Sunday, May 25, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ [Part Two]

“The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ {Part Two}”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
May 25, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:1-14:40

We’re almost at the end of our study on the Holy Spirit. Lord-willing, next week will be the very last message on The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Last week, we began learning about spiritual gifts.

“The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts to Us to Cooperate as the Body of Christ.” Last week, was “Part One.”

We learned a LOT about these gifts. Probably still too much to digest in just one message.

We learned that God doesn’t want us to be ignorant about spiritual gifts.

That “A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.”

And that our gifts do not determine our godliness!

We learned that there are different gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit.

Each believer gets the manifestation of the Spirit.
The gifts are for building the body of Christ so that we cooperate together.
Some are more miraculous than others.
And the Spirit decides who gets what gift.

We also learned that the body of Christ needs all of its parts to cooperate.

We are a body.

We’re not allowed to be proud of our gift over someone else’s.
Or to be envious of someone else’s gift.
We’ve got to see that we all need each other.

Because the Spirit doesn’t give all of the gifts to the pastor.
He gives all of the gifts to the Body.
And we all need each other.

We were encouraged to find out what our gift(s) are and use them in ministry.

And the key to the healthy operation of gifts within the Body is Christ-like love which we saw in the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13.

That’s where we’re going to start this morning, and then we’re going to go all the way through chapter 14.

This week is part #2.

“The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ. {Part Two.}”

Chapters 13 and 14 are closely linked with what we saw in chapter 12. They are about these spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit that are used to build the Body of Christ.

Now if you remember, the Corinthians were all messed up about spiritual gifts. It’s not that they didn’t have them. They did, in spades! But they didn’t understand what they were for or how they were supposed to be operating. And they had attached WAY TOO MUCH significance to some of the gifts, especially the gift of languages (tongues).

And Paul has been trying to fix their mental messes about gifts. But he’s still got some work to do.

And as he provides correction to the Corinthians, he’s providing instruction to us.

Paul answers at least 3 important questions about these gifts that I think we would do well to absorb:

When Will These Gifts End?
Which Of These Gifts Are Greater for the Gathered Church?
How Should These Gifts Function in Our Meetings?

Let me read both chapters to you and then we’ll see if we can answer these questions.

1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 1.

[scripture reading, prayer]

Let me see if you’ve been paying attention:

Here’s a question for you: Is LOVE a Spiritual Gift?

No, it’s not.

Love is part of the fruit of the Spirit. But it is not a spiritual gift.

Love is the key to the healthy operation (and cooperation!) of the gifts.

But it is not a “charismata” (a grace gift) itself.

That’s why Paul begins like he does. He’s trying to elevate love over all of the gifts.

He’s saying that we could have the gifts on steroids, but if we don’t have love, then we have nothing.

Speak in tongues of men (or even of angels!)...
Gift of prophecy, fathoming all mysteries and all knowledge...
Faith that moves mountains...
Amazing philanthropy and even martyrdom and yet if there is no love...

We’ve got squat!

And then in verses 4-8, there is that exalted poem describing love in action that we looked at last week and we’ve all heard read at nearly ever wedding!

And rightly so, this is Christ-like love: patient, kind, envy-less, boast-less, humble, non-rude, non-self-seeking, not easily angered, etc, etc.

And then at the end of this chapter, Paul goes one step further. He is not just saying that love is the way that we use the gifts, but that love continues on even after the gifts cease.

Did you catch that as I read it? Paul says that there will be a time when the gifts of the Holy Spirit that He gives to us to cooperate as the Body of Christ will end. They won’t be needed any more.


What do you think is the answer? I think it’s WHEN CHRIST RETURNS. V.8

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Paul’s point here is that love continues even after the gifts end. So it’s more important the gifts. And it’s the more excellent way that we’re supposed to use our gifts, lovingly.

And in saying that, he lets out that spiritual gifts have an expiry date on them.

Now, we might get a different set of gifts in eternity, I don’t know. But they won’t be imperfect gifts like the ones that we have now.

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

There is an expiration date on our current spiritual gifts.

When will these gifts end?

That’s a tough question, really.

I was taught, and many of you may have been taught that at least some certain gifts, especially the more miraculous ones (sometimes called the “sign gifts”) have expired already.

Things like languages/tongues, miracles, healings, prophecy, etc were, perhaps like training wheels for the early church and authenticated the gospel of the apostles and then had a built in termination mechanism so that they died out in the first century, once the apostles were gone and the gospel had taken root in the world.

That was what I was taught at Moody Bible Institute and by several of my professors at Trinity. And here are a stack of books that I’ve read in preparation for this message that make that argument. I have HIGH RESPECT for pastors and scholars that have taken that position. My respect can’t hardly get any higher. Many of the men who taught me to love Jesus and His Word believe that.

The most powerful argument for this interpretation (that the miraculous gifts have already ceased) is that it often doesn’t seem like the operation of the gifts now is like the operation of the gifts that we read about in the New Testament. I certainly haven’t seen many of the things like I read about in the book of Acts, have you?!

But, you know what that is? It’s an argument from experience, not from Scripture.

And here’s a stack of books that I’ve read to prepare for this message written by men that I highly respect that argue that Scripture teaches that these gifts continue into today. And that their expiration date is when Christ returns.

Let me tell you. I have the heart of a cessationist.

I’m leery of some of these gifts. They seem a little spooky, and when misused, they’ve been used to hurt a number of Christians and churches.

But, having studied this for over a decade, I don’t see in Scripture that they are all over, either.

Instead, I see here that “when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” And v.12

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.”

When is that? That’s got to be when Christ returns.

“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

I think that these gifts will end when Christ returns.

And until then, as the Spirit sovereignly wills, we can expect them to show up in the Church so that we cooperate as the Body of Christ.

[The exception to that, is the gift of Apostle, which Paul seems to indicate clearly that He was the last one (1 Corinthians 15:8). At least, of the “Big A” apostles who had true apostolic authority from Jesus Christ.]

Now, at the end of chapter 12, Paul had said that he wanted the Corinthians to “desire the greater gifts.” “The greater gifts?”

Which ones would that be?

I thought that we aren’t supposed to consider one gift more important than other!

Well, we aren’t. That was actually part of the Corinthians problem.

But some of the gifts are GREATER for when the church gathers than some of the others.


Paul is actually going to put two gifts on the table and compare and contrast them:

Languages/Tongues Versus Prophecy.

Now, the Corinthians loved the gift of tongues. They were so impressed with their own abilities to speak in tongues.

Remember, last week where Paul put tongues on the two lists? Last each time.

And he reminded them that not everybody speaks in tongues.

Those are problems that the “charismatic or Pentecostal” churches have today!

Elevating the gift of tongues and pressuring everybody to speak in tongues.

Well, Paul has a different take on that. He says that prophecy is a greater gift when the church gathers.

Now, let’s define what those gifts are.

Which is, actually easier said than done.

Here’s what I think these gifts are after about 17 years of studying them:

Tongues or Languages is the spiritual gift of praying to and/or praising God in syllables not understood by the speaker.

Now, that could be unlearned human languages like it was at Pentecost. Or it could be something else, including some other supernatural kind of speech, but I doubt that it is just plain gibberish.

Praying to and/or praising God in syllables not understood by the speaker.

What is prophecy?

Well, prophecy is a BIG category in the Bible that relates to God speaking to us in some way, but the kind of prophecy we’re looking at here is not like the Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel that are Scripture-level prophecies, “Thus Sayeth the Lord!”

I think that the kind of prophecy we’re looking at here is a lower-level kind of way of God speaking to us that is through a fallible human report.

At my ordination council, I defined it like this: “Prophecy is a report of what God has spontaneously brought to mind, which could include things that could not have been otherwise known.”

Not at all like Scripture. The equivalent of the Old Testament prophets is the New Testament Apostles. They have all gone. But this kind of prophecy, I think, remains.

And my guess is that we’ve all experienced at some point. Someone has said just the right thing at the just the right time for what we needed and it was from God.

It wasn’t Scripture, it wasn’t binding on all people all the time, maybe some of the little details were wrong, but God was speaking through someone else in a powerful way.

I remember, years ago, the women’s ministry leader at our last church told Heather, “I see you standing up in front of a large group of ladies and teaching the Bible.” And if you’d known Heather at that point, you would have laughed (with her!) out loud!

But if you were at the Ladies’ Spring Banquet a month ago, you’d have seen that prophecy fulfilled.

Prophecy is not just fore-telling. It’s not always aimed at the future. We often talk like that. But prophecy is actually more forth-telling. Often, it’s just the right words of strengthening, encouragement, and comfort at just the right time.

And it’s from the Spirit.

Now, given those definitions–and if you want to talk about different definitions sometime, I’d be glad to! That’s what I’m here for.

But given those definitions, which is greater for the gathered church? Tongues or Prophecy? V.1

“Follow the way of love [agape love] and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” V.2

“For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God [tongues are Godward]. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit [strangely, even he doesn’t understand!]. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. [That’s the effect of congregational prophecy: strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. I want that for us!]”

So, which is better? Talking when no one else gets it except God or something that everyone benefits from? V.4

“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself [which isn’t bad itself], but he who prophesies edifies the church [the whole church].”

Which would be more important when the church gathers? V.5

“I would like every one of you to speak in tongues [not that you will, not everyone does!], but I would rather have you prophesy. [He comes right out and says it:] He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.”


Answer: PROPHECY; BECAUSE IT BUILDS UP THE WHOLE CHURCH. Because all can understand it.

Paul gives some illustrations to drive home his point. Verse 6.

“Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues [unknown languages], what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? [Answer: None.] Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? [If there’s no tune, there’s no music!] Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? [Nobody!]”

“So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts [and they were!], try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”

That, of course, is the application for you and me.

Even if we don’t end up pursuing prophecy, we need to heed Paul’s instruction here and try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

Have you thought this last week about your spiritual gifts and how you’re going to use them in ministry to the Body of Christ?

Last week, I said about 15 times, “We need you. We need you. We need you.”

The body of Christ only grows as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16).

Are you excelling in your gifts to build up the church?

There were some men with some gifts out here yesterday. They worked most of the day putting down those new wood chips out on the playground. Doesn’t it look great?

Lita has a team of people taking their positions to build up the Body of Christ at Family Bible Week. Do you know what you’re going to do?

Are you using your gift to excel in building up the church? We need you to!

Paul isn’t disparaging the gift of tongues. He’s just putting it in rightful place. Uninterpreted tongues aren’t a help to any listeners. So, verse 13.

“For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.”

And this includes Paul.

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. [I guess it’s helpful to tongues-prayer. I’ve never experienced it. Maybe some of you have. But the mind doesn’t know all of what’s been said. V.15] So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. [And in church?] If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? [He can’t!] You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.” And that’s the point.

V.18. Paul drops a bomb: “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. [Have you ever thought about that verse? Paul had the gift of tongues. Did he ever use it? Probably not in church. V.19] But in the church [the church gathered] I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

The more intelligible the words are, the more they strengthen, encourage, and build up the church. The more they do that, the greater the gift they are.

Now, in the next section, Paul considers how evangelistic these two gift are, too. Prophecy is better than tongues for evangelism, as well.

V.20 “Brothers, stop thinking like children. [Ouch.] In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the Law [Isaiah chapter 28] it is written: ‘Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,’ says the Lord. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.”

Paul quotes Isaiah to prove his point.

God told the people through Isaiah that when they heard men of strange tongues speaking, then they knew that God had passed judgment on them. Assyria had come to take them into exile.

So tongues are a negative sign to unbelievers that God’s judgment is here.

If you don’t know what’s going on, you won’t be getting the gospel! V.23

“So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”

Ever been in a meeting like that? I have. Back in high school, I used to date a girl who was a member of the Church of God of Prophecy.

Now, those were some interesting church meetings! All kinds of crazy stuff going on.

And I’m sure that if an unbeliever walked into those meetings, they would think they were crazy and that Christianity is crazy.

And they wouldn’t the gospel. V.24

“But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying [this kind of careful, controlled speech, where we’re hearing from God spontaneously in words that are fallible but are meant to strengthen, encourage, and build-up and maybe something gets said that nobody would otherwise know...], he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’ [That would be a positive sign to believers, wouldn’t it?!]

Properly understood and practiced, prophecy is greater than uninterpreted tongues for evangelism.

Because it goes right along with the gospel.

And that’s what we want people to hear.

Not gibberish. Not lots of noise. Not crazy stuff.

But the good news about Jesus Christ.

That He lived a perfect life.
That He died on the Cross as a perfect sacrifice for my sin.
That He rose from the dead to forgive and give eternal life to all who turn from their sins and trust in Him.

We want a church meeting where that happens!

In fact, it could happen right now.

Maybe you are still an unbeliever, not yet trusting in Jesus Christ as your King and Rescuer, your Lord and Savior.

I pray that God would bare the secrets of your heart.

And that you would fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you, at Lanse Free Church! I believe! I want Jesus!”

That’s my prayer.

That’s what we’re hoping all of our gifts cooperate together to accomplish in many lives–salvation, bringing people into a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

The last question is simply this: HOW SHOULD THESE GIFTS FUNCTION IN OUR MEETINGS?


“What then shall we say, brothers? [How do we apply this?] When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. [Notice that theme again and again and again. Strengthening. Everybody brings something, but its not for ourselves, it’s for the Body.] If anyone speaks in a tongue, two– or at the most three– should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. [Those rules alone would cut out most of the funny business at many over-the-top Pentecostal meetings.] If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. [Notice the self-control here. True tongues are not ecstatic speech. They are controllable.] Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. [This is very different than Old Testament kind of prophecy! Isaiah wouldn’t have been told to sit down!] For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. [Again, this is not an uncontrolled trance that comes over someone. This is just people sharing something that it seems God has laid on their hearts.]

Why these rules? V.33

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

God loves order.

He loves for things to fit together and to run well. He doesn’t take over a meeting and send everybody up in a frenzy.

If God shows up through these kinds of spiritual gifts, they will be very orderly.

He’ll stir things up in our hearts! But it will still be orderly.

That’s not the way that we normally think about the more miraculous gifts, but it’s the testimony of Scripture.

“God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

And one more rule. Women are not to publically weigh the prophecies. V.34

“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

Now, this is part of the larger section. It’s not teaching that women shouldn’t speak in church.

If it did, then we wouldn’t have Lita up here sharing like she did this morning.

Paul had women sharing. Earlier in this letter he says that they are able to pray and to PROPHESY in the gathered church!

The key is that they must be submissive.

I think that the being silent here is a time when the elders need to weigh out a prophecy and test whether or not its content is good (like it said back in verse 29).

And that job rests with the leadership of the church and the mantle of responsibility for leading the church family are the men called the elders.

So, this is another way of saying that men are called to the heavy responsibility of leading the church. And godly ladies will be submissive to that.

The whole church needs to be submissive and orderly.

The Corinthians weren’t. That’s why they were getting this rebuke. V.36

“Did the word of God originate with you? [No.] Or are you the only people it has reached? [No.] If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. [Submission is required.] If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. [That’s a scarey thought!]”

So Paul concludes: “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

Now, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Paul draws it all together.

These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit so that we cooperate as the Body of Christ and reach people for Christ and build people up in Christ.

These gifts are here until Christ returns.

Tongues, apparently, are here. I’ve not experienced them. And I’ve never yet seen them operate under Paul’s rules. But, if they show up and are willing to be submissive to Paul’s rules, then we won’t forbid them.

If you speak in tongues in your personal prayer times, then you’re in good company. Paul did, more than anyone at Corinth!

We called to be eager to prophesy. If you think that’s for today, as I have grown into thinking, then we need to obey it.

I’ve begun to pray, like Baptist Pastor John Piper prays that I would be given some word of prophesy when I get up to preach that would strengthen, encourage, and build up the Body of Christ. Maybe I’ll say something I hadn’t intended to and it will be used in someone’s life. I hope so.

If you think you’ve got something to share from God, let me know, and if there’s a question about it, our elders will weigh it out. Our elders take church leadership very seriously.

We are not a charismatic church. We are not a Pentecostal church.

We are EVANGELical church. We are all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And the Holy Spirit gives us gifts to cooperate as the Body of Christ to shine a spotlight on the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Orderly. Submissively. Seeking to excel in building up the body.

So that Jesus gets all of the glory.