Healthy Church: Spiritual Gifts – Part 3

July 18, 2023

Series: Healthy Church

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 14:1-25

This morning we are going to continue our study in 1 Corinthians and we are going to continue our study on spiritual gifts.

Up to this point we’ve talked about spiritual gifts in general; chapter 12.  We’ve talked about the purpose of spiritual gifts; chapter 13.  This morning we are going to talk about what our spiritual gifts look like in the context of a worship service.

I know we are all coming from different faith backgrounds, so I don’t want to make any assumptions, so to be clear spiritual gifts are not talents, skills, hobbies or areas of interest.

When a person professes faith in Jesus they are indwelled with the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit comes supernatural spiritual gifts like teaching, serving, giving, faith, knowledge, wisdom.  It’s awesome!

In 1 Corinthians we see a church family arguing about spiritual gifts.  One group is nervous about spiritual gifts.  They are skeptical about spiritual gifts; too mystical, too abstract.  Maybe that some of us here this morning?  What is this gift you speak of?

The second group was super excited about spiritual gifts.  Spiritual gifts are spectacular!  Have you seen someone share the gospel with people so casually and comfortable, and people respond?  That’s the gift of evangelism.

Have you seen someone recall Scripture, pull it up from their memory without any effort?  That’s the gift of knowledge.  Have you seen people digest God’s Word and apply God’s Word with incredible insight?  That’s the gift of wisdom.  Spiritual gifts are exciting!  Maybe that’s some of us here?  Praise God!

Therefore, what happens when these two groups of people come together for worship?  Are these two groups of people able to get along?  What about the group of people in the middle who don’t know what to think?  Maybe there are some of us in that third group?  Let’s look at verse 1:

1 Corinthians 14:1, “1 Pursue love, yet earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” 

For those of us who are new this morning, you need to know 1 Corinthian is a letter in the New Testament, written by the Apostle Paul, written to a new church in Corinth.  Corinth is a booming city in the first century, much like our city today.

If you were here with us last Sunday we see the Apostle Paul walk through chapter 13 with this powerful challenge to love one another!  Spiritual gifts are important but eventually spiritual gifts will end, therefore, love one another!

Then we get to chapter 14 and it’s almost like the Apostle Paul back peddles and says, “But don’t ignore the spiritual gifts.”  Do you see that in verse 1?

The Apostle Paul did this a little in chapters 9 and 10 when he wrote about idol worship.  In chapter 9 eat whatever you want to the glory of God.  In chapter 10 but be careful what you eat.  It’s not either /or but both / and.  Does that make sense?  It is about love and also spiritual gifts are important!  Look at verses 2-3:

1 Corinthians 14:2-3, “2 For the one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for edification, exhortation, and consolation.”

Our passage this morning is going to focus on two spiritual gifts; tongues and prophecy.  Again, we are all coming from different backgrounds so I don’t want to make any assumptions.

It’s possible you have heard people say “speaking in tongues is this and not that” and “prophecy is this and not that” but I think it is more helpful to see these spiritual gifts on a spectrum from most clear to least less.  Does that make sense?

Let’s tackle speaking in tongues.  In the most obvious, most clear understanding of speaking in tongues we see Acts 2.  In Acts 2 we see the Spirit of God show up so that people start hearing their own language.  That’s key.  Tongues is always described as a language.

In Acts 2 we see people gathering in Jerusalem from Egypt, Asia, Rome; 17 different languages and Acts 2 verse 8 says, “How is it we each hear in our own language to which we were born?”  The Spirit of God shows up.  The gift of tongues shows up.  Multiple languages are hearing the gospel, thousands come to faith in Jesus!  Super clear!

At the other end of the spectrum is the description of the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.  In the context of 1 Corinthians 14 speaking in tongues isn’t described with the same clarity as in Acts 2.

The word “tongue” in our passage is still in reference to languages but there is also the description of “speaking to God and speaking mysteries.”  What does that mean?  If you scan down with me to verse 4 we see tongues is described as “edifying himself” but it isn’t described in a positive way, so that’s confusing.

In verse 5 we see the gift of tongues needs an interpreter, that’s important, so that the body of Christ can understand what is being said.  In verse 14 there is a reference to speaking in tongues as praying in the spirit, and again, we don’t know what that means completely, but we need to keep in mind the context of 1 Corinthians is a correction, therefore, it makes it challenging to know what speaking in tongues today.

I think there are people with the gift of tongues who are able to pick up foreign languages easily.  I spent two years learning German, three months living in Germany and progressed very little in the German language.

My friend who came with me to Germany for those three months, didn’t study the language and by the time we left people thought he was German.  It was annoying!  Today he serves as a missionary in Austria; speaking German!  I think it’s likely he has the gift of tongues, so that today we want a black and white description when I think it is more helpful to see the gift of tongues on a spectrum.

Let’s explore the spiritual gift of prophecy.  Again, in the clearest understanding of prophecy we have Old Testament are prophets like Isaiah, Joel, Jeremiah and the like.  These are people who say, “Thus sayeth the Lord” and it is recorded as God’s Word.

At the other end of the spectrum is the description of the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14.  In the context of 1 Corinthians 14, verse 3, the gift of prophecy is to edify, encourage and comfort the body of Christ.  Do you see that in verse 3?

We are exercising the gift of prophecy when we speak God’s Word over the body of Christ.  We are exercising the gift of prophecy when we have conversations about God’s Word in bible study.

We are exercising the gift of prophecy when we conversations with one another after the worship service about God’s Word, when we pray God’s Word over one another.  In those moments we are exercising the gift of prophecy.

It’s why you see a verse like 1 Thessalonians 5 not to despise prophecy but to test prophecy.  We filter what people say through God’s Word to test those words.

Illustration:  Perhaps you have heard the story of the girl who walks up to the boy and says, “God told me you’re supposed to leave your girlfriend and marry me.”  That’s bold but I am not sure that’s from the Lord.  Look at verse 4-5:

1 Corinthians 14:4-5, “4 The one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but rather that you would prophesy; and greater is the one who prophesies than the one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edification.” 

This is the key for speaking in tongues, prophecy and all spiritual gifts; that the church family may receive encouragement.  Even if you disagree with my description of speaking in tongues and prophecy; God’s Word is clear, the purpose of our spiritual gifts are to build up the body of Christ, which has a huge influence on why we gather for worship as a church family.

Illustration:  It isn’t uncommon for a person to walk into a worship service a little nervous.  What am I going to get out of this morning?  What’s the topic?  Is it going to help me today?  Are they going to sing songs I like?  Why is it so cold in here?

But God’s Word is teaching us that our primary purpose for gathering for worship isn’t for what we can get from the worship service but what we can give to the worship service.  Did you know that?

(Not what we get – But what we give)

Listen to me, when we who are in Christ show up to worship service it isn’t for us to GET but for us to GIVE, encourage, edify, and prophecy over the local church.  It’s Romans 12, “Present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

You might think, “But Michael, I am tired, I am only 13, I am new to NVC, I am too old, I don’t know enough bible” but it’s not about you.  It’s about the Spirit of God in you that wants to move through you to build up the body of Christ!

Can you just dream with me a little about what it does to our church family when we start to have that approach toward one another?  We are hosting Brainstorming Meetings today about how to strengthen our church family.  Can you just dream with me about what might happen in those meetings if we come to give ourselves instead of get for ourselves?  (NWWG-BWWG) Look at verse 6:

1 Corinthians 14:6, “6 But now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophecy, or of teaching?”

Do you see the contrast of our spiritual gifts?  Speaking in tongues without an interpreter in a worship service is of little benefit.  It may look exciting on television.  It may make you feel close to God.  But God’s Word is teaching it’s better to speak God’s Word over the body of Christ.  Let’s look at verse 7-8:

1 Corinthians 14:7-8, “7 Yet even lifeless instruments, whether flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? 8 For if the trumpet produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” 

In verses 7-8 we see two illustrations of better understanding the gift of speaking in tongues.  The first illustration is instruments playing notes and creating music together.  Instruments are supposed to complement one another, so that together there is beauty and order instead of random instruments playing out of tune.

In verse 8 we see the second illustration of the trumpet that is blown to gather the army for battle, but if the trumpet doesn’t play the right notes at the right time then the army will be confused.  Lives will be at risk!  The order and the beauty of how we use our spiritual gifts matter.  Look at verse 9:

1 Corinthians 14: 9, “9 So you too, unless you produce intelligible speech by the tongue, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will just be talking to the air.”

Do you see the repeated challenge that our spiritual gifts aren’t for what we can get but what we can give?  (NWWG-BWWG). That isn’t just true of speaking in tongues but all spiritual gifts.

If you have the gift of wisdom, our church family needs you to give the gift of wisdom.  Don’t hold back.  Don’t wait to be asked.  Give!  If you have the gift of teaching, our church family needs you giving the gift of teaching.  If you have the gift of discernment, with urgency find ways to unleash your gift in our church family.  If you have the gift of leading, administration, don’t sit back and think, “This place is so unorganized!”  Get to organizing!

People say, “Well I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.”  Okay, you don’t have to be a jerk!  You don’t have to mock where our church is today.

But with “LOVE” we give of our gifts to the body of Christ.  People say, “Well I am awfully busy.”  Doing what?  Everyone seems to know my television references in a sermon.  I get corrected if I don’t describe something on Tik-Tok the right way.

We’re talking about the glory of God being captured through the beauty of the local church by the unleashing of our gifts!  Look at verses 10-12:

1 Corinthians 14:10-12, “10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and none is incapable of meaning. 11 So if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be unintelligible to the one who speaks, and the one who speaks will be unintelligible to me. 12 So you too, since you are eager to possess spiritual gifts, strive to excel for the edification of the church.”

The word “meaning” in verse 11 means power.  It’s because words are powerful.  Words hold ideas.  We remember words people spoke to us in the second grade.  Words are powerful!

Therefore, what words are more powerful than God’s Word.  If there is power in any word that someone said to us 10 years ago, can you imagine how much power is in God’s Word?

Can you imagine how powerful it is to see someone in our church family who is weighed down with the challenges of life and remind them of God’s promises for Gods’ people in God’s Word?

When we speak wisdom into the lives of others; it is God’s Word.  When we exercise our gift of teaching; it is to teach God’s Word.  When we are using our gift of discernment; it is to discern between truth and error that is related to God’s Word.  When we lead and organize it is leading and organizing so that people might hear God’s Word, obey God’s Word and enjoy God’s Word.

Illustration:  I’ve experienced that in our church family from you.  When I was walking through the loss of my mom to Alzheimer’s.  When our family was being investigated for child abuse when we were fostering.  We didn’t abuse a child, if you are new this morning, but in those moments in life we need the body of Christ to speak God’s Word into us and over us.

Even in the areas of life when life is hard.  Raising little kids every day gets hard.  We need one another to pray and speak God’s Word over these young moms and dads.  Working in our culture is hard right now.  We need one another praying and speaking God’s Word over us as we go to work.  Proclaiming the name of Jesus to our friends.  We need to be reminded that we don’t have a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power!  We need this in our church family!

QR:  This is why we need you to go to these QR codes on our “Build and Belong” cards.  Our goal is to see 50 responses on spiritual gifts by the end of August.

Wouldn’t it be great to see where the majority of our spiritual gifts are in the local church?  We get to see where we are weak?  We can start praying for those Lord to bring those types of gifts.  Let’s jump down to verses 20-21.  Verse 13-19 are important but for the sake of time I want you to see the warning in verses 20-21:

1 Corinthians 14:20-21, “20 Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written: “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.”

This is an odd quote in the passage as a whole until you know the quote is from Isaiah 28 and it is a reference of judgment on Israel.  In the book of Isaiah, the people of Israel are ignoring the prophet Isaiah.

Israel says Isaiah’s words are too simple, too childish, they wanted something more complex, more exciting, more spectacular so the men of “strange tongues and lips of strangers” are the Assyrian people who bring judgment upon Israel, take Israel into captivity, so that Israel is surrounded by “strange tongues” they couldn’t understand.  Does that make sense?

The Corinthian church thought the gift of tongues was spectacular, maybe a sign of maturity but the Apostle Paul writes, “Be careful longing for the spectacular.”

It’s possible you might think some spiritual gifts are better than others.  After all, speaking in tongues sounds more exciting than the gift of mercy but the caution of God’s Word is turn from that type of thinking, it’s evil to give into that type of thinking, because all the spiritual gifts are important and all the spiritual gifts are needed in the body of Christ.  Look at verses 22-23: // Look at verses 24-25:

1 Corinthians 14:22-23, “22 So then, tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is not for unbelievers, but for those who believe. 23 Therefore if the whole church gathers together and all the people speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are insane?” 

1 Corinthians 14:24-25, “24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”

This is why we gather church family!  The word “conviction” in verse 24 means expose.  It is to expose the secrets of our hearts, so that they become evident, so that the man or woman hears God’s Word, from the stage, when someone prays for them, a conversation after worship, and falls on their face in worship of God.

Why?  It’s because God’s Word is alive, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing the dark places of our heart, so that our soul melts before Him.

How does that happen?  I don’t know but I’ve experienced it and seen it countless times.  You will forget my words by the time you make it to lunch but God’s Word will disturb your sleep, so that He draws you to Himself.