GIFTS THAT EDIFY THE CHURCH (SUCH AS PROPHESY) MUST TAKE PRIORITY OVER THE GIFT OF TONGUES
We must first understand that in today’s context the spiritual gifts most related to edification would be teaching and preaching the Word of God and exhorting believers to obey. New prophecies are not being delivered today. We have the completed canon of Scripture. We need gifted men to study and explain the text and its application to our culture today. That is not the gift of prophecying. But that is how edification takes place today in the church. That is why churches must give the highest priority to the exposition of Scripture. It is not enough to just treat things in a topical manner. You must have a systematic diet of going through the Scriptures book by book, paragraph by paragraph, verse by verse.
I. (:1-5) EDIFICATION MUST BE THE PRIMARY GOAL IN CHURCH SERVICES
A. (:1) Exercising Spiritual Gifts is Consistent with Pursuing Love when the Emphasis remains on Edification
“Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”
Many people today would downplay the goal of edification; their concept of love is not a biblical one; they are much more interested in the emotional experience associated with worship. Paul is not setting spiritual gifts in opposition to love. We have already seen that any spiritual ministry must be conducted in the environment and within the boundaries of love. The error of the Corinthian church was that they had placed too much priority on the gift of tongues rather than on those gifts that had more functionality related to edification. Paul is not depracating the importance of all of the spiritual gifts – including the proper use of the genuine gift of tongues. His point in this passage is that edification must be the primary goal in church services.
Goins: This first verse says that spiritual gifts are given as a channel for love. The basic reason that we’re to express our spiritual gifts, to minister and serve, is for the benefit of other people. In this discussion of gifts, especially tongues and prophesying, love ought to be the controlling factor in our consideration.
1. Pursuing Love Remains the Highest Priority
2. Exercising Spiritual Gifts Must Harmonize with Pursuing Love
3. The Emphasis Must be on Those Gifts that Contribute the Most to Edification
B. (:2-5) Since the Measurement is Edification, Prophecying Excels Tongues
1. (:2-4) Two Contrasts Between Speaking in Tongues and Prophecying
a. First Contrast = Whom are You Addressing
1) Tongues – speaking not to men but to God
a)) Men do not understand the content = “in his spirit he speaks mysteries”
b)) Only God understands the content
2) Prophecying – speaking to men – they understand the content
b. Second Contrast = What are You Accomplishing
1) Tongues – Edifies Self – not the purpose of spiritual gifts
2) Prophecying – Edifies the Church – Has Value for:
Goins: Paul says in 14:3 that there will be three obvious effects or results when prophecy is exercised in the church. The first is edification. That’s a great word from the building trade. It means building or construction. A prophet is a home-builder. The word can be used either for laying a foundation, which speaks of stability, or retrofitting or repairing a building that already exists, strengthening it and shoring it up. So applying this word to our lives, it means that when prophecy is exercised, we will be spiritually strengthened and stabilized in our emotions and our understanding.
The second effect of prophesying is exhortation. That means to motivate, to come to a person’s side and put an arm around their shoulder, to encourage that person, to give direction. This word exhortation doesn’t mean that you shake your finger in somebody’s face and holler at them. We sometimes have the idea that a prophet is someone who thunders from on high at people. But exhortation means you’re on the same level; with your arm around their shoulder, you’re saying, “Would you consider this truth?”
The third effect of prophecy is consolation, or literally, “near speech, talking very closely.” It means to comfort somebody with tenderness and hope, to empathize with that person, to give sensitive counsel.
2. (:5) Prophecying Excels Tongues with respect to Edification
a. Not Putting Down Tongues
“Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues”
b. But Elevating Prophecying
“but even more that you would prophesy”
c. Prophecying More Valuable for Edifying the Church
“and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues . . .so that the church may receive edifying.”
d. Exception: Tongues Accompanied by Interpretation
“unless he interprets”
II. (:6-12) SPEECH MUST BE UNDERSTANDABLE FOR EDIFICATION TO OCCUR
A. (:6) Contrast Between Speech that is Unintelligible vs. Intelligible
1. No Profit in Unintelligible Tongues
“But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you”
2. Much Profit in Intelligible Spiritual Communication
“unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?”
B. (:7-9) Illustration from Realm of Music –
Only Clear Speech Can Elicit an Appropriate Response
“Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? 8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be
speaking into the air.”
1. Generally, Musial Instruments must make distinct intentional sounds
2. Specifically, the Battle Call of the Trumpet must be understandable
3. Language and speech must be clear
C. (:10-11) Language Only Has Value if it is Understood
“There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me.”
Tremendous argument against any type of language that would not have meaning for man; the essence of language is the communication of thoughts and ideas that can be understood by those who know the language
MacArthur: The Corinthians were so carnally self-centered that they could not have cared less about communication. They were interested in impressing others, not communicating with them, much less edifying them. . . A language without meaning is pointless. A language without meaning is not really a language. It is meaning that makes language language.
D. (:12) Zeal for Spiritual Gifts Must be Channeled Towards Edification
“So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.”
III. (:13-19) PRACTICE IN THE CHURCH (RELATED TO THE EXERCISE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS) MUST BE ADJUSTED TO PROMOTE EDIFICATION
A. (:13) Tongues Require Interpretation
“Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.”
B. (:14-17) The Mind Must be Engaged in Worship
1. The Mind Must be Engaged in Prayer
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also”
John Calvin: Let us take notice, that Paul reckons it a great fault if the mind is not occupied in prayer. And no wonder; for what else do we in prayer, but pour out our thoughts and desires before God? Farther, as prayer is the spiritual worship of God, what is more at variance with the nature of it, than that it should proceed merely from the lips, and not from the inmost soul?
2. The Mind Must be Engaged in Singing and Praise
“I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also.”
MacArthur: Spirituality involved more than the mind, but it never excludes the mind.
3. The Mind Must be Engaged in Giving Assent and Blessing and Thanks
“Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the
place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.”
“ungifted” is not speaking of an unbeliever, but of one who does not have the gift of interpretation to allow him to understand the message from the speaking in tongues
MacArthur: Amen is a Hebrew word of agreement and encouragement, meaning “So let it be”
C. (:18-19) The Practice of the Apostle Paul Supports This Emphasis on Edification
1. (:18) Paul Excels in Speaking in Tongues
“I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all”
Paul can’t be accused of not knowing what he is talking about here.
Stedman: Well, then, when did Paul speak in tongues? I think the only situation that fulfills all the biblical requirements for the gift of tongues, one that would have allowed the apostle to exercise his ability in this area, would be when he went into the Jewish synagogues, because there was a provision made for public praise of God by visiting people. To praise God in a language never learned would be a very impressive thing to the Jewish people present, especially if it was a Gentile tongue. That is when Paul spoke in tongues “more than them all,” and that would fulfill every requirement of the biblical gift of tongues.
2. (:19) Paul Addresses His Communication in the Church to the Mind
“however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
IV. (:20-25) CONTRAST IN PURPOSE AND EFFECT BETWEEN SPEAKING IN TONGUES AND PROPHESYING
A. (:20-21) Appeal to Maturity of Thinking
1. (:20) The Appeal
“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.”
Goins: A preoccupation with tongues without concern for their place and purpose, or their effect on oneself or others is childish. Paul says we’re to be innocent or childlike when it comes to evil or sin, but not in our use of spiritual gifts. Some of the Corinthian believers had come to believe that speaking in tongues was evidence of spiritual maturity. But Paul is making it clear in this chapter that this gift can be exercised in an unspiritual, immature way. Twice he uses the word “thinking” in verse 20. That word means the faculty of wise, thoughtful, rational investigation. Mature faith will never stress the noncognitive or nonrational over the cognitive or rational. I’m not saying the noncognitive and nonrational have no place, but the cognitive and the rational must be central to the life of the church.
2. (:21) The Supporting Argument from Isaiah
“In the Law it is written, “BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,” says the Lord.”
Context here is clearly talking about known languages, not ecstatic utterances.
B. (:22) Contrast in Purpose
1. Purpose of Tongues – Directed towards unbelievers
“So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers;
2. Purpose of Prophesying – Directed towards believers
“but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.”
Goins: He tells us that tongues is a sign gift to be exercised for the benefit of non-Christians. That was its purpose at Pentecost, as we see in Acts 2. It arrested attention as the disciples declared the magnificence of God to the thousands of Jewish pilgrims from all over the world in their native languages. Their praises were immediately followed by Peter’s preaching of the gospel as he interpreted the events to the crowd. So the expression of tongues, like any good sign, directed the attention to the saving message of Jesus Christ, which is the more important issue. A billboard arrests attention, but surely you don’t get hung up with the sign itself. Its advertisers want you to think about the message it’s pointing to. That’s the purpose of any sign in our culture today. Tongues awakened people to the presence and the power of God at Pentecost, but it was Peter’s prophetic preaching that explained who this God was and called the people to believe what God had said in his word.
C. (:23-25) Contrast in Effect
1. Effect of Speaking in Tongues
“If therefore the whole church should assemble together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?”
2. Effect of Prophesying
“But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”
(:26) CONCLUSION: EDIFICATION MUST BE THE PRIMARY GOAL IN CHURCH SERVICES
“What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
This forms the transition to the next section in chapter 14 which speaks of orderliness in the church services