Our Greatest Gift is Truth – 1 Corinthians 14
The twenty fifth message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
So great to be back in the saddle with you guys this morning! I had a great week preaching at Bethel FWB Church in Ashland City, TN where our friend Jon Forrest is the associate for youth and children’s ministry and where Dr Barry Raper who teaches Bible, ministry, and preaching at Welch College is the pastor.
Jon wanted me to tell all of you hello and that he had a blast when he was with us for the retreat and we are working on getting him back here to do that again.
Because I’ve been away and before that I was sick I want to do a little review to get us all on the same page.
We’ve been going through 1st Corinthians and this Sunday is like the 25th message.
All through this letter that Paul wrote to the church he planted in Corinth he’s been dealing with problems and issues, kind of like he’s going down a list of major issues they have.
He’s covered divisions and factions,
improper use of communion
and now he’s handling this issue that they’re having in their worship services and it all stems from speaking in tongues.
Speaking in tongues is a miraculous event that God caused to take place in the early church so that people who spoke different languages could hear the gospel message in their own native tongue and have an immediate supernatural verification of the message.
Now people are speaking in tongues in every worship service even when there is no one there that speaks a different language.
It had become this thing that people would do to impress others.
So Paul challenges them across 3 chapters – 12, 13, & 14.
In 12 he covers what they need to realize about speaking in tongues, in chapter 13 he covers how they should care for their brothers and sisters in Christ and doing something that distracted from the worship and teaching was caring for themselves, and in chapter 14 he covers what they should to instead.
Chapter 12 speaks to the head. What should I know?
Chapter 13 speaks to the heart. What should I feel?
Chapter 14 speaks to the hands. What should I do?
Today we are going to jump into the super practical chapter 14.
Let’s look at it together.
14:1 – Follow after love, desire spiritual gifts…
Chapter 13 told them to act in true love. Chapter 12 told them what they need to understand about spiritual gifts, that everyone has one and that everyone contributes to the work of the kingdom, so following after those he says, desire prophecy.
This will make more sense to you if you think of prophecy in the right way.
Prophecy is to declare the unknown, making it known.
Most of the time when we think of prophecy we think of foretelling the future, because that is making the unknowable know.
What Paul is speaking of is that making the truths of God known.
That which isn’t seen is now seen and made visible.
Some of this truth deals with what lies ahead, some of deals what happened in the past, and a lot has to do with where we are at right now, what’s going on in our hearts right now.
Paul points this out later in the chapter, let’s keep reading.
Have you ever seen the arrow in the FedEx logo? It’s been several years ago that someone pointed it out to me, but now I see it every time I see a FedEx truck. It was there all along, but I just didn’t see it. We often to see God’s truth even when it’s right before us.
This seems to afflict men when standing in front of the refrigerator. “Where’s the milk?” we yell and then our wives yell back, “it’s right in front of you on the top shelf on the right!” “Oh, right. Thanks.”
The truth of God and His gospel is a message that is already in front of us, but we just can’t or won’t see it.
In Chapter 14 Paul’s cry to the Corinthians is that they would make the gospel clear.
That they would point out the gospel to everyone.
Make it clear. Don’t devolve into things that are just distractions from the gospel, do those things that draw people into the gospel, that draw them toward the truth.
I can’t over emphasize the connection between this chapter and the love chapter that precedes it.
The greatest service we can be to our community, friends, and family is to make the truth of the gospel clear.
If we truly love people, we’ll want to do everything that we possibly can to make the gospel clear to them, we’ll do everything we can to bring them into contact with the gospel.
Christians who love the past lift up tradition.
Some of the Corinthians were in love with the Jewish law and holidays so they were emphasizing the Jewish tradition.
Paul tells them to knock it off.
Christians who love being popular chase trends.
In this latest take down of a Corinthians church issue Paul points out that the reason they are conducting themselves this way is because they want all eyes on them, they want everyone to look at them, so they are chasing the trendy and noticeable thing to do right now at this moment.
Personal Preference & selfishness leads me to tell others to do what I like.
Pride & arrogance leads me to tell others what makes me look good.
Compassion leads me to tell others the truth in love because it sets them free.
When I’m tempted to make others think I’m smart, I’ll make the gospel obscure because I’m respected.
When I’m tempted to make other think I’m cool, I’ll make the gospel weak and without offense so I’m accepted.
Different sides of the same coin. Selfishness.
Churches that love people will do anything and everything in their power to lift up the gospel.
Paul loved people, so when God granted him the opportunity to speak in tongues to people who didn’t speak the same languages that he did, He did. But whenever he had the opportunity to speak the truth of God in his language with people who spoke his language, he did.
Whenever he had the opportunity to write of the truth of God in his language to people who could read his language, He did.
The Greatest Gift we can give is God’s truth.
Here’s one of many splendors about God’s truth:
Paul points out in this chapter that proclaiming God’s truth brings both edification and conversion.
It’s profitable to the believer and the unbeliever. It’s helpful to the insider and the outsider. It’s sanctifies the Christian and convicts the sinner. How great is that? God’s Word doesn’t grow old.
We’ve had Paul’s letter to the Corinthians for 2,000 years and yet were not done with it. We are still proclaiming. We are still digging into it. It is still making a difference in lives. It is still helping people find purpose, meaning, freedom, love…
So since the truth is the greatest gift we can give and because it is helpful to believers and seekers, Paul gives 3 challenges in this chapter.
1.Clarify the truth.
v.1 but rather that ye may prophesy.
3But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
v.19 in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
The προφήτης is the outspeaker; he who speaks out the counsel of God with the clearness, energy and authority which spring from the consciousness of speaking in God’s name, and having received a direct message from Him to deliver. Of course all this appears in weaker and less distinct form in classical Greek
This prophesying is to lift up and bring out in a clear and direct manner truth from the divine.That’s what Paul wanted, was that they would take the truth of God and present in a clear, direct, and authoritative manner. It was to be the display of this truth, the lifting up of this truth.
I’ve told you before that my job is not to be a creator or a builder.
The truth that I communicate is not something that I construct or create.
My work is not in the field of development but rather in the field of discovery.
I’m less of a builder and more of a miner. My role is to dig down into the scripture, find the truth that is there in the text, and then lift it up for everyone to see.
My only creative work is in how the jewels and gold that is found in here is displayed to everyone out there.
Several months ago I met with some of the FWB leadership about doing a checkin campaign at the National Meeting.
I went to lunch with Eric Thomsen who is the editor of One Magazine and as we walked from the car to the restaurant he stopped and stooped down and said, look at this! He had found a beautiful ring.
He then told me that this happens to him all the time, he finds stuff like that regularly.
I had walked right over it and never saw it.
But when Erick picked it up and showed it to me, I recognized immediately the beauty that I had walked right past…
Our world is stepping right over and walking right past the beauty of God’s truth.
Like someone who points out the FedEx arrow that’s been there all along or someone who points at something beautiful at your feet that you were about to walk right over, Paul wants us to help others notice, see, appreciate, believe, and celebrate the beauty of God’s truth.
2.Encourage the Believers
Paul mentions edification and encouragement so many times in this passage.
3But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
4he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
12forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
26 Let all things be done unto edifying.
31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
This word means to build up.
It means to encourage in the faith, to encourage toward maturity.
It means to help people grow closer to God and one another.
The Reason that Paul is writing this letter is because he was not content with the Corinthians believers merely knowing the message of Jesus’ forgiveness.
He wanted to see it work its way into every aspect of their lives.
He has just written to them about their diet, their sex lives, their marriages, their church services, their roles as men and women, their happiness and joy, and on and on.
The truth of God’s Word doesn’t just save us – that would be enough!
The truth of God’s Word makes us whole.
It works out the issues of our hearts.
God’s Word unravels our shame,
calms our fears,
builds our confidence,
develops our identity,
fulfills our purpose,
redeems our regrets,
reshapes our relationships,
completes our joy,
renews our minds,
substantiates our hope,
deepens our love,
initiates our generosity,
motivates our service,
and solidifies our faith.
To those of you that are in the room that have placed your faith in Christ, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is that you’re still pretty messed up.
The good news is that He’s still working on you.
In 1908, Frank Buchman got saved.
He later started a Church of the Good Shepherd in Philadelphia. The church flourished and grew.
ThINGs fell apart when Frank had a violent argument with his trustee committee because they cut the budget and the food allotment. He resigned and went to Europe, ending up at a large religious convention in Keswick, England where he heard a woman talk simply about the cross of Christ. He felt the chasm separating him from Christ, and a feeling of a will to surrender.
He went back to his house and wrote these words to each of his six trustees in Philadelphia: “My dear friend. I have nursed ill feelings against you. I am sorry. Will you forgive me? Sincerely, Frank.”
After applying this truth and obeying, he felt incredible freedom.
Feeling an urge to share this experience, he went to nearby Oxford University and formed an evangelical group there among the student leaders and athletes. The purpose of the group was to take truths of scripture and apply them and experience the freedom that came as a result.
Later the movement spread, and groups formed over the next twenty years in England, Scotland, Holland, India, South Africa, China, Egypt, Switzerland, and North and South America.
They practiced absolute surrender, guidance by the Holy Spirit, true fellowship, life changing faith and prayer.
They were “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” They carried the message aggressively to others.
In 1928 the name would be changed to the Oxford Group
Their principles were carried to the United States so that in both New York City and Akron, Ohio.
Two men who had tried to quit drinking numerous times stumbled into these oxford groups. Once they practiced the truth that had given Frank Buchman such freedom, they were able to stay sober.
They organized these ideas into 12 steps and that was the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous.
When truth is made clear and then applied, it brings great freedom.
For all of us that have placed our faith in Christ, there is greater freedom and greater obedience to be found in the truth of God’s Word. We need to make it clear, we need to work through it, so that we can experience new depths of love and new heights of joy.
We need to dig into God’s truth to find our way out of our mess.
3. Persuade the Outsiders.
23If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
Outsiders aren’t persuaded by gibberish or jargon.
They will be persuaded when they here the truth made clear and explained.
They will believe when the truth of God is lifted up through the use of many voices and many sources.
He is convinced of all and judged of all.
In other words, he finds this diversity of sources conniving and convicting.
But I want you to zero in on the opening phrase of verse 26.
The secrets of his heart are made manifest.
When we lift up the truth of God, it clicks with what is in the hearts of the people around us.
It fits in the broken puzzle of their soul.
When I talk about what I want to talk about or what is interesting to me, I’m speaking something that fits with my preferences.
When I talk about what I hope you like or what I hope you find interesting, I’m speaking something that might connect with your interests or hobbies or preferences…
But when I share God’s truth, I speak on something that connects with every heart. When I speak of God’s truth about sin and brokenness, I’m sharing something that applies to all of us.
When I speak of God’s truth about grace, I speak of something that we all desperately need and want- even though some of us don’t even yet know that’s what we want and need.
I was going to share a story here, but God gave me a better on this past Wednesday.
I got to speak at Bethel Church this past week and I wasn’t sure about which messages I would preach when but I knew very early on that I would speak about Mark 5 on Wednesday night.
I felt led to passages for the other services later on, but Wednesday night was immediate.
Mark 5 tells the story of a hopeless case.
A man in the worst possible condition.
A man who because of his horrible spiritual and emotional condition was doing harm to himself and crying through the night.
It’s a powerful account…
In that message I spoke about how the evil one likes to play defense attorney and prosecutor. He tells us sin isn’t a big deal until we commit it and then he tells us that we are just horrible. I spoke about how Satan’s goal is to destroy us, to get us to harm ourselves and those around us.
At the end of the message this young man in fatigues came forward. I didn’t know him or his story. His pastor prayed with him.
Afterward he found me and told me this.
It was just like you had said, I had made some mistakes, then I lost a buddy and the pain was so great…
Thank you for what you said tonight…
In a place I’d never been before a guy I had never met before heard something that exposed the secrets of his heart and he was convinced. I could have never planned that, I couldn’t have come up with funny stories that would prompt that. It was a God moment. It was God working through His truth.
After these verse Paul sets some ground rules for the Corinthians.
Because there was such a problem there he establishes these rules that we do not see being setup in other places.
It seems because the Corinthians were such a troubled church when it came to their worship services that Paul felt it was necessary to establish some policies that fit their deficiencies.
I’m didn’t go through these because many of them do not apply to us in our context, but they do give us a good guide for how to develop policy and procedure for how we will conduct ourselves and establish routines based on our culture and setting.
However there is one rule that I want to point out because it has been misused and abused by many through the years so I want to quickly sweep the leg out from under this misuse.
In verses 34 & 35 Paul prohibits women from speaking in church.
Now here’s the problem with that, earlier in the book Paul dealt with an issue that had arisen when women were leading in prayer but were doing so without the garments that were the cultural designation for women of their day- they were stepping into roles traditionally held by men and stepping into clothing traditionally held by men and Paul’s issue wasn’t that they were leading in prayer but that they were doing so looking like men.
Paul wanted them to continue the prayers but to do so looking like women…
So this passage is somewhat perplexing.
If anyone quotes this passage they should also have to quote 11:5 & 11:13 which encourage women to pray and teach.
The verse that follows this says,
36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
I believe that Paul was quoting another saying or writing of the Corinthians and then dismantling it just as he had with several other of their statements before.
At the very least it’s clear from Corinthians that women were encouraged to participate in worship and prayer.
If you attend here you’ll find that the same is true here.
Women are encouraged to participate.