Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you talking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you some revelation or some special knowledge or some prophecy or some teaching—that is what will help you. - 1 Corinthians 14:6
I recently read about an old gentleman who had traveled out to the West Coast of the United States by oxcart as a boy who would return to the East Coast, at the end of his life, by plane. During his lifetime, dramatic changes had taken place in the Western world. It has not been so long since America was an agrarian society, where people lived on the land and from the land. Then came the Industrial Revolution, when steam and electricity were harnessed. In time, life became considerably easier. In recent years, we have moved into the communications era—information is power and wealth, and fortunes are made and lost in a matter of moments. Although times are changing, some things never change. Even though the means of communication change, the basic rules of communication remain the same.
That is why the things that Paul told the Corinthians about communication two millennia ago are relevant today. In the Corinthian church, the issue was speaking in tongues. It still is an issue today. On the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2), the disciples spoke about Christ in such a way that people who spoke all kinds of different languages were able to understand them. A miracle of some kind took place—either a miracle of speaking or one of hearing (Acts 2:7-13). Subsequently, the Corinthian Christians discovered that they had a spiritual gift—”the ability to speak in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:2). Some believe it was the same gift that was in evidence at Pentecost. Others suggest that this ability was not related to earthly languages but that it was a gift of ecstatic utterance used in worship, understandable only by God and a person with the corresponding spiritual gift of interpretation. Whatever the nature of the gift of tongues, as it is often called, Paul was concerned about unbelievers coming in to the worship service where people were using it: “If I should come to you talking in an unknown language, how would that help you?” (14:6). The first and greatest rule in communication has not changed through the centuries. If you want to get your message across, speak the language of your target audience!
One of the criticisms of the church is that it spends time answering questions no one is asking in a language no one is speaking. That is a contravention of the basic rule of communication. It is also an exercise in futility. Effective communication requires clear enunciation and perceptive listening. Without clarity, perception will not happen. Without perception, the clear enunciation may as well not happen. The church’s challenge is to use modern means of communication, to which modern people will listen, to speak the ancient message clearly.
For Further Study: 1 Corinthians 14:1-12
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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