“IT IS ABOUT EDIFICATION”
(A Series on I Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 1/31/99 a.m. I Corinthians 14:1-25
PROPOSITION: God’s primary objective with the Church of Jesus Christ is to edify her and thereby prepare her as a radiant bride for His Son.
- GOD is into one thing on this earth...building His Church.
- IT was for that very reason that Jesus came to the earth and died on the cross...so that a church, a holy people, could one day be presented before the throne of God as a trophy of His glorious grace.
- TURN with me to Ephesians 5:25 (page 1159),
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (27) and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25b-27)
- JESUS came to purchase a radiant church which He will one day present to Himself in glory.
- HOW is it going to become a radiant church?
- ONLY if we are built up in our most holy faith.
“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 20)
- WHICH is why God is into one thing on the earth...building His church.
- DO you remember the Democratic presidential campaign slogan of 1992? “It is the economy, stupid!”
- WELL, I wouldn’t use the word, stupid, but our passage in I Corinthians 14 for this morning can be summed up.... “It is about edification!”
- THAT word, edify, which means to build up, is the center piece of I Corinthians 14:1-25.
- THE heart of the passage is verse 12, where Paul says,
“...try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”
- THE Corinthians were excelling in what made them feel good and not what built up the church.
- YOU see, the believers in Corinth had grown up in a culture where it was not uncommon at the temple festivities of the Greek deities to see people get drunk and trip out in what historians call “ecstatic behavior”....attributed to the gods.
* They would go into trance-like states.
* They would froth at the mouth.
* They would babble in unintelligible language.
* They would make psychic predictions about the future.
* At their feasts they would dance and gyrate and eventually enter into all kinds of sexual perversion.
* All inhibitions would fall away. Their primary goal was satisfying their personal appetites. Things were out of control.
- SOME of the behavior could be blamed on the alcohol and some on demonic manifestations.
- MANY of the believers in Corinth had come out of this kind of temple worship.
- SO, when God’s Spirit began to move in their worship services and the gifts of the Spirit came into operation, it was hard for them to differentiate between their past....
* ...where they were in it to get something out of it for themselves.
- AND their new place in the body of Christ...
* ...where they are in it, not to gratify their own appetites, but to build up the church.
- SO, Paul spends the first 25 verses in I Corinthians 14 driving home the point...it is about edification.
- AND the context of this message from Paul is a comparison between the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy.
- LISTEN carefully to me this morning. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I am going to preach from this passage.
- I AM more “for the gifts of the Spirit” than anyone here this morning.
- I BELIEVE they are God’s methodology for building the church of Jesus in power.
- BUT while none of us may have been raised in the kind of ecstatic fervor of cultic worship, like the Corinthians, we still face the temptation to gravitate to the spectacular demonstrations of the supernatural.....because it is more personally gratifying and easier than being built up in the most holy faith. (Jude 20)
ii. prophecy is more edifying than tongues
- IT is time for me to remind you in this message that this is not a Bible study in I Corinthians 14, where you would take time to dissect every verse, but a message on the importance of edification.
- TURN with me please to I Corinthians 14 (page 1137 ff)
- IT appears that there was some abuse of the gift of tongues in Corinth.
- IT was becoming the dominant expression of the work of the Spirit in worship services in Corinth.
- IT was ecstatic. It was exciting. It reminded them of the good old days where going to the temple was a party....where everyone could get down and have a good time.
- REMEMBER the theme of the message...it is about edification.
- I PICK up on four things that Paul says in this passage.
#1 Prophecy is more edifying than tongues.
- VERSE 1,
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts...”
- IN our generation an equally alarming problem to excess or abuse in the gifts is the number of people who don’t give spiritual gifts a second thought.
- VERSE 1 says to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts.”
- LET’S go on...
“....especially the gift of prophecy.(2)For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. (3) But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. (4) He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. (5) I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.”
- PROPHECY is more edifying than tongues because it...
* strengthens the church when God speaks to a fellowship of people.
* encourages the church when God speaks.
* comforts the church when God speaks.
- TONGUES is good. It is a gift of God for personal worship and intercession....but it does not edify, build up the church and that is the goal.
- IT is about edification when we come together....not your personal worship agenda or mine.
- SO prophecy is more desirable because it accomplishes the purpose of building the body of Christ.
- PROPHECY is more edifying than tongues.
iii. prophecy is more intelligible than tongues
- HERE is the second point that Paul makes....
#2 Prophecy is more intelligible than tongues
- THE ecstatic activity of the pagan temples made no sense whatsoever...but that was OK because it made you feel good.
- INTELLIGIBILITY was not an issue for the pagan worshippers of Aphrodite...having a good time was.
- BUT if you are going to build up the church of Jesus, you have to have intelligibility....it needs to make sense.
- I DIDN’T make this up.
- LET’S read from verse 6.
“Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you,(that is the goal here) unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?”
- WHY is a revelation, knowledge, or word of instruction so important? Because that is what it takes to build you and me up in our faith.
- PAUL illustrates this in verse 7,
“Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? (8) Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? (9) So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.”
- PAUL is putting a premium here on being involved, when we come together, with those gifts of the Spirit and activities of the Spirit that have understanding and enhance our knowledge of God.
- VERSE 10,
“Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. (11) If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. (12) So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”
- WHAT is the theme of the message?...it is about edification.
iv. prophecy is more instructive than tongues
- HERE is the third point that Paul makes in this passage...
#3 Prophecy is more instructive than tongues
- PAUL writes in Romans 10:17 that,
“...faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
- INSTRUCTION in God Word, anointed and inspired by the Holy Spirit is one of the ways that God has of building up the faith of His church.
- PAUL advocates the importance of instruction here in the public gathering of the church.
- THERE was no time for instruction in the crazy self-indulgent orgies of the Corinthian pagan worship....and they had brought that appetite in with them to the church.
- PAUL tells them that having a good time was not as important as being instructed in the ways of the Lord.....because it is about edification.
- VERSE 16,
“If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? (17) You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. (18) I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. (19) But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. (20) Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”
- A CHILD wants to be entertained, pleased, made happy, catered to 24 hours a day.
- WE can’t let our appetites drive our public worship gatherings....that would be evil.
- WHY would it be evil?
- BECAUSE indulging ourselves in an ecstatic good time denies others the privilege of instruction.
- VERSE 21,
“In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord.”
- THIS is a strange verse that has stirred much controversy....but I believe all Paul is saying here is that when Israel strayed from the Lord He tried to instruct them (to speak to them) through the Assyrian army coming in discipline, but they didn’t listen.
- THIS verse simply underlines the fact that God is always looking for ways to instruct, to teach, to speak to us if we will listen.
- THE point is “prophecy is more instructive than tongues.”
- AND it is about edification.
v. prophecy is more convicting than tongues
- HERE is the fourth and final point that Paul makes in this passage...
#3 Prophecy is more convicting than tongues
- VERSE 22,
“Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers...”
- IN other words, it gets their attention precisely because it does have a supernatural quality that is readily identified.
- THE question is, what happens after tongues has captured their attention?
- IN ACTS 2, after the initial spectacle of tongues the crowd started ridiculing, saying the disciples were drunk.
- NOTICE that as soon as this criticism was raised, Peter moved in to preaching a prophetic message.
- SO, tongues is a sign to unbelievers.
- LET’S move on,
“...prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.”
- WHY? Because prophecy edifies. And it is about edification.
- VERSE 23,
“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? (24) 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, (25) and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’”
- PROPHECY is more convicting than tongues.
- HERE is the point of these 25 verses....God is interested in building His church.
- HE is confounding and amazing the rulers and authorities in heavenly places by what is going on in His Church (Ephesians 3:10)....that is his intent and purpose.
- HE is getting us ready for His eternal presence.
- HE is coming back for a radiant church, without wrinkle or blemish.
- TO that end He is into those things that will edify, will build His church to get it ready for His purposes.
- AND this passage isn’t nearly about a duel between the relative value of prophecy over that of tongues.....as much as it is about the importance to God that we be about building His Church.
- REMEMBER I told you what I thought was the key verse in this passage? Verse 12,
“Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”
- I BELIEVE that Jesus is coming back soon.
- WHEN He does return, don’t you want to be found investing your life in what He is doing?
- THEN let’s build the church of Jesus in everything we do.
HOLD TO HIS HAND