Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode 583 · 10 months ago

Tongues and Prophecy at Church


1 Corinthians 14:1-25

First Corinthians chapter fourteen. Please remain well, go ahead and be seated. It's a little bit longer. First Corinthians Chapter Fourteen, and we'll give our attention to God's word as we continue hearing it from this wonderful letter by the Apostle Paul. Now I'm going to I'm going to be reading through verse Twenty Five this morning. Let's hear God's word. Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God, for no one understands him, but he asked utters mysteries in the spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets so that the church may be built up. Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments such as a flute or the harp do not give distinct notes, how will any one know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves. If, with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will any one know what is said, for you will be speaking into the air? There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning. But if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the Speaker of foreigner to me. So with yourselves. Since you are eager for the manifestations of the spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also. I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing, pray, sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can any one in the position of an outsider say amend to your Thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in Church, I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others then tenzo words in a tongue. Brothers, do not be children. In your thinking, be infants and evil, but in your thinking be mature. And the laws it is written by people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners. Will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord. Thus, tongues are assign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign, not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are all out of your minds? But if all prophesy and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he's called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship...

God and declare that God is really among you. Praise God for his intelligible word to us. So in chapter thirteen that we considered last week, Paul was almost singing to us about love, a very lyrical and beautiful passage in which he impresses upon us love, it's importance, its lastingness, its loveliness. As I mentioned, there's many ways in which first corinthians thirteen helps us to fall in love with love maybe fall in love with it again. It's a beautiful thing and it's something we are all called to well. Today, in Chapter Fourteen, Paul wants to talk more about that, in particular how it applies in our worship services, how love makes a difference for what we do and what we don't do when we come together each Sunday. The first thing we want to notice as we begin to look at this passage is our attitude or our approach toward love. What is the way that we ought to approach love in our worship services and at all times? What does Paul say he says at the beginning of Chapter Fourteen, pursue love, and then he says earnestly desire the spiritual gifts. So how should we approach love? While he wants us to pursue it? And you know what it means to pursue something right? When a Predator up, for example, pursues its prey, it moves forward with a burst of energy. It flies, it zooms, it dives, it strives, its strategizes, it doesn't give up, it persists. It runs, it runs, it runs. This is what Paul calls us to do with love. He doesn't tell us to wait around and look for a convenient opportunity, he says to pursue it. It's love when you take the first few awkward steps of friendship, the first hello, the first text, the first you want to hang out. Pursuing love happens when you show up before everyone else to make sure that the coffee and the water are ready. Pursuing love is sending a card after a tragedy, even when you feel like it's not enough. Pursuing love is having a Crock Pot of food ready for lunch after church to share, or listening to someone formulate their thoughts when they're not formulated yet, listening to someone or helping someone when they need a break, filling in when somebody needs a rest. These are the ways that we pursue love. We look for the opportunities, we hunt them down, we find them and we zealously go after them. We might be doing these things from time to time, but Paul is asking a little more of us, isn't he? Maybe a lot more in some cases. He doesn't just tell us to do loving things or to be loving, he tells us to pursue it, and that some question worth asking ourselves. Are we pursuing love? Always waiting until you feel like it is not pursuing it. Always waiting until it's convenient or cheap or easy is not pursuing love, and neither is pushing people into love either, or demanding that they accept your loving actions. In our zeal to be loving towards one another, we never want to take away someone's right to say no thanks. You may not understand why they don't want a hug or why they don't want to meet up with you right now, but you don't have to understand that in order to love them. That's because, as we read in First Corinthians Thirteen. Love that we pursue, the kind of love that Paul wants us to pursue, is a... that is patient, a love that is kind, a love that isn't irritable or demanding that you accept everything that I give to you. It's not a pushy love, even as it is a pursuing love. This is the approach that he wants us to take, and it's a good one. It's a wonderful one to experience and it's a wonderful one to give. It is, of course, the one that God does for us. God didn't just wait around until it was easy and convenient to love us. We read in the scriptures that, in the fullness of time, according to all of his strategies, we might say, and all of his providences, that the exact Roment and the right time, according to his perfect will, Jesus Christ came into the world and he gave his own blood, his own life, in order to love us. What's in this kind of love and having already been pursued by God in this way that Paul now calls us to exercize, that in accord with our spiritual gifts. So, having considered the zealous way in which we ought to approach love. He now applies that to spiritual gifts in the church. And Remember, he's picking up where he's left off, because in Chapter Twelve Paul was teaching us about this. And Chapter Twelve he talked to us about how we are like a body, right, a body with ears and eyes and feet and all of these parts, different and distinct and yet held together in this amazing way, each member of the body working together to build up the rest of the body, as he said, as he said in our passage this morning, in verse twelve, he says, so with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. This is how we're supposed to use our gifts. We are to strive to excel, we are to improve, get better and practice and grow. And now, having talked about this way of love, he returns to that again in chapter fourteen and zeroes in on two spiritual gifts in particular, prophecy and tongues, and speaking in tongues. Prophecy and speaking in tongues. Prophecy refers to the proclamation of God's word. Speaking God's word and he talks about some of the ways it's used for for building, for edifying, for encouragement, for consolation, teaching these kinds of things. That's prophecy, the proclamation of God's word to people. He also speaks of speaking in tongues, and this refers to speaking in languages, known, languages that are understand understood by other people. Now, both of these gifts, prophecy and speaking of tongues have extraordinary and ordinary forms. Extraordinary forms of prophecy are predicting the future, telling the future, like agabus did when he foretold the famine, or they like Paul did when an angel spoke to him that the men on the ship that he was with would all be saved, and they were. But it also includes the ordinary gifts of prophecy, which are like preaching, teaching, encouragement. From the Scriptures we see this gift, for example, an Aquila and Priscilla when they met with a police in his early days and taught him more accurately the way of God. As far as speaking tongues goes, it's in the same way. We have extraordinary forms of this, like we see in acts to or the spirit of God descends on the disciples, these followers of Christ, and they begin speaking in the languages of all these people who are in Jerusalem, and all these people are amazed to hear the word of God in their own languages. An extraordinary moment.

But we also have the ordinary speaking of languages on the ability to then which many people, I do, strive and excel. The these people are still useful to the witness of the Gospel and the building of the of the church as they translate the Bible, as they translate sermons and worship services, as they go out into different parts of our community and reach people with the word of God, which means that everything here in chapter fourteen applies to us today. These two gifts in their ordinary forms, and prophecy and speaking in tongues, speaking languages, definitely still applies today and we ought to think about it very carefully and how it applies to our worship services. It's true that those extraordinary gifts have passed with the laying of the foundation that the apostles and prophets did. So we read last time in Ephesians to twenty. The cannon has been closed and those authenticating extraordinary gifts have largely ceased. But we still proclaim God's word, don't we? And we still do it with languages. So these issues are still very much relevant and worth our paying attention to. So what does Paul say? What are how are we supposed to think about these things? Well, Paul's Point, overall point, is pretty straightforward. He says it's better to prophesy than to speak and hungs. Now, why is that? His answer is because it builds up the body more, especially when there's no one to interpret the language that is spoken. Now that connects to love in this way, because the spiritual gifts aren't for showing off. The spiritual gifts aren't just to have a private time with the Lord. The spiritual gifts are for the public upbuilding in love of the people of God. That's what he's saying over and over and over again. There were some very talented people in Corinth. It was a very cosmopolitan city, likely with lots of people who spoke languages, perhaps some extraordinary, perhaps many, many in ordinary ways. The ability to speak in languages, even today is still often an impressive thing. When somebody tells us that they speak another language, we all wow, that's really cool. And if they tell us they speak three or four or five or six. We right and we honor and we're amazed at that sort of thing. But what Paul says is don't be overly impressed with just the gift if it's not used for the building up of the body. Imagine if I came to you this morning and every single thing that I've said up to this point has been in a language you didn't know. How would you be feeling right now? How would you feel if not a single whole thing that has happened, it's been understood and we're already, you know, forty five, forty minutes in? It would be frustrating. You might feel a little bit like an outsider, like a foreigner, like somebody who doesn't belong. With the word of God, even if it was preached very articulately and intelligently in the language that I was speaking, benefit you at all? It wouldn't. And so Paul says it doesn't matter if we speak lots and lots of languages or lots and lots of words if they're not being used for the building up of the people of God. Paul, in other words, asks us to reevaluate our priorities here speaking in another language is impressive indeed, not to mention many languages, but it's not the better gift in the church, because the point of the gifts is for building up. Now does that mean that speaking in tongues is not important? The Paul doesn't care about it, that he doesn't want to know. He says I wish that all of you would speak in tongues. Paul doesn't undervalue it. He doesn't or...

...say it's a sinful thing in any way. It's a great thing, but only when it's used for the building up of the church, and it seems that the Corinthians were having difficulty with this point. Speaking God's Word is good and he says even if you speak it to yourself, that's fine, but if it's not fruitful in the mind and the minds of other people, it is of no it vantage. It must be understood. Paul gives an analogy to this, a couple of them that are I find a little bit funny, just to imagine the images that he gives. First he talks about a flute and a harp, these lifeless instruments. So I just imagine a flute like sitting on a chair or something. It's not doing anything. It's just there and if you go over and you clack some keys or you blow into it and it makes us sound, you made a sound, but you haven't made music right. Nothing distinct has happened. The notes haven't been ordered in a such a way that communicates something that brings joy or sorrow, that lifts up or whatever the intention is. It's just a sound. Same with the harp. He speaks of a trumpet. Next he says these notes that are given, these particular notes, they're meant to communicate. Here he gives this wonderful example of getting ready for battle. Right, sometimes musical instruments are used to communicate very specific messages, and with trumpets, right in military context, it's time to wake up, it's time to go to war. Well, if the trumpeter gets up and he just and then puts his trumpet down, right as the message been communicated? No, if it's not understandable, what's the point? This Paul's point here. Likewise, with speaking in tongues, the message must be distinct, it must be understandable and even if the language you're speaking and is known to you and God knows it, you know you can understand each other that's fine, but it's not for the public edification of the church, and that's what these gifts are for. We must speak in intelligible ways. When we don't, we shut people out, we make them feel like they don't belong and even worse than just making them feel like they don't belong, we literally do not give them the message that we are commanded to give. Think about the Great Commission. What did Jesus say? Did he say go and shut the nations out, or did he say, go and speak to them and teach them to obey everything that I commanded you? We are to be people of the word who not just know it, who not just know it and speak to God about it, but who know it and share it, who know it and teach it, who know it and encourage and bring consolation, who tell people about Jesus and the hope that he offers. Even as we have been told, sometimes this is difficult imposes challenging situations, but it's also in those situations that we have the opportunity to reflect on situation, on on this word and apply it and ways that are very beautiful. For a while, when I was growing up, I belong to a bilingual church where most of the people spoke English but many spoke only Chinese, and the church, Abiding Ball Paul's instructions here in First Corinthians Fourteen, had to think very carefully about how to make all this work, how to join together as the body of Christ, and they made several practical choices. One choice they made was to have to worship services and English service and a...

Chinese service, so that the word of God everybody could hear it. There was opportunities to hear it in a language that you could understand. A second thing they did that I always thought was impressive as they worked with both the English speakers and the Chinese speakers to help them learn each other's language. Now, not everybody was capable of doing that, but it was encouraged and there were opportunities for that and instruction for that, so that over time, in striving to excel in these gifts, the people would be built up and there would be more encouragement and mutuality. No, not likes I said. Not everyone was could do this, but all were encouraged to do so as they were able, and sometimes we'd have joint worship services together in which both languages were offered and sometimes even we would sing the same songs in both languages. Now this white seemed to be a little contrary to what Paul was saying, because you have this cacophony of sound. But in this particular instance I don't think it was for a couple reasons. One is that as both length as both languages were being spoken at the same time, it was with the same song that everybody knew there was would be an overhead projector over here with English and overhead projector over here in Chinese, and so you can see see the words and it was all being translated as all happening the same time. It was a little bit of a mess, but it was also a beautiful one and one that everyone could understand an expression of Christian unity. Of course there was this normal translation of the sermons and other things going on as well. Different churches have to decide these things differently, depending on their context the places they're in, but they here's something we must be thoughtful about. According to some two thousand and fifteen data and Pema county they're about fifty to a hundred thou people who speak a language other than English at home and don't speak English very well. From time to time. This is why I will ask some of you who know other languages to be on the lookout for newcomers who might benefit from these things, to be able and to be ready to sit beside someone and translate and to help as we are age able. Why? Why do we do these things? Because intelligibility matter, ers being unable to understand what is going on matters. It's a loving thing to do, to pursue, to strive for, even when it's hard and difficult, to earnestly desire and to work toward. It's why, in and it's why the reformation was right to emphasize the translation of Scriptures into languages that people understand. It's why the reformers were right to to encourage and even demand that sermons happen, that services happen in languages that people know, not just Latin or whatever else. And it's why we also rightly reject some pentecostal practices of just everybody making noise. These things are not intelligible and they're not right, they're not loving and they shut people out and they deny people the word of God that we are called to give. And so the application all of this Paul says we ought to grow up. He says, do not be children, and you're thinking, sure, be infants and evil. That's a good way to be like kids, but not in your thinking. Understand what God is doing. And then, this is at the end of the passage, he quotes this section...

...from Isaiah. He says by people of Strange Tongues, this is verse Twenty One, and by lips of foreigners. Will I speak to this people? And even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord. This is an interesting reference. Here Paul speaks to the people of Israel in judgment and he says, because you didn't listen to me, you're basically going to be overwhelmed by these people that speak foreign tongues. You're going to hear all of these things and the word of God will you won't be able to to understand it. It won't be able to know it. And in this way it's a signed for unbelievers, the unbelievers being, of course, unbelieving Israel. Here he takes that and he trains changes it in just a little bit of a way and he says, yes, it's still for unbelievers, but it's but the unbelievers. It's not you, core church and Corinth, but it's these outsiders. They need to hear the word. We are reminded that God uses the God reveals himself in ways that we can understand. God does not speak to us as he speaks to himself. We do not know God as he knows himself, who is infinite and unfathomable, and his wisdom and his ways. Instead, God condescends to us and speaks to us in ways that we can understand, and he gives it's not one word or a few words, but many words. The Bible, the word of God, is a prized possession. It's precious to us. We study it, we learn it, we know it because God has spoken. God has chosen to bless us with it, to make himself known. If we take that word and we stopped speaking in a way that is known, we in a way begin to undo what God has done, to shut people out who have a right to hear no, Paul says. Instead, when you speak in tongue, speak in a way that is understandable and intelligible. As we close, one of their application to consider in this passage, as it a lot of times, and I noticed that people today thinking very individualistic terms regarding church. I'm here to get fed and if I don't, that's bad, and if it's good, it's good, and that, of course, is a part of it. God feeds us with his word, he helps us, he encourages us, all the things that are mentioned here in this passage and others. But I don't just come here to get fed or to to be fed. I don't come here just to eat, but I come here, we all come here to be part of a group me and that's a different thing. What you actually have in a worship service is not just a time for you to be with God, but a time for you to be with the church. With God. It is a group meal. It's about eating together. We celebrate a sacrament that we call communion, and that communion is not just with the Lord, is with one another as a part of what Paul has been calling the body of Christ and that applies to all aspects of our worship service, from the preaching of the word of God, which needs to be understandable and intelligible, to every part. When you sing, in other words, it's not just because you've been called to sing, but that we have been called to sing. We need to hear your voice. It's not and when we call it, when we confess our sins, it's not just because you need to confess your sins, but we need to hear you confess your sins. We need to confess our sins to one another. Going back to...

...the analogy of a meal, it's a totally different thing right to grab a sandwich out of the fridge and sit by yourself in front of the TV then it is to sit down with your family, to sit down with your relatives, to sit down with your brothers and your sisters and your friends, and to pass food and to wait for food and to share the food and to talk about the food and to rejoice with each other. Totally different experiences. When we come together and worship and the as a church, God calls us as a church, as a body, and that's why we must exercise these gifts in love. It's being who he's called us to be, it's doing what he's called us to do and it's living in light of the promises that he's already made. Of course, we fail at this in all kinds of ways all the time. We don't pursue love as we ought to do. We don't strive for excellence as we ought to. Sometimes we struggle because we're just stubborn and lazy. Sometimes we're struggle because we don't know what the right thing is to do and we can't quite figure it out. There's all kinds of reasons, but our hope of it is that we are bound up in this love that ultimately comes from the Lord himself. As I said before, it's the Lord who pursues us, it's the Lord who unites us, it's the Lord who then blesses us. We are here as a family of God, to experience and to receive his blessings. So let's do that when we come to church, let's come expectantly and hopefully and waiting on the blessings of the Lord, knowing that we will hear his word and we will hear it intelligently and that, as we have opportunity to do so, we will share it with others and little conversations, in our confessions, in our singing and all these different ways, and as we do these things, may God be glorified, may the spirit be made more manifest. Best I mean the outsiders and the strangers and foreigners come in here, say Amen and give glory to God. Let's pray.

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