Building up the Fellowship

Equipped to Serve: Spiritual Gifts Study  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The purpose of the Gifts is to build up the church, not an individual

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Open: It is good to have each of you here this morning as we take another look at what it means to be Equipped to Serve. This is the 4th message on Spiritual Gifts, and I think this message is going to be helpful in dealing with what can be a controversial issue. Many times when the topic of spiritual gifts comes up, the conversation turns to the sign gifts. A sign gift is a term that refers to those gifts that display themselves in a decidedly supernatural manner as compared to the other gifts.
For instance, someone with the gift of teaching may handle a text in an uplifting and powerful manner, but there will be some present who will not actually notice the speaker’s supernatural giftedness. On the other hand, when that same person witnesses a paralyzed get up and start walking at a command in the Name of Jesus, that person is going to recognize the supernatural.
Sadly, there are some persons who attempt to manufacture these sign gifts and they are confusing many of the faithful. One such person is Benny Hinn. Hinn is a so-called faith healer and a worker of the miraculous. I am going to show you a clip from one of his “healing” services, and I want you to listen when he starts speaking in “tongues.” [Show the 44 second clip from Raw Annointing of the Spirit (1), uploaded by BringBackTheCross. Clip is from 8:10 to 8:54]
Transition: Benny Hinn is a heretic - he is a false teacher and a scam artist who preys upon the faith of the vulnerable and uninformed. What you just witnessed is far from biblical as to the operation of the spiritual gifts, and a gross violation of Scripture. Unfortunately, many believers watch and listen to Hinn and others like him and as a result are genuinely confused about spiritual Gifts.
As we turn to our passage in this morning I want to remind you of the main thrust of Paul’s corrective: the Gifts were given to build up the Church, not to divide it. As we read these verses, be on the look out for how Paul focuses on that which builds the many to the Glory of God rather than that which builds up the individual. READ 1 Corinthians 14:1-12

Main Thought: How do we build up (Edify) the Church?

One way we build up the Church is by serving through our giftedness, under the umbrella of Love (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Explanation: Paul continues his corrective on the Spiritual gifts with a focus on two specific gifts: prophecy and tongues. In this chapter Paul will deal with only these two gifts, and he contrasts their use, purpose, and impact. Before he gets to the details, he emphasizes the need to pursue love. Paul’s heart is to build up the Church, and he knows the Church is the people. If the members are motivated and influenced by agape love, Paul knows they will stop the misuse of the gifts God has given them.
Paul also tells them to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. It is important to realize Paul is addressing the entire church at this point, not as individuals. Paul is not telling the Corinthians to pursue some method in order to gain a specific gift. Remember, Paul had just taught them that the Holy Spirit is the One who assigns the Gifts according to His will (). Paul’s point is that as a church body, the members should be prayerful that the Holy Spirit will grace some of their members with the Gift of Prophecy, which will aid in strengthening the Church.
Application: Ask God to place you in positions of service so you can know and develop your own gift, but also ask God to gift our fellowship with those Gifts that will empower the Church.

Another way we can build up the Church is by focusing on the greater good ()

Explanation: Paul now begins his contrast of the Gift of Tongues with the Gift of Prophecy. The Gift of Tongues was the supernatural ability to speak a language that the believer did not know. The first occurrence of the Gift of Tongues was on the Day of Pentecost (), and God used this miraculous sign gift in fulfillment of prophecy (), and for the purpose of validating the message of the Gospel to unbelievers. The Gift of Tongues as a known language occurs explicitly twice more in the Book of Acts (10:46 & 19:6), and can be implied in ). A convincing case can be made that this Gift of Tongues validated the spread of the Gospel as outlined in (Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, ends of the earth).
The Gift of Tongues at Corinth is not necessarily understood as the gift of known languages. Many commentators consider it to be ecstatic utterances which are not understood by anyone, including the speaker (). This is why it is crucial that the gift is only exercised in worship if a person who has been given the Gift of Interpretation is present.
Argument: The Gift of Tongues is a controversial topic in today’s Christian Church. Many believers are of the studied opinion that the miraculous gifts ceased after the time of the Apostles. The direct revelation of God through His chosen servants to pen the NT was complete, and the operation of signs and wonders was no longer necessary (the Canon is closed!) Paul adds to his teaching later in this chapter that Tongues are a sign for unbelievers, not for believers ()
Other believers disagree with this interpretation and strongly believe the sign gifts are still in operation today (Pentecostals and Charismatics). There are also some Baptists who believe and teach that all the Gifts are for today. Our own IMB has dealt with this issue because there are Baptists who believe and practice a private prayer language. And there are repeated accounts of Muslims who are coming to faith in Christ through the medium of dreams. I for one, am not trying to put God in a box by stating that He cannot do this or that. But, in all of this discussion let us keep the main thing in mind: the main purpose of the gifts is the building up of the Church. And Paul emphasizes this purpose twice in vv. 4&5.
Application: Just as the vast majority of all believers who have ever lived (OT and NT) did so without personally experiencing the miraculous, there is no real reason for us to expect God to be active with signs and wonders now. Our ancestors of the faith performed their pilgrimages in the ordinary course of life exercising faith, love, and obedience. So we too can live and love and strive to please God by putting others first through our ordinary lives. Obedience is just a long walk in the same direction.

A third way we build up the Church is by Communicating the Truth with Clarity (1 Corinthians 14:6-12)

Explanation: Paul continues with his contrast of Tongues and Prophecy by highlighting the need for clear communication. He states that the exercise of the Gift of Tongues is meaningless without an interpreter (). The Church would, however, profit by a word of knowledge or teaching. Paul illustrates this truth by teaching on instruments. If one is simply making notes without a cohesive arrangement, then the result is just noise.
Illustration: Bob the Indian at Capital One. He was speaking English, but I couldn’t understand him. The result? My card was deactivated.
Argument: Clarity is crucial for communication. If the person listening does not understand, communication has not taken place. The relative intelligence of the speaker and the listener is not the issue. A Russian PhD speaking to a German PhD will be unable to communicate even if they are both geniuses.
Argument: Clarity is crucial for communication.
This is why I want to make sure I am communicating with you this morning. The issue of whether the sign gifts (tongues, miracles, healings) are operational for today is a controversial issue. There are Christians on both sides of the issue, and each side has scholarly, biblical explanations that support their conclusions. Certainly, one short message is not able to present all sides of the issue with their corresponding biblical support.
Let’s not miss the main point of what Paul is teaching by focusing on details that aren’t even present in our setting. Paul was correcting the abuses with the Gift of Tongues because the members were selfishly practicing this Gift at the expense of others, mainly prophesy. Paul’s point was not to forbid the Gift of Tongues (), but that these believers would focus on encouraging and building each other up so that the Gospel would move forward. Whatever their Gift mix as a Church, Paul desired that they would honor Christ and speak the Truth with Clarity and Conviction.
Application: The use of your spiritual gift through serving others will be of great benefit to the Body. Ask God to help focus you on communicating with clarity. If your gift is in the area of serving, and not speaking, seek to communicate the reason you are serving the other person. Let them know that your service is rooted in the Love of Christ.
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