Practical Principles for Policing the Exercise of Spiritual Gifts in Church

November 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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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 12:40

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

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Love and Order

October 24, 2017 at 10:25 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

I Corinthians 13:1

The reference to speaking with the tongues of angels appears to be hyperbole, which is a common device used in Paul’s letters, although it is taken by some as evidence of a heavenly language spoken by angels and unknown on earth except by people with a gift for ecstatic utterances. The mention of sounding brass and tinkling cymbals is a warning against the cacophonous sounds and the disorder that would result from people speaking different languages all at once. It is also an allusion to the pagan practice of using percussive sounds or instruments in worship.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

I Corinthians 13:2

Paul, being an Apostle, surely did have the gift of prophecy, but he continued in the vein of hyperbole when discussing the understanding of “all” mysteries, “all” knowledge, and “all” faith. Even if someone had all these gifts, and all this wisdom, it would be useless without Christian love (“charity,” agape).

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

I Corinthians 13:2

The gifts that he went on about in Chapter 12 are important, but they must be handled with maturity, and the definition of maturity in New Testament Christianity cannot be separated from grace, knowledge, and love. Christian love puts up with wrongdoing for a long time, and it is not puffy with pride. It is not rude or impolite or discourteous, and it is not overly touchy. It gives the benefit of the doubt; it doesn’t assume the worst; it makes charitable judgments. It does not get happy when it is proven wrong and finds iniquity when it was hoping not to, and it rejoices in objective reality with a contagious joy, because things are being done out in the open and are being given value because of their truthfulness.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

I Corinthians 13:8

Christian love is shown to be superior to the spiritual gifts because of its endurance.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

I Corinthians 13:10

The “perfect” which is to come could be referring the completion of the canon of Scripture, although this is rejected by most recent scholars. It could be referring to the complete maturity of the Church – the Body of Christ. Or it could be referring to the return of Christ for His Church and our entry into Heaven. We tend to associate the term “perfect” with the idea of being sinless or faultless, but usually in the Bible it means “complete” or “lacking nothing.” Certainly the Church will not be “perfect” in either sense of the word until we are glorified with Christ at our departure from this world.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I Corinthians 13:11

This indicates that “sign” gifts like tongues and healing were “childish” gifts in the sense that they were needed for a very young church. It was anticipated that the Church would “outgrow” the need for signs and wonders.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I Corinthians 13:12

The image of looking through a glass, darkly, might mean that we see things now the way things are seen through a dirty window, but, more likely, Paul means for the reader to imagine a “looking-glass” (mirror), which would not have given as accurate a reflection in those days as mirrors do in ours. This analogy is often misinterpreted, but the correct meaning is that, once we see Jesus face to face, we will know Him “immediately.” We will see Him personally, the way He is able to see us now.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I Corinthians 13:13

Christian love is not the only Christian grace that will endure, but it is greater than these others because faith will become sight, and hope will be fulfilled. Love (I John 4:8) will still be needed in Heaven. Christian maturity equals Christian love, and we can “grow” and become more spiritually mature by practicing it (even when we might not necessarily “feel” it) NOW.

The Determination, Demonstration, Distribution, and Designation of the Spiritual Gifts

October 2, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 4 Comments
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But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

I Corinthians 12:7

The spiritual gifts are demonstrated by their manifestation and display within the Body of Christ. This means that no Christian should feel left out or “giftless,” but it also means that you are depriving the Body of Christ of something that God wants it to have if you are neglecting to exercise your spiritual gift or gifts.

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

I Corinthians 12:8

The word of wisdom is the gift of being able to apply knowledge or truth to a situation and to discern a course of action. The word of knowledge was a gift of direct divine revelation. It was a truly supernatural gift, and arguably no longer available or needed since we have a closed cannon of Scripture.

To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

I Corinthians 12:9

Every true Christian has a gift of faith for salvation, but some Christians are able to believe the promises of God with a greater certainty, and to stand upon them in times of difficulty, hardship, or persecution in special ways. The gift of miraculous healing is not operational today in the way that it was during the time of the Apostles. If it were, then it should be put into practice at the nursing homes, pediatric cancer wards, and burn treatment centers, rather than only at the big event centers where money is being collected.

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

I Corinthians 12:10

The gift of miracles probably included healings, although it would have been more comprehensive. The gift of prophecy today would be a gift for the effective proclaiming of God’s Word, or what we could call preaching. The gift of discerning of spirits was an ability to spot false prophets and charlatans. The gift of divers kinds of tongues allowed certain believers to supernaturally speak in a language or languages not naturally known to the speaker. The gift of the interpretation of tongues was the ability to understand what was being said in other languages without prior knowledge.

These gifts do not comprise an exhaustive list, and they need to be discovered through practical service more than an analytical or a psychological test.

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

I Corinthians 12:11

The spiritual gifts are distributed among a body of believers according to the will of the Holy Spirit.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

I Corinthians 12:11

The analogy of the human body is used to help us understand this distribution.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

I Corinthians 12:13-18

This reminds us that the Holy Spirit is also God, and perhaps God the Father has placed you into the part of the Body that He wants, and then the Holy Spirit determines which gift(s) you will need to function in that capacity. Just as there is diversity in a human body, there are a diversity of gifts in the Body of Christ, and certain members may need multiple gifts. A hand needs the gift of catching, but also the gifts of throwing, grasping and holding, and caressing. A person acting as the hand of the Body of Christ may not need a speaking gift, but he may need a discerning gift or a gift of mercy.

And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

I Corinthians 12:19-21

The emphasis here is on the importance of working together. Otherwise, the gifts become things to brag about, or to fight with, rather than tools given for building.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.

I Corinthians 12:22-24

Everybody likes to look at pretty hair or an attractive face. We like to hear winsome words and see graceful movement. Nobody wants to see your pancreas, your lungs, or even your brain, but no one could reasonably assert that these “parts” are less important.

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

I Corinthians 12:25-26

A body at war with itself will die, or at least not function properly. It will limp along, and it will suffer. The body is an organism, not an organization, but an unorganized organism will die.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I Corinthians 12:27

Once again, the Holy Spirit stresses unity AND diversity.

What is the purpose of the spiritual gifts? How are they to be exercised? To what end?

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I Corinthians 12:28

The designation of the gifts is for the edification of the Church.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

Therefore, it makes no sense to be bitter about someone else’s gift. If we do that, we are criticizing God, and, really, committing another form of idolatry – thinking we know better than Him.

Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

I Corinthians 12:29

The obvious answer to this is no.

Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

I Corinthians 12:30

Once again, the obvious answer is no, although this is very much overlooked by some Pentecostals and Charismatics who make speaking in tongues a test of salvation or a measuring stick for Holy Spirit-anointing.

Now another, even more important, factor is added to the equation of unity and diversity: maturity.

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

I Corinthians 12:31

Too many people assume that this means everyone should desire the more visible gifts, but the “best” gift for you is whichever gift(s) that God has chosen, in His perfect will, to give you. Covet what He wants you to have. He will give you the desire of your heart if your desire is to know and serve Him. The more excellent way is (as will be shown in I Corinthians Chapter 13) “charity” – agapeChristian love.

How the Knows are Gifted

August 31, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

I Corinthians 12:1

This, to me, is the unifying theme of I Corinthians: The Holy Spirit, through Paul, did not want the Corinthians Christians to be ignorant. He wanted them to be “Knows,” not “Know-Nots.” Their single most identifying negative mark, as a church, was their squabbling and factionalism. Their single most identifying positive mark was their richness in spiritual gifts.

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

I Corinthians 12:2

Here, “dumb” means unable to speak, rather than foolish. Formerly idol-worshipers – so deeply entrenched that they were still possibly weak in their consciences in this area – they had been miraculously delivered by divine revelation.

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

I Corinthians 12:3

The Holy Spirit is identified as the Person of the Trinity that reveals to us that Jesus – despite His treatment as the vilest of criminals – is actually God incarnate.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:4

Among the Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the One Who delivers the spiritual gifts and determines who gets which ones. There is diversity AND unity.

And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

I Corinthians 12:5

The gifts are given with the intent that they will be used to minister to the Lord Jesus. Again there is diversity AND unity.

And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

I Corinthians 12:6

God the Father empowers the gifts so that His power is working in us as we use the gifts. Once again, we see the principle of diversity AND unity. The gifts are given by the living God in the Person of the Holy Spirit because of the victory and Ascension of Jesus Christ.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Ephesians 4:3-8


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