(1 Corinthians 14:1-9) – The Manners of Spiritual Gifts.
Paul lays the basic theology of spiritual gifts, then speaks into the character necessary when using spiritual gifts, and now he finishes the discussion by talking about the manners of spiritual gifts.
What are some pieces of etiquette and practice to consider when in the worship service? What should it actually look like?
Even when Paul cites practical steps for churches, he always lays those steps against the backdrop of big-picture-biblical-principles.
That’s basically what today’s passage does. The later verses deal with more specifics.
One of Paul’s major points here is that God values understanding. You can’t really effectively minister to those who do not understand you.
That’s why Paul elevates prophecy over speaking in tongues. Prophetic words gave the people God’s message in their language so that it was easy to know what was being asked of them.
Speaking in tongues also communicated God’s message, but in a mystery because it wasn’t in the language of the people. To even have a small level of understanding, it required another person to interpret. Not even the person speaking in tongues knew what was being said sometimes.
Because of that, Paul says that it is good manners to give preference to that which provides greater understanding for a greater number of people.
Because the primary purpose of ALL spiritual gifts is edification (cf.12:7), one must pause the public practice of their gift when it fails to help accomplish that purpose. That’s what it means to pursue love.
It took more work and more time to get the message to the people when someone was speaking in tongues. Prophecy took less time in the worship service, people were built up, and God loved that.
We should want the spiritual growth of people more than we want the public display of our gifts.
It’s not to say one was wrong and the other was right. Paul is more dealing with a “good vs. better” thing than a “right vs. wrong” thing.
Even in a context where everyone speaks the same language, we can still communicate in a way that doesn’t edify the body.
When we speak over people’s heads, use lingo that doesn’t make sense or makes us sound smart unnecessarily, we are choosing to display our “gift” instead of edifying the body.
Speak in a way that people understand so that in can encourage them!