The Message

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Paul reiterated the Gospel in this passage: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the kind of truth and simplicity that we can all rally around. Hundreds of thousands have died defending this message and the principles behind it.

Today as you consider these words, think about the ultimate sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. Think also of those in the Persecuted Church and what they must go through just to fellowship with one another.

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That Unexpected Chaos in Your Life

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

What was a church service like among the Corinthians? According to the rest of this passage, it was chaotic, which was the reason Paul wrote at length about it. Satan was certainly alive and well in this church as evidenced by the chaos. It’s also a general principle in life. When there’s a lot of unnecessary chaos and turmoil, you can be sure that Satan has his hand in some of it. For example, one of the most stressful parts of the week is Sunday morning preparing for church or on the way to church. Ever wonder why that is? We are going to worship God with other Believers but we arrive angry and stirred up (and often put on that Church face as others greet us).

It’s no accident.

Satan doesn’t want us to have peace when we enter that sanctuary. He doesn’t want us to have peace throughout the week or when we go to bed at night.

When you’re feeling unexplained uneasiness and agitation, be sure that it’s Satan or one of his minions working overtime. The cure in part is to recognize that this is what’s happening. The other half of the cure is to rebuke the evil one and to pray for the peace of God to come over you.

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Instructions for the Corporate Body

20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:

“With other tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me,
says the Lord.”

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” 1 Corinthians 14:20-25

Speaking in tongues must have been a huge, confusing issue when Paul wrote this, must like it is confusing even today. But Paul wanted to be clear about the use (and subsequent abuse) of this supernatural gift. Paul gave explicit instructions about its usage. We would do well do follow these instructions as we come together as a corporate body.

It’s a general lesson we can take away when we read the Bible. When the Bible repeats a thought or an idea or devotes an entire chapter to the subject, it’s best if we followed what it says closely and in context. For instance, in the last chapter, Paul wrote about Love for the entire chapter. It must be an important topic. In this chapter, it’s tongues and prophecy.

Read these chapters with those thoughts in mind. Why did God devote entire chapters to these topics? What’s so important that He felt the need to write at length about tongues or prophecy? What can we learn from it?

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More Than We Know

6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 1 Corinthians 14:6-19

Paul continued to argue for clarity in the church. He never denied that gift of speaking in tongues existed. He never advocated that speaking in tongues was a requirement for salvation. He admitted that he himself spoke in tongues more than anyone else.

He didn’t care what people did when praying to God in a private setting. God desires fellowship with His followers in any manner you choose, whether it be crying, dancing, singing, praying, silence, or tongues. This is an important point that’s missing in the Western Church’s debate about speaking in tongues.

The bottom line is, are you worshiping God with every means at your disposal? Are you pouring out your heart and soul to Him regularly and faithfully? He desires that worship more than we know.

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Speaking the Truth

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. 1 Corinthians 14:1-5

Chapter 14 begins an interesting discussion on the role of tongues and prophecy within the church. Actually, Paul makes a strong argument in favor of prophecy because of its edifying nature (Isaiah 40:1). He doesn’t dismiss speaking in tongues – because he himself did it – but elevated prophecy.

Paul wanted the church to be edified and strengthened. His reasoning was that if the church was strengthened, individuals within the body would be built up as well. Paul devoted an entire chapter in this book to prophecy or the speaking of truth. It’s therefore an important aspect of love. In fact, Paul spelled it more plainly in Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love….” People can tell you the truth but if it’s not accompanied by love, it’s pointless. He will explore this point further into the chapter.

I trust now you’ve read Chapter 13 at least once. Again, it’s foundational to the Christian faith. Continue and read this chapter to the end. It will help give context to the next few devotionals.

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The Greatest of These

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Today we conclude our series through “the love chapter.” Love gets a lot of play in our society. It means many things to many people. Most of what you need to know about love is in this chapter. As we move into the Christmas season, I challenge you to read this chapter every day until Christmas, which is the day we celebrate God’s love coming down to us. Christ was the embodiment of love in human form.

As yesterday’s verse pointed out, we only see a poor reflection of that love. One day soon we will see in its full blazing glory. For now, though, read through this chapter and ponder some of its meaning. Let it go around and around in your head so that it will sink into your spirit.

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Worth the Wait

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

When Paul wrote this, I’m sure the mirrors they had were less than stellar and clear. Another translation says, “see through a glass darkly.” The image is not clear, and it’s somewhat distorted.

We see life right now as distorted and fuzzy. We’re puzzled by some of the great mysteries of our day. We don’t understand the mind of God in very practical matters, such as why He allows evil to reign while good people suffer?

Obviously what we experience is not a true reflection of what is going on in the world. But it is what we have to work with.

We should take great comfort, therefore, that what He’s preparing for us is beyond fabulous. It’ll be worth the wait.

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Love Never Fails

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10

This verse has been used by many theologians to prop up particular theological viewpoints regarding prophecies and tongues. The overall conclusion is that love doesn’t fail no matter the situation you are in. There will come a time here you will need to specifically choose love over all the other options. And it may be the most difficult option. Everything we’ve discussed in the past two weeks will come into play then.

Lord Jesus,
I pray for the person reading this who needs to hear this message. I have no idea who they are or where they live, but they’re in a tough situation. You know all the particulars and the ultimate outcome. I pray that this person will choose love above all. i don’t know what that means or what that looks like, but you certainly do. So I pray that you will meet them where they are and that they would let you work in their lives.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Love Always Perseveres

[Love] always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:7

How many times have you heard stories of people who nursed their spouses to wellness after a tragic accident? Or how about those who sit by the bedside of a spouse who has dementia? That’s true perseverance. That’s love. That’s commitment. It starts off with the commitment that through thick and thin they will be together. Once that is established (and tested), the couple can endure anything.

Think about someone who is going through a rough time whether in their marriage or other relationship. You know how to pray through those troubles because you’ve done it. Pray for the perseverance that couple needs to survive the relationship.

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