reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Friday, September 15, 2006

1 Corinthians 14 b

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
1 Corinthians 14b

Main point: Gifts should be exercised in such a way to convict unbelievers that God is present and to reflect God’s character order: all gifts should be used in a way consonant with apostolic authority.

So, what have we seen so far – Paul’s vision of the church is not one where people who are good at one thing lord it over people who are good at another. Rather he says, God’s spirit gives the gifts, and church is a place where God’s Gospel of valuing and saving the weak is modelled, and where we work as a whole unified body with one another, sharing in one another’s joys and pains.
Then we saw yesterday that the way that works out in the local body is through everyone in the church striving to use gifts which build up the rest of the body – and we saw that the body can only be built up, and grow towards demonstrating this truth that they are the body of Christ through what they understand. So Paul says, since you are eager for spiritual gifts (which is a good thing) strive to excel in building up the church.

So, the church that shows the Spirit, the church that shows Jesus, the church that works like a church, and now the church that is like God.

The central verse, I think, looking at this section is verse 33.

We should use gifts in a way appropriate to the giver.
Think that is the idea here – we have seen that Spirit works to bring the conviction that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is one body and so the church should show that together. Now we see that God is not a God of confusion, disorder, or tumult as some older translations put it, but a God of peace. Use the gifts he gives in a way that reflects him.

Paul in verse 20 makes a call to the Corinthians that he has made throughout this letter, he makes a call to them to be mature. The selfishness, the lack of moral sense, their strange almost Gnostic ideas that they put into their church life, their mad barking mad church meetings, they were signs of immaturity, and Paul repeats the call that he has said throughout the letter: don’t be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, don’t grow up towards evil, be as innocent as you like when it comes to sin, but in your thinking, in your understanding be mature.

A mature understanding is seeing that the gifts they have should be used in a way that is consonant with the God that they serve:

Evangelistically (vs 21-25)

Remember way back in 12:1 – the work of the Holy Spirit is to bring people to say and mean – Jesus is Lord, to quote the Reverend Bish – being spiritual is about being Gospel. And here we see the evangelistic heart of the apostle Paul shining through as he tells them prophecy is better for leading people to become Christians.
It may have escaped your notice but people talking nonsense isn’t really helpful for people to become Christians, which is basically Paul’s point here. Sadly, while there isn’t much tongues speaking going on in CUs they can be a very appropriate place to learn the lesson that people talking rubbish doesn’t help people become Christians.

But in terms of speaking in tongues, if an unbeliever comes in and you are speaking in tongues to each other, they will think you are out of your minds, which you would have thought would have been self evident.

But don’t you find that’s the way when we are so full of our own spirituality, God’s told me to behave this way, so you can’t question it. We so easily forget to think about what we are doing in terms of what unbelievers will think of it – which is surely what the Holy Spirit who brings people to see that Jesus is Lord would want us to consider?

Don’t want to be cynical about CUs and students, and I’m sure a lot of it goes in churches too, but people do the most ridiculous things because apparently the Holy Spirit told them to: you think, the Holy Spirit wants people to come and say Jesus is Lord, and all this will make people say is, those Christians are out of their mind.
But Paul the evangelist would encourage us to evaluate everything that we do as a church body in terms of what the unbeliever will do when they come in, and that makes sense doesn’t it in terms of all we have seen about what God, Christ and the Holy Spirit do in the church – bring people to say Jesus is Lord, model the truth of the Gospel, show the power of the Spirit.

Challenge for us is the expectation that there will be unbelievers in normal church meeting – and that they will understand and experience enough to become a Christian.

Anyway, Paul says, if an unbeliever comes in when you are speaking in tongues they will think you are mad – however, the effect of prophecy is entirely different: if you are prophesying, and remember we said yesterday, we musn’t have too narrow a view of what that is, the unbeliever will be convicted by all, called account by all and the secrets of his heart will be disclosed.
Tongues will lead people to think that you are crazy, prophecy will show people that God is real, and lead them to get converted, because it shows them that God is really among you. Now, how prophecy does this I don’t know, because as I said yesterday, I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it is something that the unbeliever understands, and convicts them of their guilt. So it must have some sort of Gospel content, and it is clear enough and applied enough that the unbeliever understands it, and understands it applies to them.
(some people think prophecy is preaching – not convinced, why does Paul refer to prophecy and teaching as different gifts?)

The main concern, however, is clear: the way we behave in church should not be so as many people as possible in the church get to use their gifts, rather that as many people as possible outside the church repent and turn to God:

Carson: “Calling the unbeliever to moral renewal is something that distinguishes genuine Christianity from all the fake spiritualities. Paul’s concern is not to maximise the number of people using their gifts, but to maximise the number of sinners on their knees coming to know God.”

Again, I think this is a very helpful test to apply when you think you have a gift that you want to use, or something you want to do in the church – is my desire to see people saved, and is that ruling my motivation, or is it my sense of needing or wanting to be used. When I do this, whatever it is, does it help bring non-Christians to repentance?

The difficulty is with verses 21 and 22 where Paul quotes a bit of Isaiah and then says tongues are a sign for unbelievers, and prophecy is for believers.
Well, this is all complex, but I think what’s going on: Paul quotes a bit of Isaiah which talks about foreign languages being heard in the temple as a sign of God’s judgement on his people: an unintelligible message from God still didn’t make the people repent, in fact it showed or proved their unbelief.
It may be some of the Corinthians were extolling the value of tongues for evangelism, it’s a great sign to show them God’s power. Paul says, the history shows, yes it is a sign, but a negative sign. In Isaiah the message being in the tongues of Assyrians, Assyrians in the temple speaking their own language should not be viewed as a good thing: it was a sign they had rejected God’s message and that judgement had come. So tongues can be a sign for unbelievers, a sign that they are under judgement – because they reject the church because of them, saying the church are mad. Not something we want to be happening in church. Lots there and complex, but come to it later if you want.

So, the God is a God of evangelism the church should lead to people becoming Christians because they hear a message they understand and that applies to them, not think Christians are mad.

Orderly (26 – 35)

Yet again, there is complex and controversial stuff in this passage but yet again the thrust of what is going on, I think, is relatively clear.
First, Paul’s banging an old drum again: everything should be done for the building up. The new aspect here is that he is absolutely everything that is contributed should be done for building up when we are gathered together. No sense of, well I’ll just do this bit for me, because I really need to. No hint of, well this is my gift so I’ve got to use it, even if it won’t help anyone else, it will make me feel better. This is the way I feel helped, so I’ll just do a bit of that.

In fact, that type of – “I’ve got a gift and so I have got to use it” thinking is what he addresses next. Far from spiritual gifts sort of bursting forth uncontrollably as a sign of the spirit’s work, a sign of a spiritual meeting, a meeting that according to Paul in v 37 is run according to the Lord’s command is not uncontrollable ecstasy, but a self controlled definite aim to build others up.

So – only if you must speak in tongues (and I think Paul’s been quite clear he’d rather you didn’t when we’re gathered together) but if you do, then two or three and someone interpret. If there’s no one to interpret then hold your peace. I’m not sure how you are supposed to work out whether there is an interpreter present before you start (someone from a charismatic church might be able to tell us at the end)

Same for prophets, 2 or 3 at the most, and “the rest” which is, I think the rest of the congregation, rather than the rest of the prophets can weigh. And a prophet is speaking for the benefit of the church not to blow their own trumpet – all in love remember, so if someone else has a prophecy to share you won’t mind steeping aside so that they can go. One by one, so everyone can hear and be encouraged.

Next, confusion and chaos is not a sign of God’s presence – quite the opposite – v 33, God is not a God of confusion not of peace. That does not justify boring, stuffy and joyless worship, after all God is none of those things either, but we do not represent the God we serve when our meetings are chaotic.

Well, just to add to our collection of controversial secondary issues, and to get the complete boxed set, we have here one of Paul’s sterner commands about the role of women in the gathered church.

Now, to us and out culture, the shock here may well be that Paul would dare to such a thing at all. However, I think the real puzzle here is not that, but rather that we are here talking in the context of prophecy, and Paul in chapter 11 seems to make it very clear that both men and women are allowed to prophesy (whatever prophecy is)

People deal with that mystery in various ways. There are some people, including Gordon Fee who I otherwise think has written the most helpful commentary on the book, say that this is so incongruous with what surrounds it, that it must have been added by a later editor. Paul just wouldn’t be that contradictory in his thinking, and anyway, this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the issue of tongues and prophecy.
Obviously some very faithful learned Bible people who take that view, I have to confess personally to not being able to understand it, or how we can with integrity take that view, especially as Gordon Fee and people like him admit no evidence in manuscripts that it is a later addition – every copy we have has it here in this form. So, while there may be very good reasons for taking that view, I have to confess I don’t get them.

I think the other reason that it isn’t likely to be a later addition is, despite it being generally about prophecy and tongues, is that these women, whoever they are, are the third group of people asked to stay silent for the sake of the order of the church meeting.

So, amongst people who do accept this is really part of the text, views tend to fall roughly into two groups, and the two groups tend to be defined largely by what you make of the other passages talking about gender roles in the church.
So, if you take a view that broadly stresses the equality of men and women, you are likely to see that this is referring to some sort of specific prohibition to Corinth in a particular part of the church service that was culturally limited. This may be helped along the way if you take the whole two verses to be talking about wives and husbands, and it is wives yelling out to interrupt their husbands prophesying, which would have been a scandal in Greek society.
If you take a view that broadly stresses the complementarity of men and women (differences between them) you may well think that the Bible generally instructs the whole overall leadership of the church should be male, and so while the (male) leadership is weighing the prophecy women (not in leadership) should be silent, and thus preserve the order of the church.
Well, I would encourage to search the text and read the books yourself, as Don Carson says, the solutions that have been advanced are, like devils in certain instances of demon possession, legion.

Church order probably isn’t something we hear mentioned and get excited about to be honest, is it. But we should – because I wonder do you see what has been going on here in these chapters. I had never seen this, and was amazed by it – the church shows Spirit in chapter 12 by the declaring Jesus is Lord through a variety of gifts. Second half of chapter 12 church shows Jesus by being his body and acting as one, weak caring for the strong. And here, the church shows God, the father by being a place of order. That is the nature of God –bringing order out of chaos. We have a chance in church to model the whole Trinity – but it is by doing what to us may seem very boring unspiritual things – declaring Jesus is Lord, loving those who seem to be weak and respecting the order of the church.
You know I struggled long and hard to think about applications for this passage, because we aren’t a church and so I can’t instruct us that we need to follow these commandments about church order. But I think it challenges us at a deeper level:

1) Church itself is a prophetic sign of what God is like! Have that attitude to church as you go into it – how does God instruct us to show him? Not, what do I bring to the party, what have I got to give, but what is God like and how can we show that. We can be especially like Corinthians, annoyed with church because trying to relive the intense experience of the past and church isn’t giving me that.
Better way to think about it is: how can we as a church model the nature of God, and what is my part in that – through variety in giftings showing Jesus Lordship, and through caring for those who seem to be weak, and now respecting the order of the church. Sometimes, like Corinthians, seem to be looking for special super spiritual ways to do that – but that’s not what we need, simple, real, everyday – do things in church we are showing the amazing nature of God. Attitude of “how can we together model God as we meet?”
2) What about order? Well, church government is a tangled knot, but fact that church you attend will have some way of ordering itself, and responsibility to respect and live within that order. Gifts – I have this gift, and you need to make an opportunity for me to use it, church may not do that. God is shown by you respecting that order, living within it, not saying I have this gift. God is shown Paul is saying as people control and order their gifts, not when they insist on using them.

As ex Relay workers, you will have so much to offer the church. But we must offer it with the heart of our missionary God, who is a God of order, not of chaos.


Blogger Daniel said...

Thanks Mo. Good stuff.

I read somewhere that in some churches spontaneity is elevated to a virtue. I used to think that way too, unfortunately. "If it's too planned, the Holy Spirit can't work." But it's a crying shame to think that way.

Here's a cool story for you. As you know, my parents are in Jersualem, and on their compound is a guesthouse which is visited by Christians from all over who want to see Israel. One day, dad was called up by a guest who said that water was running out from under the door of the room across the corridor.

Dad rushed up there and found the two ladies who were sharing the room inside. In the en suite, all the taps and shower were on full, but the plug holes, shower drain and toilet sistern were all stopped-up with towels and clothes. So water was gushing into the room and flooding it. He asked what on earth was going on. One lady looked very sheepish, while the other proudly announced that the Holy Spirit had told her to "prophetically re-enact the parating of the Red Sea".

There is a known psychological condition called Jerusalem Syndrome which hits a surprsing number of Christians who visit Jerusalem, who suddenly have odd delusions or obsessions once they arrive. So Dad asked the sheepish friend if the flooding lady was taking any medication.

He friend held-up a big bag of pills and capsules, and when asked if they were all percribed, explained that her friend took the ones that God told her to and when. She was later admitted to a psychiatric ward.

And there are people I have met who are not mentally ill, but insist that God has told them that he is going to give them a Subaru Impreza, or directs which clothes they ought to wear in the morning.

Once a lady who I'd never met saw me leading the band at a church meeting and approached me afterwards to tell me that God had given her a "prophetic song", which I was to write music for. She was deadly serious, but the words were hilariously funny (funnier than 'Glad'): including such imagary as the sin of envy being represented by a giant green rat living in the pantry (she had seen a rat in her pantry the week before, and knew that God was speaking to her through it, you see).

I told her that I couldn't really write music to her song.

It's a crazy world! And thats' just the Christians. Basically what I'm saying is, thank you for being one to give some sound teaching on guidance/prophecy.

See you soon,

5:06 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

this is one LONG entry mo.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

mo, what is up with these freakishly long posts? yikes.

i heard you got to see christy over the weekend! hopefully sometime in the next year i get to come visit you all!?

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Christy said...

lil mo. would love to read you book.. but maybe sometime when I have an hour to spare ;) just wanted you to know, i loooove your relay workers up here. i have met alex and go to church with mike and they are so much fun. :) cool cool cats.

how are you friend? it was so good to see you a few weeks back.. :) have a great weekend..

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Christy said...

Okay. I slipped and caved and read it. All. Now it is past 2am. Time for Christy to sleepy.

6:13 PM  

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