Summary: This passage talks about the fact that tongues were to be a sign to unbelievers to get their attention so that they would further investigate the truths of Christianity.

December 15, 2002 1 Corinthians 14:21-25

¡§Signs of the times¡¨


Christmas is almost here. The signs are everywhere. There are Christmas songs that are playing on the radio, decorations all over town and presents under the tree. But do you know what the top five signs that Christmas is near are?

„X There are more pine needles on your carpet than on your tree.

„X The credit card is smoked along with the turkey and ham.

„X It¡¦s A Wonderful Life has been shown for the 13th time.

„X A trip to the mall and back is more challenging then the Indy 500.

„X You are pulling an all-nighter because of the words "Some Assembly Required".

Signs point us to the reality that something significant is getting ready to occur.

For the last three weeks now, we have been examining the gift of tongues and its role in the context of the church worship service. We have seen that when you place the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues side by side and compare them, the gift of prophecy is far more valuable for the church because it more clearly communicates God¡¦s truth to men. But the gift of tongues still has value. It has value to God because it allows the speaker to communicate praise and thanksgiving to God, and it has value to the church when the message is interpreted because we receive encouragement whenever we hear another¡¦s praises toward God. The gift of tongues also has value outside the church. It has value for God¡¦s plan to bring people into a saving relationship with Himself. As we will see today, tongues is a sign. It is a bright, neon flashing billboard that tells people that something out of the ordinary is going on here, and they had better check it out. Like the signs that point us to the nearness of Christmas today, this sign of tongues told people that something was coming ¡V soon, and they had better prepare themselves.

This morning, we are going to examine 4 effects that signs ¡V which the exercise of the gift of tongues was ¡V can have on people. In examining this passage, I have two goals for us. The first is that all of these effects that we are going to discuss will happen in you today or at some point during this Christmas season. The second goal is that you will see that there is an even greater sign than the gift of tongues that can bring people to Jesus and that you will let that sign shine in your life.

1. Signs can capture our attention. (vs. 21-22)

Usually during the holiday season, our family does some traveling to see relatives. We will head south down I-79 and then onto Rt. 19. Soon after hitting 19, we will begin to see signs for how far it is to Summersville. Signs for summersville always get our attention. They warn us of impending danger. Summersville is the biggest speed trap in all of West Virginia. Just outside the city, there are warning signs telling you that the speed limit has dropped from 65 to 50. If you do not pay attention to those warning signs, you will be facing the wrath of the police officer whose lights will soon be shining in your rear view mirror.

The first verse that we read today, vs. 21, is a loose quote of Isaiah 28:11,12, and he uses that verse to say that the gift of being able to speak in a language that you never learned is a warning sign to unbelievers. It is a sign that God is coming in judgment if they do not get their lives right before Him. The book of Isaiah deals with a time in Israel¡¦s history when they were rebelling against God. Instead of being the clear-headed spiritual leaders that the people needed, the priests were making no sense to the people because the words that they said were coming out of a drunken stupor. The priests would get drunk before they delivered their message. The drunken words that they spoke were incapable of being understood; almost as if they were speaking a foreign language. But the people didn¡¦t mind too much. If the people went to synagogue and received a message that they did not understand, then there was no response that they felt obligated to give. They could pretend to be ignorant of God¡¦s laws, and we all know that ignorance is bliss. When you are ignorant, you don¡¦t have to change your ways. So the people made no attempt to correct their priests and risk hearing a clear message from God even though the message was a good one. God¡¦s clear message to them was that He was offering them a place of rest where the weary could find strengthening. A message like that would get my attention especially at Christmas time. But that wasn¡¦t enough to get their attention, and they refused that clear message. They liked what they had better than what God offered. The people could go in to the service, sit and hear words that made no sense, and walk out ¡V unchanged. As far as they were concerned, they had done their religious duty. In response to this kind of attitude, God gave them exactly what they wanted. In essence He said, ¡§You like coming to the sanctuary and hearing words that you cannot understand? Fine; I¡¦m going to make it so that all the words that you hear will be words that you cannot understand. You didn¡¦t want to understand me; now, you won¡¦t be able to understand anything.¡¨ God caused an enemy nation to come and invade Israel and take the people captive back to their own land. They were forced to live in a foreign land among people that spoke a language that they could not understand. And every word that they heard was a constant reminder ¡V a sign ¡V of the judgment of God on their nation for their refusal to listen to His clear words.

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