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1 Corinthians

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Understanding God's Will is Vitally Important

1 Corinthians 14:1-5

Speaking in tongues had become a dominant feature in the Corinthian church. It appears that this gift was manifested in two ways: as the ability to speak known languages, as on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:6-12); and, as in these verses, making sounds which communicated from the person's heart to God without going through the limitations of language vocabulary and grammar.
 

Clarity Matters

1 Corinthians 14:6-9

Babies make noises. We do not properly understand them, but they are the only language through which they can express their deep feelings. In time, the child hears and repeats words that always mean the same things, associating them with specific people, objects, actions and desires. It is an essential process to enable mature communication, without which constructive interaction and community integration is very difficult.
 

Bridging the Cross-cultural Gap

1 Corinthians 14:10-12

Paul wanted the church in Corinth to understand that spiritual gifts were given by God to enable people to understand the gospel and live as disciples of Jesus Christ. They were tools and not toys. 'Speaking in tongues' held a fascination for some in the church. That gift either enabled the speaker to communicate in a foreign language that had not been learned or to make sounds, which nobody else understood, in praise and prayer to God. Regrettably, like the Pharisees, some used the gift to draw attention to themselves.
 

Beware the Unfruitful Mind

1 Corinthians 14:13-17

These verses continue Paul's instruction to the Corinthian church about 'speaking in tongues'. There is a place for a personal devotional language in prayer and praise to God, but it is dangerous to be caught up in mystery and disengage the mind. In the church meeting, that will confuse others and let them think that relating with God is about feelings rather than objective truth.
 

Think Like Adults

1 Corinthians 14:18-21

Most of the people in the church were adults, and yet Paul urged them to stop thinking as children and grow up. Strong, almost insulting words. It was because their worship meetings had become dominated by people speaking in tongues. God's Word took a low place and the enjoyment of their spiritual experience took over. It was like children playing with precious family treasures, without realising their full significance.
 

Conviction of Sin Demonstrates the Presence of God

1 Corinthians 14:22-25

Paul's instruction about the use of 'tongues' seems to have taken a disproportionate space in his letter. There is a reason. The church was designed to worship the Lord and to make the gospel accessible to unbelievers. But in Corinth the Christians were failing to be a truly functional church. Internal divisions blighted the church with disagreements about apostolic leadership, disrespect at the Lord’s Supper, tolerance of immorality, and other matters. But their attitude to 'speaking in tongues' showed they did not understand why they had been brought together in Christ.
 

Confusion Is Not One Of God's Characteristics

1 Corinthians 14:26-28

In the beginning, before God put order and meaning into the world, it was dark, shapeless and chaotic. It needed God's Word to bring it to life. And so God brought order out of chaos and provided His world with light and purpose (Genesis 1:1-5). He continues to do that in the lives of His people and His church (John 10:10). Confusion and disorder are not in God's nature and should not be a feature of God's church.

God's Voice Must Be Heard

1 Corinthians 14:29-33

In the Early Church, meetings often took place in homes (Acts 2:46). There was no sacred architecture or order of service. It seems that some people behaved as they would when attending a party (1 Corinthians 11:17-22); everybody speaking and few listening. Paul was concerned that the believers should hear the messages of encouragement and instruction. So the church leaders needed to apply some essential disciplines (1 Timothy 4:2-5).
 

Orderliness for the Gospel's Sake

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

This chapter and the one before it are all about how to use God's gifts sacrificially in love. Every culture has a different way of doing things and it is usually wise to share the gospel within those limits – at least initially. For example, Paul who was a Jewish Rabbi would usually start his ministry in the synagogue of each town he visited (even though he was often later expelled); he circumcised Timothy, and on Paul's final visit to Jerusalem instructed four men in his team to undergo purification rites (Acts 21:20-26). All that was to remove cultural objection to the gospel.

Arrogance v Apostolic Doctrine

1 Corinthians 14:36-40

The last verse, "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" sums up much of Paul's preceding chapters. The true gospel is so precious that no church should assume the right to adapt it to suit what they liked; nor should they prevent the gospel message reaching unbelievers. The Good News was not theirs to play with, but given to them by God, through the apostles, to build and extend His church. The Corinthians needed to be reminded that theirs was not the only church.

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