Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues
1 Corinthians 14
In this chapter, Paul explained that not all gifts are of equal importance. Many of the Corinthian saints were enthralled by the gift of tongues. It may be it was similar to early Kirtland, Ohio, prior to Joseph Smith arriving there. Many members babbled in what they thought were the gift of tongues. One man even bounced around the streets babbling like a baboon! Once Joseph arrived, he immediately gave direction on the gift of tongues and other gifts, ensuring they were given by the Holy Ghost and were done in order.
The gift of tongues is a good gift for the individual. But without an interpreter, it means nothing to others listening. Only in the instance where the gift of tongues is used to let you speak in someone else’s language is it of great worth to all who listen, such as what happened with the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Prophesying, whether of current truths or future events, benefits all who listen. So important is prophesy that an angel told the apostle John, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). As Paul explained with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, without this special witness from above, we cannot know that “Jesus is Lord”.
1 Corinthians 15
Obviously there were also contentions in Corinth over the resurrection of Jesus and all people. For the Corinthians, the myriad of Roman and Greek gods meant that such influence would creep into the Christian church. For those worshiping Zeus or the other gods, there was no expectation of resurrection. Instead, the spirit of the person would descend into the bowels of the earth, cross the River Styx, and find oneself in Tartarus, the Underworld. Hades ruled there, and the other gods had no power to save souls. There was no real conception of heaven. One's main purpose in worshiping the pantheon of gods was to hope for blessings from them in this life.
Resurrection of the dead was a foreign and strange concept, even for many of the new converts.
Paul began by reminding them of the many witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. This physical witness was very important in establishing the things he was about to explain. For the Greeks, the concept of Jesus being ignominiously crucified as a traitor to the state, then resurrecting, seemed foolish and impossible.
Paul noted, If there is no resurrection, there was no need for Jesus to ever be sent down to save us. With death, all would end. We would only be worm food, forever non-existent. If there is no resurrection, then our hope in Christ would make us the most miserable of all people, because we would place our faith in a false hope. But Paul shows there was a resurrection, and how it applies to all mankind from Adam til now.
Paul explained in depth how the resurrection of Jesus overcomes death. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (vs 22). Jesus became the second Adam. The first Adam brought about death, so that we may have the experience of mortality, of learning, and of building faith in God. Christ came to overcome the affects of the first and second deaths (Alma 11-12), that we may all live again. The resurrection means that Jesus and all mortals who have ever lived, will have their bodies and spirits restored again, only this time in an incorruptible form. We will never die, be sick, injured, or suffer physical ailments again.
As to the resurrection, we find that there is not one level of resurrection, but levels of resurrected glory:
“There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor 15:40-42; see also 2 Cor 10:1-4)
What we learn from these verses is that God has different levels of reward or glory for those who resurrect. This is also reflected in the ancient Christian book, the Shepherd of Hermas, who saw that each person was given a willow twig to care for. On the day of judgment, each twig was reviewed. They differed in quality: some had not changed, others had buds, some had grown branches and leaves, while a few had also sweet fruit growing. For each there was a place given. For those who produced nothing, they were left out of the castle, but on the grounds of the castle. For those who produced, they were given different rewards within the levels of the castle.
The rods or twigs represented our conversion to the laws of God. As one chose to obey the laws, they changed into ever growing rods of life and beauty. So it is with us. We are rewarded in heaven by what we Become through Christ. As we seek to know Jesus, follow his example, and learn to be Christ-like, we too can receive a glorious resurrection. It isn't a matter of just obeying. It is a matter of choosing to obey. Elder Dale G. Renlund noted:
Our Heavenly Father’s goal in parenting is not to have His children do what is right; it is to have His children choose to do what is right and ultimately become like Him. If He simply wanted us to be obedient, He would use immediate rewards and punishments to influence our behaviors.But God is not interested in His children just becoming trained and obedient “pets” who will not chew on His slippers in the celestial living room. No, God wants His children to grow up spiritually and join Him in the family business. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/10/choose-you-this-day?lang=eng)
This is drastically different from what the ancient pagans, or much of the modern world offers us. They offer an end to life. We are offered resurrection, joy and eternal happiness, if we but choose Jesus Christ and follow him to the end.
Shepherd of Hermas, (see Parable 8): http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html