Call to Worship November 22 2020
Expository Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 14
The Corinthian church had many growing pains and the exercise of spiritual gifts contributed to their many difficulties. Paul previously focused on the foundation of the church and the gifts that were in Christ by the one Holy Spirit. He cautioned them not to be so individually minded and to remember they were a part of a local body of Christ. Every person was a necessary part of the body (Ch. 12). So they needed to focus on the greater gifts of faith, hope, and love, of which the greatest is love (Ch. 13). Paul reminded them of why love was so important even in desiring to use their spiritual gifts. The spiritual gifts apart from love caused confusion instead of clarity, and frustration instead of unity (Ch.14).
Paul reminded them to pursue love and desire spiritual gifts (14:1). Yet he specifically told them that prophesy was more edifying to the church than tongues (vs.1-5). Why was prophesy more edifying? Paul explained that tongues was spoken in different languages and not always understandable to those who heard it. These languages were intelligible, or human foreign languages, as recognized in Acts 2:1-11.
6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language…“Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? (Acts 2:6-8)
At the gathering on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, all those assembled listened to Galilean Hebrew speakers preach. Yet while they listened each person heard the message in their own native tongue, or language. It would be like a person who is a native English speaker preaching to native Chinese speakers. While the Englishman spoke in English the Chinese people would hear the preaching in Chinese. This is no small miracle and no less than the idea of nonsense being spoken and then understood. Actually, it’s even more profound that God can make people hear their own language when listening to someone else speak in another known human language.
Tongues is never some unknown language, even in the Corinthian setting. Paul stated, “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands…” Paul was not saying that tongues itself was some type of gibberish. He stated that to speak in an unknown tongue in the midst of people who did not know that language was not edifying. Why? Well, only God could understand English spoken in front of Chinese speakers. The listeners would be confused and without understanding of the language or the meaning of the words spoken. Therefore, the church would not be edified by speaking in foreign tongues to those who could not understand the language, unless someone could interpret that intelligible foreign language.
The most important concern to Paul was that the church be edified in the hearing of God’s revelation. Paul warned that to persist on the use of tongues, when it was not necessary, was to edify one’s self over the edification of the body of Christ (vs. 4). This a theme that Paul continued to dwell on regarding the mindset of the Corinthian church. They were very self-centered and focused on personal desires over and against what might be good for the body as a whole. Some had taken their Christian liberty to a place of self-appeasement without considering their fellow brothers and sisters. Others were so concerned about their issues of Christian conscience that they wanted to bind everyone else to their personal concerns and moral views apart from the express command of God (Ch. 8-10). Some women in the church had put aside the customary head covering to flaunt their individual freedom in Christ. Richer individuals put themselves ahead of others at the supper (Ch. 11). Tongue speakers desired to edify themselves by speaking in foreign languages that no one else could understand (Ch. 14).
Paul’s theme still speaks today-if you love Christ then you will love His people; If you love His people then you will desire for them to be encouraged and strengthened according to God’s word. Yet many Christians are more concerned with their personal interests than that of the whole body of Christ. They are more concerned with their personal edification than the body of Christ being instructed and edified by the express word of God alone. The modern church in its worship, discipleship, and day to day functioning proves this to be true. May God grant us the grace to work with one another in the bonds of Christ through His Word. May he strengthen our desire to glorify Christ in and among the church for its edification and not to edify ourselves. Soli Deo Gloria!