This last Sunday we continued our discussion of spiritual gifts as we looked at 1 Cor. 14.1-19. In this text Paul begins to explicitly address the errors the Corinthian church was struggling with in the use of spiritual gifts in their gatherings. The Corinthians appear to have been struggling with the use of the gift of tongues. Paul essentially encourages them to pursue prophecy instead of tongues, because prophecies build up the church, and tongues are not understood by everyone unless they are translated. Because there are a lot of questions in this text we took more time than usual to teach and explain about tongues and prophecy before we applied the text to our lives.
What is Paul talking about when he speaks of the gifts of prophecy and tongues? Regarding prophecy, Paul seems to give us some helpful details about what he means by prophecy in this text. In v. 3 Paul describes prophecy as speech in the church gatherings that builds up the, encourages, and consoles fellow-believers in the church. Later in chapter 14 Paul seems to include things like giving thanks publicly, singing, and prayer. In short, Paul seems to describe prophecy as speaking, singing, or praying the truths of God’s Word in our gatherings as a church in a way that builds up the Body of Christ. This is why Paul encourages the church in Corinth to pursue prophecy when they are gathered together.
What are tongues in 1 Cor. 14? There are basically three options that Christians hold: 1) An ecstatic utterance. This view sees tongues as an ecstatic utterance that does not conform to any real language on earth. This language is unknown to both the speaker and the hearers unless God gives someone the gift to translate this unknown language. 2) A real language not known by the speaker. This view sees tongues as someone being gifted to speak a real language they do not know. They are miraculously enabled to speak a foreign language. 3) A real language known by the speaker, but not necessarily by the church. In the city of Corinth (and the church) people spoke a vast array of languages as the city was a key trading center. You had people in the church who were gifted in speaking several languages. However, they would sometimes speak selfishly in their own language without any interpreter, and the church would have no idea what they were saying, and, therefore, could not be edified. Personally, I am most convinced by the third view, but godly Christians hold to all three. Regardless of our view, the application Paul makes in this text is the same.
2. The Application.
Paul’s main application in this text can be seen in v. 12. Paul says that if we want to see the manifestation of the Spirit in our worship, then we should build one another up in the Lord. We too come to worship for reasons that often begin and end with ourselves. We prize our personal self-expression and preferences above all else. Paul reminds us that when we worship with God’s people, hear God’s Word, sing God’s Word, pray together, and build one another up in our worship, then we have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst! What a wonderful truth! Paul calls us to come together with God’s people with humility as we build one another up in the Lord. As we do this we can be confident that the Holy Spirit is working amongst us.
Here are some discussion questions and the order of service from Sunday: 1 Cor. 14.1-19 Notes. We will take a week off from our series in 1 Corinthians next Sunday as we celebrate Easter together.
-Pastor Nathan Hogan