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A Controversial Gift

"Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying."
I Corinthians 14:1-5 
Speaking in Tongues - B I B L E - ONLY

We've come to the fourteenth chapter of I Corinthians, a chapter, which is dedicated to the truth about tongues, this was not only a major issue within the Corinthian assembly, to put it mildly, however, it seems to be yet a major issue even today; and so we speak to the times, as well as interpreting the Bible. 

Allow me to begin by saying at the Tower of Babel, God confused the languages of men. And the only other biblical incident that can rival that confusion of language at Babel, is the confusion of tongues at the church in Corinth. They had so confused this issue of languages that God had given as a gift, so much so, they had even counterfeited it, they had so substituted reality for the satanic counterfeit that the apostle Paul had to write an entire chapter in order to deal with the issue. Can you even imagine? Aren't we grateful there is no such confusion in today's modern church? If only...

In our continuing study of I Corinthians, we pick up in Chapter 14. It is here we find ourselves with the topic, the gift of tongues, an issue which has been surrounded by conflict over the last fifty years. Today, as in Paul's day, there are a variety of opinions on this subject, and I think the smartest thing for me to do, would be to just skip over I Corinthians 14 and move ahead to Chapter 15 and teach about the resurrection, something on which I'm sure we would all likely agree. However, I am not called to do that, I am called to teach all of the Word, without regard to how uncomfortable it is for me to do so, or for those who would hear it. Therefore, I'll do as I'm called and dive right in to chapter 14, head first. 

I am painfully aware, it may seem foolish to many, to undertake such a divisive topic, however, an important part of my job as your pastor is to preach to you what Paul calls "the whole counsel of God." And that means all of God's Word. Not the parts that validate people sin, make them feel good and leave them feeling all warm and fuzzy, at the end of the message. In spite what is being taught in many churches today, I believe that all parts of the Bible, including I Corinthians 14, are Words from God, that He has preserved for us and as such, they will provide some benefit for our souls. I also know there are sometimes mistrust between Christians who speak in tongues and those who do not. 

It is my desire, that this message might help us all, to overcome some of that, that we may be able to grow in love for each other. Now, if you are visiting us here today, possibly for the first time, you likely really have no idea what I am talking about. If that is the case, I guess the best way to explain it is, it's kind of like your stepping into the middle of a family argument, however, I do hope you are able to learn some things here today. So as we head into this topic, though I am feeling a little anxiety, I will endure it because I believe that God has something for all of us.  

So, it is my purpose as we go through this chapter, is not to bash preachers or denominations that do or do not practice tongues. We know who our real enemy is, and it is not the church down the street, in the next town, across the country or around the world. We know his lies, schemes and divisive plans. My purpose is to teach the Word of God.

So, let’s bow our heads in prayer and that He would speak to us all through His Word today.

Heavenly Father, 

Thank You for bringing us all together today to hear the Word You have for us. Thank You for prompting those hearts who have responded, in joining us, may they be blessed by Your Word.
Lord, we just pray that these truths would make their way into our hearts and they would bear fruit. We pray that You would help us to deal with those who might disagree with us with great love and affection, and admonish them as brothers. Help us to hold fast to what we know to be true. Help us to seek, beyond all things, to keep these truths at the forefront of our hearts, to keep Your church pure and be so focused on Your Word.

Father, I pray that Your Spirit, would lead us today, speaking through me, unite Your church O' Lord, may it all be for Your glory, Your increase, that even one among us, may hear and understand.
We pray this in Christs’ name 

Today's Message: A Controversial Gift

Open your Bibles with me to the book of I Corinthians chapter 14. Though we'll be looking specifically at verses 1 through 5, let's just see where the Holy Spirit takes us. I Corinthians 14:1-5.

Allow me to get this text settled in our minds, if you would follow along with me, as I read.

"Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying."

We read here, some pretty strong words from the apostle Paul for the church at Corinth. In early Christianity, it was the true gift of languages, used only when someone who spoke the language was present in order that it might be a sign that God was there, and that God’s people were speaking God’s truth. This was never intended to be confused with paganism. But as always, whenever God does something, Satan attempts to counterfeit it, isn't that true? 

And that confuses the issue, even more. And so Satan’s smokescreen to cloud the true revelatory work of the Holy Spirit in the early church, were the fraudulent revelations, deceptive visions and phony tongues. And that’s why in I John 4:1-3, John says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world."

In this passage, the apostle Paul, the writer of 1 Corinthians deals with two of the spiritual gifts and contrasts their usefulness within the context of the worship service. That is something that all of us also need to understand. Everything that Paul is getting ready to say in this chapter has specific application to when the church body gets together to worship. 

The two gifts on which he focuses, are the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues. I am aware that there may be some here who have no idea what spiritual gifts, prophecy or tongues are. Allow me to quickly summarize. Spiritual gifts are the abilities that God gives to individuals to empower them for specific functions within the church. The gift of prophecy is the ability given by God to reveal and tell God’s message in a timely and understandable manner to bring correction, repentance and edification. In other words, a prophet proclaims what God tells him to people. He gets a message from God through visions, direct communication or through the written Word, and He proclaims it.

This gift of tongues is the ability given to the early church by God to speak in a language that they did not learn. Tongues were never used to proclaim a new revelation from God. That was the prophet’s job. The first time that this gift was given and exercised was on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. There, it enabled these Jewish men to speak "the wonders of God" in Egyptian, Chinese, Arabic and a multitude of other languages, which they had never been taught. And, that was the beginning.
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It was on that day, prophecy and tongues were in their proper balance and were used under the authority of God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus received glory, the people were unified, and man’s greatest need which is his need for salvation, was met in the lives of thousands.

However, from that day even to this present one, the gift of tongues has been abused. In fact, I have even heard people claim they need not study the Bible because they have a direct line of communication with God through gift of tongues. It has become more about a person’s personal spiritual experience rather than about being used by God to minister to people, so much so that people have elevated their spiritual experiences above the Word of God.

In this chapter, Paul's main goal is clarity. God, having a message used the most direct way of sharing that message, and that was through the ministry of prophecy. So. beloved, of all the things that we could disagree on within the first five verses of this chapter, and there are many, by the time that we are finished, one thing should be clear to all of us, and that is, that the ministry of prophecy is greater than the ministry of tongues.

And in verse 2, Paul gives us at least four reasons why. The gift of prophecy is greater than the gift of tongues because…
The first reason is: that prophecy is easily understood. Prophecy is easily understood.

In our world today of many languages and even more dialects and accents, it is easy to be misunderstood. There are many companies who have discovered this, in trying to sell their products in various parts of the world. One example, is Gerber baby food. When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as was used in the USA. One, I'm sure we are most all familiar with, the cute little baby on the label. However, they found out that in Africa, since most people could not read, many companies routinely put pictures on the label of what is actually inside.

Another example of this, when Pepsi first began marketing their products in China some years ago, they translated their slogan, "Pepsi Brings You Back to Life" pretty literally. The problem was, the slogan when translated in Chinese, really meant, "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave."

And the there's Coors. Coors put its slogan, "Turn It Loose," which was translated into Spanish, where it was read "Suffer From Diarrhea." I'm sure you can imagine just how popular that slogan was.

Now, though I found many others, I'll not share them all with you today, but the continue to be just as ridiculous and absurd. The bottom line is that these companies wanted the people to understand the message that they were trying to convey because they wanted to sell their product. These companies wanted to make a profit.

We want people to understand our message too, though we should have a very different motivation. Our motivation is love. When you love people, you tell them the message that they need to hear. Sometimes, it’s good news like the good news that God loves you. Sometimes though, it’s bad news like the bad news that without Repentance, without God’s forgiveness, every person will spend an eternity suffering in eternal hell.

Though we know that it’s not pleasant to tell people news like that. You don’t pass along news like that because you expect people to like you for it. You must tell them the truth because you love them. Because you genuinely are concerned for their soul. That's why you do it.

I'd like to call your attention to Paul’s dealing with the gift of tongues follows immediately after his chapter on love. Coincidence? No, there’s a reason for it. Paul wanted them to know that as they exercise the gift of tongues as well as the other gifts, they have to make sure that they are motivated by love not pride, boasting, envy, rudeness, more than one talking at a time as mentioned in verse 27. Or self-seeking and that the exercise of the gifts were to cause love to grow and to be expressed.

In verse 1, Paul says that we are to seek after two different things. First, we are to follow the way of love. The word translated "follow" used "Dioko" which means to pursue, to follow, hunt, or chase after with intensity. Interestingly, the word is translated as "persecute" in II Corinthians 4:9.

Only then, once we have love as our focus and goal, then we can seek after spiritual gifts. It is right and good that we desire that all the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has given and empowered should be manifested and present in the body of the church. However, love must be the motivating factor behind them all. Otherwise, we know what will occur, right? They will become a source of contention, and of division, rather than a motivation for unity.

Paul was saying that the gift that we should most desire to be manifested in the church worship service is the gift of prophecy. Though speaking in tongues was a valid gift from the Holy Spirit, it does not promote understanding of the message. The goal of the gifts of the Spirit is to magnify Jesus, to unify people, and to meet needs. If I or someone else cannot understand what you are saying, then none of these can be accomplished, can they?

On the other hand,"…the ability to speak in a plain, clear, instructive manner, so as to edify the church and convince sinners, a more valuable endowment than …the power of speaking foreign languages" because it is more useful for communicating God’s truth within the context of the church service. For example, when I speak God’s truth in plain simple English, you can understand me. Well, at least, I hope you do. Though you may not respond to what I have said, at least you have understanding which provides you the option of responding.
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So here, Paul says that we should seek the gift of prophecy in order that we might communicate God’s truth in understandable terms so that people can have a chance to respond. Now, some of you may say, "What does this have to do with me? I don’t have the gift of prophecy, and I don’t foresee that happening anytime in the near future." And, you’re right. Not everyone has the gift of prophecy, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pass along God’s message. When the prophet Jonah came to Nineveh, not everyone heard Jonah speak directly to them. But those who heard, passed on the words of the prophet to others who passed them to others until all the Ninevites got the message and responded to it.

Though God may not have given you the gift of prophecy, however, if you are willing, God can enable you to function in a similar manner, by telling people the truth of what God has said.

In verse 3, "But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation."

Which is the second reason that Paul gives us, prophecy is beneficial to the individual. Prophecy is beneficial to the individual.

There are many people, who look upon the gift of prophecy in a rather negative context. If you look at the role of the prophets in the Old Testament, they were always the party-poopers. They went around condemning people, pronouncing judgment, pointing out people's sin. Generally, just taking the fun out of life.

However, since becoming a pastor, I have established the habit of memorizing the portion of Scripture that I am to teach, for any given week. I'd like to encourage you to do the same. This week, I memorized verses 1-5 of chapter 14. As I was studying verse 3, I was hit with the realization that Paul says that when used properly, prophecy will strengthen, encourage and comfort. All of those sound like positive effects to me. Those are the kind of things that would draw people in rather than push them away. However, it didn’t sound to me like what normally happened when the prophets of old were around.

Quickly turn with me to Luke chapter 3. Luke chapter 3:3-8. John the Baptist was a prophet, we know that. And we know, that he told people what they needed to hear, and he told them in simple, easy to understand, and very direct terms. That was one of the characteristics of prophets. They were very direct, regardless of who they were talking to.

Let's be honest, that’s why they got themselves into so much trouble. So, as we read John’s words, they do not sound very strengthening, encouraging or comforting. They sound confrontational, judgmental, and, rather convicting.

Allow me to just read the passage to you. Follow along with me, if you would.

"And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight. 
Every ravine will be filled,
And every mountain and hill will be brought low;
The crooked will become straight,
And the rough roads smooth;
And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’”
So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham."

How can the apostle Paul say that a prophet is supposed to have a positive effect on people, when so many seemingly negative words are coming out of their mouths?

Before I attempt to answer that question, allow me to first follow it with another one. The opposite of these things listed here in verses 3, would be weakness, discouragement and discomfort. What is it that creates weakness, discouragement and discomfort in a church? It is SIN!! Sin creates weakness, discouragement and discomfort in a church. Sin!

Therefore, the best way to strengthen, encourage and comfort is to get rid of the issue of sin. And the best person to help me to do that would be the person who calls sin exactly what it is, who doesn’t try to sugarcoat it or beat around the bush about it.

Remember, when Nathan the prophet, came before King David, he pointed his bony little finger right in David’s face and accused him of murder and adultery. When Jonah came to the city of Nineveh, he told them that if they did not repent, they were going to be destroyed. Not very pleasant words, nonetheless, in all of these cases, they were words that resulted in repentance and therefore, strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 

In order for that to happen, however, we have to tell people the words that they need to hear in language that they can understand. Some of the language that we use as Christians is almost like a foreign language to unchurched or unsaved people. You know the ones. Although, we may be telling the truth, what we are communicating does not resonate with people what they really need to hear. 
Though we may not want to sound condemning or judgmental, if we are going to be of help to people, we need to call sin what it is and help them find the way out of it.
That brings us to Paul's third reason. Prophecy is focused on others. Prophecy is focused on others.
In verse 4, "One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church."
Often, many obstacles stand in the way of accurate communication. The thing that most often stands in the way of our accurately communicating the truth of God, in simple and understandable terms, is our own pride, self-centeredness and self-interest.
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The Corinthians were more interested in looking spiritual in front of people and edifying themselves more than they were interested in seeing real change occur in people’s lives. I could preach every Sunday, impressing you with all my biblical knowledge, a mastery of Greek and Hebrew. I could use big theological words, that you would likely have to use a dictionary to look up. Which, by the way, has occasionally been brought to my attention. And when we're finished, you might say something like: "Pastor Brian, I didn’t understand a single word you said, but man, it sure sounded good." It might even make me look good, however, my message wouldn’t have benefited you in the least, in any way. What's is the point of that? I'm not here to make myself look a particular way to anyone, I'm here to teach God's Word, in such a way, that is beneficial to God's people, so that you might better understand and apply His truths to your life. All for God's glory.

That brings us to Paul's fourth reason: Prophecy is direct. Prophecy is direct

It is in verse 5, where Paul says, "Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying."

Just because Paul says that he wished that everyone had a particular gift does not mean that it will happen or even that it is a good idea. In I Corinthians 7:7, Paul says, "Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that." Do you have any idea what he was speaking about? He was speaking about the gift of celibacy, the gift that enables a person to be satisfied with never getting married. If that wish of Paul’s came true, the human race would cease to exist at the end of that one generation.

Paul himself, wrote in chapter 12 verse 30, that not everyone has the same gift. "All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?" So Paul is not trying to imply that everyone should speak in tongues or even to desire it. However, neither is Paul trying to discourage the use of tongues. He is trying to get them to see that there is something more valuable and worthwhile to the church than tongues.

Turn with me to Mathew 23:23-24, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!"

The point Jesus was making was that Pharisees were so meticulous with their tithing that they would make sure to bring a tenth of even the spices in their homes to the Lord. Was Jesus telling them to stop tithing? No, that was important for them just as it is for us. However, they had gotten things out of sequence. Their priorities were distorted. So,
Jesus got onto the Pharisees about being so careful about their tithing and yet so careless about how they treated people. He told them to get their focus where it belonged and to keep with their practice of tithing. Here in our passage, Paul wanted the Corinthians to put things back into focus and quit placing so much emphasis on one particular gift.

The greater value of prophecy was in its greater usefulness within the context of the church. For example, a million dollars may have greater value than a flare gun, but which one would you rather have if you were shipwrecked, stranded on a desert island? The greater value of prophecy was in its directness.

Allow me say something to you and see if you receive any benefit from it. I'd like to encourage you to read Matthew 23:27-28 from the Greek Bible, to illustrate my point and the necessity for an interpreter. Please raise your hand if you understood what I just said. Please raise your hand if you received any strengthening, encouragement or comfort from what I just said.

Allow me try it one more time. Now, read Matthew 23:27-28 in English Did you understand this time? Did you receive encouragement this time? You see, in order for tongues to be of benefit to the congregation, there must be an interpretation. And that is its only weakness. The gift of tongues requires a middle man in order for it to be useful to the church.

Look again at verse 5. "Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying." A middle man could really cause confusion or delay in the delivery of the message. I'm sure like me, you have said something to someone, and by the time it gets back to you, it bares little or no resemblance to your original words. 

In Closing....

The person who communicates God’s truth directly to people has the greatest potential of seeing real change occur in their lives. And isn't that what God wants – changed lives? For thousands of years, God sent prophets to communicate His message. As direct as they were, they were still middle men between God and His people. So God Himself, came to earth, became a man so that He could once and for all, in terms that no one could possibly misunderstand, communicate that He loves all of mankind. How could anyone even begin to miss the meaning of the message that God spoke when He allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross for you and me?
What Are Spiritual Gifts? Understanding the Types and Discovering Yours

In chapter 14, Paul makes it clear that being able to speak in tongues is not the ultimate spiritual experience. Is it is one of the spiritual gifts, yes, but only one of them. Therefore, it is foolish for Christians who speak in tongues to think that somehow they are superior to Christians who don’t speak in tongues, just as it is foolish for those who don’t speak in tongues to think they are better than those who do. Did you catch that? Don’t think because you speak in tongues, or because you don’t speak in tongues, that you are better than another Christian. To do so demonstrates not only a lack of humility, but a lack of clear thinking on your part.

And, if that has been your attitude in the past, I strongly suggest you repent and ask not only God’s forgiveness, but the forgiveness of your brothers and sisters, whom you may have offended. As a Christian, it is what the Bible teaches, not what I say; not what any other pastor says; not even what you think, but the Bible says, which is our authoritative Word of God, given to God's people by way of His Holy Spirit. 

Therefore, we must all focus on what is important. The Word of God. Now, I don’t know whether or not you should speak in tongues, but I do know this, that each of us is to be filled with the Spirit. That is a clear command directly from the Lord. Asking God to fill us with the power of His Spirit and committing ourselves to follow Him each day is far more important than whether or not we speak in tongues or have any other spiritual gift. 

You may not have been gifted with the gift of prophecy or the ability to speak in spiritual tongues, but you have been gifted to speak with a physical tongue. When you use that gift of God to declare God’s Word, God's truth with others, in clear, simple, understandable language, then God can use you to strengthen, encourage and comfort the other parts of the body of Christ. 

God can use you to change lives. After all, isn't that the point of the Gospel? Changing and transforming lives?

Now, allow me to be just as direct with you? If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then when you die, you will go to hell where you will suffer an eternity in torment. If you are living with known sin in your life, then you are weak, discouraged and in discomfort, and the only way for you to change is for you to confess your sin before God, repent with a contrite heart, turn away from your sin and seek His forgiveness. 

If you are not using your gifts to clearly communicate God’s message to people, then you are also sinning and preventing people from coming into a relationship with Christ. Allow me just as direct to tell you that God loves you, and all of your sin can be forgiven, washed away today, if you will come to Christ and ask for forgiveness.

Now that you have heard this truth from the Word of God, it's up to you what you do with it. 

"For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them."
II Peter 2:21 

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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