The Horizontal Mindset (1 Corinthians 14:1-25)

July 30, 2023

Series: 1 Corinthians

I should say this, it is good to be back together. Last week, we had a lot going on. Last Sunday, I know many of you enjoyed being at Freedom Middle School for our singles-led worship service. That sounds like a great time. And of course, a lot of us married couples were at the marriage workshop over at the Rosen Center reconnecting. That’s right. We were reconnecting. So just wanted to take us back to where we were two weeks ago. The last time we met here at Goldenrod, Keith Thornton showed us the most excellent way. Do you remember that? What is the most excellent way, Church? Love. Love. That’s right. Love is necessary. Love is the most excellent way. And here’s where we left off in the scriptures two weeks ago. 1 Corinthians 13, verse 13, heading into chapter 14, Paul writes, So now faith, hope, and love abide. These three. But the greatest of these is love. Pursue love. And that’s a timeless message for the church. Now, the Apostle spends all of Chapter 13 convincing us that love is greater than all things. Love is even greater than faith and hope. Next, he appeals to us with this directive, pursue love.

Move rapidly to love. Press on to love. Run after love. If you want to go old school, you can say, hasten to love. I will hasten to him. Hasten to love. So if we’re supposed to pursue love, how do we do that in the Ecclesiast? Or in non-Greek words, how do we pursue love in the assembly of Christ? That’s our question. That’s our focus for today’s lesson. How do we pursue love? And what does this pursuit of love look like in real-time in the church? Now, we can thank our friends in Corinth for showing us what love does not look like in the church. When in doubt, I follow this principle. Do the opposite of the Corinthians. Thank God for them. Yes, they were Christians in Corinth, but they were a mess, as we are if we’re being totally transparent about things. But you look at the outline of what we’ve covered so far, and we have about three chapters left here, but you look at all the problems and all the trouble in Corinth, the root of these issues in many ways was their immature pursuit of other things rather than love.

And that’s why Paul brings the heavy on love in this letter, specifically here in Chapter 13. Early on, you see Paul starting to lead up to the importance of love. He asked the rhetorical question in Chapter 4, Okay, guys, shall I bring a rod when I come to you to fix all of this, or should I come with love and a gentleness of spirit? What do you prefer? A rod or love? Later on in Chapter 8, he wants them to get their priorities in order. He tells them, Okay, love builds up, but knowledge puffs up. And that leads us to our text today. Looking back on Chapter 13, Paul writes, If I speak in the tongues of men, or if I speak in the tongues of angels if I speak like angels, but I don’t have love, I’m a noisy gong or a clanging cymbals. Now thought about it, it would have been so cool. I used to have some symbols. I used to be a drummer. You would have hated it. But if I just came up here and just started banging the symbols, or if I had a gong. We can have all these different great gifts, but that’s what we are without love.

Just crash, crash, crash. Then Paul goes on to say, Love never ends. As for prophecies, they’ll fade away. As for tongues, they will cease. So if love never ends, how do we pursue it? What is love as we gather together as a church? We’re going to find the answers today in 1 Corinthians 14, verse 1. Let’s read that now. Please read with me 1 Corinthians 14, verse 1, pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. Verse 2, For one who speaks in a tongue, speaks not to men, but to God, for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in his spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and their encouragement and their consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 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. And we’ll stop right there. So keep in mind the context of chapters 11, 12, 13, 14.

It’s in a public gathering. It’s in public worship when we come together. For us, this could be Sunday services, house church, family group, singles, campus, or teen devotional. It’s when we come together. And in those days, speaking in miraculous languages, this. This was the great obsession of the church in Corinth. And as Paul says here, he’s saying, Well, that’s great. He even goes on to say, I wish you all could have these special connections with God. That’s great. But do it at home privately with God in your quiet times. In our public gatherings, not so much. We all speak Greek here, to the Corinth, not us. It’s Greek to me. We’re all speaking a common language here. When you go about it this way in our public gatherings, no one understands you. What you’re doing only benefits the individual, not the whole church. It’s selfish. So what Paul does is he points them in the direction of prophecy for their assemblies. In verse 3, we see this. He tells us the benefits of it for the larger group. Inspired preaching can build up, it can encourage, it can also console, and lift our spirits.

We need it. Have you ever felt as if you’ve come in into an assembly like this and you say, Man, I know I have. Wow, that lesson was for me. How do you know that? Or what she shared, that was for me. Or that song she sang, man, that really was something for me. Or that video really moved me today. And that’s the point for everyone. It’s not just for you, but it’s including you as part of the whole. Are you with me? So in verse 4, he spells it out, The one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. We see at the end of verse 5, the answer to the question we asked at the beginning, how do you pursue love in the church? We pursue love by utilizing our gifts to build up others not build up ourselves. This is how you build the body of Christ, for the Church in Corinth, they were fascinated by speaking in tongues. They were also very fascinated by the knowledge that other people didn’t have and other fantastic gifts. But it started to all go sideways because they became selfish with their talent.

It was self-serving. I know from being here four years now in this church, in this congregation, everyone here is gifted by God. I hope you believe that. You’re gifted by God in various and unique ways. This church is not the same without you. We need you. I’d also say this, I think you would agree with me, our issue right now is the church is not necessarily having people try to dominate our gatherings by speaking in tongues. Not the gatherings I go to. That’s not really our issue. But I do ask you to consider our church services, and our family groups, for our devotionals, how are we utilizing our gifts? How do we view our gifts? Do we view our gifts to build up the body or do we view our gifts to build up ourselves? Me, as a young Christian, training to be a minister, I had someone tell me this one time, Marcus, you’re learning to preach, you’re learning to be a minister. You and I have to preach. That’s what we do. Preaching and leading, that’s our God-given gifts. And if we’re not preaching and leading, I think you and I would fall away from the church.

What do you think of that? I was young and impressionable, trying to be humble, and I took this to heart. I really wanted to, okay, what is he saying here? And I wanted to believe it, and it had some truth to it, but in my gut, I knew it wasn’t right. Think about that for a moment. It’s not just preaching, but in all the gifts and our gifts as well. Many years later, I can tell you this, what I’ve learned is that statement is absolutely stupid in order to save myself in some way. And if people don’t let me use it in this way, I’m falling away. It’s dangerous thinking. I blame the guy that shared it with me. I think the person who trained him told him the same thing. But it’s dead wrong. It’s a lie. Don’t get caught up in that. Whatever your gift is. All right. If I cannot do X, Y, and Z in this timeline in our church, then I probably won’t make it as a disciple. I need to do this for my faith. I’m speaking to people who want to use their gifts to build the church.

That’s why you’re here. You have a proven track record of this. But I appeal to you, we got to watch out for Satan’s schemes. Please do not use your talents to get your way in the church. Or don’t withhold your talents to get your way in the church. Don’t use your talents for your own validation, or God forbid, use your talents for your own security and your salvation is at stake. I’m not coming to church if I don’t get to X, Y, and Z. Instead, we’re called to use our God-given gifts to build something that’s bigger than us. Next, Paul uses four analogies to make this point. Let’s read it together. First, we’re going to Corinthians 14, verse 6, Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you also some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments such as the flute or the harp do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue, you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said?

For you’ll be speaking into the air. Verse 10, There are doubtless many languages in the world and none is without meaning. But if you do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a stranger to me. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, or since you’re eager for a revealing of the Holy Spirit, strive to Excel in building up the Church. There it is again. You’ll see this theme all throughout Chapter 14, strive to Excel in building up the church. You want God to reveal his Spirit? Get to work building the church. That’s what it is. Paul provides four analogies to demonstrate this. We’ll go back here to verse 6. What if your preacher only spoke in languages you could not understand? I hope I’m speaking clearly today. I know I can go off the rails sometimes or go Greek geek on you guys, but I need to come up here. I need to be able to speak something that is going to edify you, not so much that it’s going to make me look like I know something. And there’s a fine line for me with that.

I’m a human, I’m a sinner. I’m someone that can definitely get into the prove-it mode. But think about it, whoever speaks, it’s only about them sharing their story and who they are. And it can start to go sideways. It becomes more about them. Now, we’re good-hearted, we’ll still get something out of it, but we have to be careful with that. If I came and spoke only things that I understood, what value would that be to the assembly at large? Paul underlines here the need for clear, organized communication in our gatherings. We really strive for that. We don’t hit the bull’s eye all the time, but that’s what we’re shooting for when we come together. We value your time and we value everyone making the effort to be here for this hour and a half on Sunday or whatever meeting we have. It’s important. Another analogy, number two, in verse 7, this one is for the musicians, but I think it’s for all of us. But I think we’re all going to understand this concept. How can an instrument make music unless there are variations of pitch? Unless we can distinguish sounds and recognize a melody, the instrument is pointless to the audience.

Paul goes on, verse 8, similar analogy. Trumpet player. And I was thinking about it this way. You may have a trumpet player who really loves to play taps. If you’ve ever been to a military service or a military burial where taps is played, man, I don’t know about you, I’m like a mess. I’m just like, it is what a moment that is. You see the soldiers come in and they take the flag and they’re folding the flag and they hand it to the wife. Oh, my goodness. I remember that at my dad’s memorial. Taps is powerful. But the reason I say that is, let’s say you have a trumpet player, he’s like, Man, I play taps. I love taps. But what would happen if the opposing army is coming and it’s time for the bugle player to play the fight song to get everyone going? It’s time to go to battle. What if the bugle player decide, You know what? I prefer taps. All the soldiers in their barrack sleeping. The battle is starting, but I really am in my own zone when I play taps. I’m really good at taps. I know the Colonel asked for a battle song, but this is what I prefer.

This would be a disaster for the army. He’s only thinking about himself. It would do more harm than good. You have to think about the whole, right? That’s what Paul is saying here. And then you get to verses 9 through 11. Unless there is thought, reflection, clear words to the whole, there’s going to be a breakdown in communication. And their words, because God knows, in my role and Eddie’s role, we’re going to talk a lot. That’s part of our role. We want to be clear. We want to communicate. We want to help you. We want to edify the church with what we do. I’m thankful because I’m not going to say everything perfectly. I’m thankful when you listen to our heart. That’s very endearing. Striving to Excel and building up the church. That’s what it’s all about. What are you striving for the church? When you think of church, when you come here this morning, when you go to your family group, when you viewed what you want the church to become, what are you striving for in the church? How do you view the church? What Paul is saying here through the Spirit is we must seek, most of all, to have the gifts that help the church grow stronger.

Let’s now read verse 13 and the following. Notice in this section, I think the translators really help us out here. The word Spirit is used in this section, but it’s not capitalized, signifying that it’s more our emotions, our feelings, our own soul and how we’re feeling about things. Does that make sense? That’s going to be important as we read this. 1 Corinthians 14, verse 13, Therefore, or in light of everything Paul’s just shared with us, therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. So if you’re going to say some crazy stuff, well, crazy, maybe not the right word. But if you’re going to say some things that we don’t know what it is, okay, you need to pray that you can share with people what this means so it can edify the group. Verse 14, for if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, my emotion, what’s inside of me prays, but my mind is un fruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

It’s not being built up. Do you understand what Paul is saying here? Bottom line, in our public worship, Paul says our minds must be engaged, not just our emotions. Don’t get me wrong, don’t hear me wrong, hear my heart here. Our emotions are an invaluable component to our gatherings. I don’t know what went on in your life on the way here or what happened with you this weekend, where your mind is at, where your heart is at right now. But I hope you come here and more often than not, your heart is skirted. You feel something here and it helps you. You leave here better than when you came here and your emotions, but not to the neglect of our minds. It’s for the benefit of the whole. I know for me, I experienced it on the way in today. I drive alone a lot of times to the early morning service, and when I have my playlist, my Christian music going, and it’s on, it’s good. I’m singing to God on the way here on the drive from my house, and I’m singing with words and melodies that only God can understand. It’s a good time.

It is good. By the time I hit the turn light here at Curry Ford and Goldenrod, I’m usually to the point in my playlist right now where I’m on the song Graves to Gardens. Some of you know this song. But yeah, I’m at that point. I’m like, I search the world, but it couldn’t feel me. I was like, There’s nothing better than you, God. I’m singing it. Nothing better than you. And it’s very personal. The lyrics are me and God, and we’re connected and I’m singing to God, and he knows my heart and it’s emotional. My eyes are closed, except when I’m driving. I’ve been careful of that. My hands are moving. I’m just pointing and I’m just moving. The car is shaking and people think I’m crazy if they look over and it’s stopped. Crazy teenager. So I get it. I need it. We need it. But if you look at verses 16 and 17, Paul gives us the scenario. If all of us were doing this all the time when we’re all together, it would be a bit chaotic. What he’s saying, he’s presenting the scenario. If that was our only focus and we were out of balance and it was all emotion, how could an outsider come in and interpret those emotions?

How could we interpret them in one another? Because we’re all emotionally different, right? Are you okay? No, I’m actually getting my worship on. Oh, okay. I thought you were hurting there. Okay. What’s happening? No, that’s just the way I do it. So how could someone new connect with us? I don’t know, but he said it, I didn’t. Verse 19, he says, Nevertheless, this is key here. It’s Paul exaggerating again, but it’s a key point. In church, I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than 10,000 words in a tongue. Brothers and sisters, don’t be children in your thinking. Be infants in regard to evil but in your thinking, be mature. So this is quite a comparison, five words and 10,000 words. So again, keep in mind the context. It’s our gatherings together. It’s not your personal time with the Lord. It’s not you sitting at Goldenrod and Curry Ford singing a great song. It’s different. It’s when we’re together. So when we meet, Paul’s saying five words with your mind is better than 10,000 words from your spirit. If you you bless God with 10,000 tongues, awesome. That’s a gift.

I don’t even know what all that means or what that could be today. But hey, if you’re able to praise God with 10,000 tongues, more power to you. Paul’s like, yes, that’s great. But you know what? It would take at least an hour if we did it together, an hour for each person. You would need an interpreter as well for the rest of us to be edified and for the rest of us to understand it. And so that’s Paul’s point and contrast. It’s different when come together. It’s five words we can all understand is better for the church. Sometimes less is more. Amen. Then verse 20, Paul says, Brothers and sisters, don’t be children in your thinking. Be infants in regard to evil, but in your thinking, be mature. So here, Paul, again, pokes at the Corinthians a bit at their lack of self awareness. He challenges them on a lack of maturity in their thinking about themselves. And that’s the thing with this is we have to have a lot of grace and mercy on one another. I pick at the Corinthians as well, but I’m like, man, that’s me. So much of this is unintentional.

It’s a slippery slope of how we use our gifts and how we view our gifts. But He challenges a lack of maturity. I would say here it is. If I could sum up the lesson for Corinth in Chapter 14, this is it right here. The same principle holds true for us today in the Church. The spiritually mature think both vertically and horizontally about their gifts and about worship. The spiritually mature think both vertically and horizontally about gifts and worship. Let me get a little participation from you at this point. What do you think this means for us? I’ll take two. Yeah. How can we use our gifts better? How can we spread our gifts and make them useful to other people? Yeah. Other thoughts? Yeah? That’s right. Yeah, there you go. Just like the cross. There you go. Yeah. Any other thoughts? Yeah? Yes. It’s not just you and God. It’s a community working together. Very good. I thank you for just really making it simple for us. Even these arrows up here are vertical is you and God, but horizontal is God’s people, God’s community.

And it’s both. I think a lot of you have heard the old expression, which wing of the airplane is more important, the right one or the left one? Well, I’m telling you, I’m going to make sure whatever airplane I’m on, the right and the left are both working. It’s a trick question. And so we need the vertical and we need the horizontal. And the reason I want to emphasize this out of what Paul’s teaching here is, obviously, I don’t think tongue speaking right now is an issue for our church, but this still is a very important chapter for us today. Western society, we may not realize it because it’s so normalized, really our society is so much about the individual. There is a hyper-focus on the individual. We shoot up fireworks every Fourth of July, don’t we? It’s Independence Day. This definitely is a part of our religion. Western religion, Western Christianity is incredibly vertical. I’m not saying that’s all bad, but it’s missing something. And when I say it’s incredibly vertical, it’s so much about it’s all me and my personal relationship with God. Do you hear that? My personal relationship with God. There’s very little mention of the community.

And God’s always worked in the community, including himself, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. For example, I listen to a lot of music. I sing a lot of music on my own. I listen to a ton of Z 88.3 on the radio, the contemporary Christian music station, right? Because it’s safe for the little ears in the back seat. Yeah, I love it. But I’ll tell you what, I love all the songs and I get into them. But we have to realize nearly every song is vertical. Almost all of them are me and I and God and get out of the way. It’s between God and me in a nicer way with great lyrics. So I do think that’s there and that’s helpful. But in many ways, we do have to guard against getting out of balance in the church. We have to realize these influences that can get us out of whack. And really to think horizontally about the community rather than just you and God, that means you’re going against the grain of the universe. And when you go against the grain, you get splinters. Yeah, you know, you’re with me. It can be painful to be that guy or that girl.

So that’s the title. If you want a title for today’s lesson or something to take away, this summed up, is the horizontal mindset. And it’s the point that our meetings are not self-center, but they’re for the whole. When we make decisions, it’s hard to do this because there are individuals and there’s the whole and there’s some tension there. But whether it’s a lesson, a testimony, a speaking role in a gathering, the music, the fellowship, where we sit, when we arrive, when we leave, the children’s classes, it’s for the whole. So the spiritually mature think both vertically and horizontally about the Church. Let’s move on to verse 21. We’ll close this out. Verse 21, And the law 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. Verse 23, If therefore the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you’re out of your minds?

But if all prophecy and an unbeliever or outsider enter, 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. We’re limited on time here. If you want more insight on verses 21 and 22, contact me. I know a lot of this tongue stuff, we’re not used to this conversation, so I can get that for you. I did want to use our time here that’s remaining to focus on verses 23 through 25 and wrap this up for us. As Paul often does, Paul makes a point by using hypothetical extreme. What he’s saying in verse 23 is like, hey, if everyone in your church service, okay, we have everyone in the church service, you all come together, what if every last person starts speaking in ways that no one else can understand? Well, what would that be like? Now, it’s very spiritual. It’s a connection with God. Yes, they’re praising God, but what if everyone was doing that? What would that experience be like for someone who walks in the door and visits your gathering?

How would the newcomer feel? What would they say about us? These guys are bonkers, man. Not only I don’t get it, I don’t belong here. I don’t understand what’s going on. Then verses 24 and 25, give us the contrast. It’s not like we would want an entire group of people all preaching at the same time either. But Paul is making a comparison here. He’s saying, Hey, if a guest walks in and everyone’s speaking the prophetic, life-giving words of God, what would that be like? Well, here’s what would happen, Paul said. The newcomer would be convicted by all, fall on his face, worship God with us, and declare that God is really among us. So that begs the question, in building our church, how much do you consider future members? We all pretty much know our preferences and what we want and what we think is best, but how much are we considering future members and building your church and how you make plans for your family group? Do you do that with newcomers in mind? And that’s important because they don’t have a voice. All of us have a voice if we want it.

But when it comes to outsiders, they don’t have a voice in where we meet or how we meet, or what we do when we come together. They have no voice in that. We have to be the voice for them. We have to consider them. We’re not building this church for our own comfort and our own convenience. Even with what Eddie shared earlier and giving an update on the facility, what we’re talking about right here would be one of the primary reasons why we could leave this facility. We may rent this place and go rent or buy somewhere else. Why? To make life difficult and make things hard for all? No, because this is not for us. We benefit from it. It’s awesome. It’s amazing. But it’s not just for us, it’s for future members who don’t have a voice and we want them to come in among us and go, God is there. And we got to have space for them. And we got to speak a language they can understand. So to summarize some of the takeaways for us, if you’re here today, you’ve been studying the Bible, which is so good. We’ve had so many of you come out or come back.

You used to be here. Man, God is going to meet you where you’re at. I would encourage you, the best decision you could ever make when the time is right. Be urgently responsible. Repent, be baptized, and begin giving your God-given gifts to the church. The best investment you could ever make. Number two, to review, pursue love, think horizontally, not just vertically. Seek to give your talents to make others grow stronger. The number three in our gatherings, we just talked about this, whether it’s Sundays, midweeks, family groups, church, devotionals, conduct yourself, build the church in such a way that our guests will declare, God is really among you. I get this. I don’t know if I want this shit, but I get it. God is there. That’s the place. That’s the people. That’s God’s vision for our church. It has happened here. It is happening here and it will happen here in greater measure in the future. People will say, God is among us.

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