Monday, March 13, 2006

Christian Spirituality: 1 Cor 14v1-12

After the strong warnings of chapter 13 we might be tempted to hold off from exercising gifts. But the Biblical response to bad use of gifts isn't not using them, its using them rightly. And so Paul continues to show us the most excellent way - the way of love and using gifts for the common good.
  • Remind yourselves of the main teachings of 1 Cor 1-4. Keep this in mind as you study this chapter.
  • Why does Paul say prophecy is better than tongues? Who benefits from prophecy?
  • What does Paul want the Corinthians to do? (v1, v12)
  • What would that look like in practice?
Paul contrasts prophecy and tongues and their use in the church. As he describes them we can begin to infer something of a descriptive definition of prophecy. Prophecy brings a revelation from God that can be understood intelligibly. The result of this prophecy will be the strengthening and comfort of the church.

Tongues on the other hand, unless interpreted, cannot benefit the body even though they're good for the individual. Above all Paul says the priority is to exercise revelatory gifts so that the body will grow. And growth only come by understanding intelligible revelation. My faith is not strengthened by hearing an unintelligible spiritual language, or someone speaking drivel in my own language.

Growth comes from hearing something that I can understand. The first challenge for us in chapter 14 is the priority of contributing with clarity. In verses 13-25 he'll illustrate this point for the individual, the gathered believers and for an unbeliever who comes in.

Already our working definition of prophecy has to be gospel-centred (the Spirit brings confession of Christ), and for others benefit (the common good). And the attitude it is given in has the power to nullify it (whatever the revelation if it lacks love its nothing).

To this we now add clarity. New Testament prophecy is not vague or unspecific. It is not mystic or unclear. It must be a revelation that we can understand.

This makes me doubt whether the current practice of someone getting a "picture" is really prophecy. Prophecy is a clear message itself... perhaps if it begins with a picture then its "interpretation" is actually the prophecy. Much that is labelled as contemporary prophecy is not clear and inteligible. Such things do not qualify as prophecy. Prophecy is beneficial because we can understand it... and the message we understand will grow the church.

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