Essential Translation

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #167

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified” (1 Cor. 14:12–17).

When it comes to the public meeting of the church, the apostle Paul privileges the mind over the heart. This is not the same thing as privileging the intellect over love because the reason he is doing it is because he wants us to excel in the edifying of the church (v. 12). The Corinthians were zealous for spiritual gifts, but he wants them to press on beyond that—with the edifying of the body in mind. A man who speaks in tongues should (as far as public worship is concerned) pray for the gift of translation (v. 13). Genuine tongues that are untranslated are therefore excluded from public worship. How much more would untranslatable sounds be excluded?

Praying in tongues is a blessing to the spirit, but not a blessing for the mind. As far as the mind is concerned, the whole thing is “unfruitful” (v. 14). Why choose? Paul says that he will pray in the spirit and he will pray with his understanding as well (v. 15). If he does not do this, then someone who is ungifted or unlearned is in no position to say amen when the whole thing is over—which means that it must not be done (v. 16). You had a good time, but your brother was not edified (v. 17). What was the point?

We can see here a distinction between an emotional “blessing” and real edification. As the proverb goes, nothing dries more quickly than a tear. You can have all kinds of sensations, but when the sensation is passed, nothing is different. But when you build an edifice, when the project is done, the building is still there. That is what it means to be edified—the listener is built up, and changed from that point on. It is like adding a wing to your house. When you are done, the wing remains.

When the sermon series is completed, the congregation is transformed. It is like taking a journey—with a good map. When you get there, you have arrived somewhere. Speaking in tongues without true translation is like running in place.

Three Chains IV: Deliverance


We have been considering the ways in which men are held in bondage by fear, guilt, and shame. Fear threatens their safety. Guilt challenges their righteousness. Shame assaults their glory. Given the reality of sin, our response to this has to be true safety, genuine righteousness, and real glory—all given to us by another.

The Text:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:1–6).

Summary of the Text:

Those who are in Christ Jesus are described as those who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (v. 1). For these, there is no condemnation. There are two contrasting laws. One is the law of the Spirit of life and the other is the law of sin and death (v. 2). The former sets us free from the latter. What the law could not do, God accomplished by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be condemned on the cross (v. 3). This condemnation on the cross did what all the righteous injunctions of the law could not do. This is what enables those who walk after the Spirit to fulfill the righteousness of the law (v. 4). Fleshly minds seek out fleshly things. Spiritual minds seek out spiritual things (v. 5). This means, at the end of the day, the fleshly mind seeks out death while the spiritual mind seeks out life (v. 6).

Three Chains III: Shame


We have been considering fear, guilt, and shame, and we have come to treat the topic of shame separately.

The Text:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1–2).

Summary of the Text:

The Old Testament saints in the previous chapter were witnesses in their lives to the faithfulness of God. But there is something in this expression which indicates that they are now, in some fashion, witnessing us. They have run their race, and they are now sitting in the stands, a great cloud of them, as we run the race that God has assigned to us. We are compassed around with a great cloud of witnesses. We need to stretch out, take off any encumbrances, which would include any entangling sin, and then run patiently. The expression patiently indicates that it is a long distance run, not a dash. As we do, we look to the finish line. That finish line is Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He was the first one to run the entire race, and He did it with His eye on the finish line, which was the joy set before Him. The joy and glory He has obtained was what made it possible for Him to hold the shame He had to endure in contempt. He despised the shame, considering it a trifle in the light of the joy that was coming.

Shame in the Sin of Others:

Shame is not the same thing as guilt. It often accompanies guilt, but it is not the same thing. In addition, there are times when the sin of one person causes shame in another. This was the case with Tamar when her brother raped her (2 Sam. 13:13). This is the kind of emotion experienced by children who have been abused and violated, for example. This kind of shame occurs when you are sinned against. Another example would be when a lazy son causes his father shame (Prov. 10:5). Another kind of shame happens when you are despised by others because of a righteous stand you have taken. “Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: Let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; Shame hath covered my face” (Ps. 69:6–7). And in other situations, shame accompanies sins a person has committed himself. This would particularly be the case when the sin is generally despised, and is roundly condemned. A wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame (Prov. 13:5).

Shame in the Hand of God:

Three Chains II: Guilt


The solution to fear is deliverance. The answer to guilt is justification. The solution to shame is the honor of glorification. To release someone from one of these chains requires that he be released from all. And Jesus Christ is the only one who can do any of it. Last week we considered the authority of fear, and the deliverance provided by the fear of God—which is love for God, given by the grace of God. This week we move on to the chain of guilt in order to address how God has released us from it.

The Text:

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19).

Summary of the Text:

In the first chapter of Romans, we learned that the Gentiles were under the power of sin. In the second chapter, Paul argued that the Jews were also under that same power. Here in the third chapter, he is showing us that Jews and Gentiles together were sinners together, and that all are under the power of sin. Everyone is a sinner, and everyone is a sinner in accordance with the law. God gave the law to those who are under the law (meaning under the condemnation of it), and God’s purpose in giving the law was so that every mouth would have to shut up, and so that whole world would become objectively guilty before God.

Guilt Outside and Inside:

In Scripture, guilt is not primarily existential guilt. When we say “guilt” our primary meaning for this is guilt feelings. But guilt is created by, and measured by, the law of God. In other words, guilt is objective, regardless of how the guilty party feels about it. Once the judgment of the law is passed, and the accused has “his mouth stopped,” there are certain subjective sensations that come when the holy law of a holy God comes into the conversation and shuts you down. But that is a consequence.

Babel and Pentecost

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #166

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me” (1 Cor. 14:10–11).

The miracle at Pentecost was a reversal of Babel, which meant that it was a unifying miracle. When God confused the tongues at Babel, the result was that men scattered, divided by their different languages. When God gave different languages at Pentecost, the intent was to move men in the opposite direction, to gather them all to Christ. At Babel, the different languages scattered. At Pentecost, the different languages gathered. They all heard, in their own tongues, “the wonderful works of God” being declared (Acts 2:11).

God has set the direction, and so our worship services should continue to move in that same direction. There are many voices in the world and all of them, Paul says, have specific signification. There is a meaning there, but if I don’t know the meaning, what effect does that have? It has the effect of making the speaker a barbarian to the listener, and the listener a barbarian to the speaker. But God’s purpose in the church is to make us all members of the same household, the same holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9). We are not supposed to be foreigners to one another.

The word barbarian came from this idea of what alien chatter sounds like. When someone is a foreigner talking away aimlessly in my presence, I am going to tag him with an onomatopoeic label – they sound like they are saying nothing other than bar bar bar bar. And so, Paul says, don’t do that to your brothers in church. And if you withhold from your brother the signification of what you have said, that is exactly what you are doing. You are exiling your brother, who ought to live right next door to your meaning, and you are exiling him to a distant and barbarous land.

When you do this in church, you are introducing the tongues of Babel, and not the tongues of Pentecost.

Three Chains I : Fear


Over the course of the next few weeks, we are going to be considering three chains that the enemy of our souls wants to use in order to keep us in bondage. But in Christ, we have been set free, and set free means set free from each of these chains, and from all of them. The three chains are fear, guilt, and shame. All three are common to the human frame, but different cultures can develop different emphases. The Western world is concerned with righteousness, and is therefore afflicted with guilt. The Eastern world is very concerned about honor, and is therefore afflicted with shame. The Southern world is concerned about survival and safety, and is afflicted with fear. The North generally does okay because it is cold and no one lives up there.

The Text:

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt.10:28).

Summary of the Text:

In this part of Matthew, Jesus is telling His disciples that He is sending them out as sheep among wolves. We need to be shrewd therefore (Matt. 10:16). We need to beware of men, because they will in fact persecute (Matt. 10:17-18). Even when we are delivered up, we need to trust God for the words we must use (Matt. 10:19). The persecutions will be both intensive and extensive, and if they treated Jesus this way, we cannot be surprised when they treat us in the same way (Matt. 10:20-25). Do not fear them, the Lord says, because everything is going to be revealed (Matt. 10:26). The entire story will eventually be told. Be bold (Matt. 10:27). Do not fear men, who can only kill the body and not the soul. Rather, fear the one who can wreck both body and soul in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28). We are told not to fear for two reasons. The first is that God will tell the whole story one day, and the second is that they can only kill the body, which means that all they can do is help you escape from them.