By Akin Ojumu

The following is an exchange I had with a young gentleman – we’ll call him Christian – who wanted to defend his beloved man of God whom I had criticized for preaching a gospel of self-glory.

So, when Paul said that I thank God that I speak in tongues more than ye all, was it self-glory? 1st Corinthians 14:18. Or when Paul called the Galatians church “bewitched” was he representing Christ??? How can Paul tell a whole church that he speaks in tongue more than them all? And he even said he labored more than all the Apostles. Paul must be glorifying himself then.

I’m always thrilled when I see a Christian go directly to Scripture when engaging in a discourse like this one. Such a Christian shows he understands the true source of our faith, which is the Word of God, and not the wisdom or word of men. It’s on that note that I will respond to your comment which, ordinarily, I’d have ignored otherwise.

There’s a fundamental principle that guides the exegesis – i.e., interpretation – of any Bible passage, and that is, context. To understand the meaning of a particular Bible passage, it must be interpreted within its proper context. Because many Christians are not taught in the proper handling of the Word of God, they often quote Scripture out of context and use it wrongly. This is the reason there are so many erroneous teachings out there.

To understand 1 Corinthians 14:18, it must be interpreted within its context. The context of this passage is Apostle Paul rebuking the Corinthian Christians for abusing and misusing the Spiritual Gifts. In fact, the entire 1 Corinthians Epistle was written to address the myriad of issues that plagued that congregation. The Corinthian assembly was a carnal and chaotic Church. It was a Church lacking in order and spiritually shallow.

The Corinthian assembly was rife with schisms (1 Corinthians 1) as they formed factions around preachers and philosophers (1 Corinthians 2). They were sexually immoral, one of them had sexual relationship with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5). The Corinthians were litigious and loved taking each other to court (1 Corinthians 6). Their marriages were a hot mess (1 Corinthians 7). They abused their liberty, and the women usurped the authority of men (1 Corinthians 8-10). On and on it goes.

In 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14, Paul addressed their abuse and misuse of Spiritual Gifts. In chapter 12, Paul describes the various Spiritual Gifts. Chapter 13 talks about love, the context in which all Spiritual Gifts must operate. In chapter 14, Paul provides the modus operandi for the use of the gifts.

So, 1 Corinthians 14:18 was actually a rebuke to the Corinthians who had corrupted the gift of tongues. In fact, the tongues many of them spoke, at this time, was a counterfeit tongue. It was nothing but gibberish, and not the tongue given by the Holy Spirit.

They had brought into their assembly the pagan practice of the Temple of Aphrodite in the ancient city of Corinth. When the pagan worshipers at Corinth wanted to commune with their deity, they’d first get themselves drunk to stupor. It’s in this drunken state that they transcend into an altered state of consciousness. They start to shake and jerk violently, and they make ecstatic utterances i.e., speaking in tongues or gibberish.

This was an essential part of their pagan worship. Sadly, many of the Christians in the Corinthian assembly imported this same practice into the Church.

1 Corinthians 14:18, was basically a rebuke of the people. Paul was reminding them that he knows what it is to speak in tongues. As an Apostle – one of the REAL Apostles of which there are only 13 in all of Christianity – Paul exercised the gifts of an Apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12).

So, he was telling the carnal Corinthian Christians that he speaks the real tongue, and not the gibberish and counterfeit tongue they had brought into the Church. This is the context of 1 Corinthians 14:18.

Paul wasn’t boasting about his supernatural feats, neither was he bragging about his spiritual exploits. He was not engaged in self-glory or vainglory. He was simply rebuking a group of carnal Christians for their abuse and misuse of the gift of tongues.

And just to add, the true Spiritual Gift of tongue is an actual human language and not the gibberish commonly found among modern-day Christians. What we call tongues in contemporary Church is the same gibberish that the Corinthians imported from their pagan worship into the Church.

God bless you real good.


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