August 21, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 14)

Submitted by Joe S. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 14:18-25

  • What do these verses tell us about how much impact we can make as a church in the lives of people by proclaiming God’s words even though we may lack other “spiritual gifts” or talents? 

Even though speaking in tongues was a spiritual gift, Paul said that he would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others rather than speak ten thousand words in tongue.  What Paul valued the most was whether something was useful in building up others, and speaking in tongues was not helpful for that as others could not understand what was being said.  However, Paul placed a high value on prophecy – i.e., preaching, instruction, or exhortation – because people could understand the words and be convicted of God’s truth.  Though we may wish we had greater spiritual gifts or talents, one of the most powerful gifts is proclaiming God’s word to others.  This is a gift that is available not to a select few, but something that pretty much every Christian can do.  Although eloquent speaking or great insight is beneficial, it is not required.  We can simply proclaim the truths from the Bible and allow God’s word to work in people’s hearts.

  • How am I fulfilling my role as a prophet bringing people to the place of conviction of sin and awareness of God’s presence? 

Personally, I have a great opportunity to fulfill my role as a prophet because I need to give the messages each week for my group’s Bible studies.  I certainly don’t have the speaking ability or depth of insight as Pastor Ed or the other regular Sunday preachers at our church, but by proclaiming God’s word simply, I can play a role in them being convicted by God’s word.

But apart from giving messages to a group, I am fulfilling my role as a prophet whenever I have a talk with or advise someone based on the day’s devotion time passage, or a point from a recent message that is applicable to their situation, or even a truth that I learned through a discipleship class.  These are very significant ways that anyone can share God’s word with others and fulfill his or her role as a prophet, even if the person does not formally give messages.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

  • Though Apostle Paul says in the first part of chapter fourteen that these are spiritual gifts, how did everyone having a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation end up conflicting with the “strengthening of the church” at Corinth?  What were they missing? 

These spiritual gifts did not strengthen the church because people were exercising their gifts in a disorderly way, such as interrupting others or speaking at the same time as others.  So even though they were exercising spiritual gifts, these gifts were not being used to build up the church or to love others.  Rather, they caused disruption and even disunity as people attempted to outdo one another in displaying their gifts.  They did not understand that the purpose of these gifts were for loving and building up others.

  • What parallels can be drawn between today’s worship times (i.e. Bible Studies and Sunday Worship) and the situation in Corinth of multiple people wanting to be heard, resulting in a disruptive environment?  What are some ways in which I can have a similar attitude during various kinds of gatherings?

There may be situations where different people want an opportunity to perform or display their talents during worship times, rather than focusing on how people can best experience God through the worship.  A singer may be more interested in singing a song that displays her vocal range; an instrumentalist may desire a song that has a solo portion; an actor may be advocating for a skit to be performed.  In these ways, people can be more focused on showing their talents rather than on what will help others understand or worship God the best.

This situation can also occur outside of the public worship context.  When sharing with others the points that I reflected on from a message or my devotion times, I often find myself focused on preparing to say something that sounds insightful and smart, and end up ignoring what others say.  If everyone’s doing that, each person is just saying his own thing, and their words don’t encourage or build up others in the group.  Another example is relevant to the start of the new school year, when many different ministries within our church prepare their activities and outreach events.  It’s very easy during these times to be focused on how well the group I’m in is doing and how successful these events are, and losing sight of how God is working in other ministries.

“In the Corinthian culture, women were not allowed to confront men in public.  Apparently some of the women who had become Christians thought that their Christian freedom gave them the right to question the men in public worship.  This was causing division in the church.  In addition, women of that day did not receive formal religious education as did the men.  Women may have been raising questions in the worship services that could have been answered at home without disrupting the services.  Paul was asking the women not to flaunt their Christian freedom during worship.  The purpose of Paul’s words was to promote unity, not to teach about women’s role in the church.” [Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 2085.]

  • As Apostle Paul is addressing order and unity in worship in this section of the letter, how might women speaking out and asking questions in the church (given the cultural background) be disruptive to unity in worship, and what can we learn about exercising freedom as Christians?

Given the cultural norms of the time, women speaking out in church and asking questions may have been considered inappropriate or even offensive to other members of the church.  Although the women had the freedom to go against these cultural norms, it led to unnecessary controversy and division within the church.  Just as the exercise of gifts must be restrained in a way that promotes unity and building up of the church, the exercise of freedoms must similarly be restrained out of love for the members of the church.

  • Paul speaks at great length about orderly conduct in Christian worship.  How might things being done “decently and in order” be desirable and beneficial for believers in the church, given the reason he gives in v. 33? 

If God’s nature is of order and peace, Christians would be able to get a much better understanding of God through an orderly worship that is consistent with God’s nature.  The nature of our worship times should reflect God’s nature.  For example, if there were an assembly of people gathered for the purpose of celebrating meditation, having a meeting where the group members are running and jumping around would hinder the ability of the members to fulfill its goal of appreciating meditation.

  • How is orderly worship desirable and beneficial for non-believers observing the church? 

Having an orderly service can help non-believers better understand what God is like.  A non-believer could understand much more about God and Christianity through a coherent message focusing on a few points than through a series of disconnected truths about God, randomly spoken from several different people.  A non-Christian would not be able to make sense of disorderly worship and it would likely discourage him from wanting to attend church again.

Personal Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the privilege and responsibility of being a prophet to others.  You have given me the gift of Your word through the daily devotion time passages and the messages that I hear throughout the week.  Please help me to fulfill my role as prophet who can share Your truths with others and help them come to draw closer to you.  There are so many opportunities You give me each day to do this.  Please help me not to miss out on any of these precious opportunities and not to do anything that might hinder another person from hearing Your word and drawing closer to You.

Submitted by Michael K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 14:18-25

  • What do these verses tell us about how much impact we can make as a church in the lives of people by proclaiming God’s words even though we may lack other “spiritual gifts” or talents? 

In these verses, Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of prophecy, and says that he would rather speak five words to teach the Word of God to others rather than speak ten thousands words in a tongue. Because tongues are unintelligible without interpretation, they have don’t have much impact or benefit on others. However, the role of teaching and preaching the Word of God is emphasized and it has the power to convict someone who hears. So it’s okay to lack other “spiritual gifts” or talents, because the most edifying gift to have or to develop is the gift of prophecy.

As I look at our church, it really highlights the reality of this passage. I don’t think we really have people with the gift of tongues or healing, but we do have people who can proclaim God’s words and teach and preach the gospel to people. And that has resulted in huge impact in the lives of so many people, as people receive teaching, preaching, and exhortation through many avenues. I’m thankful that we place such a high value on the teaching of and listening to the Word of God, and also training people up in order to be better equipped to teach. Over the years, I’ve been the recipient of so many Sunday messages, Bible studies, DT sharing, discipleship courses, from Pastor Ed and Kelly, other pastors, my leaders, many older brothers and sisters. I’m thankful for all of these people through which I have received God’s Word. I still remember my first semester of freshman year, when I first heard messages from Pastor Ed, took Course 101 taught by Jeannie Lee, and had Bible studies and DT times with Pastor Daniel. From that time until now, I know that my life has been so impacted and well fed by God’s Word through the diligent and incisive preaching and teaching of these leaders in the body of Christ.

  • How am I fulfilling my role as a prophet bringing people to the place of conviction of sin and awareness of God’s presence? 

I’m thankful that I have been given opportunities in this role of being a prophet to others and bringing people to the place of conviction and awareness of God’s presence. Through ministry, I have this responsibility as a spiritual leader to speak God’s words to people and help them to see the truth about themselves, see their circumstances or actions properly, and in so doing, help them to mature and grow in their faith or bring them closer to an understanding of their sin and need for the gospel. I’m also thankful for the recent opportunities I have had to teach and give messages, as part of my task is not simply teaching or imparting knowledge, but preaching God’s Word in order that people might encounter Him through it.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

  • Though Apostle Paul says in the first part of chapter fourteen that these are spiritual gifts, how did everyone having a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation end up conflicting with the “strengthening of the church” at Corinth?  What were they missing? 

The fact that everyone had something to say ended up conflicting with the strengthening of the church at Corinth because they were missing decency and order. Because everyone had something to share with the congregation, it must have been chaotic and that’s why Apostle Paul instructs them to limit the number of people who speak, take turns, have time for interpretation, or weighing in on what is said. And if there’s no one to interpret, people shouldn’t even bother to speak in tongues because no one will be able to understand it and get anything out of it. The principle is that all may learn and be encouraged, and the church be built up by the exercise of these gifts.

  • What parallels can be drawn between today’s worship times (i.e. Bible Studies and Sunday Worship) and the situation in Corinth of multiple people wanting to be heard, resulting in a disruptive environment?  What are some ways in which I can have a similar attitude during various kinds of gatherings?

I think disruption in today’s worship times often comes from people in the congregation who are not tuned in with what is going on. Most services probably have an order, and someone who is supposed to be speaking or leading during that time, but people can easily disengage from this by tuning out or even cause disruption if they start talking to the person next to them, looking at their phone, etc.

“In the Corinthian culture, women were not allowed to confront men in public.  Apparently some of the women who had become Christians thought that their Christian freedom gave them the right to question the men in public worship.  This was causing division in the church.  In addition, women of that day did not receive formal religious education as did the men.  Women may have been raising questions in the worship services that could have been answered at home without disrupting the services.  Paul was asking the women not to flaunt their Christian freedom during worship.  The purpose of Paul’s words was to promote unity, not to teach about women’s role in the church.” [Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 2085.]

  • As Apostle Paul is addressing order and unity in worship in this section of the letter, how might women speaking out and asking questions in the church (given the cultural background) be disruptive to unity in worship, and what can we learn about exercising freedom as Christians?

Given the cultural background, women speaking out in the church and questioning the men in this way definitely would lead to disruption. It could also lead to disunity, because given the cultural background, it could have seemed like they were being overly contentious and taking too much license with their Christian freedom (regarding the standing of women) during the worship service. They were effectively being inconsiderate and taking away from the edification of the rest of their church by their disruptions.

  • Paul speaks at great length about orderly conduct in Christian worship.  How might things being done “decently and in order” be desirable and beneficial for believers in the church, given the reason he gives in v. 33? 

Apostle Paul says that God is not a God of confusion but of peace. Having things done decently and in order would not only help to eliminate confusion in worship, but better mirror God’s character. It would enable all to learn and be encouraged, and promote the edification of the body of Christ.

  • How is orderly worship desirable and beneficial for non-believers observing the church? 

Orderly worship is also desirable and beneficial for non-believers observing the church, because it will be most helpful for them being able to understand what is being taught or said, and they can be convicted of the truth and be brought closer to acknowledging God. Also, the orderliness of the worship will be a good witness regarding the maturity and unity of the church, as opposed to a chaotic service that will only be a poor reflection on the Christian faith.

Submitted by Angell S. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 14:18-25

  • What do these verses tell us about how much impact we can make as a church in the lives of people by proclaiming God’s words even though we may lack other “spiritual gifts” or talents?

In this passage, we get a sense of how much emphasis Paul places on speaking God’s Word of truth rather than speaking in tongues. He says in v. 19, “I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Paul recognizes that although speaking in tongues is a gift where one utters the mysteries of the Spirit, unless it’s accompanied by interpretation to address the other person, it is useless and may even be off-putting to the other. For Paul, the most important aspect is that the listener is edified. He stresses here that speaking plainly God’s Word–even if it’s only a few words–potentially has a greater impact than any other spiritual power or gift. In v.25, Paul emphasizes again that it’s not the tongue that will convict an unbeliever and disclose the secrets of his heart. It’s the truth that he hears that will ultimately cause him to worship God and declare that God is really amongst them. Applying this to today’s context, it’s easy to think that I’m not an effective minister because I don’t have as much musical talent as the other brother, or as good elocution as another, or the personal experiences/stories of that person, etc. In many ways I tend to see my lack and then turn to God and say, “how can I be used when I don’t have ____?” But in this passage, Paul’s focus isn’t on the gift as much as proclaiming the truth of God’s Word to others. Just speaking the Word and sharing with others has the power to transform them and cause them to worship God. Especially as the Fall quarter approaches with a new wave of students, it can be easy to shrink back to the “little old me” complex and hide within this excuse that I can’t really impact others because there’s nothing special about me. But God is clearly saying that His Word is enough and that as a minister and as a church, what’s most important is that I continue to speak His Word and share it with others.

  • How am I fulfilling my role as a prophet bringing people to the place of conviction of sin and awareness of God’s presence?  

For me, this is one of the challenges I face as a staff and it’s something that sometimes haunts me. At times it’s easy to get lost in the bustle of ministry and get so caught up on all the things I need to do. Sometimes I get caught up in performance-orientedness–trying to make sure I’m performing all my duties well and managing all the little details. But in the process, I lose sight of the fact that my primary calling is one who brings God’s truth to His people and through struggling together with them, to ultimately bring them to a place of conviction of sin and awareness of God’s presence. That’s my calling and role as a minister–all other things are secondary. When I think back on my own story, it was really the prophets in my life who turned me away from sin and brought me to repentance. It wasn’t necessarily what they did so much as continuing to speak God’s truth and having concern enough to persist in struggling with me/showing me who I was. In very much the same way, I need to do the same for others. At times it’s hard because speaking the truth means potential for conflict, for people to take it the wrong way. Sometimes it means persevering with someone and sacrificing my own time/schedule. I know there are times when I’ve let these things discourage me from being the prophet for others. But rather than running away, I want to embrace these challenges and be the one who can guide others to repentance through His Word.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

  • Though Apostle Paul says in the first part of chapter 14 that these are spiritual gifts, how did everyone having a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation end up conflicting with the “strengthening of the church” at Corinth?  What were they missing?

It seems like the environment became very chaotic. Those who had the hymn, lesson, revelation, tongue or interpretation all wanted to be heard. They did not wait for others. From v.30 it seems like some even refused to yield the floor to others. And even if someone had tongues without an interpreter, they still spoke anyway in order to be heard and probably draw attention to themselves. Instead of strengthening the church it just led to confusion and chaos. What’s even worse, the environment of confusion made it difficult for even those listening to connect with God. At the root of the problem was a self-centeredness where each wanted to put onto display they had to say. They lost sight of the fact that God had given them spiritual gifts to build up the church, not themselves.

  • What parallels can be drawn between today’s worship times (i.e. Bible Studies and Sunday Worship) and the situation in Corinth of multiple people wanting to be heard, resulting in a disruptive environment?  What are some ways in which I can have a similar attitude during times of various kinds of gatherings?

In today’s church, there are some congregations where multiple people want their opinions and voices to be heard. They demand the church to be a certain way or to include the ideas that they have espoused. To them it’s not so important what is best for the church overall. They just want things their way. Tragically as a result, the church needs to accommodate them and it ends up diluting the message and reduces potency of the church. And if they do not become accommodated, they continue to raise their objections and it leads to a lot of division/ugliness within the church.

A little closer to home, even if there’s no outward conflicts there are times when I can desire to be heard in subtler ways. For example, wanting to take the more prominent roles during Bible study so that people can tell that I’m competent. Or feeling slighted when my brother gets the praise for performing a particular task while others don’t notice me. Or being jealous that someone else got selected for an “important” task while I was passed over. Even though it might not be outwardly expressed, all of these emotions stem from a desire to be seen and heard. It’s the same thing that drove the Corinthians to want to speak their piece. The end result is a similar confusion and disruption. Instead of closeness, love and concern for one another, church becomes a place where I compete and need to keep on proving myself. My brother is not a friend but a competitor. I cannot be a servant because certain tasks are “worth it” while others are not. To me, Paul would say, “let all things be done for building up.” He would tell me to let go of that need to be the center and instead see myself as part of the church where together we have the privilege of prophesying to the people of my generation.

“In the Corinthian culture, women were not allowed to confront men in public. Apparently some of the women who had become Christians thought that their Christian freedom gave them the right to question the men in public worship.  This was causing division in the church.  In addition, women of that day did not receive formal religious education as did the men.  Women may have been raising questions in the worship services that could have been answered at home without disrupting the services.  Paul was asking the women not to flaunt their Christian freedom during worship.  The purpose of Paul’s words was to promote unity, not to teach about women’s role in the church.” [Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 2085.]

  • As Apostle Paul is addressing order and unity in worship in this section of the letter, how might women speaking out and asking questions in the church (given the cultural background) be disruptive to unity in worship, and what can we learn about exercising freedom as Christians?

Given that the culture of the day was such that women weren’t allowed to confront men in public and did not receive formal religious education, I can imagine it being very disconcerting for all of the congregation to see women speaking out. Rather than being focused on the words being spoken, the congregants would have been distracted by their own reactions/emotions regarding these women. Did they have a right to speak out? In a way, they were free to do so. God saved each person and loved them just the same. Jew, Greek, slave, free, man, woman–all these divisions crumbled when it came to the gospel. The worldly valuation of women no longer applied in the church where God called us to love one another. But the bigger principle at work was whether this freedom was leading to building up the church or if it was distracting others and causing them to be unable to connect with God. Clearly Paul is making the argument that it is much better to limit one’s freedom so that others would not be hindered. He alludes to this in 1 Corinthians 9:19 where he is free but makes himself a servant so that he can win more. He then goes on to detail all the ways in which he limits himself and becomes like the other so that others may not be hindered. In 1 Corinthians 8, he warns the Corinthians to “take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak”. For Paul, the operative principle is ultimately love for others. If you’re truly concerned for them, then you’ll do whatever it takes to hear the gospel. If that means limiting your freedoms, then that’s a small price to pay.

  • How is orderly worship desirable and beneficial for non-believers observing the church?

First of all, it doesn’t present a barrier up front to the non-believer. If when they first come, they note a chaotic scene, then it would be easy to dismiss Christianity off the bat as something maybe not worth pursuing. Secondly, orderly worship allows the non-believer to focus on the message that’s being shared. They won’t be distracted with people standing up to challenge the speaker or trying to have their own agendas being fulfilled. There are enough things in the Christian message that are “foolishness” to the non-Christian. To add disorderly worship on top of that would take away from the gospel.

Submitted by Tommy C. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 14:18-25

  • What do these verses tell us about how much impact we can make as a church in the lives of people by proclaiming God’s words even though we may lack other “spiritual gifts” or talents?

These verses tell us that as a church, despite lacking spiritual gifts or talents, if we plainly proclaim God’s words we may lead people to the conviction of sin and worship of God. In other words, it is the speaking of God’s word (prophecy) that has the power to lead people to recognition of their own sinfulness and to repentance before God. Other gifts, such as tongues, may help to bless individuals or various groups of people within the church. But Apostle Paul warns that they need to be used with care and wisdom such that the end result is a strengthening of the church, otherwise it really only benefits yourself or prove even detrimental since no one else can understand your words. Verses 20-23 illustrate a scenario where another spiritual gift (tongues) is detrimental to an outsider who may be stepping into the church for the first time, while verses 24-25 illustrate the power unleashed by a church committed to preaching and proclaiming God’s word. That person is closer to salvation! Other “spiritual gifts” are not necessary to God’s work being done.

  • How am I fulfilling my role as a prophet bringing people to the place of conviction of sin and awareness of God’s presence? 

I am fulfilling my role as a prophet of God by speaking truth and helping the students here in San Diego see the importance and role of God’s word in their lives. I realize that in order for people to get to the place of conviction of sin and awareness of God’s presence, there is much work and challenges that as a “prophet” I need to readily take on. For one, people are highly resistant and perhaps blind to the ways that they sin. They compartmentalize their lives and have a habit of running away from reflecting deeply and admitting their guilt before God. I know, because I am a sinner and see from my own experience of my own capacity to do this. Therefore, my role as a prophet is to bring God’s word, whether it is through DT group with the students, or a talk or message with them, down to their experience of reality and where they are at, so that they are able to examine their lives, thoughts, and actions under the filter of God’s word. In verse 19, Apostle Paul mentions “instruct[ing] others”. A large aspect of fulfilling the role of a prophet is in proper instruction. Indeed, as I think about how I first came to my conviction of sin, my own leaders had to speak truth and instruct me. My leader had to point out how and why my claim to be Christian proved empty and help me to see that it is not enough for an emotional experience to save me; rather it is repentance towards God. As I think about it, it is a sensitive and difficult task to call someone out on their blindness, but completely necessary in bringing one to a place of conviction of sin. As a spiritual leader now, I cannot shy away from this task. Rather, I need to become better at it. As the new quarter is coming around the corner, I remind myself that this is really what the crux of ministry is.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

  • Though Apostle Paul says in the first part of chapter fourteen that these are spiritual gifts, how did everyone having a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation end up conflicting with the “strengthening of the church” at Corinth?  What were they missing?

All these people with various spiritual gifts used their gifts to promote themselves and build their own reputation. Apostle Paul said let all things be done for “building up” (verse 26). Apart from this purpose, these gifts are not only useless, but potentially detrimental. They detract and take attention away from the message of gospel, and the focus and attention start centering around the gifts and gift-bearers. The services become disorderly–consisting of people performing these acts without real regard for the worship experience as a whole. Also, people may start drawing false connection between spiritual maturity/credibility and those who have seem to be gifted with gifts. The church thus, rather than getting built up and strengthened, becomes weaker and fragmented. The church becomes yet another arena of competition where spiritual gifts become huge distractions and objects of drama. What the Corinthians were missing was love. Despite having these gifts, they did not have love for one another. Love would have caused them to pause and think of how they could actually use these gifts to encourage or build someone else up. Instead, they were probably very wrapped up in how special/unique their own gifts were and making sure that what they were able to perform be recognized throughout the church. I’d imagine the Corinthians unable to get close with one another because of this outward boastful presentation of their gifting whenever the church congregated. It would’ve been impossible to relate, be vulnerable, or even just rub lives with one another in such an ego-saturated environment. If the Corinthians actually loved, cared for one another and the health of the church, they would not have wound up using their gifts in such a way that undermined the effectiveness and role of the church. There would have been a mutual sense of closeness and understanding that each member of the church had different functions without regard for reputation or recognition.

  • What parallels can be drawn between today’s worship times (i.e. Bible Studies and Sunday Worship) and the situation in Corinth of multiple people wanting to be heard, resulting in a disruptive environment?  What are some ways in which I can have a similar attitude during various kinds of gatherings?

One way in which today’s worship times may parallel the situation in Corinth is if each person who are in charge of part of various elements of those worship times buy into the same ego game of wanting to outshine others. Perhaps the praise leader want the congregation to notice just how awesome the praise time is, and so he does his own thing, trying to make people cry and have a spiritually stirring experience through his music. He goes off and plans his own thing because if he were to work with the preacher for that service, the preacher might request some songs be played that the praise leader did not have in mind. The preacher on the other hand also wants the congregation to like him and think what an engaging preacher he is, so he tells all sorts of jokes throughout his sermon, which have little to tie in with the praise time or the worship service as a whole. A church like this would be considered completely dysfunctional, but in ways, I can relate to this kind of attitude of wanting to be “heard”. I’m usually involved in some sort of technical role, a role that is probably as unglamorous as it can get. Thus, to gain that recognition, the game I’ve found myself playing is in how I may come off as reliable and knowledgeable. I take pride in how I can run my area of expertise without a hitch. But in doing so, I become someone inflexible and easily flustered when problems do arise. Also, I may feel threatened if someone better than me in that area comes along. Not only is my focus not on the worship experience for the people who step into the church, but also in my heart, I’ve made my brother to a competitor in this petty and immature way.

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