Good Saturday morning everyone. I hope you have started it off well with prayer and the Word of God. Coffee is always optional. We are moving on to 1 Corinthians 14.
1 Corinthians is an appropriate book to study in our current age. I realize people do not intend to be so self-absorbed but they are. In my opinion the reason for this is because we do not grasp what a full surrender to Jesus means and entails. We do not get the whole "the old has gone, the has come" thing of our decision. We fail to understand that we have died and not longer have a claim on ourselves. If we did understand this then I am sure there would be a whole bunch less selfishness in the Church. I realize we do not see it as being selfish but I ask you to consider for a moment an example that Paul gives to us in this chapter. He starts off with a carry-over from his teaching on love and gives a word of encouragement:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. v. 1
What does Paul mean by "prophecy"? It is not what many think. Paul is not looking for everyone to become prophets, foretelling coming events. To have the gift of prophecy is to give public exhortation of Scriptures, giving interpretation and instruction. This is the gift Paul wanted everyone to have over everything else. But he had to argue against selfishness here:
For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. v. 2
So here is the tension in this chapter. So may of us come to church looking for edification and that is okay because that is one of the purposes of our worship, to be edified. But often we are so caught up in our own needs that we fail to take our place of service. We come to church to give and to take but often we are only takers and when we "feel" we have not been edified we grumble and complain. Sin leads to more sin. Tongues is a private thing between us and God, as Paul later explains, unless there is interpretation provided. Later on Paul writes:
I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified. v. 5
Why would Paul desire this? Why is it that he would rather see us all prophesying the Word of God?
But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. vv. 3-4
In the age of selfisms it is difficult for us to truly gasp the importance of this. The best I can describe it is as I have already done, when we fail to see our importance to others and instead seek only for ourselves. Honestly, what is your attitude when you go to church? Do you have a longing to participate or are you happy to just be a spectator? All my life I had a longing to participate and was often frustrated as a young adult, even as a child, when I felt forced to sit in my seat. I felt like I wanted to give, that I had something to give. We all have something to give but our Sunday meetings are not designed for it. They are designed more as concerts, venues of entertainment. Only those properly trained are permitted to speak publicly. We are so off the mark from what the meetings once were. But that is a subject for days to come.
Paul makes it plain and clear:
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. vv. 18-10
Our life is about others, even in our relationship with Jesus. Many would disagree with me here but Paul makes it plain here; the edification of others should be a priority over our own. And then Paul nails the root of the problem here right on its head:
Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. v. 20
Lack of spiritual maturity leads us to seek only for ourselves. It prevents us from understanding our need to serve by participating according to our gifts. It causes us to design our meetings in such a way that we have control over who participate often giving the impression of elitism. We certainly have fallen into the trap in our current age. Most people do not realize that many people can prophesy in a meeting, bringing a deeper edification to the church.
Are we ready to leave the childish things behind and move into greater understanding through greater maturity? Are you ready to shrug off consumerism and become the producer God called you to be?