Believers & Unbelievers

Holy Spirit Power, Holy Spirit Purpose  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  53:47
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1 Corinthians 14:20–25 (ESV)
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”
Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
Thesis: Failing to operate in the Spirit correctly destroys our relationship with unbelievers.
Intro: I am going to preach today on a difficult topic once again - last week was a hard sermon to prepare, this one was as well.
But I hope, and I believe, I have done as Paul told Timothy
2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
I pray that I have, and will rightly handle the word of truth today.
I believe God has given me, as your pastor, a vision for the direction of this church. We have some things coming this year that - I hope - you will join me in prayer concerning them, as well as get excited about bringing anyone and everyone you can do them...
But I want to be clear - that vision does not entail “stealing people from other churches”. I am called to shepherd this flock, not rob someone else’s.
In small towns, pastors sometimes do that - and it belittles not only the people but it ruins the integrity of the pulpit, and I refuse to be “that guy”. Now, if someone says, “I go to the church down yonder, but I haven’t been in a dozen years” that’s a little different.
If you don’t go to a church you don’t belong to that church, and I we’d love for such a person to try our church and maybe make it their church.
But the best way to grow a church is by converting and discipling unbelievers. We do this by operating in the Spirit - having Spirit-led worship, Spirit-fueled sermons from the Scriptures that were inspired by the Spirit, and - as we have seen over the past few weeks, as we operated in the gifts of the Spirit.
When we do not operate in the gifts correctly, we damage and often destroy our relationship with unbelievers and we then see the growth of a church hindered.
In a short summary of how to avoid that, Paul tells us to be mature in the Spirit, to be missional in the Spirit, and then we will see miracles in the Spirit.

We Are to be Mature in the Spirit

1 Corinthians 14:20 ESV
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
In this section, Paul begins by drawing a contrast between the state of the Corinthian church as it currently was, and where they ought to be.
The idea of spiritual maturity is a case Paul has been building for some time.
He began back in chapter 2 by discussing how he came to them reaching Christ and him crucified, not with lofty speech or anything that may attract them to him.
The idea for Paul, as it should always be for us, is to point others to Christ.
He does not want their faith to rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Then he says,
1 Corinthians 2:6 ESV
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
And he will go on in chapter 3, again referring to their maturity
1 Corinthians 3:1–2 ESV
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,
Again, Paul is building his case that they need to become mature.
Now we look at the Corinthian church, they were divided, they were allowing prohibited things, they were appeasing their own flesh… and Paul is telling them you shouldn’t be doing that sort of thing anymore.
In fact, in the previous chapter, he really tried to drive it home when he said,
1 Corinthians 13:11–12 (ESV)
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
And he is challenging them, the Corinthian Christians, to start to grow up. Enough is enough.
It’s time they wake up, they grow up, and become the church they’ve been called to be. Stop pursuing the fleshly things, stop with the fighting, stop with the division… if indeed they are to be a Spirit-led church.
Stop being children in your thinking, he says. The Greek word is “fresin” (φρεσίν), which means understanding or intellect.
Look, I like those little books filled with fun illustrations of Bible stories, you know, where the pages are super thick and they’ve got fun pictures of Jonah and a whale, Joshua blowing a trumpet with walls falling down, Samson fighting people with a silly looking bone in his hand...
But at some point we have to leave VeggieTales and the kid stories behind. Jonah was a prophet and not a good one. Joshua was a warrior who killed his enemies up close and personal at the end of a short sword. Samson was a womanizer who got his eyes poked out.
At some point, even as adults, we should stop craving the cotton candy sermons that make us feel good and start wanting the steak and potato sermons that nourish our souls.
You may want sermons that hype you up and make you feel good, but like the sugar rush, you’re gonna crash soon after. You need meat and vegetables, you need depth, Scripture, theology.
Church, it’s time to grow up.
The Corinthians needed to be told this, sometimes we all need reminded of it.
Paul told them to be infants in evil - the Corinthians were experts at evil and wickedness. They were one of the few cities whose immorality in their time might even make modern day Los Angeles go, “Whoa that’s a little too far, isn’t it?”
The word Paul uses for evil, here, is “kakia” (κακίᾳ), and it means wickedness, malice, depravity. These are not the things of a spirit-filled life.
I’m borrowing from Romans 8, but Paul also said to the Roman Christians:
Romans 8:7–8 (ESV)
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But at this point, the Corinthian church should have matured and had their minds set right
Romans 8:9 ESV
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
but in your thinking be mature.
Mature understanding is essential for proper comprehension and use of the gifts - especially if it’s tongues or prophecy - because they are so attractive to the flesh.
Paul is instructing the Corinthian Christians (and us!) to put aside emotion and experience with the flesh and with pride, and think carefully of the purpose of the gifts.
and he goes on
1 Corinthians 14:21 ESV
In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”
Now, when Paul uses the term “the Law” he does necessarily mean the Torah, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. This could just refer to the Tanak, what we call the whole Old Testament.
We see Jesus do this in John 10:34
John 10:34 ESV
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?
Jesus of course, is referencing Psalm 82, as He mocks the Pharisees who had set themselves up as judges over people, just like the Psalmist does to those who ruled over the people of Israel then.
Paul also does this in Romans 3:19
Romans 3:19 ESV
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
And here in 1 Corinthians, Paul is actually paraphrasing Isaiah 28:11-12 - and what should catch our attention is the way Paul does this - he’s not really quoting Scripture, and when he normally does, he quotes the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.
Here, in his paraphrase, he is kind of mixing up the Hebrew text with the Greek text a little. Kind of how some of us may have memorized verses in the Old King James, one way, the NIV another way, and when we quote the verse get a jumble of both translations.
Paul is doing that here - maybe not on purpose on his part, but definitely under the direction of the Holy Spirit for HIS part.
Because the paraphrase fits perfectly within the narrative Paul has created.
Isaiah 28 is key to Paul and his view of Christ - as it is for us. Paul connects, for example, the idea of the cornerstone that Isaiah mentions in this chapter
Isaiah 28:16 (ESV)
therefore thus says the Lord God,
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
Paul connects that to Romans 9:33
Romans 9:33 ESV
as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Paul understands that cornerstone to be Jesus and when he writes “says the Lord” he likely believes it is referring to Christ as the person of the Trinity who spoke it.
(Peter, incidentally, will also draw a connection to Jesus being a cornerstone in 1 Peter 2:7 but he draws his connection to Psalm 118:22).
But let’s look closer for a moment at Isaiah 28, as we connect some dots Paul leaves for us.
In verses 1 through 3, Isaiah refers to the priests/prophets/leaders of Israel as “drunkards”, their drunken speech is incomprehensible.
In verses 7-10, they mock Isaiah’s prophecy as that of an infant’s words.
In verse 11, God will permit incomprehensible speech heard by them (whether the speech comes from the drunk leaders or a foreign nation’s language) because they do not listen.
In Isaiah, this is referencing Israel’s being captured by a foreign enemy, the Assyrians.
Now, we can’t miss this. God calls Israel “my people” in verse 5, but “this people” in verse 11. Meaning that God is disowning them (albeit temporarily), by bringing judgment upon them for refusing to listen to God’s words.
What is so magnificent about that, in how that it relates to the Corinthian church?
Well, what Paul is doing is taking the theme of judgment and “reconfiguring it” in a sense, to speak on the incomprehensible “tongues” which, without interpretation, as become gibberish no one can understand.
To Paul, “this people” would not be the unbelieving population of Israel, but all unbelievers.
Israel should have been able to take the foreign languages from the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and connected that the way Peter did - but by them again rejecting Christ, they will fall under judgment once again.
And it likely did, especially with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which is similar to what happened in 586 BC, when Babylon destroyed the city.
But this is why, all the more, Paul calls for the church to operate in the Gifts Correctly, because if tongues are not understood (not interpreted), the judgment won’t just fall on the people who rejected Christ, but on the one who had the prophetic utterance and did not give it.
Again, I’d remind us of Ezekiel 3,
Ezekiel 3:18–19 (ESV)
If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity,
but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
Church, if the gifts do not empower us to warn others, to evangelize, to call people to repent, we are not operating in a mature way with the gifts we are given.
If we fail to operate in the gifts as they’re given, we are going to destroy our opportunity to bring the unbeliever to Christ.
And this leads me to the second point...

We Are to be Missional in the Spirit

1 Corinthians 14:22 ESV
Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.
Now, in chapter 12, verse 10, again I would point out that Paul confirms that there are “various types of tongues”, so we need to use context (and a little common sense) to truly understand what Paul is saying here.
Some might say that tongues are a visible token of judgment, a sign symbolizing the inaccessibility of God’s divine revelation. Others might say that Paul is forbidding tongues unless there are unbelievers presence.
But, as we saw last week, tongues with interpretation are not just “tongues” but also a form of prophecy.
So what we see taking place in tongues, when a message is given on one side of the room, and interpretation given on the other side - we are seeing an actual miracle take place as God speaks to His people.
In fact, the word for “sign” Paul uses here, “semeion” (σημεῖόν) can be translated as “miracle” or at least, “a remarkable event” or “extraordinary occurance”.
For the unbeliever, it’s even more than that. It is something of conviction, a miraculous event that hits a nerve within their soul and draws them to Christ.
For the church it is something of edification - as we saw last week, it a prophetic utterance keeping the church in obedience to the Lord.
Tongues aren’t a sign for believers - we already believe. We shouldn’t need more convincing. The Unbeliever does need convincing, so that sort of miracle takes place.
What the believer needs is edification, strength, encouragement, even a rebuke if they’re going too far off track.
And, I should reiterate, this is not referring to your personal prayer language type of tongues, Paul already covered that when he said,
1 Corinthians 14:4 ESV
The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
But remember he followed that with
1 Corinthians 14:5 ESV
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
If we are all believers, though tongues may not even be needed - a word of knowledge or wisdom may be uttered. Someone may receive a word from the Lord, either to encourage, or rebuke, but it is for the church and it is completely a prophetic gift in nature.
Paul goes on and expands on this.
1 Corinthians 14:23 ESV
If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?
Again, tongues need an interpretation for them to make sense. We saw Paul drive this home last week, and here he repeats the point.
If someone walks in and everyone is speaking in tongues, and it’s just noise, they’re more likely to think of us as a cult than a church. Paul again makes this clear with a rhetorical question - won’t they say you’re all crazy? YES!
In Corinth, they may have concluded they were just another cult of Dionysus - the god of drunkenness, or Cybele, whose followers one historian (Livy, 64BC-17AD), called a dangerous menace as they were “little more than drunken beasts.
Someone who observes such a thing may reject Christ entirely.
This is why Acts 2 and the explanation Peter gives is so important.
When the day of Pentecost came - people all spoke in tongues, right? What exactly happens?
Acts 2:1–4 (ESV)
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And this freaks people out - rightly so!
Acts 2:6 ESV
And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
Acts 2:12–13 ESV
And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
So there must come an explanation, an interpretation.
Now, we don’t see something happen in what we may call a supernatural interpretation, necessarily. But what we do see is Peter standing up, and explaining what has just occurred.
He could be interpreting, but most definitely he is preaching - he is speaking prophetically as well. He is taking what has occurred and explaining it to the onlookers and outsiders.
He uses the opportunity to give them the Gospel -
Acts 2:23–24 ESV
this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Acts 2:32–33 ESV
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
And ultimately
Acts 2:41 ESV
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Hear me on this. Some of you have asked what’s the point of this series, why are we doing this? So I want to be perfectly, crystal clear this morning.
In October we have an evangelist coming and we are, I hope, going to see the Holy Spirit move in - not just our church but in our community. We are going to be empowered, we are going to see gifts of the Spirit flow in our church.
We are going to see people filled, baptized in the Holy Spirit and we are going to see unbelievers saved.
And I am praying that we will see a revival sweep through this town in such a way we’ve never seen before. That the Holy Spirit will draw people in for these services in such a way, that we will see people join and come to this church who never would have darkened a door of any church.
When they see the miracle that is tongues, when they hear the miracle that is prophecy, my prayer is that they will have questions and I won’t have to be the only one who answers them but that I have equipped the saints, as I am called to do (Ephesians 4:11-12) in such a way each and every one of you are prepared to explain what has transpired.
We are to be Missional in the Spirit, and that goes beyond sending missionaries it means being missional even in our own back yard, even in the chair across the aisle from you at times.
And being able to give a Biblical answer to a Pentecostal question is the first step in making disciples of those who will witness these things.
If we are to grow, we will need to be disciple makers not just saying, “Oh you know, that’s the Holy Ghost” and not explaining what’s happened. The Holy Spirit’s move can be troubling, it can be frightening, the presence of God is meant to be - but if we’re operating in our gifts correctly, the Spirit will move them to Jesus in the process, using each of us.
When God’s presence is revealed in this way we must not be caught off guard, but ready to go.
Zechariah 8:23 ESV
Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ ”
If ten people grabbed you today and said, “God is with you and your church, can you disciple me?” Do you think you’d be ready?
If someone were to say to you like Nebuchadnezzar said to Daniel,
Daniel 2:47 ESV
The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”
Would you be one who could reveal this mystery?
My hope is that after this series you can say with confidence, You know what, I can!
Because in the Spirit we are missional, even in our own town, or we are failing to operate in the Spirit, and it will destroy our relationship with unbelievers.
And if we are operating in the Spirit correctly...

We Will See Miracles in the Spirit

1 Corinthians 14:24 ESV
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,
While tongues may not hold as much appeal for the believer, both tongues and prophecy will still have an impact on the heart of an unbeliever.
He or she is convicted - Paul says - elegchetai (ἐλέγχεται) means he is exposed, he is rebuked as he is shown his fault.
This again holds to the whole purpose of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said,
John 16:7–11 (ESV)
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes,
he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
But this all does not happen because “Hey we see a new guy, let’s all direct our words of knowledge at him”, or anything like that.
Instead, what Paul is saying is, as the church operates in the manner they’re supposed to, using the gifts appropriately and correctly, the outsider overhears or witnesses what takes place, and is convicted as the secrets of his heart are revealed - at least to himself.
He is “called to account” which is only one word in the Greek, anikrenetai (ἀνακρίνεται), which means simply, “he is judged”, or at least “called to examine himself closely”.
When we are operating in the Spirit rightly, we will see people feel convicted, or even judged. That’s not to be your doing or my doing - we don’t force that. If we are preaching the word, teaching the word, singing the word, operating in the Spirit, speaking by the Spirit, worshiping in Spirit...
Guess what happens? People will feel judged, they will feel convicted.
It’s not meant to scare them or stir them and make them not want to be a part of the church, or run them off. It’s so they are driven to repentance.
Again, what did Peter tell the questioning unbelievers on the day of Pentecost?
Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We try - and I think our Hospitality team does a great job - of making Faith Assembly of God feel like a welcoming church. That we make sure those who come in as guests leave knowing they could very easily become family.
That’s our hope. That’s our drive.
We want people to visit here and feel like they’re at home. But singing, preaching, even taking up the offering as an act of worship may turn some people off.
Why? Because it’s Spirit led, and some have hardened their hearts towards the Spirit so much, they want nothing to do with Him.
Others will feel convicted, and so many no longer know how to feel convicted, so they immediately feel condemned. We live in a culture where, the minute another person makes me uncomfortable we scream, “I’m oppressed!” and we make ourselves to be a victim.
We may see that happen even in our church when we’re doing everything right.
And when we do things wrong, we need to be willing to own it. Confess it, repent of it, and with grace towards one another, move forward.
In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us instructions on how to react if someone within the church wrongs us - to go privately, and hopefully that repairs the relationship, but he even gives instructions if the issue needs to be escalated up the ladder.
But the general idea is that we restore one another.
If someone feels convicted by the Holy Spirit and leaves - we can’t restore that relationship, especially if they don’t want to talk it through. Only God can do that - but we need to be careful to make sure we are operating correctly, and that it’s the Holy Spirit doing it, not the Spirit of Pastor Jeff, or the Spirit of someone else.
And when it is the Holy Spirit, and the human heart that is tender towards Him, when it’s a heart of “Good Soil” which we saw in Mark 4:8… then we see a miracle.
1 Corinthians 14:25 ESV
the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
Church this is the greatest miracle we will ever see in this church sanctuary - and we have seen it.
When an unbeliever comes to Christ and experiences the power of God that drives him or her to repentance.
We get excited when we see people healed, or hear testimonies of financial miracles, but heaven gets excited about a soul being saved.
Luke 15:10 ESV
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Church, that ought to shape our priorities.
The idea of “falling on your face” is a direct reaction to the presence of God. We see it in the Old Testament often:
Genesis 17:3 ESV
Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him,
Numbers 16:22 ESV
And they fell on their faces and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?”
1 Kings 18:39 ESV
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
Joshua 5:14 ESV
And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”
And John does it in the New Testament, in Revelation 1:17
Revelation 1:17 ESV
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,
Church, I do not condemn being - what we call - “slain in the Spirit” where people fall backward, I don’t think that’s wrong or even unbiblical - but I will tell you I look forward to the day we see a flood of people who want to come into the church and - because of the power of God - they fall forward onto their faces.
If we are operating in the Spirit correctly, we will see that miracle take place. If we do it wrong, then we drive a wedge between ourselves and the unbeliever.
So let’s do it right.
Conclusion:
I’m going to move to close but I want to end with this - falling on your face is not just for an unbeliever. It’s for all of us who believe, too. John was a believer, Abraham believed, Moses believed, Joshua believed - but when you are in the presence of God you will do as they did and fall face first into His presence.
We pray for revival, we pray for God’s mercy, God’s gifts, God’s leading, but are we willing to be used by Him to get there?
Are we willing to “tarry at the altar” as the saying goes?
Or do we want so much more to beat the Baptists to Pizza Ranch and get out the door?
I’m not saying that to make you feel guilty for leaving, if you need to go, please go and drive safe, but church if we want a move of the Spirit we need to spend time in the Spirit.
I’m going to close in prayer, and ask you to all stand with me as I do… but spend some time before God today, in His presence, asking Him for correction, for direction, and for a move to action that we may see the revival we know this area of the world so desperately needs.
PRAY
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