Summary: This sermon deals with two of the spiritual gifts and contrasts their usefulness within the context of the worship service
November 24, 2002 1 Corinthians 14:1-5
Getting the right message to the right person is necessary in order for the right communication to happen. There was a man who lived in upstate New York and he was getting tired of the cold weather, so he decided to go to Florida. His wife was on a business trip at the time so he called her to let her know what he was doing and to tell her not to go back to New York but to meet him in Florida. When he arrived he sent her an e-mail to let her know he was there, but he got a few letters wrong in the address and instead of going to his wife the e-mail went to a little old lady in Iowa, who was a pastors wife. And whose husband had died the day before.
The little old lady turned on her computer – read the e-mail, screamed and fainted right on the spot. Her family and friends who were there came in saw her on the floor – and when they read the screen they understood why she fainted. This is what it said: “Dearest darling just wanted you to know I arrived safely. Looking forward to you being with me, tomorrow. Signed, your husband – PS, it sure is hot down here…”
Over the last two months, we have been dealing with spiritual gifts and their function of unifying the church. This morning, we are entering into chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians. This chapter deals with the communication that goes on inside the walls of the church and what it is supposed to consist of. At Corinth, that communication consisted primarily of tongues speaking, and so this chapter deals primarily with the spiritual gift of being able to speak in tongues. I’ll explain what I believe that is in just a minute. The gift of tongues is (or can be) very divisive. The gifts are given to unify the church, but this gift has served to divide the church. Part of that is because the gift has been abused more than any other, especially over the last century. There are some portions of the Bible that quite frankly, I would like to skip over. That would be convenient. Why don’t we just deal with things that are easily understood and that there is agreement in the church over. Unity is what we want, right? So why bring up something that is divisive? Two reasons. The first and most important reason for us to deal with it is because God included it in the Bible. We’re not bringing up the subject; God already did that. Anything that He included in the Bible is worthy of our attention and is important for us to understand. The second reason is that there are churches and Christians all around us who do speak in tongues. You have friends that do. Some of this tongues-speaking is genuine, and some is counterfeit. I want you to be able to recognize what is true and what is false. And I want you to help others be able to recognize the true and false too. With all the new people that are coming in our doors, it probably won’t be long before we have someone come in who wants to speak in tongues. We need to know what the Bible has to say about it so that we will know how to properly respond.
My purpose as we go through this chapter over the next month is not to bash other preachers or denominations that do or do not practice tongues. I’ve never done that before. I’m not going to start now. I know who our enemy is, and it is not the church down the street or in the next town or across the country. To the extent that they are teaching the Word of God, we are working together.
This morning, we begin with verses 1-5 of 1 Corinthians 14. In this passage, Paul, the writer of 1 Corinthians deals with two of the spiritual gifts and contrasts their usefulness within the context of the worship service. That is something that we need to understand. Everything that Paul is getting ready to say in this chapter has specific application to when the church body gets together to worship. The two gifts he focuses on are the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues. I am aware that there may be some here who have no idea what spiritual gifts, prophecy or tongues are. Let me quickly give you a definition. Spiritual gifts are abilities that God gives to individuals to empower them for specific functions within the church. The gift of prophecy is the ability given by God to reveal and tell God’s message in a timely and understandable way to bring correction, repentance and edification. Or more simply, a prophet proclaims what God tells him to people. He gets a message from God through visions, direct communication or through the written Word, and He proclaims it. The gift of tongues is the ability given by God to speak in a language that you did not learn. Tongues were never used to proclaim a new revelation from God. That was the prophet’s job. The first time that this gift was given and exercised was on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. There, it enabled Jewish men to speak “the wonders of God” in Egyptian, Chinese, Arabic and a multitude of other languages that they had never been taught. That was the beginning.