Words Are Always Necessary
[When an outsider hears you prophesy] …he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. I Corinthians 14:25b [brackets adding my paraphrase]
Let’s reflect for a moment on the recent messages going through 1 Corinthians 14 the past two weeks .
Question: From 1 Corinthians 14, what is our goal both when we gather as Christians?
Answer: The goal for every Christian is two-fold. First, we are to live and speak in such a way that other Christians around us are built up and encouraged (1 Corinthians 14:12). Second, we are to live and speak in such a way that non-Christians are led to worship God (1 Corinthians 14:25). The combination of both points is that God is glorified in our lives—the ultimate goal in all we do.
Supplemental Question: If those are truly the goals of a Christian, what could distract us from that pursuit of God’s glory?
Answer: Placing a higher value on the “act” than the “outcome”.
If you reread 1 Corinthians 12-14 (I strongly encourage you to do this!) you see a common thread that Paul is addressing. Paul really seems to want Corinth to love the outcome (the glory of God in building up believers and saving the lost) over the act (perceived benefit of the gift or method of expression). In other words, Pauls begins with the question, “What will build up and lead to worship?”, before he acts. Corinth seems to have begun with the question, “What is the greatest act I can accomplish?”, which led to Paul’s corresponding correction in chapters 12-14. Just Like children who forget that cars are meant to be driven, spending too much time focusing on the colorful paint job of their flashy toy camaro, we too can fall prey to believe that any program (regardless of how clearly it presents the gospel) is sufficient as long as it has that flashy exterior that will make the masses say, “Wow!”. That, of course, is not a great analogy, but I believe Corinth had a similar tendency to prioritize certain gifts based on their perceived flair. It also seems that certain people in the church may have used these gifts to elevate themselves above others (“I’m better than you because I have a higher gift.”).
Christians, rather, should put their focus on the engine, on the real means that God uses to bring the dead to life and give the shaky Christian a foundation—the proclamation (and living out) of the Word of God.
Intelligible Words, Words, Words.
Paul says himself, “…in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19b). God has designed miraculously, to make the proclamation of the Word of God expressed through simple, humbling words. The gospel we proclaim in word and deed, though foolish to the world, is the power of God to the one who is being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18). If someone will see God for who He is and respond in worship, it will be expressed through intelligible words from another person (including their actions) or God’s Word written down.
This should humble any Christian, for our great God uses simple people with simple words to do the supernatural.
Let us stop acting in a way that may elevate ourselves while muddying the proclaimed Word of God. May we act as we were encouraged on Sunday, “…to be thoughtful about how our actions and words as a church affect the upbuilding of the congregation, the eternity of the lost, and the glory of God.”
Words Are Always Necessary
Jesus is King over everything,
Simple words yet so sweet.
Ten thousand lines in unintelligible phrasing,
Will lead no sinner to the Savior’s feet.