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Date Posted:16/04/2008 12:24 PMCopy HTML

1 Corinthians 12:29 & 30
"Do all speak in tongues"

By Drew Dixon

'Yes we all speak in tongues, but no, not in a meeting'

To read the 1983 RCI article that I will address, visit the following link:

1983 Article - This understanding is held by a number of oversight I have spoken to, and is put forward in defence of the following scripture (more-so now due to the untenable position of the translational error argument as previously discussed).

1 Corinthians 12:27 through 1 Corinthians 12:30 - Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

The scripture below, preceding 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13, 14, is sometimes used to set the scene for the meeting only argument:-

1 Corinthians 11:18

For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

Essentially, the RCI argument is as follows;

"Yes, Paul is saying that not all speak with tongues, but in doing this, he is only referring to a meeting where we know that even though all can speak in tongues, only two or three will do so, as Paul also instructs us to do".

It is also maintained that this is confirmed by the fact that Paul links tongues and interpretation together (vs. 10 & 30), which only occurs in a meeting i.e. interpretation has no use outside a meeting. Other Scriptures in chapter 14 are sometimes quoted to lend weight to the argument, as Paul refers a number of times to a meeting situation.

Once again, as with the previous post, for the RCI to see that 1 Cor 12:27-30 has general application to the wider body of Christ, or even just the local church "outside" a meeting, is unacceptable. For this would mean there are specific Scriptures stating that not all who were members of the Body of Christ spoke in tongues in Paul's time.

So, let us see how the meeting only context hold up?
Problems with the meeting context

In the 1983 RCI article, which maintains that these verses relating to tongues should simply be seen in the context of a meeting, the writer of the article never actually quotes the complete verse 30, nor it's associated prior verse. Tongues and interpretation are lifted mid-verse from a group of seven functions all listed together. In holding with a logical and true interpretation of scripture, the same meeting context that is applied to tongues and interpretation, should then also be applied to the other five gifts / functions listed. Paul makes absolutely no distinction at all in context between any of them.


If we maintain a meeting context for both verses and all functions, we see the following problems arise with the RCI understanding:-

1. All speak in tongues, but only some do during the meeting?
Perhaps, as per the RCI article.

2. All can interpret, but only some do during the meeting because only some will speak in tongues and require interpretation?

Again perhaps, as per the RCI article.

Now it gets tricky:-

3. All are apostles normally, but only some are apostles during the meeting?
This does not make sense. The verse speaks nothing of the action of an apostle. The words used for apostles, prophets, teachers are all nouns and seem to speak of an office. Also, I am unaware of any action of an apostle restricted to a meeting context.

4. All are prophets normally, but only some are prophets during the meeting?
Again this does not make sense, prophets are prophets whether they are prophesying or not. In the NT church, people were specifically known as prophets whether in a meeting or out.

5. All are teachers normally, but only some are teachers during the meeting?
The same argument applies as in the previous two examples. The RCI explanation does not work.

6. All are workers of miracles normally, but only some work miracles during the meeting?
It would seem odd that miracles would be 'limited' in the meeting in the same manner as tongues and interpretation are. In Corinth, the limiting of tongues and interpretation was done by the people (possessing the gift one would assume), under the instruction of Paul and not by the Spirit. Paul gives no instruction or even hints at limiting of miracles. This would seem very odd indeed.

7. All have gifts of healing normally, but only some are allowed gifts of healing during the meeting?
Same problems as the points above.

As can be seen, the above statements simply do not make sense and are quite illogical. From this alone, it is obvious Paul did not specifically have the meeting context in view when discussing these functions. A number of the functions listed either have nothing to do with a meeting, or have roles of limited 'meeting' use, with their wider scope of application being outside a in the broader body of Christ. Paul's whole discourse and it's practical application become totally confused if somehow restricted to a meeting context. It just does not fit.


It is obvious there are significant and numerous problems with the above RCI understandings of the meeting context. Keeping a constant context (as should be done), then putting all the functions through the same filter, shows significant error and introduces total confusion to the verses under question. The RCI have made it awfully complex.

Problems with the variable context explanation

There are significant problems when the meeting context is applied to the whole of the verses under question, rather than just the excerpts mentioned in the 1983 article. These problems simply cannot be, and should not be overlooked, as these are the only chapters in the Bible where we get any sort of 'theology' on tongues. It is important we get it right. When I pursued this whole aspect of the contextual confusion, it became evident that some oversight had never considered it. The following essay address's the only real explanation that has been  cautiously offered to me to date. The view that follows should not be taken as RCI doctrine, as they were only thoughts put forward by individual's as a 'possibility'. I am unaware whether they had previously considered the context problem and a response in detail.


The explanation given to me to try and resolve these obvious and serious context conflicts, is what I would term 'variable context', and goes along the following lines:-

"Because of the nature and office of an apostle, this verse must be referring to the wider body of Christ, but because tongues are combined with interpretation, this part must mean the meeting context, as these two gifts work together and are not used outside a meeting in this combination".

According to this view then, we can change the context within a single verse, even when no apparent general context change is implied or called for. To put it simply, I would see this as clutching at straws. Not only that, it comes perilously close to the twisting the Word of God to fit a preconceived idea. 

Essentially, it allows us to read in the context as we require it.

Using this context fitting, I would challenge anyone to go through and clearly explain to me what the context /s are of the rest of the gifts and functions listed in the three verses from 1 Cor 12:28-30.

If I wished to be pedantic and hold to this form of verse by verse (even intra-verse) context shifting, then I could point out that in 1 Cor 12:28, tongues appears on its own and is not linked to interpretation. There is no 'pairing' of the two gifts to define it in a meeting context. Based on this, I could then reason, in the same way the RCI article does, that the context of this single gift is not the meeting because tongues should never be used on their own in a meeting, as Paul forbids it. Therefore Paul must then be referring to tongues outside a meeting, private devotion if you will. According to this style of interpretation, this verse clearly states that God hath only 'set some' with this gift of tongues 'outside' the meeting i.e. in the wider body of Christ. I could then point out that this interpretation even fits with the experience of many churches..........

I could use this reasoning, but I won't, as the interpretive method used is wrong on several counts. In any case, there are many other more Scripturally sound reasons for believing the 'not all tongues' understanding.
As I see it, without the variable context explanation, the RCI are in a Scriptural corner regarding their stand on tongues. I see this explanation as a forced one of necessity, not an explanation that has been submitted to the unbiased teaching of the Scriptures. It is much more reasonable to see that Paul had one context in mind, a context that had the breadth and scope to cover all the nominated gifts / functions listed. The variable context argument should be shelved.

Further problems with the meeting context explanation

What about other gifts?

Personally, I have never heard any revivalist pastor talk of other gifts outside of the nine mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. In fact, I am embarrassed to say, I once scoffed at a non-revivalist when he claimed to have a gift of teaching. To me that sounded very 'wishy washy' and was not a true spiritual gifting. I now realise it is specified elsewhere in the Scriptures. Of course I do not completely blame the RCI for my lack of understanding on this matter, though it was because of their instruction that I thought the way I did. I am also to blame and should have been more diligent in my study before 'hitting the streets'. The point still stands though, if you ask any RCI person how many gifts of the Spirit their are, 95% will say nine, simply because they are taught that. Indeed the NT lists out over twenty.


In Romans 12, Paul uses the same word gifts / charisma before he goes on to list a number of them, one of which is prophecy (the same as mentioned in the Corinthians 12:7-12 list):-

The discussion in Romans is very interesting, as it follows a virtually identical pattern to that in Corinthians 12. Paul once again uses the analogy of the body in the discussion of these further gifts in the Romans passage. The flow and structure of both discourses is as follows:-

Romans 12:3-10

Don't think of yourself as better than the others (vs. 3)

God has dealt with us as he sees fit (vs. 3 & 6)

Paul uses the analogy of the body to show that each member does not have the same function (vs. 4)

Even though we are different, we are all members of Christ (vs. 5)

We have different gifts according to God's grace (vs. 6)

Use the gift (s) God has given (vs. 6-8)

It is all to be kept in check by our love & sincerity (vs. 9)

If we now look through 1 Corinthians 12, we see an almost identical situation:-

Don't think of yourself better than others (vs. 21-22)

God has dealt with us as he sees fit (vs11, 18, 28)

Paul uses the analogy of the body to show that each member does not have the same function (vs. 14-26)

Even though we are different, we are all members of Christ (vs. 12-14, 27)

We have different gifts according to God's grace (7,11,18, 28,29,30)

Use the gift (s) God has given (vs. 7)

It is all to be kept in check by our love & sincerity (chapter 13)

Prophecy is listed in both the Romans and Corinthians list. There would also seem to be a relationship between the 'ministry' mentioned in Romans and the 'administration' mentioned in Corinthians.

Paul is discussing the operation, application and principles of the various gifts in both Corinthians and Romans. In both chapters he deals with them in an almost identical manner. In Romans 12, there is no indication that Paul is dealing with a meeting situation, far from it. Paul starts off in verse 4 & 5 talking of 'we' and 'the body of Christ'. The list of gifts in both Romans and Corinthians both contain a variety of gifts, neither list has a specific application only to a meeting. They both contain gift's used in a meeting and as well as those with no specific meeting use.

Both Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 lay down principles having general application at both the local and universal level. Of course many, if not all these principles would carry over to the meeting when and where applicable. When referring to 1 Cor 12, it would be quite normal, and good practice, to take universal principles (1 Cor 12) and then apply it to a specific situation, which Paul does later in 1 Cor 14. Paul's whole intent of chapter 12 was so the Corinthians would not be ignorant (lacking in information) regarding spiritual matters (1 Cor 12:1). In this way, when Paul brings specific instruction regarding the meeting in chapter 14, the Corinthians will not just be forced to follow "parrot fashion", but will understand why they should do it Paul's way. Kind of like when we are taught to solve a mathematical problem from first principles. Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to look at the 'big picture' concerning the wider Body of Christ. This is something Revivalists have a hard time doing (and accepting).

Further, for those interested, Ephesians 4:1-16, makes for very interesting reading and also follows similar principles and thought patterns as Corinthians and Romans.


Even a cursory glance at 1 Cor 12 will show a number of points that seem to highlight the fact Paul deals with general principles on a local / universal level rather than simply a meeting situation:-

vs. 1 ...........Paul wants to deal with Spiritual matters
vs. 2 ...........Speaks in general about what the gentiles situation was.
vs. 3-6 .......General truths
vs. 12-13 ...A universal truth regarding our position in Christ
vs. 14-26 ...General truths
vs. 27 ........A general truth regarding the body of Christ
vs. 28-30 ..The Scriptural context under question
vs. 31.........General exhortation
chapter of the most famous general truth's & principles in the Bible

Also, in 1 Cor 12, Paul refers to the body of Christ in the following verses 12, 13, 27. Verse 27 immediately precedes the scripture/s under question.

1 Corinthians is simply not dealing with a 'meeting' situation. To see it in that manner would be to overlook some very foundational principles.

It is for this very reason that I have found a number of current and former Revivalists could never 'really' workout how they were to view the whole body analogy of 1 Cor 12. Many knew what they were supposed to believe, but something just didn't quite fit.

There is another sizeable problem with the whole meeting only argument as stated in the 1983 VOR. The article states:-

"We know from our own experience that all true believers speak in tongues when they receive the Holy Spirit (Act 2: 10:19) but not all give a message in tongues in the Church (1 Cor 14:27). THIS IS WHAT THE APOSTLE PAUL IS REFERRING TO".

Besides the fact their argument is incredibly circular, they also have the problem of context in relation to time and experience. The fact is, the RCI experience in the year 1983 / 2002 AD, has nothing to do with what was going on in the Corinthian Church in around 55 AD. One of the main points of Paul's letter, was to correct spiritual difficulties that were taking place at Corinth. At this stage of the letter, Paul is still trying to increase their knowledge of spiritual matters to help remove their lack of understanding (1 Cor 12:1). In the scriptures under question in 1 Cor 12, Paul had still not given them the instruction for only two or three to speak in tongues in the meeting, this comes later in chapter 14. It would seem that in chapter 12, there was still a lack of understanding regarding these matters and still plenty of ignorance.

In our current day and age, outside the RCI, there are a number of churches zealous for spiritual gifts and manifestations, where tongues is not a pre-requisite for salvation, yet in some of these groups, most, if not all members of the assembly can and do speak in tongues. One does not need to 'preach tongues for salvation' to have an assembly where this is a reality.

In my time in the RCI, it had been offered (including by myself), that most, if not all at the Corinth church, probably were speaking in tongues in the meeting due to their zeal for spiritual manifestations. Also, some of the corrections Paul gives in chapter 14 (see vs. 23,27), would also point in this direction. In the RCI, we would sometimes accuse our Pentecostal brothers of engaging in the very thing Paul told the Corinthians to stop doing i.e. all speaking together in tongues in a meeting.

So then, hypothetically, if we were to hold to the one possible RCI view that all the Corinthian church were speaking in tongues in the meeting (not an official view btw, but not an unrealistic one), then the whole RCI meeting context argument again falls apart. Instead of the Corinthians giving the correct answer of no to Paul's rhetorical question of "do all speak in tongues", the Corinthian church would actually be inclined to answer 'yes' because they were, according to one possible view, all speaking in tongues in the meeting! In fact, I was listening to one of Pastor Lloyd's talks on tape, where he recounted that in one of the RCI assemblies, a number of years ago, he had the problem where everyone was speaking in tongues together in the meeting (prior to the two or three ruling). It would seem that at least one RCI assembly, based on their own 'meeting experience' would have given the incorrect answer of "yes" to Paul's question, and all this in the twentieth century.

There are other interesting hypotheticals I could draw on from the broad experiences in the body of Christ in this current day and age, but I think the above is sufficient for the current discussion to show both the subjective and untenable approach inherent in the meeting context (amongst all the other scriptural problems).
All that said, the reality is, almost 2000 years removed we do not know exactly what was happening at Corinth, but it seems that whatever was happening, it was not appropriate and needed correction, hence chapter 14 of Paul's letter, to bring order and edification to the meeting. 

Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul described the Corinthians in the following manner:-

"yet carnal, babes in Christ, walking as men, divisive, not able to take the meat of the Word, envious, full of strife"

Paul also discusses some of the problems in the Corinthian church:-

"open tolerance and pride regarding sin, disorderly meetings, losing their simplicity in Christ, divisions, drunkenness, questioning the validity of the resurrection to come, questioning Paul's authority etc"
It seems to me, that due to the Corinthians lack of spiritual maturity, Paul had to get them to look outside themselves to be reminded of the true reality of the situation in God's church and how He had set it up. This principle also seems to be identified in Ephesians 4:1-13. The Corinthian church had become unbalanced, particularly with regard to tongues. I would propose that the RCI are closer to the Corinthian church than they would care to admit.

"We know from our own experience that all true believers speak in tongues when they receive the Holy Spirit (Act 2: 10:19) but not all give a message in tongues in the Church (1 Cor 14:27). THIS IS WHAT THE APOSTLE PAUL IS REFERRING TO".

Due to the nature of the Corinth church and the detail and context given, there is simply no way the RCI can justify the above statement as they do in the article.


The RCI always come across very definite and confident in their statements, particularly when witnessing and preaching. This can and does catch people off guard. The two main articles examined in these posts make very strong statements about their own correctness, even though they are articles that are in total opposition to each other in their understanding of the Scriptures concerned. If one is right, the other, of necessity must have been wrong. Even stranger, these two views ran concurrently for the better part of a decade, both with their bold declarations.


The 1992 & 1997 articles are simply wrong according the underlying Greek text. It was very poor research and highlights a serious flaw in the RCI perception of Christianity and Biblical interpretation. That is, despite the RCI oversight having no training at all in Biblical Greek, they can, and do, quite comfortably dismiss accurate and well founded scholarly research simply on the basis that the researchers were not 'spirit-filled' (i.e. no tongues) and because their research does not fit the RCI 'experience'. To revivalists, 'tongues' gives them more insight into the real meaning of the Scriptures than all the greatest scholars of our time put together. In this instance, they are really declaring that virtually every translator, ancient or modern, got it incorrect.
That is a courageous statement.

As for the 1983 meeting context article, it is simply incorrect as it breaks down on many fronts under closer examination.

The RCI will admit that the Bible nowhere directly states that you "must speak in tongues to be saved". I would put forward that not only does the Bible not say that, but that it quite clearly says that not all who are saved can or will speak in tongues.

In relation to the RCI 'all tongues doctrine', the 1992 article says that the verses in 1 Cor 12:28 to 31 are 'apparently provocative.........'

Provocative to Revivalists perhaps, but not to the broader body of Christ.

Corinthians 12:30 says exactly what the Apostle Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand, that is, that not all in the Body of Christ can speak in tongues.

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