Whether due to sin or simply distractions, the church has to be diligent to remain focused on the things that matter most—loving God and loving one another. Even as we think about spiritual gifts, it’s easy to miss the point of the gifts that God gives to us by his Spirit. In the message from 1 Corinthians 14:1–26, David Platt points us to the apostle Paul’s repeated emphasis on building up the church through spiritual gifts. Rather than competing with one another or looking out only for ourselves, we are to build up others and point unbelievers to Jesus Christ.
It’s good to be together around God’s Word. Before we open God’s Word, though, I want to ask you a couple of questions. One, what if I told you that if you are a Christian, if you’re a follower of Jesus, that you have unique supernatural abilities, specifically designed to bring everlasting good to other people? If that was true, wouldn’t you want to use those supernatural abilities for others’ everlasting good? Wouldn’t it be a waste of your life, in a sense, if you were not using those supernatural abilities for the everlasting good of others?
Secondly, what if I told you that if you’re not a Christian, if you are not yet a follower of Jesus, that you have come into a supernatural gathering that is specifically designed for your everlasting good? And if that was true, wouldn’t you want to get the most out of this gathering? Wouldn’t you want people to make sure this gathering is focused on your everlasting good?
So my aim in the next few minutes is to show you that both of these things are true, that every follower of Jesus has supernatural abilities to bring everlasting good to other people, and that this gathering is designed by God to bring everlasting good to non-Christians—if we will do this gathering right and if you will open your heart to encountering God today.
Reading 1 Corinthians 14:1–26
With that set-up, let me invite you—if you have a Bible or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open it to 1 Corinthians 12. We’re actually going to land in 1 Corinthians 14, but we’re going to take off from 1 Corinthians 12. We are in the final week of a series that we’ve been calling “Supernatural Church.” God’s Word has been so good and so timely to lead us through these days.
Today I want to close out this series on what it means to be a supernatural church by covering the two topics I mentioned at the start. One, spiritual-supernatural gifts that every follower of Jesus has in the church, and two, spiritual gatherings of the church. We will look at makes this gathering spiritual or supernatural in such a way that it has power to change people’s lives forever.
Spiritual gifts in the church
Let’s start with a biblical definition of spiritual gifts before we move on from 1 Corinthians 12-14. Here’s our definition: Spiritual gifts are unique, supernatural abilities given to every Christian to build up the church for the glory of Christ. Every word here matters, so listen real closely, especially if you are a follower of Jesus. God has given you unique, supernatural abilities to build up other people, specifically the church, for the glory of Jesus.
Think about what this means: unique, supernatural abilities. This is 1 Corinthians 12:1 that we looked at a few weeks ago: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.” You need to know, as a Christian, that God has given you gifts that are spiritual and supernatural in nature. This is different from natural talents or gifts, which also come from God; every good gift comes from God. Everyone has gifts and talents like that. God has given many people gifts in the arts, music, intelligence, leadership, administration or athletics. Just turn on the Olympics these days and you see gifted, talented athletes.
I don’t know if you saw the women’s 100-meter race with Jamaica coming in first, second and third, with the winner finishing in a world record 10.61 seconds. No other woman in all the world can run or has ever run that fast. I would say that’s a gift.
Or how about Katie Ledecky? Born in DC, raised in Bethesda. Did you see her in the 800-meter swims? She has the top 23 fastest times ever in the world. Are you serious? She has the fastest time, then she beat it, then she beat it again and beat it again. Twenty-two times—all one person. That’s amazing. She keeps topping her own record; no one else in the world can do that.
Here’s the deal. What the Bible is talking about here is beyond these unique natural abilities. It’s supernatural, only for those who have the supernatural Spirit of God dwelling in them. So if you’re not yet a follower of Jesus, then you would not have these spiritual-supernatural gifts, because God’s Spirit does not live inside you right now. These spiritual gifts are uniquely supernatural.
Look here in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and you will see different spiritual gifts mentioned. First Corinthians 12:8-10 lists the supernatural gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, the ability to distinguish between spirits, tongues and the interpretation of tongues. This list of spiritual gifts is not exhaustive. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, you see those same gifts listed, but you also see others added: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helping, administrating and various kinds of tongues. Then you go to other places in the Bible, like Romans 12, and you see prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership and acts of mercy.
Then in 1 Corinthians 7:7, which we studied a few months ago, we saw that marriage and singleness are described as gifts from God, using the same word that’s used in 1 Corinthians 12:1 to describe gifts. So the picture is that God gives His people a variety of unique gifts and they play out in a variety of unique ways.
Think about the gifts of service, for example. There are a million ways that service might play out within the church in supernatural ways. The point is, God has given unique, supernatural abilities to each and every Christian. That’s the next part of our definition. These are supernatural abilities given to every follower of Jesus. To use the language from 1 Corinthians 12:1, they’re given to every brother or sister in Christ who has confessed Jesus as Lord according to the power of the Spirit of God. So if you are not a Christian yet, let me explain what the Bible is saying here and throughout the Bible. I was sharing this with an extremely kind Uber driver from Pakistan last night. Every single person in the world, including every single one of us, has been created by God. We are not the product of natural selection, but of supernatural creation. God has made us for a perfect relationship with Him and with each other. The problem in the world though, and the problem in each of our lives, is that we have all turned aside from God and His ways to ourselves and our own ways, assuming we know better than God what is best for our lives. The Bible calls this sin and our sin separates us from God. If we die in this state of separation from God, we will experience everlasting judgment before God forever. The good news of the Bible is that God loves us and has sent Jesus to live a life without sin. Then, even though He had no sin for which to die, He died on a cross for sinners. Then He rose from the grave in victory over sin and death, so that anyone, anywhere, no matter who you are or what you have done, can trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life. If you do this, God will forgive you of all your sin and restore you to relationship with Him forever. This is the good news of the Bible and it can happen for you today. I’ll talk about this more in a few minutes.
When I say this is a spiritual-supernatural gathering designed by God for your everlasting good, this is what I mean. What we have sung and what we are seeing in God’s Word are intended to help you see God’s love for you in Jesus, so you might trust in Him as Lord, and you might have eternal life with God. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish by have eternal life.”
When you trust in Jesus for eternal life, God not only forgives you of all your sin—as if that’s not enough—He also fills you with His Holy Spirit. He makes you an entirely new person with His Spirit living inside of you. So to come back to 1 Corinthians 12:7, this is what this passage goes on to say: “To each…” And ‘each’ here is talking about every follower of Jesus who trusts in Jesus as Lord. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” This is an awesome truth. Don’t miss it, Christian. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter how young you are. Children who are followers of Jesus, this includes you. And it doesn’t matter if you became a Christian 50 years ago, or you became a Christian yesterday. The Spirit of God is living inside each one of us. He’s given every single Christian, without exception, unique supernatural abilities to build up the church. Remember, that’s the language we saw all over 1 Corinthians 14 last week: for the upbuilding of the church. First Corinthians 14:12 states, “Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” First Corinthians 14:26 says, “Let all things be done for building up.” That’s the purpose of these supernatural abilities: to strengthen and build up other people’s faith.
Remember Romans 1:11-12? “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift…” What’s the purpose? “…to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” This verse is why I would encourage every Christian not to get hung up on which spiritual gifts you may or may not have. Instead, focus on strengthening and encouraging other people’s faith. As you do that, you will realize you have supernatural abilities and gifts for that purpose. Let me say that one more time. Don’t miss it. Look for opportunities to strengthen and encourage other people’s faith, then as you do that you will begin to realize you have supernatural abilities for that purpose by the Spirit of God in you. Specifically, this is where I would encourage every single follower of Jesus within the sound of my voice to get plugged in to building up the church and other people’s faith in the church.
First, commit yourself to a church. Commit yourself to building up a particular body of Christ. Then look for specific opportunities to encourage the faith of others. This could be serving in preschool or children or student ministry—what a golden opportunity to build up others’ faith. Or serve in welcoming people to church, helping marriages in church, encouraging this or that group in the church, serving those with special needs. There are so many opportunities.
What we are seeing in God’s Word is that if you are not using the supernatural abilities that God has given you to strengthen faith in others in the church, then you are neglecting the Holy Spirit of God in your life. You are missing out on what God has supernaturally gifted you to do and others are missing out on everlasting good. It’s like you have supernatural ability to run or swim a world record time, but you are sitting on the couch instead. Don’t waste what God has given you.
Use your gifts for others’ good and for His glory. That’s the last part of our definition of spiritual gifts here. They are supernatural abilities given to every Christian to build up the church for the glory of Christ.
Let’s close out this topic by pointing to Ephesians 4:15-16, another passage that talks about spiritual gifts in the church. I want you to see how that passage ends. The imagery here is talking about how the church is the body of Christ and Christ is the head of the church. Listen to this.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Did you hear that? When each part, each member of the church, is working properly, when each person is using their supernatural ability to build up the church, then we will together exalt the Head of the church, Who is Christ. Do you realize what this is saying? With the Holy Spirit of God inside of you, with spiritual-supernatural abilities from Him inside you, if you are not using those gifts fully, then Christ is not getting all the glory He deserves in the church. God is saying in His Word, “Christian, you are integral to Jesus being glorified in the church. Jesus will not be fully glorified in the church if you are sitting on the sidelines with the supernatural abilities He has given to you.”
The Supernatural Gatherings of the Church
Now, I want to come back to practical applications of spiritual gifts in just a minute, but I don’t want us to miss the specific emphasis at the end of 1 Corinthians 14 on the spiritual-supernatural nature of gatherings of the church. After all this talk about spiritual gifts in chapter 12, the importance of love in chapter 13, building up the body of Christ in the first part of chapter 14, this is how these three chapters of 1 Corinthians close. Follow with me as I read 1 Corinthians 14:26-40:
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
I can just see the thought bubbles all across the room. We’ll come back to this.
Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.
Much like last week, we’re not going to be able to examine every single word in this passage today. We will hit the particular section that I paused on. I don’t want us to miss the forest for the trees, because this passage—maybe more than any other place in the Bible—gives us a glimpse into what was practically happening when the earliest churches gathered together for worship. So I want to quickly show you a list of characteristics that makes church gatherings spiritual or supernatural in nature.
1. Community participation:
In this passage, you see all the different people and gifts involved in the gathering of the church. First Corinthians 14:26 says, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” Each one. Each person in the church is involved in this supernatural gathering of the church. Now that is community participation.
Keep in mind the gatherings of the church in Corinth were likely much smaller than the kind of gathering we have today. Most of these gatherings were likely in homes. The setting was a bit different. Obviously, when we come together with thousands of people, not everybody and pick a song to sing, not everybody can teach a lesson. At the same time, there’s obviously a picture here of every person being involved in worship.
This is so important to remember when there are a few people leading and other people sitting in seats watching. We need to remember that people on stage are not performers and people seated are not the audience. There’s only one audience in this gathering—God. We are all the participants in worshipping Him. We are listening for the glory of God. We sing for the glory of God. We pray together for the glory of God. God is the audience; we assemble before Him to worship.
Back in 1 Corinthians 14:16, the Bible talks about worshiping in such a way that people in the gathering can say, “Amen” together, this word of affirmation that means, “Let it be,” or “May it be so.” The clear implication is that when the Word of God is proclaimed, when the glory of God is sung, when petitions before God are prayed, then the gathering of God’s people should, in a participatory way, be saying out loud together, “Amen.”
This is where I want to encourage you biblically to participate this way in worship. God has not called you to be passive, but to be an active participant in His worship. So when someone prays something you agree with, feel free to say “Amen” out loud. This will help keep your mind from wandering during worship. During prayer, it is so easy for your mind to just check out. Don’t be passive in prayer. We’re praying together before God, so say, “Amen.” Do not be a passive observer in worship.
When it’s time to sing, don’t just stand and watch. Join in and sing. Lift your voices, lift your hands. Sing and shout “Amen.” Then as this Word is preached, the truths of God’s Word proclaimed, loudly say, “Amen,” “Praise the Lord,” “That’s right,” or clap your hands. When somebody shouts or claps, don’t think, “Why doesn’t he or she just settle down?” No, the Bible is actually calling you to wake up.
I promise, this is not just me looking for amens during sermon. Look in the Bible. Sure, there are times when silence is honoring to God. But on the whole in His Word, God has not assembled His people together for isolated, quiet, passive observation of worship. He assembles His people for engaging in participatory worship before Him. Be careful that you don’t make this just a matter of personal taste or cultural tradition, thinking, “That’s just not me. That’s not the way I grew up.” This is biblical, far before it’s personal or cultural.
We read in Deuteronomy a few weeks ago in our Bible reading that God’s people shouted “Amen” across the way to each other. How about Nehemiah 8:5-6?
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
All Ezra did was open God’s Word and they started shouting, lifting their hands, bowing with their faces on the ground.
And don’t forget, this is where all of eternity is headed. Revelation 5:13-14 gives us a picture of heavenly worship:
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
If we don’t like to shout “Amen,” we’re not going to like heaven very much. When worshipful beings see God in all of His glory, when we hear God being exalted in His Word, we can’t sit silent. We shout, “Amen!” We are worshipful beings. So mark it down. Let it soak into all of our hearts. May we grow in this. Worship is not a spectator sport for any follower of Jesus. No, every follower of Jesus should come into the gathering of the church ready to participate, to join in worship before our great God, our audience. Community participation.
2. Church edification:
The second characteristic and why community participation is so important is for the sake of church edification. Back to Corinthians 14:26: “Let all these things be done” —in worship—“for building up.” Everything in the church’s gathering has one purpose: to build up the church, to edify the church. Gatherings of the church are spiritually supernaturally designed by God to encourage your faith today and next week, and next week, and every time the church gathers. Amidst all the things you’re walking through in your life, sing, pray, hear God’s Word and have your faith built up by that singing, praying, celebrating the Lord’s Supper and hearing testimonies of people’s lives changed through baptism.
God has designed our gathering together to build up our faith. In late May, I preached about the importance of physically gathering as the church. I won’t repeat all of that now, but I encourage you— especially those of you who are online—to return to church as soon as you are physically able to do so.
God has designed our being together to edify each other’s faith, to be in a room where you’re seeing faces, hearing voices, singing and shouting, listening to and sitting under God’s Word, encouraging each other with testimonies. God has designed church to be supernatural and spiritual to edify our faith.
3. Clear order:
The third characteristic of worship we see in this passage is clear order. We get into the specific instructions about tongues, interpretation and prophecy. While we’re not going to dive into all the details around these gifts, I do want you to see a clear emphasis on how these gifts are used, at different times and in different ways. It would be extremely unhealthy for people to speak whenever they want or do whatever they want. That would lead to chaos. Biblically, this is why we plan to sing, pray, study God’s Word and participate in the Lord’s Supper in an orderly way. This whole passage ends with, “But all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
This clear order necessitates self-control in the church. The instructions for the Corinthian church were clear. One person would speak; another person would interpret. At appropriate times, this person or that person should keep silent. Worship without self-control among the members would be displeasing to God and dishonoring to each other.
5. Peace that reflects God:
Verse 33 states, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” Where the Holy Spirit of God is leading, there will be peace and order. Confusion or chaos in a church gathering is a sure sign that something other than the Spirit of God is at work. Where the God of peace is at work, there will not be confusion or chaos.
6. Honor for one another:
Spiritual-supernatural gatherings of the church demonstrate honor for one another, not just toward God. This is where we come to verses 34 and 35, which talk about women keeping silent in the church. Now, I don’t want to skip over these verses, because I know there are all kinds of questions coming up, particularly in a church where women do speak in the gatherings of our church.
For the sake of time, we don’t have the capacity to dive in depth into every word here. These verses definitely don’t mean that women should never speak in church. In 1 Corinthians 11, which we talked about a few weeks ago, the Bible gave specific instructions for when women pray or prophesy in the church. We saw there that the church at Corinth was minimizing the good God-given distinctions between men and women, as well as God’s good God-given design for marriage in the way a husband and wife are to honor each other. We saw how, in this historical cultural context at Corinth, there were wives praying and prophesying in the gathering of a church in a way that was communicating dishonor or even shame toward their husbands.
So now, in 1 Corinthians 14, we see similar language, as Paul again addresses some women— likely wives who were apparently speaking in the church in ways that brought shame to their husbands in that historical cultural context. We don’t know all the specific circumstances behind what that looked like, but we see the Bible giving specific instructions—much like we saw in 1 Corinthians 11—into a specific context, in first-century Corinth, for women and specifically wives, to not speak in a way that would bring dishonor to their husbands.
As we step back to see the timeless truth for all people at all times, we see that anyone speaking in the church, in any context, is speaking with honor for one another. That’s just a quick overview, in which we see that spiritual-supernatural gatherings of the church are designed by God to display honor for others.
7. Reverence for God’s Word:
As the last characteristic of spiritual-supernatural gatherings of the church, we see they should display a reverence for God’s Word. In pointed language, this passage closes by basically saying, “If you reject these things above—if you think worship is a spectator sport, if you are not focused on the edification of the body, if you promote disorder, if you display a lack of self-control, if you create confusion or communicate dishonor to others—then you are standing against God and His Word.
Straight from verse 38, the language is strong: “If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” In other words, he or she who disregards these instructions from God should be disregarded from gatherings in the church. Because these characteristics are what make gatherings of the church spiritual, supernatural and distinct from every other gathering in the world, the church has the responsibility to make sure these things are true of its gatherings.
In light of these two topics in 1 Corinthians 12-14—spiritual gifts in the church and spiritual gatherings in the church—I want to ask you to reflect on two questions. The first is for those of you who are Christians; the second is for those of you who are not yet Christians.
So first, if you’re a Christian, if you’re a follower of Jesus, God has clearly said in His Word that He has given you supernatural ability to build up the church for the glory of Christ. Here’s the first question. What is one specific way you might use your spiritual gifts to build up your church for the glory of Christ?
The language here is intentional. By “your church,” this means the local church to which you are committed. If you’re not committed to a local church where you can follow the leadership of that church as a member in it, I exhort you biblically to make that commitment. Then ask, “What are specific ways I can build up others’ faith in the church family I’m a part of, not sometime in the future, but right now?” Some of you are already using your spiritual gifts in the church in all kinds of ways, so for many this is just encouragement from the Spirit of God in what you are already doing, a reminder that you have supernatural ability in you to do it. Or maybe this is an opportunity for you to pause and ask, “Is there anything God is leading me to do to encourage others in faith beyond what I’m doing now?” So ask the question and discern what God’s Spirit in you is saying to you. Regardless of how you respond to this, do not sit on the sidelines with supernatural ability inside of you.
Then the second question, for those of you who are not yet followers of Jesus in this gathering, I ask you to consider what is keeping you from trusting God’s love for you? Our sincere hope in this gathering is that you would see the love of God for you in a way that leads you to trust His love in your life. God sent His Son to die on the cross so that you could be forgiven of your sin and restored to relationship with Him. What is keeping you from trusting God’s love for you?
As you answer that question, I’m hoping that some of you respond with, “I can’t think of a reason. I don’t know why I should not trust in God’s love for me through Jesus.” If that’s the case, I invite you to realize that is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to your heart right now, doing what He’s designed this gathering to do, inviting you to receive God’s love, to trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life. I invite you and urge you to trust in His love today.
Or if for whatever reason you’re not ready to do that, then I would invite you to answer this question: “What’s keeping you from taking that step?” Then I encourage you to share whatever your answer to this question would be with someone else. I think almost every follower of Jesus I know has had questions about Jesus. They took the time to ask them, even if they didn’t want to at first.
This past week, I heard about an older man named Mike, who has been battling cancer for the last 20 years. Over time, he has basically become immobile. For all of his life, he’s believed God was either distant from him or even upset with him. He believed that somehow he needed to earn God’s favor or love. But over the course of this last year, Mike’s son Joey, along with Joey’s wife and kids, have become part of MBC and they moved in with Mike.
Because of worship being online, Joey said, “Dad’s immobility made it so that he pretty much had no choice other than to be in the room while we streamed church every Sunday. He heard worship music and the gospel preached every week, while we and others were praying for the gospel message to take root in his heart.”
Not too long ago, Mike’s condition worsened and he was hospitalized. Joey came in during one of his visits, sat down and read Romans 5 and 6 to his dad. Joey said, “After I read these chapters, Dad was moved to tears. He realized God loves him, confessed that Jesus is Lord and his only hope in life and death.” Mike’s condition has worsened since then, so he may not have long to live. His throat is so swollen he can hardly eat or breathe. But if he’s able to listen and watch today, I just want to say, “Mike, we love you as our new brother in Christ. We’re praying for you and we praise God for what He has done in your heart. No matter what happens, we look forward to worshiping God with you for all eternity. That’s thousands of people saying that to you right now, Mike.”
Ladies and gentlemen, what I shared at the beginning of our time together is true. Christian, you have unique supernatural abilities, designed by God to bring others everlasting good. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Don’t waste them.
And non-Christian friend, this spiritual-supernatural gathering is designed by God for your everlasting good, if only you will open your heart to Him.
Let’s bow our heads before God, our audience.
O God, we’ve gathered together today to hear from You, to sing to You, to pray to You, to build up each other’s faith in You, to see people come to faith in You. We pray, O God, that You would be glorified in all these ways. Be glorified in the unique supernatural abilities You have given to every single one of Your children in Your church. May we all use these gifts to the full for Your glory.
God, we pray that every week as we gather together, there would be spiritual-supernatural work happening in hearts, building up faith and leading people to faith. God, we praise You for what You’ve done in Mike’s heart as he watched week after week after week; we pray You would do the same in multitudes more.
This fall, as we dive into the book of Mark and see Jesus week after week, we pray that many more people may be added to our number. May many more come to know Your grace and love. May Your Word, as we read this morning in Acts 19, increase and prevail mightily. Grant us as a church family undistracted, undeterred focus toward that end. In Jesus’ name, we pray. And all of God’s people together said, “Amen.”