Today we conclude with our message series from 1 Corinthians called “Spirit Empowered Living.” Our message today is entitled “Blessing of Spiritual Gifts.” What are spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts are supernatural expression of the Holy Spirit working through individual believers. These spiritual gifts are God’s way of blessing people through His church.
In Old Testament times, only certain select people operated in some of the spiritual gifts. For example, some prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha had the spiritual gift of working miracles. Other prophets, had the gift of prophesying, that is speaking for God to others. In New Testament times, in which we are now living, everything changed regarding spiritual gifts. Peter, preaching on the day of Pentecost quotes the prophet Joel to explain what was now happening.
Acts 2:17a (ESV) “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy …
In the last days, which began at Christ’s resurrection and continue until He returns, the Holy Spirit makes spiritual gifts available to all believers. In order to receive the power to minister in spiritual gifts, Jesus taught that a believer must be baptized in the Holy Spirit, something that did not happen in the Old Testament.
Acts 1:4-5 (ESV) And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Spirit baptism, available to all believers, is God’s gateway to moving in spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts have two main uses: first of all, they can be used to build up and minister to believers in the church. Secondly, they can be used to provide the power of the Holy Spirit for witnessing to unbelievers.
Acts 1:8 (ESV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus here tells us that the Spirit’s power enables believers to be bold Spirit-empowered witnesses to those who do not know Jesus. As we go through the book of Acts, we learn that God desires for every believer to be baptized in water and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The evidence that a person has received Spirit baptism and the power behind Spirit baptism is the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.
Tongues are simply communicating with God in a language that you have never learned. The power of tongues is that it allows a believer to pray a perfect prayer in keeping with God’s will that will always be answered. That is an incredible blessing that God has made available to us today. This morning, we’re going to look at 1 Corinthians 14 to learn more about the blessing of spiritual gifts, particularly within the church. Spiritual gifts are given to …
1 Corinthians 14:1-2 (ESV) Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.
This important chapter on spiritual gifts begins with the command to every believer to earnestly desire spiritual gifts. Allowing God to use you in spiritual gifts is not automatic, even for those Spirit baptized. To earnestly desire spiritual gifts is to seek them, learn about them and pray for them.
In this chapter, Paul is going to contrast two spiritual gifts, the gift of tongues and the gift of prophesy. Tongues, as we’ve already mentioned is praying to God in an unknown language, unknown to the speaker and to any listening to him. In this chapter, Paul’s concern is which type of spiritual gift is best at building up the church. From what we’ve learned about speaking in tongues, we see that speaking in tongues is not going to help those who hear, as no one understands what they are saying, except God.
1 Corinthians 14:3 (ESV) On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.
The spiritual gift of prophesy is different. In prophesy, the speaker speaks in a known language that everyone can understand. The purpose of prophesy in the church is to build people up, to encourage them and to comfort them. Is that to say that tongues has no value? Not at all.
1 Corinthians 14:4 (ESV) The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
Here we see clearly expressed, the purposes of these two spiritual gifts. When a believer speaks in tongues on his own, he builds up or edifies himself. In other words, speaking in tongues privately causes a person to grow spiritually, for he is allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through him according to God’s will. On the other hand, someone who prophesies in an understandable language will build up the church, since all can understand what he is saying. Paul is instructing the church at Corinth how to properly use spiritual gifts both within the church and in a private setting.
The book of Acts makes it clear, that God desires for every believer in Jesus to be water baptized as a believer and to be Spirit baptized. If you haven’t been Spirit baptized, I’d encourage you to pick up the free book we have for you on the Info Table called Power for Life. It will help you understand and receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. A number of people in Life Church have been Spirit baptized after reading the book and praying.
However, Spirit baptism is not the end, but just the beginning of walking in the blessing of spiritual gifts. Everyone who has been Spirit baptized has the gift of tongues, a personal prayer language. Pray in tongues every day, it will build you up and you will see many more answers to prayer. Then follow the instructions that we’ve read today. Earnestly desire to be used in spiritual gifts to build up our church family. In particular, God’s Word emphasizes the gift of prophesy. Speaking forth a word that God has given you for the church. God wants to use you to build up the church through spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 14:13-14 (ESV) Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.
From what we’ve already read, you may think that tongues has no place in a church service. However, there is a way for tongues to build up others in the church. There is another spiritual gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, the gift of interpretation. God gives some people the gift of interpreting who is said in an unknown tongue into a language that all can understand. So, all those who are Spirit baptized and speak in tongues should pray that God would give them the interpretation of the tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:15 (ESV) What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.
There are two ways to pray mentioned by Paul and believers are to do both, each has their place. We are to pray with our spirits, that is pray in tongues. And we are to pray with our minds in a language we understand. In the same way, believers can sing in tongues and sing with their minds. We are to do both.
1 Corinthians 14:18-19 (ESV) I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Even though Paul is saying that praying in tongues without interpretation in the church is not beneficial, tongues is very valuable when done in private. Paul, the great apostle amazingly says that he speaks in tongues in private more than the entire Corinthian church and he thanked God for it. Tongues is an incredible gift of God and should be used on a daily basis as part of praying without ceasing. But in the church, we must speak and pray in an understandable language. God desires for us to learn to minister through the Spirit in our church family.
Let’s talk some more about prophesy in the church. Prophesy is when God gives someone a message to speak to the church family. The message should be one of edification, encouragement or comfort. We regularly have prophesies given in our services at Life Church. A prophesy is different than prayer as prayer is speaking to God, whereas a prophesy is God speaking to us. Prophesy can be understood and taken to heart by both believers and unbeliever. A prophesy could also include words of wisdom and words of knowledge, two other spiritual gifts spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12. Prophesy is not adding to the written word of God, but rather applying principles of God’s Word to the particular situation God desires to address. In our final point today, we are going to look at the instructions of God’s Word regarding prophesy.
1 Corinthians 14:27-28 (ESV) If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
Next Paul addresses how tongues can be properly used in the church, if they are interpreted into a language that all can understand. Interpretation of tongues is another spiritual gift. A message or prayer in tongues can be interpreted by the person speaking or by someone else. If no one is present who is known to be able to interpret tongues, either the person with the message or someone else, then the person should not speak in tongues publicly. Of course, as Paul says here, every believer can and should pray in tongues privately. Messages in tongues in a church service should be limited to two or three at the most.
1 Corinthians 14:29 (ESV) Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
Similarly, prophesies in a church service should be limited to two or three, so as not to dominate the rest of the service. Those who hear the prophesy should weigh what is said. That means that they should check the prophetic word against the standard of God’s Word. What is in accordance with God’s Word should be heeded and that which is contrary should not be accepted.
1 Corinthians 14:31-32 (ESV) For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
Anyone at any time can be used in any of the spiritual gifts. We are to desire earnestly spiritual gifts, especially to prophesy, but the Spirit will give out His gifts as He sees fit. The end result of prophesy is that people will learn from the Lord and be encouraged. The prophetic word and tongues and interpretation should be done in an orderly manner, not interrupting the rest of the service.
So, the last part of the verse states that the prophet’s spirit is subject to the prophet. In other words, when God gives you a prophetic word to speak, you do not need to interrupt the service at that moment. You can wait until the appropriate time and give it then, when it will be most effective.
Those who are regularly used in prophesy may be called prophets. It is clear throughout the New Testament that God has established prophets in His church until Jesus returns again. In order to properly use spiritual gifts, we must exercise proper judgement.
Let’s talk about how these gifts are used at Life Church. At the beginning of the service, we have a time of worship, entering into the presence of the Lord with praise. At the end of worship, we have a time of waiting on the Lord to see what He may have to say to us. This is the most appropriate time to bring either a tongue and interpretation or a prophetic word. It doesn’t have to be just one. According to God’s Word, we could have two or three messages from the Lord. If something is said that is directly contrary to God’s Word, I will bring it to our attention as the pastor. Just because someone may say something wrong does not mean that everything they have said is not from the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 (ESV) Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
Don’t be afraid to prophesy because you might get something wrong. Trust the Lord and step out in faith if He is prompting you to speak. God will help you to exercise proper judgement.
There is great blessing in spiritual gifts. Today, we have talked about three of the nine gifts spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12-14, the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues and prophesy. These are good gifts, unfortunately despised by many, but very important to building up the body of Christ. As we grow in using these gifts to build up the church, we will also grow in the rest of the gifts. The gifts of healing, discerning of spirits, faith, miracles, words of knowledge and wisdom. Don’t count yourself out. God desires for every believer to be Spirit baptized and to desire earnestly these spiritual gifts. As we receive more and more from God, He will use us to bless many more people for His kingdom.