The Spirit in Whole Gatherings -
1 and 2
"... the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all,"
1 Corinthians 12'7.
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit ...,"
1 Corinthians 12'4.
"Even so you, since you are zealous for spirituals,
let it be for the edification of the Saints that you seek to excel,"
1 Corinthians 14'12.
When Saints meet together in larger gatherings in Jesus' name the Holy Spirit "the Spirit of Jesus" (Philippians 1'19) is present in special ways.
He is present in the manifestation of the Spirit in the gifts and in His liberty and transforming power.
And when Saints are filled with the Spirit and the word of Christ there are psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and teaching and admonishing one another.
But what is it all for? It is to fulfill what Jesus said: "I will build my Ekklesia" (Matthew 16'18). How would He do it? His People would come to know that later.
But He did say that the Holy Spirit would guide His Disciples into all truth (John 16'13).
Upon His arrival on the Day of Pentecost He began His guiding. Starting with Peter all the apostles were involved in building up the first of the Lord's Called-Out Ones.
Later He inspired Paul who would explain how Jesus' building would happen. He said that it was from "Him who is the head - Christ -"
"... the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies,
according to the effective working by which every part does its share,
causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love," Ephesians 4'16.
Beginning with the ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, the Body of Christ builds itself up by the ministries of "what every joint supplies".
There are many "one another ministries" throughout the "Kingdom scriptures" of Acts 2'1 to Revelation 3'22 by which building up takes place.
Of great importance in playing their part are Whole Gatherings.
A Whole Gathering is where the combined ministries of psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, preaching the word of Christ and the manifestation of the Spirit are ministered.
DO NOT BE IGNORANT!
Ignorance about the things of God, together with unbelief, grieves the Holy Spirit. It hinders Him from blessing us. Matthew made a significant point, when he said that Jesus:
"... did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief," Matthew 13'58.
This situation must have been very sad and disappointing for the Lord.
About the manifestion of the Spirit Paul said, "Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant".
This man of faith, hope and love wanted to deal with the ignorance that was robbing them and let them know. said "I make known to you".
In 1 Corinthians 12'2-12 he dis-empowers so-called demons and confronts ignorance with liberating clarity:
v2. You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.
v3. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
v4. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
v5. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
v6. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
v7. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
v8. for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
v9. to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
v10. to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
v11. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
v12. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
This explanation reveals three areas of God's working:
diversities of gifts (v4), differences of ministries (v5), diversities of activities (v6).
Make no mistake, Paul is saying, these gifts are from "... the same Spirit - the same Lord - the same God ...".
That is, they are all of God: Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus, Father God.
SPIRITUALS? BE OPEN!
The apostle Paul says: "Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant" (1 Corinthians 12'1). He's saying that what he is about to say is important. Why?
Because ignorance robs people. And for God's People the robbery is great and ignorance is not just the opposite of knowledge. And it's also important because the things of the New Covenant Kingdom of God were so precious to him.
The point is that ignorance is the opposite of knowing and experiencing. He wanted these and all Believers well aware of the Holy Spirit's ministry in the Gathering.
Sadly, not all Believers hold that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is for today. Nevertheless it is - and it is from God - to us as it was to the early Believers.
It is important to ask why the word gifts is printed differently (in italics) to the other words in 1 Corinthians 12'1. In most bibles italic lettering is used by the translators use italics to clarify something they think needs it.
Some other verses are the same. However, take away the word gifts and the plain translation is just "spirituals":
"Concerning spirituals, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant," 1 Corinthians 12'1.
"Pursue love, and desire spirituals, but especially that you may prophesy," 1 Corinthians 14'1.
"Even so you, since you are zealous for spirituals, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel," 1 Corinthians 14'12.
So what is the significance? In short, spirituals gifts are not spirituals. It could be said that "spirituals" are what some Believers call "promptings of the Spirit".
The word "spiritual" is translated from the New Testament Greek "pneumatikos". Strong's concordance translates "pneumatikos" as:
"... the human spirit, or rational soul, as part of the man which is akin to God and serves as his instrument or organ".
Regenerated humans are spiritual. Jesus declared: "... that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3'6).
While being natural, Believers have a part that "is akin to God and serves as his instrument or organ".
This instrument/organ is what the Holy Spirit uses and does so whenever He chooses. He uses spirituals in Whole Gatherings when Believers are disposed to Him.
It's not the gifts that are spiritual, it's the Believer through whom the Spirit moves.
[By the way, the common description "spiritual gifts" is not in the New Testament, as such. These gifts are, in fact, the "manifestation of the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12'7). However, Hebrews 2'4 does refer to "gifts of the Holy Spirit" but that belongs to a different context.]
The question, "Is there the need for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit's gifts today?" may be asked. Surely, the point is that if those first Believers needed them in their day, are today's Believers different?
Who doesn't need to hear a word of wisdom at times of decision making or confusion?
Or a word of knowledge that reveals that God knows the difficult situation, giving hope to solve it.
Or who some specific faith that gives confidence to take a certain otherwise daunting step?
Or to see and receive healings from God through another Believer?
Or to receive the working of miracles?
Or hear an upbuilding prophecy and see the discerning of spirits at work to keep the Believers safe.
Or hear different kinds of tongues and to be inspired by the ministry of the interpretation of those tongues?
Out of God's abundant grace the "... manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all".
THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY
The manifestation of the Holy Spirit's gifts, like all ministry, can be ministered in a unthinking, questionable way, as was the case with the Corinthians.
At the beginning of his first letter to the Corinthians Paul described them, saying:
"... you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,
even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift,
eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1'5-6.
Consequently, they were encouraged to:
"... earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12'31).
The "excellent way" is the way of ministering in love and excelling in being part of the building up of the Saints:
Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
Even so you, since you are zealous for spirituals, let it be for the edification of Christ's People that you seek to excel (1 Corinthians 12'31;14:1,12).
Paul emphasised the high importance of ministering in love:
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing," 1 Corinthians 13'1-4.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy;
love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails".
"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three;
but the greatest of these is love,"
1 Corinthians 13'4-8,13.
WITH THIS IN MIND
Wherever the Holy Spirit is involved our heavenly Father's name will be hallowed and Jesus will be honoured as Lord.
Also, wherever the Spirit is moving the Body of Christ is being ministered to - in a number of ways. That's why Believers are warned not to be ignorant, especially about the Spirit's spirituals.
Everyone is blessed and strengthened as Saints participate in ministering these things in the manner of His love.
Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for your wonderful grace and for the knowledge that, in Jesus' name, the Holy Spirit and His ministry are the same today.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
The Spirit in Whole Gatherings - 2
"... when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit;
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
... But we all, with unveiled face,
beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from glory to glory,
just as by the Spirit of the Lord,"
2 Corinthians 3'16-18.
The above words are wonderful words indeed. It is as though the congregation is to know that there is a Lord over their Gathering - that Lord is the Holy Spirit.
As God's Children take time "looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12'2), as in a mirror, we are "being transformed into the same image from glory to glory", "by the Spirit of the Lord" and "where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty".
When Believers come out of the world, gather together with open hearts, unveiled faces and beholding "the glory of the Lord" they experience change.
While the Spirit is present to transform God's People and, as was said earlier, through His manifestation He ministers His gifts for the building up the gathered Saints.
But referring to the ministry of the gifts, Paul finds himself having to say, "Let all things be done decently and in order," 1 Corinthians 14'40.
After talking about the gifts and the members of the Body (12) and love, the essence of ministry (v13), he begins correcting them in chapter 14.
And, as he does, he provides a wonderful spiritual lesson showing how edifying and uplifting godly order can be:
"Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the Believers.
I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the Believers may receive edification" (v1-4).
This is the wonderful working of God and His People.
SORTING OUT CHAOS
Most congregations today are likely to have little idea about the manifestation of the Spirit in a "service". Consequently, understanding some parts of these Corinthian chapters can be problematic for Believers today.
Such exhortations as these would be very unfamiliar:
"Let all things be done decently and in order." "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the congregations of the Saints" (1 Corinthians 14'40,33).
However, when these Believers came together they contributed individually with psalms, teachings, tongues, interpretations, revelations plus songs, prayers and ministering the Spirit's gifts.
In their eagerness they were uncontrolled, each one wanting to express their contribution. He sounds a little exasperated when he says:
"How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation" (v26).
TO SORT OUT: Which sign is for whom?
One thing has to be acknowledged. It seems that most of these Believers spoke in tongues. However, they were personal tongues (not named in v22-24). They are not for speaking out loud.
As Paul says:
"He who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God" and "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself". (However, it's likely that some were speaking their personal tongues out loud, adding to the disorder.)
In contrast, the tongues referred to in verses 22-24 are gifts of tongues which require interpretations. They seem to be the main contributors to the disorder.
Here's the passage that seems to present contradictions as to which is a sign for whom (words added in italics to clarify):
22 "... (speaking out with) tongues (with interpretations) are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
23 Therefore if the whole Body comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues (without interpretations), and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all".
Along with these words about the ministry of tongues-interpretation and prophecy there is a Holy Spirit basic concern, the building up of the body of Christ. Paul says::
"I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the Believers may receive edification" (v4).
Although tongues and interpretation are a sign for unbelievers they will still edify Believers. And although prophecy is a sign for Believers it is still able to speak powerfully to unbelievers.
These two manifestations of the Spirit are not mutually exclusive.
To bring this disorder into order, Paul ministered the wisdom of God for these enthusiastic, admirable Believers:
"If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.
But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the Gathering, and let him speak to himself and to God.
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent.
For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged," verses 27-31.
This is "decently and in order".
There is a very encouraging characteristic that Paul has shown regarding this matter. It is that, where things of the Lord are misused, His way of correction is not stop doing it entirely but to direct them to "do it this way".
That's why he says:
"I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the Believers may receive edification" (v5). And
"What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding (v15).
What a man! What an apostle!
"Let all things be done decently and in order" urges 1 Corinthians 14'40. This does not mean dry and dead! It means upbuilding, comforting, exciting and powerfully effective. All carried in God's love to the glory of God.
The responsibility for this lies with the Eldership. Their oversight is to ensure that conduct and ministries are acceptable to God.
In addition, gatherings must be places of safety, both spiritual as well as natural safety. This means responsible persons should be overseeing.
This is like caring as brothers and sisters, not acting like uniformed security guards.
Alongside this, experienced the combined ministry of Elders and Wives make a partnership who would be able to cover the breadth of ministry needed.
They could exercise helpful, loving ministry and, most of all, balanced authority to address unacceptable behaviours, words, songs, etc.
God's People can feel assured by wise, gentle, discreet and timely actions where needed.
The Believers' spiritual enemy is always seeking openings for his evil wiles especially in Christ-centred gatherings. He must not be allowed to use a weak person or an outsider to be disruptive.
Paul, was a fully involved member, singing and praying "with the spirit and with the understanding". At the same time he would have provided godly, spiritual oversight as part of the Eldership.
Whole Gatherings where "the Lord is the Spirit" and "where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty" were part and parcel of the lives of early Believers.
The Lord desires Believers to strengthen and build up each other in Christ's New Covenant Kingdom word as Romans 14'19 says:
"Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace
and the things by which one may edify another".
"... the same Spirit works all these things,
distributing to each one individually as He wills",
1 Corinthians 12'11.
Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for your wonderful grace. And thank you for the knowledge that, in Jesus' name, the Holy Spirit will perform His ministries today as He did among the early Saints.
Lord, stir your People to realise that these Kingdom things can be manifest them in their gatherings. Your Kingdom come.
In Jesus' name. Amen.