The Body – PART 12
18 May 14
(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
Our text today certainly touches on an issue that is, unfortunately, a major concern in churches across North America. This issue has to do with members attending and coming with a self-focus. This can be so extreme that anyone new, an outsider, feels completely left out, completely unimportant and unheard.
Start by talking about a time when fitting in was difficult - perhaps it was not in a church but a grade school memory, or a new work context, or a new neighborhood.
In our text today, Paul addresses selfie-ism. He challenges the Corinthians to see that the corporate gathering demands that they see themselves as present to serve and minister to those around them. What makes this doubly difficult is that they are abusing the gifts God has given them and using them to ostracize various members of the Church. Note that Corinth has a track record for ostracizing people - the weak, the poor, those that are different.
Text: 1 Corinthians 14: 1-25
Big Idea: Be A Body Builder.
Question: How can we be a Body builder?
1. START A COPERNICAN REVOLUTION
In the sixteenth century, Renaissance astronomer Nicholas Copernicus challenged the belief that the earth was at the center of the universe. Copernicus argued that the sun didn’t revolve around the earth, but rather, that the earth revolved around the sun. The Copernican Revolution turned the scientific world upside down by turning the universe inside out.
As you read v1-19, you will note that Paul is pushing back on people who are using the gift of tongues for self serving purposes. They are not the center of the universe, yet their abuse of tongues would suggest they think they are.
Read the text and identify the problem - what are the key phrases that identify it?
What are the key texts that illustrate that some of them thought they were the center of the universe?
How does Paul illustrate the problem?
What is Paul’s instruction for proper usage of the gift of tongues?
What do non-believers think of this whole self-serving focus? (v.23)
Got a personal example?
Note that Paul is not bashing the gift of tongues but rather directing them on the proper use of this gift in this house church.
As a group, talk about what it would be like to be in that setting and not understand what is being said.
What I want you to note is how Paul is standing up and attempting to start a “Copernican Revolution.” He is wanting them to see the great damage being done when “self” is the focus, when gifts that are to be used to build up (Romans 12:7) are actually tearing down.
Note that Paul has talked about how gifts can tear down when love is absent (1 Cor. 13) and now he is showing that gifts can tear down when their original purpose - building the Body - is turned into a self-serving purpose.
There is another way that we can tear down the Body when it comes to gifts - by not using them. Disobedience in not using gifts has left many churches weak, vulnerable and limping along.
2. EMBRACE THE SCHWARZENEGGER DISCIPLINE
There are several ways to be a Body builder, but in light of the context, Paul provides one tool in the Body builder’s apparel that can go a long way in strengthening the Church.
Note v.1 - which gift is key to being a Body-building Church?
Note from this context what we can conclude about the gift of prophecy:
a. We are to desire this gift - one can clearly see why once we understand its purpose and effect. Has this been a gift you have pursued? If not, why not? What are some of the challenges in using this gift in the church? How can it be easily abused?
b. Prophecy builds (v.3,4). “Edify” or “strengthen” refers to the process of building. In other words disciples are like Rome - not built in a day.
c. Both men and women are encouraged to prophecy. This is implied in the language of chapter 14 and is specifically addressed in chapter 11.
d. This is different than the role of an Old Testament prophet. It is not like OT prophecy, which was to be applied, not sifted, and had a “Thus saith the Lord!” sort of authority. Note in v.29 - the prophecy was to be sifted. Note that everyone is to seek it. I don’t think Paul imagines a church filled with Jeremiahs and Isaiahs here. Have you ever seen the abuse that can be perpetrated by a person who says “Thus saith the Lord through me…!”?
e. This gift was different than teaching. Note in v.12:29 Paul seems to make a distinction. Gordon Fee says that this gift was a “spontaneous word.” There is lots of discussion today that suggests that prophecy can include teaching. See what Paul says in v.18,19 that might suggest this. Has God ever laid on your heart a word of encouragement for someone in the Body, your small group? If so how would you describe that experience? How did you go about sharing this?
f. Like all the gifts, it is to be clothed in love. In making the transition from chapter 13 to 14:1a, Paul uses a strong verb —"pursue" ("follow the way of," NIV; cf. Philippians 3:12, 14) — as he charges them to seek love. This is a stronger verb than the following one — "eagerly desire" — which he applies to seeking spiritual gifts. So love must have the priority, and after that the gift of prophecy must particularly be sought.
So with love being the basis, my understanding in how this gift best operates is that there is a relationship of some kind with the person that I am speaking with. “Cold turkey” words can sometimes be the perfect set-up for abuse (next week we will look at the context of v.29).
g. Both the mind and spirit are edified. This is why prophecy in this context is so superior.
h. Prophecy can touch the heart of the non-believer (v.24,25)
So now, imagine a church where when the church gathers, everyone is embracing the Copernican Revolution, seeking to build, edify and encourage. Imagine a church where whenever selfie-ism is seen, it is called out (lovingly) and redirected. Imagine a Church where non-believers, after experiencing Body life, don’t exclaim “I love Jesus but hate the Church” but instead say, “God is really among you!”
Let’s not just imagine but realize a Church committed to Body building at Bethel. Copernicus and Arnold would be proud!!
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For Additional Study:
“V. 21 quotes Isa. 28:11f., which Paul says is in the Law, though nomos, “law,” had become a term for all the OT, including the prophets. The form of the quotation has notable similarities to Aquila’s Greek OT translation and differs from the Hebrew and the Septuagint in some ways. One crucial difference is that Paul has changed the word “hear” in the last line to “obey.”
The larger context in Isaiah 28 indicates that the Lord can only teach those weaned from the breast (v. 9), those who are not spiritually children. In v. 10 there may actually be a sort of Hebraic imitation of glossolalia: ṣaw lāṣāw, ṣaw lāṣāw, qaw lāqāw, qaw lāqāw, zeʿêr šām, zeʿêr šām. The next line describes this as stammering in a foreign tongue, and refers to the impression made on the Judahites by Isaiah’s preaching. As a judgment against hardhearted Judah, God spoke to them in a foreign tongue that they could not understand, because they would not hear the truth in their own tongue.
This larger context becomes very interesting when we look at what follows the quotation in 1 Corinthians 14: In v. 22 Paul says that glossolalia is a sign for nonbelievers, those who do not hear and obey. Here the word “sign,” in view of the Isaiah quotation, surely means an ʾōṯ, a sign of judgment that they are out of touch with God. This is the effect of uninterpreted tongues on the nonbelievers in Corinth. They cannot respond positively but only say that tongues speakers are ecstatics.
By contrast prophecy is a sign for believers. Here Paul means presumably that what is given in prophecy is a word of judgment or exhortation for all believers. It is also a word that convicts and convinces nonbelievers, even if it is neither directed to them nor a sign for them. Vv. 24f. describe how such prophecy can affect the nonbeliever, and we should probably see here a description of a conversion. It convicts them, challenges them, and reveals the secrets of their hearts with the result that they fall down prostrate and worship the true God, saying “God is really with you!” Therefore, even though prophecy is directed toward the congregation, being a sign for Christians, it can have a powerful effect on nonbelievers because it is both supernatural and intelligible.”
Witherington, Ben., III. (1995). Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (pp. 274–290). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.