Spiritual Gifts and Graces (5) – Spirit Led Worship

gifts and graces basic RECAP

•What are spiritual gifts?

Charismata (1 Cor 12:4) Diakonia (v5) Energenata (v6)
Given to be used and seen to be used (1 Cor 15:28)

•What is the body of Christ?

–Not ‘like’, but are (1 Cor 12:27, 5:30-31)!

–Made up of unique members (1 Cor 12:14)

•What is worship?

–Worship (proskyneo) when the church gathers
(John 4:20ff; Acts 2; 1 Cor 12 11; 14:26)

–It is associating with heaven’s worship
(Rev 4:1-7:17)!

•All For the Common good

(1 Cor 12:7; 1 Cor 14:26; Eph 4:11-16)



Hymns and teaching and revelation and tongues and interpretation (v26-28)

   3 cautions about tongues (14: 6-22)

   3 positives about tongues (14:2-5)

   4 reasons for the priority of prophesy (14:4, 24-25)


What is prophecy? In the New Testament the word can refer to a prediction or it can refer to someone speaking for God. Here are two verses to illustrate.

Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name . . .”  Matt. 7:22


Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”  Matt. 26:67-68


These two verses capture the range of meaning of the Greek word. The basic meaning of the Greek word is, “to tell forth,” or “to speak for God.” It can mean predicting the future, but it always means speaking for God.


Moses’ seventy leaders also prophesied without apparently predicting the future (Num. 11:16-26). When the prophets spoke for God, sometimes they predicted the future. The prophets spoke “forth” for God and sometimes they predicted the future.


4 reasons then for the priority of prophesy (14:4, 24-25)






In chapter 14 we discover that there is a repeatedly comparison between the spiritual gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. Each time we are encouraged to seek the greater spiritual gift of prophecy instead of tongues. For example,

Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Cor. 14:1


Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy . . . 1 Cor. 14:5


Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. 1 Cor. 14:20


Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 1 Cor. 14:39

Partly this is because everyone can understand prophecy, whilst tongues require interpretation. The spiritual gift of prophesy edifies, but tongues without interpretation does not (1 Cor. 14:3-5).


Tongues (1 Cor. 14:22-24) are a sign to unbelievers; prophecy is a sign to believers. Prophecy alone edifies both the unbelievers and believers.  But, apparently, the Corinthians desired the more spectacular gift – tongues.  Although Paul could speak in tongues more than all of them, in the church his desire was to speak five words with his mind so that he might instruct others, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Cor. 14:18-19).

Therefore, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 1 Cor. 14:39

Why can we say that prophesy is a greater gift than tongues?

Even though prophesy is preferred, tongues are not to be prohibited.  However, we need to return 1 Cor 13 and the somewhat complicated end to the chapter:

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10

The first clue that prophesy is a greater gift is found in Paul’s statement that the gift of prophecy and the gift of knowledge “will be done away” but tongues will “cease.”


Tongues Will Cease.
The Greek word translated as “cease” in this verse is the middle form of pauo. It means “to cease, auto-cease, come to an end, cause to stop, and stop on its own.”


The word has the idea of something simply stopping. For example, on one occasion we are told that Jesus had “finished” speaking (Luke 5:4), and on another occasion the wind and waves “stopped” (Luke 8:24). But, Jesus spoke sometime later, and the wind and waves still exist today.


Therefore, we can conclude that tongues will cease, as it where, on its own at some time in the future with the possibility that it could even reoccur at yet later point. Perhaps the history of the church reflects this pattern.  This passage suggests that tongues are not as permanent or essential to the church as knowledge and prophecy.


Prophecy Will Be Abolished.

In contrast to tongues the same passage tells us that prophesy will be “done away.” The Greek word translated as “done away” is the passive form of katargeo. The word means “to make idle, to make inoperative, to render useless, to destroy, abolish, pass away, vanish away, and nullify.”


The Greek word is composed of a prefix “kata” which makes the word very strong and implies a strong decisive or cataclysmic event that destroys. That is, while tongues will stop on their own, knowledge and prophecy will be abolished by a direct action of God.


When will prophesy cease?
Prophesy will come to an end when “the perfect comes”. There are two major views in reference to “the perfect.” Some believe “the perfect” is the completed Word of God, that is, the Bible. They believe the perfect is the Word of God containing all of the books of the Bible: Genesis through Revelation. This view states that when the Bible was completed, prophecy and knowledge ended.


But this cannot be supported from any passage in the New Testament. It also does not agree with the idea of seeing something face-to-face in 1 Cor. 13:12. Notice the three locations where the phrase “in part” occurs.


For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1 Cor. 13:9-12


The “in part” will disappear when we see “face-to-face” and then we will be fully known. A book cannot see us or know us, not even a sacred book.


The second and correct view says that Jesus Christ is the “perfect.” First, Jesus Christ was the perfect man in every res
pect (Heb. 5:9; 7:28). Second, Jesus is coming again (John 14:3; Acts 1:3-6). Jesus promised that He would return. If we combine both truths together, we discover that Jesus Christ is “the perfect” and He is coming back!


Prophesy and the spiritual gift of knowledge will continue until Jesus returns. When He comes, prophecy and knowledge will be unnecessary and will cease.


Tongues and Prophecy

Why does prophecy continue until Jesus returns but the same promise is not made about tongues? What is implied by the fact that tongues will cease on its own, but prophecy and knowledge will be abolished only at the end of the age?


The contrast of the two Greek verbs, pauo and katargeo, and the fact that two of the three spiritual gifts will continue until Jesus’ return reveals that tongues has a different role to prophecy and knowledge.


Tongues are a human-to-God form of communication. It is useful for as long we can only imperfectly speak to God.  It ceases as we become able to better speak to God.  The gift of tongues then is temporary to us.


Speaking forth for God is vital.  It is God speaking to humans and must therefore continue until Jesus returns,  Then God will stop it forever.  It will be rendered unnecessary.  Finished!



Weighing and then accepting instruction and encouragement (v29-31)

   Order and peace come out of:

         openness to the Spirit (v32-33)

         focussing on the task (v34-35)

         respect for gifting (v36-38)



The body will mature as we desire and use the greater gifts (12:31; 14:39)

The body will mature as each of us engages with heaven in worship (12:31)



Cell outline


1. What advantages or good results does Paul attribute to the gift of prophecy in verses 1-5? How do these advantages compare with the results of speaking in a tongue?

2. Summarise Paul’s point in verses 7-11 in your words. What challenges with speaking in tongues in public worship do these verses reveal?

3. The NRSV translates verse 12 to say “strive to excel in spiritual gifts for the building up of the church.” What spiritual gift(s) could you excel in for the building up of our church?

4. What does Paul say about the importance of the mind in worship according to verses 14-16? What application would you make for the way the mind is used and involved in worship today?

5. What concern for outsiders and unbelievers appear in these verses? What principle guides Paul’s instructions on this subject? How should we apply that same principle to our worship today?

Going deeper

If the purpose of speaking in tongues (verse 22) is to serve as a sign to unbelievers, then what would the people you know who are not yet Christians make of it? Is there a cultural issue here, since the Corinthians might have been familiar with tongues used in the worship of other gods?

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