The Holy Spirit, Prophecy, and the Body of Christ
By Fr. John Romanides
That Christ came with the Holy Spirit and the Father after His resurrection, ascension, and return to dwell in the faithful is a fundamental presupposition of both St. Paul and St. John. Given St. Luke's relation to Paul, the event of Pentecost recorded by Luke most probably has a Pauline ecclesiological background. However, in an important respect, i.e. in regard to speaking in tongues, Luke has in fact become the key to Paul instead of vice versa.
It should be noted that Paul's epistles are directed to those already initiated into the mysteries of the Church. John's Gospel is a post-baptismal book of catechism intended for those who already have the Spirit. The Gospel of Luke, however, like those of Mark and Matthew, is a pre-baptismal catechism, and Acts are intended for an audience not initiated into the esoteric life of Christ. However, since Luke was a student and companion of Paul, his writings presuppose and reflect this esoteric life in Christ.
For John the coming of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of Christ's promise to prepare a place where, upon his return, He will receive His disciples unto Himself so that they may be wherever He is (John 141 2-3). By Christ's intercession the Father will give His disciples another Advocate whom they know because He dwells in them and will be in them (John 14, 16-17). In that day the disciples will know that Christ is in the Father and that they are in Christ and He in them (John 14, 20). They will see Christ because He lives and they will live (John 14, 19). Christ will appear to him who loves Him (John 14, 21). Christ and His Father will come and make a dwelling with him (John 14, 23). When the Holy Spirit comes He will teach them all things and remind them of everything He said to them (John 14, 26). When the Spirit of Truth comes sent by Christ from the Father, He will witness concerning Christ and the disciples will witness, because they are with Christ from the beginning (John 15, 26-27). When the Spirit of Truth comes He will lead the disciples into all the truth for He will not speak from Himself, but He will speak whatever He hears and will declare to them things coming. He will glorify Christ because He will receive these things from Christ and will declare them to the disciples. Christ said this because everything that the Father has is His. For this reason the Spirit of Truth will take from Him and declare to the disciples. Then Christ repeats that in a little while the disciples will not see Him, but again in a little while they will see Him (John 16, 13- 16). Then he reaches the climax of chapters 14-17: "Father, those whom you gave me I want that they also be with me wherever I am, that they see my glory which you gave to me because you loved me before the foundation of the world" (John 17, 24).
For John the ascension of Christ's human nature is an absolute prerequisite for Christ's sending the Holy Spirit, as it is obviously for Luke and by extension for Paul. "New I go to Him Who sent me.. .It is in your interest that l depart. For if I do not depart, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I will depart, I will send Him to you (John 16, 5-7). That John does not confuse the post resurrection appearances of Christ with His return in His Spirit on Pentecost is clear from his recording of Christ's statement to Mary Magdalene. "Do not touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father." But in the next recorded appearances Christ told Thomas Didymus to put his hand to His side. Thomas believed by seeing rather than by touching. "Because you saw me you believed" (John 20, 29).
The place of common dwelling of him who loves the Father in Christ is the human nature of Christ, the Temple of the Logos by nature. and its natural glory that Christ as Logos received from the Father and by nature shares with the Holy Spirit. By becoming a member of the Body of Christ one becomes the temple of God and at the same time dwells in God as his temple. Pentecost is the birth of the Church because the human nature of Christ is present and by grace is united to each member of His Body, not as part of Christ in each, but by grace the whole Christ in each member. Christ departed so that He might return in the Holy Spirit by a new presence of His human nature which, like God's uncreated glory, is divided indivisibly among many faithful so that Christ is present within and united by grace to each of the members of His Body. At the same time the Body of Christ remains one so that its members are one with each other in the glory and rule (vasileia) of the Holy Trinity.
According to Acts Christ told His disciples before His ascension that they would shortly be baptised in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1,5; compare Matt. 3, 12). On Pentecost "divided tongues appeared to them and sat upon each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began speaking with other tongues when the Spirit gave them to announce (Acts 2, 1). In view of John's association of the coming of the Holy Spirit with His own appearance again to His disciples, as we saw, and the actual appearances of Christ after Pentecost, e.g. to Stephen (Acts 7, 55-56) and to Paul (Acts 9, 3ff; 22), 6ff, 17ff), there are some grounds to entertain the possibility or even probability that Acts 1, 11 is to be taken as fulfilled by Acts 2, 1ff. While Christ was ascending two men dressed in white appeared to the apostles saying that Christ "will come in the manner that you saw Him going to heaven."
In any case speaking by other tongues and announcing (αποφθέγγεσθαι) are not to be confused. Announcing in Acts 2, 4 means prophesying as is clear from the whole of St. Peter's discourse in Acts 2, l4ff. One first receives the gift of tongue in the heart and then one is inspired in the mind to understand the prophets and Christ in order to prophesy. These distinctions are clear in St. Paul and it would be unlikely that Luke was not conversant with them. Once the person receives this gift of tongue then the Spirit may or may not create such conditions as in Acts 2, 6-13.
In any case, baptism in the Spirit is identical to the reception of the gift of tongues and is clearly distinct from baptism by water. Paul was first glorified in his vision of Christ in glory and then was baptised (Acts 9, 18; 22, 16). When he received the gift of tongues is not recorded, although that he possessed it is. The twelve disciples of Appolos who had received John's baptism of repentance, were "baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, and Paul having laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke with tongues and they prophesied 7,(Acts 19, 5-6). In the case of the centurion Cornelius and his companions, they were first baptised in the Spirit by receiving the gift of tongues by or in glorification, and then were baptised by water when Peter could thus no longer resist. "While Peter was still speaking these words the Holy Spirit fell upon all those listening to the discourse, and the circumcised faithful, who came with Peter, were astonished that the girt of the Holy Spirit was also poured upon the gentiles, for they heard them speaking with tongues and magnifying God. Then Peter answered, 'Can one forbid water that they who have also received the Holy Spirit like us be not baptized?',, (Acts IO, 44-47). In his apology for what he did Peter recalls what Christ said before His ascension about receiving baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts l, 5) and concludes, "if then God gave to them the same gift as also to us...Who was I? One with power to stop God?" (Acts ll, 17). The Greek word for same in this text is "ίσην" which also means equal. So the gift here received is not only the same as Pentecost but also equal. It is this idea of equality which lay at the core of the problems in Corinth where many with only the gift of tongues believed themselves to be equal to the others. not understanding that this is so only when tongues are preceded or followed by glorification since during vision of God all charismata are abolished except love.
This baptism in the Spirit which results in the gift of tongues, and which normally is accompanied with the charisma of prophecy, is evidently the origin of chrismation, the mystery by which one becomes a member of the Body of Christ and a temple of God. For St. Paul the gift of tongues seems to be the minimal requirement for membership in the Body of Christ. It is the foundation not only of prophecy, but of all charismata. Below those who speak in tongues are the private individuals (ιδιώται) and those lacking in faith (άπιστοι). They are neither members of the body of Christ, nor charismatics. The ιδιώται have a special place in the assembly and say amen at the proper times during prayers (I Cor. 14, 16). The fact that they say amen to thanksgiving prayers means that they were probably baptised by water and were awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit in their heart, i.e. the gift of tongues, and may have participated in eucharistic communion as the apostles had also done before Pentecost. They evidently were the baptised laymen of the apostolic community.
The άπιστοι, the lackers of faith, are evidently catechumens of pagan background who could not be handled like Jews. Jews were still considered as faithful so long as they did not completely reject the Lord of Glory made flesh.
Those with the charismata in I Cor. 12, 4- IO (which charismata include the διακονίαι and ενεργήματα listed, as is clear in I Cor. 12, 28-31) and those with the charismata in these latter verses are all members of the clergy listed according to spiritual gifts, but not strictly according to liturgical function and ordination. They are called directly by God, who gives the gin of praying by tongue after proper preparation by a spiritual father. Paul says that the Corinthians may have many teachers In Christ, but not many fathers. I gave birth to you in Christ by means of the Gospel,, (I Cor. 4, 1415). However, Paul thanks God that he baptised none of the Corinthians except for a few (I Cor. l, 14, 16). This means that Paul gave birth to them in the realm of the charismata of which speaking or praying in tongues is the foundation. In other words, the charismata are products of being baptised in the Holy Spirit and the sign of having become a member of the Body of Christ. "For also in one Spirit we all have been baptised into one body... and we all drank in one Spirit" (I Cor. 12, 13). This is clearly the baptism of the Holy Spirit. From all that follows, the Body Christ includes only those who have been thus baptised.
Like in Acts, so in Paul, speaking in tongues is a fundamental sign of being baptised in the Spirit. But in I Cor. 12, 10 and 12, 28, 30 γένη γλωσσών- kinds of tongues - at first sight seems to be detached from the higher charismata, giving the impression that the Church can do without them. However. the statement "all do not speak in tongues, (I Cor. 12, 30) does not mean that the higher charismatics do not, but rather that the ιδιώται and άπιστοι do not, as is clear in I Cor. 14, 16, 23, 24. When Paul lists those placed by
God within the Church, he begins with the apostles in first place and ends with the γένη γλωσσών(kinds of tongues) in the last place (I Cor. 12.28). The ιδιώται are neither included here, nor in the ordering of the assembly in I Cor. 14, 26ff. The reason for this is that they do not yet have the gift of the Holy Spirit praying unceasingly in them and therefore have not been placed by God in the Body of Christ.
That the higher charismata include the lower, but not the lower the higher, is clear from what St. Paul says about himself. "I thank God speaking by tongues more than au of you, but in church I prefer speaking five words with my intellect, that I may also catechize others, than ten thousand words in tongue" (I Cor. 14, 18-19). This does not mean that St. Paul does not pray in church by tongue, i.e. by the Spirit, but that in church he is obliged to pray also with his intellect for the edification of others. "I will pray with the Spirit, but I will also pray with the intellect" (I Cor. 14, 15).
By "kinds of tongues" St. Paul evidently means praying, reciting psalms, and singing spiritual hymns and oodes (Eph. 5, 18-20). So some have kinds of tongues and others in addition have interpretation of tongues (I Cor. 12, 10, 29). "Yearn after spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy . .. I want you all to speak in tongues, but rather that you may prophesy, for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks by tongue, unless he interprets, that the Church may receive edification (I Cor. 14, I, 5). As in Acts, so here, prophecy exists because of the gift of tongue, but the latter may not always result in prophecy. There is no record that Cornelius and his associates prophesied, although they spoke in tongue as a result of their glorification. However, speaking in tongue may result in inteipietation instead of prophecy,and the former is equal to the latter.
However, inspite of this equality prophets are more important. Besides being listed at the bottom of the charismata those who spoke or prayed only in tongues were virtually forced by Paul into a silence in Church, more befitting an ιδιώτη. Those who speak only tongues are to keep quiet and are to be spoken for by the interpreters, who will each speak for two or three of them in succession. "If there is no interpreter let him be quiet in church, but let him speak to himself and to God,, (I Cor. 14, 27-28). In other words, he should continue to pray by tongue inaudibly, and let the others conduct corporate worship and instruction by the use of their intellect, which in this case conveys its thoughts by the formation of words with the created tongue and mouth.
This group whose spiritual formation had been limited to the charisma of praying in tongues or by the Spirit was evidently the main source of the disorders in the church of Corinth. They may have been a majority which democratically imposed the practice of inaudible corporate prayer in tongue, in order to demonstrate their equality. The most probable reason why they neither interpreted nor prophesied was that they were illiterate, and could not expound their authentic experience coherently in an organized and concise manner. They were probably mostly of pagan background7 neither accustomed to synagogue procedure nor readily at ease with the world of the Old Testament. The most that many of them could progress to, or were willing to, was to interpret or to teach prayer to others. Among them were evidently many wives, giving Paul an opportunity to apply time-tested rabbinical wisdom. The charisma of interpreter was evidently required to keep this group silent in church. The remark "if there is no interpreter" seems to mean that interpreters would be appointed when this group is brought under control.
St. Paul became exceedingly irritated because a group of Corinthian charismatics had evidently convinced the others to conduct corporate worship without giving audible expression to the Holy Spirit's prayer in their hearts. For Paul this is in itself well done. "For indeed you give thanks well, but the other is not edified," (I Cor. 14, 17). "Since if you bless in the Spirit, how will he who occupies the place of a private individual say amen to your thanksgiving since he does not know what you say?" (I Cor. 14, 16). It is obvious that to pray in tongue or by the Spirit are interchangeable terms.
St. Paul discusses the kinds of sounds that exist in the world, both that of lifeless things like flutes, harps, and trumpets and that made by humans. That Paul is speaking about the sounds themselves which are being made and not about confused sounds not understood. seems clear from the term άδηλος φωνή in I Cor. 14, B which means unmanifested or unrevealed sound. In 14, 9 Paul is speaking about the impossibility of understanding speech unless conveyed by words formed by the tongue. Then he goes on to say that "These many, if correct, are the kinds of sounds in the world, and none is soundless. If then I do not know the force of the sound (την δύναμιν της φωνής), I shall be to the speaker a barbarian and he shall be a barbarian to me (I Cor. 14, 10-11).
It seems clear that chapter 14 of I Cor. at no point contradicts what is literally set forth as the subject under discussion from the very beginning. For he who speaks by tongue does not speak to humans but to God. For no one hears, since he speaks mysteries by the Spirit" (I Cor. 14, 2). "If I come to you speaking by tongue, what will I benefit you, if I will not speak to you... (I Cor. 14, 6).
The very fact that certain Corinthians were speaking in tongues, but neither expounding nor prophesying, should be the determining proof that this was not the announcing (αποφθέγγεσθαι) of Acts 2, 1ff. On the other hand, Paul gives not the slightest hint that those with the gift of tongues had any problem understanding each other. It seems that only the ιδιώται and άπιστοι could not participate in what was transpiring. However, when the whole body of charismatics engages in prophecy then both the private persons and those lacking in faith find themselves with the hidden things of their heart becoming manifest by scrutiny and examination (I Cor. 14, 20). This is the diagnosis we spoke about in the last chapter. They acquire the conviction that the prophets truly have God within themselves. The resulting confidence and submission to these spiritual fathers therapy leads to their adoption in the Spirit and union with the Body of Christ, i.e. the reception of the gift of tongues.
Thus, diagnosis of one s spiritual heart ailment by therapists with the charisma of the discernment of spirits (I Cor. 12, IO) is the most fundamental presupposition of acquiring the therapy of the Holy Spirit's prayer in the heart which alone gives understanding of those things pertaining to Christ and the Body, the Church. This is why "tongues are a sign not to those who have faith, but to those who do not have faith. but prophecy not to those who do not have faith but to those who have faith,, (I Cor. 14, 22). In other words, tongues are not a sign to those who have the gilt of inner faith within the heart since they have the gift of tongues, but to those who lack this gift. Prophecy, on the other hand, is a sign not to those who do not have this faith, since they do not have the gift of tongues which makes both prophecy and its understanding possible, but to those who have faith, since having this gift of tongues they understand prophecy. Thus one must begin by the outward faith of accepting the authority or competence of the therapist. To remain in the state of praying and reciting psalms in the heart without advancing to at least interpretation which edifies others, is a stultification of spiritual growth and will not lead to love which does not seek its own. For this reason there are many among you who are weak and ill and some are asleep (I Cor. ll, 30).
Speaking in tongues is not a phenomenon peculiar to Corinth. St. Paul speaks to the Romans about intellectual worship (λογικήν λατρείαν) and transformation by the renewal of the intellect (Rom. 12, I-2). This is made possible by the liberation of the intellect from the law residing in one s members which wars against the law accepted by the intellect and holds one captive to the law of sin (Rom. 7, 23). "I myself subject myself by means of the intellect to the law of God, but by flesh to the law of sin. Therefore there is no condemnation now for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus liberated me from the law of sin and death," (Rom. 7, 25-8, 1-2). "But if Christ is in you, the body is indeed dead for sin, but the Spirit is life for righteousness (Rom. 8, 10). "For as many as are led by the spirit of God. they are sons of God, for you have not received a spirit of slavery again for fear. but you received a Spirit of adoption. in which we cry Abba. Father. This Spirit itself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8, 14-16). In other words. one knows of his justification and adoption in Christ by the Spirit when he hears the Spirit's prayer in his heart unceasingly.
That this law of the Spirit of life in Christ is the gift of tongue of I Cor. and Acts is clear from the climax of Paul's exposition. For what we shall pray as we should, we do not know, but this Spirit itself intercedes on our behalf with unspoken groans. But He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, that according to God it intercedes on behalf of the saints (Rom. B, 26-27). In other words to be a member of the body of Christ is to have this gift of tongues. If one does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him (Rom. B, 9). One can see why John calls the Holy Spirit another παράκλητος which literally means advocate or one who intercedes.
Perhaps one of the most striking passages on the γένη γλωσσών is Eph. 5, 18-20. "But be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves (λαλούντες εαυτοίς – the εαυτώ δε λαλείτω καί τώ Θεώ of I Cor. 14, 28) in psalms and spiritual hymns and odes, singing and reciting psalms in your heart to the Lord, always thanking God who is also Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is certainly an amplification of the "I will recite psalms by the Spirit," of l.Cor. 14, 15, and to be distinguished from "I will recite psalms by the intellect." This is also a clear reflection of what Paul told us about himself in I Cor. 14, 18, as well as testimony to the unceasing nature of γένη γλωσσών.
In the light of 'this one may turn to I Thess. 5, 16-21: "Always rejoice, pray unceasingly, at all times give thanks. For this is God's will in Christ Jesus unto you. Quench not the Spirit, do not disregard prophecies, but test all, hold fast the good, stay away from every kind of evil." This is the summary of everything we looked at thus far.
The law Of the Spirit of life in Christ is thus not in opposition to the created Torah, but that which makes its fulfillment possible. One can see why the Fathers did not think in terms of the Old Testament as simply law and the New Testament simply as grace. For Paul faith is not simply an acceptance of doctrines, but the girt of tongues in the heart. The same categories are clearly underlying Paul's epistle to the Galatians. The law became our guide to Christ when we were children that we may be justified by faith. Faith having come, we are no longer under guidance as children (Gal. 3, 24). Paul is not here making an historical contrast between the Old and New Testament in terms of law supposedly being abolished by grace with the coming of Christ. He is speaking about the distinction between catechumens under the guidance of law and those baptised in the Spirit in his own time. The Galatians were as spiritual children under the guidance of the Torah, but now having received the baptism in the Spirit they are no longer ιδιώται or άπιστοι because they have the uncreated law of the Holy Spirit of Christ in their hearts. Faith here is not simply belief or confidence in Christ, but inner faith which comes as the gift of tongues. For you are all sons of God by faith in Christ, because all who have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ as a garment.... And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father, so that you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then also an heir by Christ" (Gal. 3, 26-27; 4, 6-7). Justification by faith, the gift of tongues, baptism into Christ, reconciliation, and adoption are one identical reality.
It is within this realm of life in Christ that there are neither Jews nor Greeks, neither slaves nor free, neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3, 28). At the level of praying in tongues and prophesying, all are one in Christ. So we have "every man who prays or prophesies" and, "every woman who prays or prophesies" of I Cor. ll, 4-5. However, men should do this with their heads uncovered and women with their heads covered, because "the head of every man is Christ, but of woman the man, and of Christ God", (I Cor. ll, 3). Since one prophesies for the edification of others (I Cor. 14, 2) and the Church (I Cor. 14, 4), one would expect that women prophesy in church also. For you may all prophesy one by one that au may learn and all be comforted" (Cor. 14, 31). However Paul forbids women to speak in Church (I Cor. 14, 34-36). On the other hand, Paul's injunction that women should prophesy with their heads covered seems to be a reference to their attire at the assemblies of the Church. That women prophesy along with men is the very first fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy reported by Peter in his Pentecostal discourse (Acts 2, 17).
The prophets mentioned in Ephesians 2, 20 are evidently not those of the Old Testament, but of the Church, as in the case of Ephes. 3, 5. Christ "was not made known to other generations to the sons of men as He now was revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in Spirit...." This seems to be a clear reference to the fact that those who held second place in the Church after the apostles (I Cor. 12, 28) did so because Christ revealed Himself in glory to them as he had done to the apostles. In other words, they did not only prophesy because of the gift of tongues, but they had also been glorified in Christ by the Spirit. On arguing that all members of the Body of Christ are not the same. Paul concludes by saying and if a member is glorified, all the members rejoice with him for you are the Body of Christ and members in part. And those whom God placed in the Church are first apostles, second prophets, third teachers... (I Cor. 12, 26-28). In the light of Ephes. 3,5 this means that the prophets were called in the same manner as the apostles. It is evidently within such a context that Ephes. 2, 19 ff is to be understood. "So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints and of the family of God. having been built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus being its corner stone...."
What we have before us is a ladder of perfection which culminates in love which does not seek its own (I Cor. 13.5) and which alone does not fall (I Cor. 13.8). when all the charismata are abolished with the coming of the perfect. i.e. glorification. or the vision of God in the face to face encounter with Christ in Glory (I Cor. 13.10. 12). However. after this encounter love remains along with faith and hope and the accompanying charismata.
What has become known as eucharistic ecclesiology is a structural phenomena whose original context was the Pauline reality of the Body of Christ. At the heart of the structure was the diagnosis of the malady of the heart and its therapy by means of the charismata of which the Holy Spirit's prayer in the heart was the sine qua non and glorification the foundation. When the local community was the Pauline Body of Christ. eucharistic ecclesiology was its normal or natural structural expression. However with the various stages of the weakening of this heart of the local congregation, the structure of the church underwent an evolution which was the result of the determination of those who passed on the tradition of the Holy Spirit's prayer in the heart from generation to generation—the heart of apostolic tradition and succession.
[This is an excerpt from "Jesus Christ: The Light of the Word"]