Today’s reading: Num 31:1–54, 1 Cor 14:1–25, Ps 26:1–12
Today’s theme: Build others up
For the past few days we have been reading about the body of Christ, how we are a many members body with varying gifts. Today Paul makes the point that whatever gifts we have, we should seek to use them to build up and nourish the body. The gift that questions had been asked about were tongues and prophecy and so Paul uses these in particular, to make his point and gives guidelines for public ministry.
The teaching of Balam
Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD. Numbers 31:15–16 (ESV)
In Revelation 2:14 we hear Jesus tell us, through John, that the church at Pergamum were in a dangerous place of compromise, by some holding on to the teaching of Balaam who taught the Midianites to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel in the form of sexual immorality and idolatry.
Jesus calls on the church to repent of the sins of compromise and appeasement with the world. Balaam represents false teaching, while the women guilty of enticement represent compromise and sin, we must kill both of these with impunity. John Owen said: “…be killing sin or sin be killing you”.
1 Corinthians 14:1–25
Build others up
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. 1 Corinthians 14:5 (ESV)
Paul’s main point in this section is to encourage the Corinthians who were fond of using the gift of tongues (the miraculous ability to speak unlearned human and angelic languages), to see the greater worth in prophesying (bringing a message from God under the direction of the Holy Spirit to the body of believers that is intelligible), as this builds up the body, which is one of his main points in the letter as a whole.
For the immature believer it seemed that the gift of tongues was one of the things leading to pride and a false sense of maturity. We should use our gifts to build up our fellow believers. Prophesying provides insight, warning, correction, and encouragement… tongues will do this too, only with interpretation.
Guidelines for public ministry
Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 1 Corinthians 14:19–20 (ESV)
Paul made clear that he spoke in tongues more than everyone in the Corinthian church, but it seems he did this speaking in tongues “more than them all” in private.
Paul makes his point even clearer by saying that he would rather speak just 5 words that were intelligible whilst in the public assembly of the church, than 10,000 words in tongues which are not intelligible (without interpretation). So the point is made again that we should seek to build one another up, this should be the motivation behind the pursuit of and use of the gifts in the church.
God made our minds, not the devil. God wants our minds to be engaged and used for Him and His glory. In light of this, Paul calls the church to clear and mature thinking. As Christians we need to engage in the discipline of thinking, mediating on God’s word and using our God given intellectual faculties to build up and encourage one another in the Lord.
Ask God to examine you
Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2 (ESV)
We should walk with a pure heart before the Lord in integrity, then we can join David in this prayer asking God to examine us. The New Testament goes even further and reminds us to examine ourselves to see if we really are in the faith, see 2 Corinthians 13:5.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
The Gospel Coalition on 1 Corinthians 14