Body Ministry – BT9
Church clergy is blind about what is supposed to occur when we gather together.
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There is a blindness in Church “leadership” about what the Church is actually supposed to do “when you come together” (a). Is it to open up with a 2 minute prayer? Is it to join in with a worship band for 4 songs or 20-30 minutes looking up at a screen? Is it to listen to 1 person speak to an audience for the rest of the time? Is it to end with a 2 minute blessing or prayer and finish the whole service up in an hour, so everybody can get to their favorite restaurant? Or repeat the whole thing over for 3-4 services on Sundays? I’ve played in 15 churches and that’s pretty much the routine! <Notes> a) 1 Corinthians 11:17-18, 20, 33-34, 14:26; cf. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16.
Let’s see what the NT says! In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul uses the phrase “when you come together” 5 times concerning the Lord’s Supper and their concurrent “agape love feast” – and based on 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 that they should “discern or prefer” the Body-of-Christ and not to just look out for their own individual needs. His 6th time is in 1 Corinthians 14:26 when he says: “What then is my conclusion, brethren? Whenever you come together, each/every one ongoingly has a psalm (a), ongoingly has a teaching, ongoingly has a revelation, ongoingly has a tongue (b), ongoingly has an [Spirit-given] interpretation [of the tongue]. I strongly urge you to let ALL things for building up be ongoingly done,” and the parallel passages of this fellowship sharing are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. When is the last time you went to a church like that? But Paul is describing standard practice back then! <Notes> a) psalmos: “hit, twanged, plucked, or twitched” out songs with/without singing, b) glossa: supernatural Spirit-given language – see Grace-Gifts.
The order of my English translation is exactly that of the Greek, which shows the emphasis Paul is placing – what is in the beginning of a sentence is emphasized – that “each/every one” of them were to be contributing to “whenever you come together!” Paul is simply giving them some concluding action items for their standard gatherings after having talked much about a huge variety of the Spirit’s “appointed grace-gifts given into them, services through them, and effectual workings” earlier in 1 Corinthians 12:5 that is “for the common good” in v. 12:7. These grace-gifts included “apostles, prophets, teachers, messages of wisdom, message of knowledge, trusting-relying-faith (c), healing, miracles, helping-services, managed care-giving, discerning spirits, tongues, and interpretation” (a), because “though many parts,” they are still “one Body in Christ” (b). <Notes> a) 1 Corinthians 12:28, b) 1 Corinthians 12:12, cf. Romans 12:5, c) pistis: relational conviction of trusting reliance.
Certainly Paul wants them to “be well informed about the Spirit’s grace-gifts” (a), especially to “earnestly desire the more useful/advantageous/excellent (b) grace-gifts,” but sums up his urging: “earnestly pursue/hunt-down an even more excellent (huperbole) path/road (c) – unconditional, no-strings-attached agape unconditional-love (d) and/coupled (kai) zealously pursue the Spirit’s grace-gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (e). That’s Paul’s emphasis of Body-of-Christ interactions in 1 Corinthians 12-14! He’s not even close to hinting in vv. 13:8-12 that any of the “grace-gifts, services, workings” will “pass away” (g) during the Church age as the Cessasionists claim but simply emphasizing that agape unconditional-love will “never end” (g) even after “the perfect (Christ) comes” (h), and so must remain the “greatest/larger/stronger (f) of these [faith, hope, and love]” (i) during our community interactions in the Church age meanwhile. He’s not pitting the “pursuit of agape unconditional-love” against “earnestly desiring the Spirit’s grace-gifts, especially to prophesy!” He couples earnest/zealous of these inseparably together with the conjunction kai (e)! <Notes> a) 1 Corinthians 12:1 – it’s pitiful so many churches want to remain ignorant, b) kreitton, c) v. 12:31, d) vv. 13:1-7, 13, 14:1, e) v. 14:1, f) meizon, g) v. 13:8, h) v. 13:10, i) v. 13:13.
The Cessationists, like the Church of Christ that I was saved in, the Baptists, Associate Reformed Presbyterians, and Presbyterian Church in America, don’t believe in the supernatural enabling-power and ongoing prophetic-rhema of the Holy Spirit. They say that all of that died out with the apostles! The say that the Continuationism of the Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, and Pentecostals is wrong, even though Tertullian’s writings around 200 AD attest to it flourishing, as do: Hippolytus between 170-236, Clement of Alexandria between 150-215, Origen between 185-254, Cyprian around 258 AD, Ephraem Syrus between 306–373), and Augustine before 430. The history of revival has also proved the Cessationists dead wrong! Could this be why Paul even warned against the Church against such suppression (a), and strongly urged to “zealously desire to prophesy and/coupled in possibility do not forbid speaking in tongues” (b)? How can churches “cherry pick” what they want to obey out of the NT? See also “Cessationism versus Continuationism” in www.wikipedia.org. <Notes> a) 1 Thessalonians 5:19, b) 1 Corinthians 14:39.
Paul does help clarify tongues versus prophesy to justify why prophecy is a “more useful/advantageous/excellent (d)” grace-gift (a) – exactly because prophecy builds the Church up, but tongues without interpretation only builds oneself up, being that it is private between you and God: “proseuchomai conversationally-praying or singing and giving thanks well enough, a mystery to yourself and others” (b). Because Paul “speaks in tongues more than them all” (c), he naturally “wants them ALL to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy because prophesying is greater/larger/stronger (d) than speaking in tongues unless interpreted so that the Church may be edified (built up)” (e) – see also Grace-Gifts and Prophetic-Rhema pages. <Notes> a) 1 Corinthians 14:5, b) vv. 14:2-5, 14-17, c) v. 14:18, d) kreitton, e) v. 14:5.
Unconditional-love is ALL about “benefiting others” (a), so “since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit (as Paul certainly was), toward the building up of the Church I urge you to ongoingly seek that you [should] ongoingly super-abound [at this]” (b). Paul sure isn’t against speaking in tongues or prophesying as many churches practice, but actually encourages both. But when it comes to people trying to communicate something to the church gathering, prophecy is preferable unless the tongues are interpreted. It’s simply a matter of logistics – people have to be able to hear and understand in order to benefit. That’s the context leading up to Paul’s concluding remarks of “What then is my conclusion, brethren? Whenever you come together, . . .Let all things be done for building up” (c). <Notes> a) 1 Corinthians 14:6, b) v. 14:12, c) v. 14:26.
Take turns with tongues/interpretation and prophecy because God isn’t about confusion but peace. Does that means shut up or stop the praxis function of these grace-gifts as many churches have over-reacted? NO! Paul advises: “Let 2 or 3 prophets speak (a), and/coupled I strongly urge the others (b) ongoingly discriminate it (c). But if to another [person] sitting, there is a revealing (via them prophesying) let the first [prophet] be silent, for you can ALL prophesy one by one in order that ALL may ongoingly learn (d) and/coupled ALL be ongoingly alongside-encouraged (e) (f).” Prophetic interaction within the Body-of-Christ is what it’s all about! These aren’t just “speakers on stages with audiences watching” as a lot of churches have treated them – the Body-of-Christ is supposed to interact with them! <Notes> a) remember the average house church held about 15-20 people max, b) in the house church, c) diakrino: to judge thru-the-realizing-channel-of thoroughly, thus to investigate or discriminate thoroughly either rightly by close-reasoning or wrongly by going too far or vacillating back and forth, as determined by the context, d) manthano: “increase one’s knowledge, be informed, or hear or learn from”, e) parakaleo: a term often used of the Holy Spirit’s counseling, f) vv. 14:27-31.
Paul sums it up in 1 Corinthians 14:39-40, “I strongly urge you to ongoingly zealously burn/covet to prophesy and/coupled I strongly urge you to ongoingly absolutely not in possibility to forbid/hinder ongoingly speaking with tongues. But I strongly urge you that ALL things should be ongoingly done with good form (a) and/coupled down-from/according order [in arrangement].” Context has already defined “good form . . . order” as “without confusion, but one person after another,” so that ALL can benefit! <Notes> a) decorously becoming, respectably, honorably.