1 Corinthians 14:1-6
Stephen Caswell © 2000
The ancient Etruscans foretold the future by looking at sheep livers.
They divided the liver into sixteen parts just as they had divided the heavens into sixteen parts.
Certain gods ruled various parts of the heavens and would get into corresponding parts of the liver and give signs that provided guidance for people.
How far removed that is from the guidance David wrote about: /Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path/.
Two weeks ago we saw the importance of love in the body of Christ.
Love enables us to minister to each other effectively.
It is the circulatory system of the body of Christ.
Without love spiritual gifts /accomplish nothing/.
Without love individuals promote themselves rather then edifying their brethren.
When spiritual gifts are exercised in love the body is edified.
Paul discusses the purpose of spiritual gifts in chapter 14.
He shows the superiority of prophecy over tongues when it comes /to building up the body/, what he calls/ edification/.
Prophecy Is To Be Desired
Prophecy Edifies The Church
Prophecy Is Greater Than Tongues
/Firstly/ Prophecy Is To Be Desired
*1 Cor 14:1* */Pursue love/*/, and *desire spiritual gifts*, but *especially* that you may *prophesy.*/
Again Paul emphasized the importance of love by commanding them /to pursue it/.
Love was to be their primary pursuit as believers.
Their desire for spiritual gifts would not be wrong if it was controlled by love.
We must keep in mind that spiritual gifts have as their purpose the building up of the church of Jesus Christ and not the personal enjoyment of the believer.
Gifts are for employment, not enjoyment.*/
/*So Paul commanded them to pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
/Why did Paul emphasize prophecy?
What made it so important?/
Paul gives us the answer to this question in the following verses, where he contrasts tongues and prophecy.
The Worlds Prophets
During the 1930's and 1940's, the London newspaper Sunday Express carried an astrology column by R. H. Naylor.
Within a few weeks he predicted that Franco would never rule Spain, a united Ireland was imminent, and there would be no war in 1939.
He explained that Hitler's horoscope showed he was not a war maker.
So much for the horoscope!
Today's astrologers do no better.
On the rare occasions when their guesses are right, unthinking people tout them, never noticing the many, many times when they are wrong.
*/Bible Prophecy/*, you will recall, was the giving forth of the truth of God under the immediate leading of the Holy Spirit.
/It isn't identical to preaching, because the preacher interprets the written Word as instructed by the Spirit; he does not speak the very Word of God.
/Prophets proclaimed God's Word to the people.
They would say,/ Thus says the Lord/, and you could be sure what they said was 100% truth.
The early Church didn't have a Bible to read like we do.
They relied on the teaching of the Apostles and prophets.
A prophet's message revealed how people should live to please God.
Although prophets foretold the future at times, this wasn't their primary task.
They mostly challenged the people to serve God through holy living.
If you read the O.T prophets you will see this.
W. Tozer said: */Scholars can interpret the past; it takes prophets to interpret the present.
/Paul encouraged the Corinthians to seek this gift because it was so practical.
Prophets played such an important part in the early Church.
*1 Corinthians 12:28* /And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
/When Paul prioritized spiritual gifts he listed prophets second and tongues last.
It was upon the teaching of the Apostles and New Testament prophets that God established the Church.
They were the Church's foundation.
*Ephesians* *2:19-20: */Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
/The apostles and prophets were important to the early Church/, /but now God has completed His revelation to man in the Bible.
We don't need new prophecy.
We need to study and listen to what we already have.
/I trust that no one here is seeking a new experience like tongues or prophecy?/
The Lord no longer speaks through Apostles and Prophets.
He has given us His word.
Today he speaks to His people through pastors, evangelists, teachers and encouragers.
We should listen to them.
We should study God's Word.
If the Lord gives you opportunity then you can also teach it.
Prophecy Edifies The Church
*1 Corinthians 14:2* /For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
Tongues Are a Mystery /
/Why does Paul say that those who speak in tongues speak to God and not men?
Why does he say that they speak in mysteries?
/Because the Corinthians were using tongues in their Church services without an interpreter.
The message of tongues was never directed toward believers but unbelievers.
This can be seen from the day of Pentecost.
The audience that understood the tongues were unsaved people from all over Asia.
*/Tongues,/* enabled the Church to reach these unbelievers who spoke another language.
The message proclaimed through tongues was/ the wonderful works of God./ Yet it wasn't the message of tongues that saved them but the Gospel that Peter preached after this.
The Gospel message always accompanied tongues in the early Church.
This can be established from Acts 2; 10 & 17.
The primary purpose of tongues was to reach unbelievers and challenge them to repent.
Verses 23 and 24 reveal how this gift was not primarily for Christians worshipping in Church.
The gift was given to reach unbelievers while the Church was in its infancy.
There was an element of warning associated with the gift of tongues.
The fact that a foreigner could speak to them of God's wonderful works is challenging in itself.
Paul points out how God used tongues to convict Israel of sin in verses 21 and 22.
It is unfortunate that people have the idea that tongues were used to preach the Gospel to the lost.
At Pentecost, the believers extolled the wonderful works of God, but Peter preached the Gospel in the Aramaic language his listeners could all understand.
The gift of tongues has never saved anyone.
Rather it is faith in Jesus Christ, heard and received through the Gospel that accomplishes this miracle.
The gift of tongues simply grabbed the attention of unbelievers so that they might then listen to the Gospel.
Paul was afraid that the excessive tongues-speaking in the church would convince the lost that the Christians were crazy!
*1 Corinthians 14:23 */Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?/
Unfortunately the Corinthians were speaking in tongues during their services and causing confusion.