You may have experienced church people being very strict about certain issues. Most probably things were similar in the early church. Possibly earnest exhortations were even more common than today.
This post is again about 1 Corinthians 13:1. Paul says: “If I speak with tongues of men and of angels, and have not love…” I have consulted a Greek dictionary about the word ‘speak’. The Greek word used here may (besides other meanings) refer to preaching and even to a lengthy and earnest speech.
Preaching in the synagogue was based on the Old Testament and the Torah was central. We call the Torah the Pentateuch.
Four of the five books attributed to Moses relate to the journey of the Israelites through the desert, having escaped slavery in Egypt. They were travelling as refugees through barren and arid regions unknown to them.
Surviving in a desert can be a real challenge. It is not a place where you easily find plenty of water and foodstuff. Please remember there were not only a few individuals having to cope with these circumstances. The tribes of Israel had become a big nation.
The Israelites had to face perilous dangers: Hunger, thirst, hostile people, sicknesses, wild animals and so on. Their only hope was their trust in the God of their fathers. They were surrounded by fatal troubles. If they failed to obey God or to believe him this could mean imminent death.
Now the Jews in St. Paul’s days were much more settled down and at rest than the Israelites while wandering through these wastelands. Yet the teachings and instructions their ancestors had received from God in order to survive in hazardous surroundings were now central to the religion of the Jews.
The New Testament had neither been written nor published in those days. Much of the Christian teaching and preaching probably was based on the Torah as well. This may have encouraged fairly grave sermons in the early church.
I don’t intend to object to preaching on the Old Testament. After all I believe this is divinely inspired writing. There would be serious truths we must be told even today.
Two Possible Attitudes of Christian Speakers:
Some speakers will convey the feeling that they are men just as their listeners. They present themselves as friendly and sympathetic. They avoid anything that would make their listeners feel inferior to them. I might call this mindset: speaking in the tongues of men.
Others emphasise they are sent by God. They stress that they are speaking forth for God. They stress that they proclaim what God would want them to say. For the purpose of my blog-post I want to refer to this as to speaking in the tongues of angels. Please note the Greek word for angel can simply refer to a messenger.
These concepts of preaching will be found in churches. They have their rightful place. Yet St. Paul says that both are of limited value if done without love.