Practical Principles for Policing the Exercise of Spiritual Gifts in Church

November 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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In I Corinthians Chapter 14 the Holy Spirit through Paul addressed some of the confusion and even chaos caused by the misuse of spiritual gifts in the church services at Corinth. First of all, he stressed that spiritual gifts are supposed to be used for edification.

Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

I Corinthians 14:1

The gift of prophesying would be better than being able to speak supernaturally in a different language because the speaker would be understood, and people would be edified and exhorted, rather than merely amazed.

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

I Corinthians 14:3-4

Remember, these gifts are primarily for the edification of people who are already SAVED – the “Church.”

Spiritual gifts are also supposed to be educational.

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

I Corinthians 14:6

The gift itself might sound cool when demonstrated, but unless it has some spiritual truth or value to it that can be UNDERSTOOD, who is going to learn anything from it?

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

I Corinthians 14:7

Musical sounds only amount to cacophony unless they have rhythmic breaks, and some pattern to the notes and sounds.

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

I Corinthians 14:8

We recognize “tunes,” and can be educated by them, if they are organized and orderly.

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

I Corinthians 14:9

My wife’s grandmother used to have a piano in her home, and she hated it when, at family gatherings, the little kids would sit down and begin banging away at the keys without any understanding of how to play the instrument. “That’s not music; that’s noise!” she would yell. Random sounds don’t educate anyone, but there is also an allusion in this passage of Scripture to the pagan practice of loud cacophonous music which played on the emotions, but did not appeal to the intellect. The Corinthian believers had been saved out of idolatry, so they would have been familiar with the reference.

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

I Corinthians 14:20

Christians are to be child-like, yes, but not childISH. We must grow up into maturity in the use of our spiritual gifts. We should be “Knows” about our spiritual gifts, but be “Know-nots” about “malice” – evil, selfish intentions and motivations.

In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

I Corinthians 14:21-22

If the believers used tongues for the purpose of NOT being understood, it would be a sign of judgment against unbelievers.

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

I Corinthians 14:23

Again, these gifts were given for the CHURCH, not unbelievers; whereas, when the Word of God is spoken for the purpose of educating, even the uneducated can be convinced that there is something worth learning here.

But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

I Corinthians 14:24-25

Babbling and gibberish would not impress a Corinthian pagan. He would think, “This is no different than the temple of Aphrodite – pass the wine and bring me a hooker.”

So, while the spiritual gifts were to be sought and used in the church, they also needed to be given the proper esteem. They were to be given the correct place in the organized church service, and practiced with decency and order.

If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

I Corinthians 14:27-28

There were rules for this sort of thing, and while the specific precepts may not be applicable to us today, certainly the principles of having orderly church services still apply.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

I Corinthians 14:33

The gift of tongues in the institution of the New Testament church was, in one sense, a reversal of the confounding of languages at the tower of Babel – for Christianity is an inclusive faith. It is for all nations, tribes, and tongues – there is diversity and unity.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

I Corinthians 14:34-35

The prohibition on women to keep “silent” was addressing a specific problem in 1st Century Corinth, and is a general prohibition against chaos and defiance of authority, but it is not a literal injunction against women uttering a word in church.

Let all things be done decently and in order.

I Corinthians 14:40

“All things” include the exercise of spiritual gifts, which are for education, edification, and are to be rightly esteemed.

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