check upon speaking in 'tongues.'"
66It is interesting to observe that Paul writes similarly about prophecy in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-"do not despise prophetic utterances." A restraint upon speaking in tongues and a despising of prophecy are both serious handicaps for the body of Christ. Incidentally, in words just preceding "do not despise prophetic utterance," Paul says: "Do not quench the Spirit" (v. 19). It is quite possible that this first exhortation concerns speaking in tongues (e.g., Günkel writes: "in 1 Thess. 5:19 pneuma is set next to propheteia as the capacity for speaking in tongues" [The Influence of the Spirit, p. 31]); if so there is a close parallel between 1 Corinthians 14:39-"desire earnestly to prophesy and do not restrain speaking in tongues"-and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20-"Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances."
67The Greek word is euschemonos-"decently" (KJV, RSV, NEB), "in a fitting way" (NIV). "Becomingly" is another good translation (cf. Rom. 13:13; 1 Thess. 4:12).
68The Greek word is diakrinetosan-judge" (KJV); "pass judgment" (NASB); "exercise judgment upon" (NEB). "Weigh" (RSV and NIV) avoids any negative impression that may be contained in the idea of judging or judgment. "Discern" is another helpful translation. Since prophecy is "in part," not everything said may be a word from the Lord; thus there is particular need for weighing, judging, discerning.
69It is probably not without significance that in the listing of the nine charismata of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 that the sixth and seventh relate to prophecy and the "discernings (diakriseis-from the same root as diakrinetosan in 14:29) of spirits," the eighth and ninth to tongues and interpretation of tongues. Although "discernings" (weighing, judging) may refer to more than prophecy, it surely has a connection therewith. Thus prophecy needs discernment even as tongues need interpretation. In accordance with this is the climactic listing of the nine gifts in 12:8-10-and to the same matters Paul returns in 14:27-33.
70Or, as in the prior observation: "prophecy with discernment" and "tongues with interpretation." The shorthand for this is simply "prophecy and tongues."
71Bear in mind that prophecy is "in part," or partial; hence not everything said may come from the Holy Spirit (thus the need for discernment).
72"Word of wisdom" and "word of knowledge," on the other hand, are gifts in which the mind while anointed by the Holy Spirit is fully involved. In these two gifts, or manifestations of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit inspires the utterance of wisdom and knowledge which is given by the speaker. But no such "word of wisdom" or "knowledge" comes forth with the directness of a prophetic "Thus says the Lord."
73"Human language" includes a person's natural way of speaking, his own inflection and tone, even his peculiarities of speech. The Holy Spirit, while speaking directly, does not reduce the human instrument to a mere automaton.
74As with prophecy, since the interpretation comes through a human vessel, it may likewise be "in part." This could mean that because of human limitations only a part of the message is given, or that the interpretation of it contains elements which are not fully consonant with what is spoken in the tongue.
75The other spiritual charismata (after word of wisdom and word of knowledge and before prophecy and tongues), namely, faith, gifts of healing, and working of miracles are of course not in the realm of communication. They are supernatural powers but not supernatural utterances.
76It is significant to note that the same Greek word, apophthengomai, is used in Acts 2:4 and Acts 2:14 for communication regarding both tongues and prophecy. The word for "utterance" in 2:4 is "apopthengesthai"; likewise in the preface to the words concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the text reads: "Peter...declared to them," the word for "declared" being apephthenxato. English translations do not carry the full force of apophthengomai, which contains the note of inspired speech. According to BAGD, in Greek literature, the word is used "of the speech of the wise man...but also of the oracle-giver, diviner, prophet, exorcist, and other 'inspired persons.'" Against that background the New Testament usage of the word signifies speech inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the one case it was speech in tongues, in the other it was speech in prophecy-both given directly from the Holy Spirit.
77Günkel writes in his The Influence of the Holy Spirit that in "the Pentecost narrative...the Spirit directly [italics mine] works only glossolalia and prophecy" (p. 16). This, I believe, is a correct statement.
78In regard to prophecy, the words of Peter (quoting Joel)-"your sons and your daughters shall prophesy..."-clearly point to such a possibility. Also there is continuing prophetic activity recorded in various places in Acts. There is, however, no reference as such to the continuation of tongues beyond the initial events (in Acts 2, 19; cf. Acts 10:46). In the latter case we need to turn to other portions of the New Testament-as we have previously done-which imply continuance. Mark 16:17-not previously mentioned-"they shall speak with new tongues"-underscores an ongoing reality.
790f course, I do not mean by this that words spoken in prophecy and tongues stand above Scripture, for the Scriptures are normative, decisive, and unerring; whereas, as observed before, prophecy calls for discernment, and tongues need interpretation. Accordingly, in both prophecy and tongues the human element is present. Neither gift in its exercise can be normative, nor can it have the assurance of being free of all error. However, in spite of this, through prophecy and tongues the living God, whose written word is in Holy Scripture, speaks in and to His people today.
80As in Ephesians 4:11-two domata among five (or four-if "pastors" and "teachers" are the same office).
81As in Romans 12:8-two charismata among seven.
82Whether domata or charismata.
Content Copyright ©1996, 2001 by J. Rodman Williams, Ph.D.
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