After a lengthy discussion on the gifts of the Spirit that have been poured out in the church, the chief of which is love, Paul addresses the issue of tongues in 1 Cor. 14. He says “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. … Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (I Cor. 14:26, 39-40)
Paul is addressing a number of issues together here, but I wonder if his instructions don’t apply to some of our conversations regarding scripture, tradition, and authority. At first glance at least, it would seem that certain readings of Scripture and Tradition end up doing the very thing Paul forbids here. He certainly limits how “wide open” the open mic is at Corinth, and the preceding chapters give an order to church society which prioritizes the apostles, prophets, teachers, etc. (12:28) And Paul clearly states that not all are teachers, prophets, etc. That would seem to have a limiting effect on who would speak in the assembly as well. But Paul clearly does not say that psalms, teachings, revelations, and interpretations may only come from those special people. He insists that the Corinthians must exercise wisdom, showing honor to those over them, and use discretion and deference in the assembly.
My point is merely to insist again that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is meant to be a doctrine that is open to the working of the Spirit in the entire body of Christ. Remember the whole discussion of spiritual gifts begins with the common Spirit that we all share, and the prohibition against saying we don’t need some bodily appendage. Isolating authoritative church teaching to councils, bishops, popes, or (for us Presbyterian types) confessions, does the very thing that Paul says not to do: Do not forbid the speaking in tongues and do not discourage any from earnestly desiring to prophesy. As Paul makes clear, this does not mean that meaning and authority and order is all up for grabs, but it does mean that there ought to be a generous spirit of patience and humility bound into the body of Christ, for we have all been made to drink into one Spirit, and we were all baptized into one body.
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