The Order of the Spirit
We’re drawing to a close in our Living in the Spirit message series. Next Sunday will be our concluding message, entitled “The Work of the Spirit.” In this series, we’ve gotten an overview of how the Holy Spirit can work in and through our lives. If you’ve missed any messages, you can watch them online on our website. If you’re a regular attender and you miss a Sunday, we strongly encourage you to watch it online, so that you don’t miss out on what God has for your life.
Today, our message is “The Order of the Spirit.” We’re going to be talking about the public use of spiritual gifts in a church or small group meeting. With respect to spiritual gifts, there are two kinds of churches. The first kind believes the Bible regarding the continuation of spiritual gifts to our time. This kind of church may be referred to as a continualist, Spirit-filled or Pentecostal church. Life Church is part of the Assemblies of God, the largest Spirit-filled denomination in the world with about 70 million people.
The second kind of church doesn’t believe what the Bible teaches regarding spiritual gifts. They believe that the spiritual gifts ceased when the Bible was completed. These churches are referred to as cessationist churches. Most denominational churches are cessationist. Religious political correctness today says it really doesn’t matter what churches believe, as long as they get salvation right. One church believes one thing, another other things, it’s just diversity, kind of like what flavor of ice cream you like. It really doesn’t matter. That thinking is completely incorrect. The Bible gives us direct commands regarding what to believe. If a church gets it wrong, it is a serious issue. Lives will be lost for eternity with every issue a church gets wrong and thereby disobeys God’s word. I believe that before Jesus returns, the church will be united in Spirit and in truth.
1 Corinthians 14:1 (NIV) Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
That command is still valid today. So, if you’ve got friends or relatives in cessationist churches, encourage them to find a Spirit-filled church that believes the whole Bible, like Life Church.
There are there kinds of continualist churches, that believe in spiritual gifts.
- Churches that only talk about spiritual gifts, but never operate in them.
- Those churches that use the gifts in an orderly and balanced manner.
- Out of balance churches that misuse spiritual gifts and are disorderly with them.
Some churches are so afraid of misusing the gifts that they make no room for them. That is wrong. Some people are so afraid of the gift of tongues that they have trouble receiving Spirit baptism. Yet, we need not fear the gifts of the Spirit. For God only gives good gifts, that bring about good things when we use them as God’s Word commands. So, today, we are going to talk about the public use of spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 14. I’d encourage you to study it this week as well. The first principle I want to talk about is that …
Everyone should participate in worship
1 Corinthians 14:26a (NIV) What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.
We talked last Sunday, that the Spirit distributes gifts to every Spirit-baptized believer. Here, instruction is given that when the church comes together, those gifts are to be used. Some of the gifts mentioned here were not in the list of 9 spiritual gifts we discussed last Sunday. Some will be used to lead people in worshiping with song. Another may bring a word of instruction or a teaching. Yet another may bring a revelation. This revelation could be a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge or a prophesy. Finally, someone may bring a message in tongues and another, the interpretation. The point is that everyone should participate in worship, not just observe.
Participation strengthens the church
1 Corinthians 14:26b (NIV) All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
The purpose of using the spiritual gifts is for the common good, for the strengthening of the entire church. It is not for exalting the one using the gift. How is the church strengthened? The church is strengthened as the gifts draw us closer to God in worship. God’s church is strengthened as the gifts lead people to turn away from sin. The entire church is strengthened as the gifts give us encouragement and direction for the future. Notice that this verse is a command. The gifts must be used to strengthen the church.
Authentic spiritual gifts can be used in ungodly ways that undermine and weaken the church. Spiritual gifts can be used to draw people to follow a certain person who may lead people out of the church. So, the church leadership is required, to oversee the proper use of all types of spiritual gifts, bringing needed correction as necessary.
Seek to grow in spiritual gifts
1 Corinthians 14:12b (NIV) Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
The church at Corinth was eager to have spiritual gifts. However, they were more interested in manifesting the gifts than in using them to build the church. So, this instruction is given to correct our motivation in seeking spiritual gifts. We are to seek them, to seek to grow and excel in them, not to build our own ministries, but to build up the entire church.
Overall, the church in America has moved from participation to observation. This has happened for a number of reasons. Part of it is due to the increase in large churches, for which participation in Sunday services can only be done by a few. Secondly, the teaching of many churches does not encourage participation. The remedy in large churches is to encourage participation in small groups, in which everyone can participate. Of course, proper teaching will also increase participation. Finally, one can participate even in a larger group, by truly worshipping, praying and hearing from God as you engage your heart and mind. Now let’s look at some …
Guidelines for tongues and prophecy
The entire chapters of 1 Corinthians 12-14 were written to correct some disorderly issues with tongues in the church at Corinth. So, there are very specific guidelines given for these spiritual gifts. These guidelines, also give us insight into how other gifts should be used.
Tongues must be interpreted
1 Corinthians 14:27-28 (NIV) If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
The first part of 1 Corinthians 14 gives us the reasons why tongues must be interpreted. It is basically, because no one can understand uninterpreted tongues and so the church is not encouraged or strengthened by them. In these verses, the guidelines keep the gift of tongues from dominating the service and require interpretation, either by the speaker or by someone else. When tongues are interpreted, they are the equivalent of prophecy in their usefulness.
Prophecy must be judged
1 Corinthians 14:29-30 (NIV) Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.
Here the important principle is that prophecy must be carefully weighed. This means that everyone, but especially church leadership, should examine a prophecy to see if it lines up with God’s Word Secondly, prophecy should strengthen, encourage and comfort. Finally, prophecy must be for the good of the whole church.
Another passage about prophecy is in …
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 (NIV) do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.
In other words, a prophecy can be completely good and accepted. Or a prophecy can be partly good and the bad rejected. Finally, a prophecy can be completely wrong and be rejected. It is the primary responsibility of church leadership to judge prophecy.
Prophecy is for encouragement
1 Corinthians 14:31 (NIV) For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.
Here we see the two results of true prophecy. Everyone will be instructed and encouraged. The same of true of all the gifts. They must be used in a way that is in keeping with God’s Word and encourages those who observe or receive the gift.
Prophecy must be controlled
1 Corinthians 14:32-33a (NIV) The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
This final principle also applies to the gift of tongues. One of the problems in Corinth and in some churches today, is that people feel that when the Spirit moves them, they have no choice but to speak. Here, God’s Word, says that the prophet is in control of the spiritual gift. In other words, he can decide when to speak and when to be silent. That decision must be made in light of these Scriptural guidelines and in light of the current situation.
I heard a story of a woman who would yell out in tongues at the close of a pastor’s message, just as he was getting ready to ask people to pray for salvation. After the message in tongues, the women would yell out the interpretation of tongues in King James English. Now, there was nothing wrong with the content of the message. What was wrong was the way it was given and the timing of when it was given. This happened Sunday after Sunday until the pastor took the woman aside and gently corrected her. Unfortunately, the woman did not receive the correction and left the church. The ability to receive correction is a mark of spiritual maturity.
In our services here at Life Church, one good time for the gift of prophecy to operate is at the close of our worship time when we wait on the Lord. If God speaks to you to give a word of prophecy don’t hesitate to speak it out. If there are any issues with it, we will gently correct them. God wants more of you to participate with spiritual gifts in our services.
Spiritual gifts impact unbelievers
In church services, there are almost always a mix of believers and unbelievers. This was true in Bible days and it is true today. Now, probably most unbelievers in church, think that they are believers, but they aren’t. So, how should spiritual gifts impact unbelievers.
Uninterpreted tongues has a negative impact
1 Corinthians 14:23 (NIV) So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
If unbelievers think that we are out of our minds, I don’t think that is positive. This is basically what was happening in the church at Corinth. They highly prized speaking in tongues so when they got together, they just all yelled out in tongues at the same time. To outsiders, it sounded like a madhouse and so it would today. Thus, the clear instruction later in the chapter to limit the amount of tongues and make sure it was interpreted. This instruction does not mean that you can’t quietly worship or pray in tongues during the service or even if you are praying for someone. It does mean that we should be aware of how our worship affects outsiders.
Prophecy can bring salvation
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (NIV) But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
Wow, wouldn’t that be great. Prophecy can bring conviction of sin, prophecy can reveal secrets of someone’s heart. The end result is that the unbeliever will fall in worship of God seeing that God is truly among the church. He will give his life to Jesus Christ. Spiritual gifts done in biblical order will not drive away unbelievers, but will draw them to Christ. As Jesus said, the power of the Spirit was given so that we could be effective witnesses, both within church and outside. Finally …
Everything must be done in order
1 Corinthians 14:39-40 (NIV) Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
Despite the issues of tongues that this chapter dealt with, the command is to not forbid speaking in tongues. Any church or Christian organization that forbids speaking in tongues is out of line with God’s Word and you should not participate with them. Lastly, everything, including all spiritual gifts must be done in a fitting and orderly way.
Our vision here at Life Church is to continue to grow in our understanding of and participation in spiritual gifts. Yet, we will do it in an orderly way, following the guidelines of God’s Word. We will keep the appropriate balance between God’s Word and God’s Spirit. We eagerly desire spiritual gifts, that the church may be strengthened and the lost saved.