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1 Corinthians 15:1-3 The Gospel of the Cross

03/22 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 The Gospel of the Cross; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150322_1cor15_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

1 Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, 2 δι’ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. 3 Παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 4 καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη, καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 5 καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ, εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα· 6 ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν· 7 ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ, εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν· 8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

We are in the final major section of 1 Corinthians. Chapter 15 deals with probably the most crucial theological issue the church in Corinth faced. And thank God, because we have in this chapter a treasury of teaching on the resurrection. What he teaches here, as he says in verse 3, is of first importance. Paul has truly saved the best ’till last. This is essential. This is of first importance.

Making the Gospel Known

Paul is going to make something known to them. We have it translated ‘I would remind you’, because we find in the rest of verse 1 that they had already heard it, they received it, and they were standing in it. So it is a reminder, but literally Paul says ‘now I make known to you, brothers’, as if they didn’t really know it, hadn’t ever heard it, didn’t really understand it. In the first chapters of this letter, we see that the Corinthians prided themselves on what they knew. They were proud of their wisdom. Paul has asked them 10 times in the course of this letter ‘do you not know?’ a question that assumes that there are basic fundamental things that they ought to know, that by their actions they are demonstrating that they are acting out of sync with, demonstrating that they do not know them. Here he is going to make something known to them that they ought to know. He is going to tell them something that he assumes that they do know, at least on a level. But sometimes when we think we know something, we do not yet know as we ought to know. So to those of us who think we know this already, I would invite us to listen afresh to what Paul wants to make known to us. Maybe we do not yet know as we ought to know. He is going to make known the gospel.

He asked toward the end of the previous chapter

1 Corinthians 14:36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?

They were acting as if the word of God, the gospel came from them and was for only them, as if they were entitled to re-define the gospel any way they like. But the gospel did not originate with them. The gospel does not terminate on them. The gospel is not all about you. The gospel is so much bigger than you. Everything he has said on every issue he has addressed is rooted in and grows out of a proper understanding of the gospel. The gospel literally changes everything. So Paul, here at the close of this letter, is going to preach the gospel to the church. He is going to make known to the believers the good news.

He prefaces his proclamation of the gospel message with their history with the gospel.

Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

The gospel (or evangel) is good news. It is a good message. A joyous proclamation. A positive pronouncement. This gospel is the good news that he preached to the Corinthians. We have record of this in Acts chapter 18. He is making know to them the evangel with which he evangelized them. (We will look at the content of this evangel or gospel in a few minutes). This gospel message they received. They not only heard the message, they identified with it, they took it in. They received it to themselves.

But this is not a message that once heard, can be merely tucked away in the memory banks like a good joke. ‘Have you heard the one about Sven and Ollie and the outhouse? No, I don’t think I have, tell it to me. Well it goes like this… Oh yes, I have heard that one. How does the punch line go again?’ The gospel is not like that. The gospel is a message to be received, and it is a message to stand on like a building stands on its foundation. This is a message that is foundational, that I build my life on, that defines everything I am and do. Everything I think and feel and do is shaped by this message. The fact that I am standing and have not fallen is due entirely to this message.

This is a message they were being saved by. The word ‘saved’ means to be rescued, to be delivered, to be healed, to be made whole. This message is in the process of fixing what is broke in me. Are you being saved by the gospel? Today? Is it penetrating your deepest hurts, fixing what is wrong with you? Healing what is broke in you? The gospel is a message that transforms. How is the gospel saving you today?

Warning

There is an ‘if’. And the ‘if’ is there as a warning to us. There is an ‘if’ and an ‘unless’. You received the gospel, are standing in the gospel, being transformed by the gospel, if you hold fast to the word. Not being transformed, not standing fast in the gospel, is evidence of believing in vain, a worthless, empty kind of believing that gains nothing. Jesus warned repeatedly of this danger in his parables. He told of different soils that the word of God penetrated. Along the path the gospel did not penetrate at all, and the evil one snatched it away. On rocky ground it seemed to spring up quickly, but when persecution came that one quickly fell away. Among the thorns it seemed to take root, but was choked out by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches. Good soil hears and understands, endures affliction, is not choked out by other desires, and bears much fruit (Matthew 13). Jesus warned that immediately after sowing good seed in the field, an enemy sowed weeds in the field, and they will grow up together. In the end by their fruits they shall be known. There is a real possibility that among those who claim to believe the gospel, among those who claim to follow Jesus, there are some, maybe many, who are trusting in a false gospel, who are not holding fast to the true gospel, who are standing in and being transformed by the gospel, and it will be empty and worthless. It will get them nothing. In Jesus’ parables:

Matthew 13:49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But Paul believes better about his readers. He calls them brothers. And he is eager to make sure by preaching the gospel to them again.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

This is the gospel message. It consists of two main points. Christ died and he was raised from the dead. And the two sub-points confirm the two main points. He was buried -demonstrating that he was really and truly dead; and he appeared – demonstrating that he was really and truly raised from the dead. We will focus on the first point this morning.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

Notice, the ‘that’ness of the gospel. It is a message entrusted to be passed on, and it is a message of facts. That Christ died, that he was buried, that he was raised, that he appeared. The gospel is an historical factual message rooted in real events that really happened.

This, remember, is a message of first importance. This is the number one thing. The way Paul says this ‘I delivered to you what I also received’ is a formal way of saying that he had been entrusted with a message that he was responsible to pass on faithfully. He used this same wording back in chapter 11 referring to the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

This, by the way, is the theological reason we choose to remember the Lord’s supper every week. The gospel, the message of the Lord’s death and resurrection, is a message we must cling to, stand in, and be transformed by. It is a message we must always keep in focus and never lose sight of. Communion is the way Jesus commands us to ‘proclaim’ to ourselves, to each other, and to the world ‘the Lord’s death until he comes’. Like the Lord’s supper, the gospel is something with which the apostle was entrusted and he faithfully entrusts it to us.

What is the message of the good news that we are to stand in?

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried,

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. That is the essence of the gospel. This contains the identity of Jesus. He was the Christ, the Messiah, the promised, anointed one, the divine King who would sit forever on David’s throne. It contains the historical fact. Christ died. He was crucified by the Romans outside of Jerusalem. It contains the theological reason ‘for our sins’. And it contains the fulfillment of scriptural anticipation. It was ‘according to the Scriptures’.

If we look back at the beginning of this letter, Paul began by emphasizing the gospel message. He says in

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The gospel message is the word of the cross, the cross of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The gospel Paul preached is Christ the power and wisdom of God; Christ crucified. He says in chapter 2

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

The gospel, the cross of Christ, the word of the cross, Christ crucified, Jesus Christ and him crucified. Here at the end of the letter, Paul says it is of first importance that Christ died for our sins. Like bookends, he begins and ends with the message of the cross. Christ died for our sins. The reason the divine Messiah King who will rule and reign forever, whose kingdom will never end, the reason he died, was ‘for our sins’. He did not die for his own sins; he was perfect. He did not die because things didn’t go his way; he was in absolute control. His death was no accident, it was for something. He died on my behalf. He died as a substitute. He died to satisfy the demands of sovereign justice against all my offenses. Christ died for our sins. I am standing in the gospel and being saved by the gospel because the cross of Christ continues to point out my issues and my brokenness and my self-centeredness and my need.

In Accordance With The Scriptures

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

What Scriptures? All of them! Jesus said:

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,

Jesus said in:

Matthew 26:24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Matthew 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” …56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

Before going up to Jerusalem,

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

After his resurrection, Jesus met two of his disciples on the road:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Then to all his disciples:

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

We could go back to the writings of Moses where God promises at the very beginning after man disobeyed that the seed of the woman would be crushed by the serpent, but would ultimately crush the serpent’s head. We see Abraham sacrifice his only son, the one all the promises are to come through. We see the deliverance of God’s people from slavery by the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. We see all the sacrifices and the high priest entering the holy place with blood to satisfy God’s wrath. We feel the need for the perfect prophet, priest and king. We cry out with Job for a mediator and with Ruth for a kinsman redeemer. We see disobedient Israel who will go into exile, but one day will be restored as an obedient son.

We could point to specific passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 50-53 which graphically portray the crucifixion hundreds of years prior to the event:

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

…6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

…14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Isaiah 52:14 As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus is the one who bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, who was smitten by God, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastised to bring us peace, wounded to bring us healing; the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all, he was cut off and stricken for the transgression of my people, crushed by the Lord to make an offering for guilt, his anguish satisfies God’s wrath, he bears our iniquities and we are counted righteous in him, he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for me.

The good news is the word of the cross, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified, ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures’. We must hear and believe this and receive this as good news, cling to it alone as our only hope, stand firm in it, hold fast to it, be transformed by it, allow it to define us, to expose our brokenness and need, to bring healing and rescue and wholeness.

Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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March 22, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 14:26-40; The God of Peace and Order

03/15 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 The God of Peace and Order; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150315_1cor14_26-40.mp3

1 Corinthians 14 [SBLGNT]

26 Τί οὖν ἐστιν, ἀδελφοί; ὅταν συνέρχησθε, ἕκαστος ψαλμὸν ἔχει, διδαχὴν ἔχει, ἀποκάλυψιν ἔχει, γλῶσσαν ἔχει, ἑρμηνείαν ἔχει· πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω. 27 εἴτε γλώσσῃ τις λαλεῖ, κατὰ δύο ἢ τὸ πλεῖστον τρεῖς, καὶ ἀνὰ μέρος, καὶ εἷς διερμηνευέτω· 28 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ διερμηνευτής, σιγάτω ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἑαυτῷ δὲ λαλείτω καὶ τῷ θεῷ. 29 προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν, καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν· 30 ἐὰν δὲ ἄλλῳ ἀποκαλυφθῇ καθημένῳ, ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω. 31 δύνασθε γὰρ καθ’ ἕνα πάντες προφητεύειν, ἵνα πάντες μανθάνωσιν καὶ πάντες παρακαλῶνται 32 ( καὶ πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται, 33 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεὸς ἀλλὰ εἰρήνης ), ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων. 34 Αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν, οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν· ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν, καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει. 35 εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν, ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν, αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. 36 ἢ ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν, ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν; 37 Εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι ἢ πνευματικός, ἐπιγινωσκέτω ἃ γράφω ὑμῖν ὅτι κυρίου ἐστὶν· 38 εἰ δέ τις ἀγνοεῖ, ἀγνοεῖται. 39 ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, ζηλοῦτε τὸ προφητεύειν, καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν μὴ κωλύετε γλώσσαις· 40 πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω.

1 Corinthians 14 [ESV2011]

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Definition of Tongues and Prophecy

So far, in this chapter, Paul has argued for the advantages of prophecy over tongues. We have taken our definition of tongues and prophecy from the beginning of this chapter. Tongues, Paul says in verse 2, is speaking mysteries in the Spirit, and no one but God understands. In verses 14-16, we see that tongues can take the form of praying, singing praise, or giving thanks. Prophecy, on the other hand, as defined in verse 3, is speaking intelligibly to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

Overview

Paul has argued that the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues because prophecy builds up the church while tongues builds only the self. He has asked the question “how will I benefit you” and said that there is much greater benefit to others in bringing revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching than in speaking in unknown languages. He illustrated the unintelligibility of tongues and demonstrated its failure to communicate but rather to produce irritation and alienation inside the family of faith. He points to the advantage of engaging one’s own mind in worship of God, and says “I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than a myriad of words in a tongue”. He indicates that eagerness to speak in uninterpreted tongues as a sign of immaturity. Then he points to foreign tongues in the Old Testament as a sign of God’s judgment and rejection of his unbelieving people. He highlights the evangelistic advantages of prophecy over tongues toward visitors and unbelievers in the worship gathering of the church.

Now in the last section of this chapter, he reiterates the underlying principles he has taught and lays down some very specific clear practical apostolic instruction for the church.

Silence and Speaking

What is verbalized in the context of the church gathering is the focus of this chapter. The verb ‘to speak’ [λαλέω] occurs 24 times in this chapter alone. Paul has argued for the advantages of speaking prophecy over speaking in unknown tongues. But this passage is punctuated by silence. There are times when the best thing to build up the body is to refrain from speaking. There are three categories of people discussed in these verses, and each of them are told to be silent at different times for the common good. In verse 28, the tongues speakers are told to be silent. In verse 30 the prophets are told when to be silent. In verse 34 the women or wives are told to be silent.

Coming Together as the Church

What Paul says here is in the context of the gathering of the local church. See it in verse 26? ‘When you come together’. It is good to remind ourselves that the church is not a location that we attend but a people who gathers. Even the word translated ‘church’ [ἐκκλησία] means a called out people, those who have been called out to assemble. This word ‘come together’ [συνέρχομαι] is used here twice and five times in chapter 11 addressing issues when the church gathers to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Building Up

The goal for coming together is to build one another up. Paul said in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

In chapter 8 he said:

1 Corinthians 8:1 …This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

And in chapter 10,

1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Here in chapter 14, he says:

1 Corinthians 14:3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 …unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

12 …strive to excel in building up the church.

17 …but the other person is not being built up.

Here he reminds them of the underlying motivation for gathering:

1 Corinthians 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Each one bringing his gifts to the gathering could be a good or a bad thing. If as a gifted musician I bring a hymn or song I have prepared, and my desire is that everyone is amazed at how talented I am, then my goal is to puff myself up in the eyes of the church. Instead I should come with my song in order to encourage and comfort and strengthen others, to serve them, to deepen their affections for Christ. If as a gifted teacher I bring a teaching I have prepared, and my desire is to impress everyone with my superior insight and eloquence and wisdom and wit, then my goal is to puff myself up in the eyes of the congregation. Instead I ought to bring my teaching with a humble desire to encourage and comfort and strengthen others, to build them up in the most holy faith. Everything that we do is to be done with the clear intent to build others up. Paul is crystal clear; ‘let all things be done for building up.’

Restrictions for Tongues

Paul now gives very specific rules for the vocalization of tongues in the gathering of the local church.

1 Corinthians 14:27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

He starts this requirement out with ‘if’; ‘if any speak in a tongue’. This may not happen at all. But if it does, there are to be only two, or at the most three. There is never to be someone talking when someone else is talking. Each in turn. Love is not rude, and to talk when someone else is talking is rude. Tongues are never to be uttered without interpretation or explanation. Uninterpreted tongues do not build others up, rather they build walls of alienation. We are not told how the tongues speaker is to know that there will be someone to explain (unless he himself is able to put it into intelligible speech), but before speaking, the tongues speaker is to be certain that his speech will be explained so that others can be built up. Otherwise he is to keep silent in the gathering. The tongues speaker is not at the mercy of his gift. This is not uncontrollable spiritual urges. Paul assumes the speaker has the ability and the good judgment to refrain from speaking if the specific conditions are not met. The tongues speaker can speak to himself and to God. He does not have to have the floor and be heard. He can refrain from exercising his gift for the common good.

Restrictions for Prophecy

Next, Paul gives specific restrictions for prophecy in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,

Paul limits prophecy to two or three as well, but he leaves out the ‘if’ and ‘at most’. Where tongues require interpretation, prophecy requires discernment. The others are to weigh what is said. This applies even to the teaching of the Apostle himself. In Acts 17 the Bereans are commended as

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

They were listening to Paul’s teaching with eagerness, but they were checking what he said with their Scriptures to be sure it was true. Paul invites the Corinthians to do the same.

1 Corinthians 10:15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. (cf. 11:13)

The Thessalonians are told:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Prophecies are to be weighed. If something is revealed to another who is not speaking, the first is to be silent and give room for another to speak. While one with tongues are to keep silent unless they know the tongue will be interpreted, prophecy is to be spoken unless another has something to say. No one is to monopolize the time or refuse to allow what they have said to be tested. Like tongues, prophecies are to be given one at a time, so no one is speaking over anyone else. This would assume that the one seated would also wait for the first to conclude before interjecting. The goal of edification is again kept in view; so that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

This is possible because of the nature of Christian prophecy. The spirits of prophets are in submission to the prophets. Prophecy, like tongues, is controllable. This is not some ecstatic trance like state where the speaker is overcome by a power that compels him to speak. This may happen in some pagan religions, but that has nothing to do with Christian prophecy or tongues. The speaker is in complete control and able to use wisdom in how and when to speak, and is fully capable of refraining from speaking altogether. There is appropriate obedience and submission of the human spirit to the mind.

This is rooted in the nature of God. We worship the way we worship because God is the way God is. What we do, how we conduct ourselves, should be a reflection of the character of God. God is not a God of chaos, confusion, instability, disorder. Our God is a God who speaks order into the chaos and makes distinctions. God separates light from darkness, separates water from sky and land, separates day from night, distinguishes that everything bears fruit according to its own kind. God is a God of peace, harmony, concord. This is the case in all the churches of the saints.

Restrictions for Wives

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

This is a challenging subject, and it probably deserves its own sermon. But I believe it will help us understand it if we keep it in its proper context. Women or wives are not singled out; everyone is to keep silent in the assembly at the appropriate times. Tongues speakers and prophets are to keep silent when it serves to keep proper order and promote building others up. The spirits of the prophets are to be in submission to the prophets. That is the same word here used for the submission of the woman.

To make sure we get the whole picture, we need to recall what Paul said back in chapter 11 concerning the issue of women covering or uncovering their heads in the church meeting.

1 Corinthians 11:5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.

…13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?

In chapter 11, Paul has a wife praying or prophesying in the church meeting. He is merely concerned that she do it in a way that will not bring shame to God or to her husband. The issue is what is proper and what is shameful, what brings honor and what brings dishonor.

It is unlikely that Paul pictures a wife praying or prophesying in the congregation with her head covered in chapter 11, then in chapter 14 makes a blanket statement mandating that all women keep silent whenever the church is gathered. The main issue is the issue of submission, being under proper authority, which is taught throughout the New Testament in reference to the creation order. Paul affirms this in 1 Timothy, where he says:

1 Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

The Law doesn’t say that women must be silent in the assembly; the law teaches that they are to be in proper submission; just like everyone else. Children are to be in submission to their parents, employees are to be in submission to their employers, men are to be in submission to God, Christ is in perfect submission to the Father, and wives are to be in submission to their own husbands. Our tongues are to be in submission to our minds and good judgment. The reason given for the silence of women or wives is that it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly. Ciampa and Rosner cite some ancient sources that shed light on the culture of the day.

Writing in the first century, “Plutarch tells us of a woman who accidentally exposed her arm when putting on her cloak: “Somebody exclaimed, ‘A lovely arm.’ ‘But not for the public,’ said she. Not only the arm of the virtuous woman, but her speech as well, ought to be not for the public, and she ought to be modest and guarded about saying anything in the hearing of outsiders, since it is an exposure of herself; for in her talk can be seen her feelings, character, and disposition.… For a woman ought to do her talking either to her husband or through her husband…” [Plutarch, Advice to Bride and Groom, 142 C-D, cited in PNTC, p726]

They also cite the words of Cato (c.195 BC) recorded in Livy’s History of Rome: “Indeed, I blushed when, a short while ago, I walked through the midst of a band of women. Had not respect for the dignity and modesty of certain ones (not them all!) restrained me (so they would not be seen being scolded by a consul), I should have said, ‘What kind of behaviour is this? Running around in public, blocking streets, and speaking to other women’s husbands! Could you not have asked your own husbands the same thing at home? Are you more charming in public with others’ husbands than at home with your own?” [Livy, History of Rome, 34.1, cited in PNTC p.726]

Against this cultural backdrop, Paul’s words make perfect sense.

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

It would be considered indecent and disgraceful, and bring reproach on the name of Christ, for a woman in that culture to ask questions of another man in public. While not prohibiting them from praying or prophesying in a way that is culturally appropriate, Paul requires women to show appropriate honor and submission to their husbands, and to God.

Concluding Rebuke

Paul concludes with a rebuke to any who may feel they are exempt from correction or that Paul is out of touch with what he says.

1 Corinthians 14:36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Did God’s word come from you or go only to you? Do you have the arrogance to claim that you are the beginning and then end? Or are you a small part of a bigger story, a small dot on the time-line of God’s history, having inherited a rich heritage from others, with the mission to pass on what you have received to others? The Corinthians were proud, puffed up, and they thought they were spiritual. Paul challenges their claims. If you think you have a prophetic gift or spiritual insight, you ought to at least be able to recognize that the apostolic writings are a command of the Lord. Paul speaks for Jesus, Jesus is speaking through Paul. What Paul writes is not helpful suggestions. It carries the weight of the authority of the Lord Jesus himself. So to disregard this is to be disregarded. To not know this is to give evidence that you are not known by the Lord; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. This is serious. But Paul believes better about them. He calls them brothers. And he gives one final exhortation on the subject of worship; earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. This is the third time Paul has exhorted them to earnestly desire the best gifts, the most useful to others gifts – especially to prophesy. But to keep them from overreacting to his teaching on the issue, he makes it clear that tongues are to be carefully regulated, but not entirely forbidden. ‘Do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ All things in the worship of the church must be done decently, with propriety, with good form, and in order, with proper arrangement and sequence, so that we reflect in all things the character of our great God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 15, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 14:1-19; How Will I Benefit You?

03/01 1 Corinthians 13:1-19 How Will I Benefit You?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150301_1cor14_1-19.mp3

1 Corinthians 14 [SBLGNT]

1 Διώκετε τὴν ἀγάπην, ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ πνευματικά, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε. 2 ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ ἀλλὰ θεῷ, οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀκούει, πνεύματι δὲ λαλεῖ μυστήρια· 3 ὁ δὲ προφητεύων ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ οἰκοδομὴν καὶ παράκλησιν καὶ παραμυθίαν. 4 ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ ἑαυτὸν οἰκοδομεῖ· ὁ δὲ προφητεύων ἐκκλησίαν οἰκοδομεῖ. 5 θέλω δὲ πάντας ὑμᾶς λαλεῖν γλώσσαις, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε· μείζων δὲ ὁ προφητεύων ἢ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσαις, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ διερμηνεύῃ, ἵνα ἡ ἐκκλησία οἰκοδομὴν λάβῃ. 6 Νῦν δέ, ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς γλώσσαις λαλῶν, τί ὑμᾶς ὠφελήσω, ἐὰν μὴ ὑμῖν λαλήσω ἢ ἐν ἀποκαλύψει ἢ ἐν γνώσει ἢ ἐν προφητείᾳ ἢ ἐν διδαχῇ; 7 ὅμως τὰ ἄψυχα φωνὴν διδόντα, εἴτε αὐλὸς εἴτε κιθάρα, ἐὰν διαστολὴν τοῖς φθόγγοις μὴ δῷ, πῶς γνωσθήσεται τὸ αὐλούμενον ἢ τὸ κιθαριζόμενον; 8 καὶ γὰρ ἐὰν ἄδηλον φωνὴν σάλπιγξ δῷ, τίς παρασκευάσεται εἰς πόλεμον; 9 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς διὰ τῆς γλώσσης ἐὰν μὴ εὔσημον λόγον δῶτε, πῶς γνωσθήσεται τὸ λαλούμενον; ἔσεσθε γὰρ εἰς ἀέρα λαλοῦντες. 10 τοσαῦτα εἰ τύχοι γένη φωνῶν εἰσιν ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ οὐδὲν ἄφωνον· 11 ἐὰν οὖν μὴ εἰδῶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς φωνῆς, ἔσομαι τῷ λαλοῦντι βάρβαρος καὶ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν ἐμοὶ βάρβαρος. 12 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς, ἐπεὶ ζηλωταί ἐστε πνευμάτων, πρὸς τὴν οἰκοδομὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας ζητεῖτε ἵνα περισσεύητε. 13 Διὸ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ προσευχέσθω ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ. 14 ἐὰν γὰρ προσεύχωμαι γλώσσῃ, τὸ πνεῦμά μου προσεύχεται, ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου ἄκαρπός ἐστιν. 15 τί οὖν ἐστιν; προσεύξομαι τῷ πνεύματι, προσεύξομαι δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ· ψαλῶ τῷ πνεύματι, ψαλῶ δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ· 16 ἐπεὶ ἐὰν εὐλογῇς πνεύματι, ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου πῶς ἐρεῖ τὸ Ἀμήν ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ εὐχαριστίᾳ; ἐπειδὴ τί λέγεις οὐκ οἶδεν· 17 σὺ μὲν γὰρ καλῶς εὐχαριστεῖς, ἀλλ’ ὁ ἕτερος οὐκ οἰκοδομεῖται. 18 εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ, πάντων ὑμῶν μᾶλλον γλώσσαις λαλῶ· 19 ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ θέλω πέντε λόγους τῷ νοΐ μου λαλῆσαι, ἵνα καὶ ἄλλους κατηχήσω, ἢ μυρίους λόγους ἐν γλώσσῃ.

Pursue Love

Chapters 8-14 of 1 Corinthians deal with worship issues. What does it mean to worship the one true God? What does undivided devotion to the one true God look like in a culture permeated by idolatry? What is appropriate attire for the worship of the church? What should the regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper look like? What about spiritual gifts?

Chapters 12-14 deal with the issue of spiritual gifts. It seems there were questions in Corinth about who was more spiritual than whom and what gifts were necessary evidence of the Spirit in the believer. Chapter 12 lays out the broad teaching on the gifts. Paul starts the discussion by pointing to the fact that every genuine believer in Jesus has the Holy Spirit, and is therefore ‘spiritual’. Then he points to the diversity of the gifts all given by one triune God. He highlights the fact that the gifts are given “for the common good” (12:7). He uses the metaphor of the body, one organic whole made up of very unique and diverse parts or members, all interdependent and necessary. He reminds us of the fact that God sovereignly apportioned the gifts as he willed, and some of the gifts are greater in importance than others. He makes it clear that no one possesses all the gifts, then he tells us at the end of chapter 12:

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

We are commanded to be zealous for higher gifts. But the superabundant way is love. Without love the gifts are empty, worthless, even irritating. Even the most self-sacrificial act accomplishes nothing when disconnected from the God who is love. The gifts are temporary, given for the good of the church in this age, but love will never end. Love is the more excellent way.

Now, in chapter 14, Paul comes back to a specific discussion of two particular gifts of the Spirit, and gives some clear practical instruction for life in the church body. He says:

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

He tells us to go after love. Love is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who perfectly demonstrated love to us. This is a command. We are ‘to press on, to run after swiftly in order to reach the goal’, we are’to seek after eagerly, to earnestly endeavor to acquire’ (Thayer) love. Love is to be our aim in everything. Love is to permeate everything. Yet this does not mean that we turn away from or neglect the gifts of the Spirit. Instead we are to be zealous for the spiritual gifts so that we can use them in love for the common good. This command is picked up and repeated from the end of chapter 12; earnestly desire spiritual gifts. God’s gifts are good, and are to be desired, to be sought after by God’s people.

Prophecy over Tongues

Paul holds up prophecy over tongues as the gift we are to pursue. I want to invite us to set aside any preconceived ideas of what prophecy and tongues mean, and allow the passage itself to define for us what these two gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the believers for the common good are.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Paul is contrasting these two gifts of communication. The one who speaks in a tongue, Paul says, speaks not to men but to God. He utters mysteries in the Spirit. No one understands him. This appears to be very different from what happened in Acts 2, where the Spirit worked,

Acts 2:6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.

Acts 2:11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

Here in 1 Corinthians, no one understands, but he speaks to God. He utters mysteries in the Spirit. This is contrasted to prophecy, which is directed toward people. It is understood, and the goal is ‘for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation’. Wipe away any preconceived notion of what the gift of prophecy is and put this in its place. The gift of prophecy is speaking to people in order to build them up. Paul said back in chapter 8;

1 Corinthians 8:1…This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

In chapter 3, he talked about laying a foundation as a skilled master builder. This is an architectural metaphor that paints a picture of construction, providing structure, strength, stability. This is manual labor that requires effort, skill, and patience. We are not in the business of building up buildings, we are called to build up people, to invest in them to provide structure, strength, stability. Prophecy also provides encouragement. This word means to call alongside, and it speaks of giving counsel, encouragement, caution. Prophecy provides consolation. This word is almost synonymous with the previous and means to comfort or console someone who is fainthearted or grieving. Prophecy is speaking to others in order to build them up, to encourage, to console.

Edification

The contrast with tongues in verse 4 is that the one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up, where the one who prophesies builds up the church. It is not wrong to build oneself up. We should be building ourselves up. Jude commands:

Jude 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

It is right and proper and good to seek to build yourself up. But that is not why we gather as the church. We gather to build up one another. I don’t come to church primarily for what I can get out of it, but how I can serve others. Love does not seek its own.

Paul has nothing bad to say about tongues. In fact, he says in verse 5 “I want you all to speak in tongues”. Speaking in tongues is a good gift of the Holy Spirit. He has already said, at the end of chapter 12, that not all speak in tongues. But, if it were possible, he wishes that all could speak in tongues and enjoy the benefit of uttering mysteries in the Spirit to God. He desires that we all speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He says that the one who speaks prophecy for building up and encouragement and consolation is greater than he who speaks in a tongue, unless it be interpreted, so that the church receive upbuilding. The goal of assembling together is to build up the church.

How Will I Benefit You?

Paul uses himself as an example in verse 6. He conjectures; what if I come to visit you and do nothing but speak in tongues? It seems that some of the Corinthians may have been asking for that very thing. They may have wondered if he was as spiritual as they were, because they had likely never heard him speaking in tongues. He might be able to impress some with his advanced spirituality and elevate his status in their eyes, but that is not his goal. Listen to the question he asks. Underline it. Circle it. Write it on the inside cover of your bible. Make this your question whenever you interact with another person. Paul asks: “How will I benefit you?” It might do me good to speak in tongues, and it might lift me up in your eyes, but what profit will it have for you? Paul’s goal is to be useful to them. Imagine what the church would be like if every one of us had this as our driving passion whenever we gathered: “how will I benefit you?”

1 Corinthians 14:6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?

Intelligibility

All of these are speaking gifts. The difference between tongues and revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching is that they are intelligible while tongues are unintelligible. If he spoke in tongues, no one would understand him. He wants to benefit them, and he can only be of benefit to them if they can understand him. He advances some illustrations to demonstrate his point.

1 Corinthians 14:7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?

Musical instruments, wind instruments, stringed instruments, can communicate in profound ways if they are played skillfully. When someone plunks out the melody of a familiar hymn, it can awaken something in your soul and you might go about the rest of your day singing that tune. But if the notes are not clear it is just meaningless noise. This sound like what Paul said about tongues in chapter 13:

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

The bugle was a military tool used to communicate to the troops in battle. The Qumran War Scroll lists distinct signals for muster, alarm, ambush, pursuit, reassembly, enlistment, encampment, battle formation, funeral, retreat, and homecoming (PNTC p.681). If the bugle sound is not recognizable, the troops will not know how to respond and it will cause confusion.

1 Corinthians 14:9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.

Paul applies these illustrations to tongues speaking. Tongues speaking is unintelligible. It fails to communicate. No one understands. It may be that God hears, but the others in the group are left wondering. You are speaking into the air. The Corinthians seemed to prize their sensational ability to speak in tongues. Paul re-frames their thinking about this, comparing it to an inexperienced bugler or musician who is just making obnoxious confusing noise.

1 Corinthians 14:10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.

Paul moves his argument ahead pointing to the variety of languages in the world. He is not saying that the one who speaks in tongues is not saying anything of value, but if he is saying it in a language that is not understood by his hearers, then communication is not happening. He uses the word ‘foreigner’ or ‘barbarian’ a name that comes from the unintelligibility of the speaker – all I hear is ‘bar-bar-bar’ or we might say ‘blah-blah-blah’. God confused the languages at babel to divide the people who were united against him. Here in the church, where different tribes and tongues should be coming together to worship the King, people are abusing their gift of tongues in a way that alienates others. Have you ever been in a foreign culture where everyone around you is speaking in a language you don’t understand? Does that make you feel welcome? At home? Why would those who have been united as brothers and sisters in Christ engage in a practice that makes each other feel like foreigners?

Love Seeks To Build Up

Paul now gives instructions to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 14:12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.

To be zealous for spiritual gifts is a good thing. He has commanded this in 12:31 and 14:1. Paul is simply trying to channel their zeal in a more healthy direction. Seek those things that build up the church. Seek those things that will benefit others. If you speak in a tongue, ask God to give you the ability to interpret that tongue into intelligible language so that you can use your gift to build up others. Spiritual gifts without love are noisy irritating things. Love seeks not its own. Love seeks the good of the other.

Paul again uses himself as an example.

1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.

Paul started this section saying that the one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God. Speaking to God can take the form of prayer, songs of praise, giving thanks. Someone who speaks in an unknown tongue is praying or singing or giving thanks with his spirit, but his mind does not understand what he is saying. Paul is eager to engage not only his spirit, but his mind also. Worship is to be both passionate and intelligent. Neither cold intellectualism nor contentless emotion is pleasing to God. We are to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind. We are to think profoundly and feel deeply about Jesus. Notice Paul is not only thinking of himself. He is aware of the outsider. He is thinking of the seeker, the visitor. Sometimes our goal is to be lost in the experience of worship. But if we are so wrapped up in the experience that we become oblivious to the outsider and disregard his or her needs, then we are not acting in love. We can find application for this well beyond the issue of tongues. The apostle will have more to say about this in the coming verses.

1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Paul claims to be a tongues speaker extraordinaire. The Corinthians were fascinated with their ability to speak in unknown tongues, and it characterized their worship gatherings. But Paul claims to exceed them all. He is not speaking to them about something he does not understand. He has the gift, he wishes they all had it, and he thanks God for it. But just because he has the gift does not mean he will insist on finding an opportunity to exercise it publicly. It seems that this was a gift Paul restrained and used only privately. In the presence of others, he would rather speak five intelligible words so that they can be instructed than countless words in an unknown language. Paul’s goal was not to find expression for his gift, but to ask “how will I benefit you?” Paul was “not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved” (10:33)

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 1, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment