This week we’ll be talking about the spirit-given gift of prophecy versus the gift of tongues, as seen in 1 Corinthians 14: 1-25.
Okay, for the uninitiated, a little explanation. Prophecy, in this sense, is not about divining the future, and more about outlining a truth from God for the congregation. Kind of like preaching, but in a more communal and spontaneous way. Tongues are speaking in a language you do not know. Someone can interpret what you say, or you can seem to just spout gibberish for a while.
These don’t happen that much in my church (and by not much I mean not at all).
The Corinthians, on the other hand, had a little debate going about which was better, tongues or prophecy. Paul’s pretty clear on this point:
4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,[b] but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,[c]unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
Paul’s basic message is we should be looking for spirit-given gifts that build up the church rather than ourselves. It’s not that building up the self is a bad thing, but it’s something we should be doing in private. If it has no benefit for the church at large, we should probably keep our mouths shut.
So how does this fit in with a church like ours?
Rich identifies Smoky Row’s gifts as hospitality (evidenced by things like the food pantry and the many organizations we let use our building), service (to our community and each other), teaching (in Sunday school and in the sermon) and preaching. Not only are spiritual gifts supposed to edify and build us up together, they are supposed to show that God is working among us to the outside world.
But what place then does prophecy or tongues have in our every day experience?
I’m not really sure about the whole foreign language thing. The best I can say here is that I’ve had the experience of someone reading what I’ve written in another language (using Google) and have even had occasion to reply back. This is dialogue more than spirit given wisdom, but it at least provides a way for my words to be read by more than just those who can understand English.
Prophecy on the other hand is a much more natural fit. I think forums like this blog or our life groups provide a space for any of us to speak God’s wisdom to our church and to the wider Internet community (hypothetically 🙂 ). Obviously some of what we say is just self reflection, personal experience, etc, but just by typing words I’m hoping to open up another way for God to speak to and through us.
But again it’s important to remember that this is about the benefit of others, not the benefit of ourselves. Writing, or speaking or serving, however we do it, is not about making ourselves look good. My former music teacher used to sing special music in our church and whenever he did, he asked that people not applaud afterward. He sings professionally, and is definitely of a quality that might get you to spring to your feet, but in the context of worship it’s about helping us to get in a worshipful state of mind. The same goes for writing here or sharing in life group. Don’t share or write because it’s something you think needs to be said, or something you think is important, say it or write it because it’s what God wants you to say.
How do you know what that is? I’m not sure.
Basic things are prophecy doesn’t contradict scripture or the word God has already given us. And I tend to be a little suspicious of God and politics being in the same sentiment, but that’s a whole other discussion.
What are the ways in which you try to use your spirit-given gifts for the benefit of others in your church community? Do you have any experience with tongues or prophecy?