>The Lord works in amazing ways! I won’t go into all the things on my heart – but things just were so special today. King Agrippa was the character of choice for illustrating how so many in the world hear the Gospel, but never actually respond – the proverbial “missed heaven by ‘THIS’ much…”. It really brought me back to so many experiences in my own life, when I heard the Gospel preached clearly – and how I even may have had some “emotional connection” to the words, but unfortunately didn’t fully accept them – how I too spent many years “nearly convinced to become a Christian”. This all caused me to be overwhelmed with joy, that God didn’t give up on me – that His forbearance and longsuffering continued until that fatefully day when He once again, via the Holy Spirit, touched my heart with the wonderful Gospel!
Just what did it take to “convince” you? Or have you been convinced? The rich man who died at the same time as the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16) realized too late, that he had missed the truth. And as the response back to his crying out for Lazarus to go back and warn his brothers reminds us – if they haven’t believed, with all the scriptures and prophets, then one more isn’t going to help.
Our morning concluded with the baptism of Ms. Annie! What a joyful time.
The evening message came from 1 Corinthians 14, as another step on the “Blueprint For The Church” series that has stretched most of this year. This follows up Chapter 13’s focus on spiritual gifts, and their purpose – and addressed the problem with the use of spiritual gifts (or maybe even faked gifts) in the church at Corinth. My studies led me to pursue two theories on the kind of “gift of tongues” that Paul was specifically addressing. Dr. John MacArthur goes down the path of paganism – that some in the Corinthian church were practicing their old pagan worship “techniques” that included getting stupid-drunk until they only uttered ecstatic speech until passing out – a definite misuse of the claim to speaking tongues! Yet another theory that I looked at was that the “tongues” used by the Corinthians was the Hebrew language – that because Hebrew by that time had fallen into “dead language” status – but that some Jewish members of the Corinthian church would sing, read, and preach/teach in Hebrew as a sign of their “superiority” to the gentile believers – thus the reason Paul says that they pray/sing/speak to God, but not to the edification of the church.
While I am not totally convinced if either, neither, or both of these have some solid foundation, I believe the way the Corinthians were practicing the “gift of tongues” was wrong -either way. Paul clearly and repeatedly says what the REAL gift of tongues was given for – much as the Day of Pentecost – when people from all over the world, with different heart languages, heard the Gospel in their own native tongue… languages that the Apostles wouldn’t be expected to be able to speak – The purpose was to speak-forth (the general New Testament definition of “prophecy”) the Gospel so that the hearers could understand. But it was also given as a sign – because there would be no reasonable expectation that the Apostles could speak the wide variety of languages present that day… A miraculous sign—
So the gift of tongues, as express by Paul and demonstrated over and over, was not about building one’s self up. It was not to prove any superiority. It was simply a way of communicating – a sign because it was unknown to the speaker. And an interpreter so that all could benefit. The gift was just as every other spiritual gift – to edify the Church and to glorify God.
The long and short – if we are called by God unto salvation in Jesus Christ, we are endowed with Spiritual Gifts – not for our own use and puffing up, but to strengthen, encourage, and lift up our brothers and sisters, and to aid in the sending forth (or speaking-forth “prophecy”) of the Gospel of Christ. One of our “jobs” as a local church is to help all believers to discover and USE their spiritual gifts. Because unused spiritual gifts tend to waste away, or become misused.
Because I didn’t want to be accused of doing what I have specifically said preachers should not do – skipping uncomfortable or controversial passages – I did briefly address verse 25 – Paul’s admonition for women to “not speak in the churches”. This passage has been so abused that it has lost, for many, any meaning at all. But when we consider that Paul was addressing a particular people, in a particular time – we can gather, by connecting to the surrounding text, the context. Paul was addressing disorder. God’s Word is clear here, and elsewhere, that women are not to usurp men’s proper and biblical roles. Preaching/prophecy (exhortation) in the regular meeting of the church body is not appropriate, and in fact is a “disgrace”. God is not the author of confusion – and just as the abuse of the gift of tongues (or the fraudulent misuse as may very well be), women were apparently not being submissive to order in the church. Paul doesn’t prohibit women from having roles in the work of the church. He doesn’t even say that women cannot pray or speak publicly. Instead, he is reinforcing that there is an order to the regular worship in the congregation of the saints – the local church. By standing up and questioning the speaker (or preacher), by trying to BE the preacher – women were stepping outside their biblical roles, creating disorder. While this is not a popular interpretation – I believe that linguistically, historically, and contextually, this is on the right track.
Now that I have opened up a can of worms, I will depart for now! Until next time…