Summary: Prophecy -- clear proclamation of God’s Word -- is the greatest gift of the tongue.
February 8, 2004 – The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
CHRISTIANS ARE NOT SHOWBOATS
Did you know that Saints wide receiver Joe Horn was fined $30,000 for using his cell phone? It’s true. You may remember the premeditated phone call. Horn had just scored a touchdown against the New York Giants, and in celebration he pulled a phone from the goal post padding, pretending to make a call to announce his achievement. The whole incident was labeled “unsportsmanlike conduct.” And the NFL commissioner made it clear that he was serious about putting an end to such excessive end-zone antics.
Nobody likes a showoff. That applies to every aspect of life. Whether it’s on a football field, the workplace, the classroom, or even church, God’s Word reminds us that the Lord does not look with favor on braggarts. And so the Lord offers his Word to us today as instruction and encouragement for our Christian living. This morning St. Paul teaches us: CHRISTIANS ARE NOT SHOWBOATS. 1) We Use Our Gifts to Worship our Lord, and 2) We Use Our Gifts to Build Up Each Other.
1) We Use Our Gifts To Worship Our Lord
Corinth was the largest of the mission congregations Paul had served. It was a troubled congregation. They suffered with cliques because many of them played favorites with their pastors. Many of the Christians were lawsuit happy and dragged one another to court. Like many Americans who make too much of their “rights,” there were many Christians in Corinth who abused their Christian freedom. They advocated perverse immorality, and tolerated disorderly worship.
Still, St. Paul loved these people. He reminded them that God also loved them. It was God who brought them together through a common faith in Christ Jesus. In chapter 12 St. Paul writes, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts, and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” Just as a human body has many parts to it, so does the body of Christ – the assembly of believers. And then the apostle continues to list the various gifts God the Holy Spirit has given to different believers – prophets, teachers, etc.
In the chapter before us, chapter 14, the apostle focuses on two specific gifts that were given to the church. Paul mentions them: the gift of tongue speaking and the gift of prophecy. Now, in between chapters 12 and 14 is, of course, chapter 13. This is the chapter in which St. Paul describes the virtues of love: Love is patient, love is kind. The apostle is not describing human emotion or sentiment. He is talking about the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus. It is this love, which is the greatest gift of all that God has given to the Christian church. Without this love even the greatest gifts and noblest deeds have no value.
Now, the Corinthians were extremely proud of their gift of speaking in tongues. It seems that this was the “en vogue” experience Christians turned to in order to authenticate their genuineness as a believer. The Corinthians were showboating; strutting about as if they were superior to others because they apparently had a spiritual gift that seemed impressive. And they weren’t very kind or patient towards others who didn’t have this special “en vogue” sign of the Spirit.