The Spirit in Whole Gatherings -
1 and 2
(FOR THE BUILDING UP THE BODY)
"... the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the benefit 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 spiritual gifts,
let it be for the edification of the Saints
that you seek to excel,"
1 Corinthians 14'12.
When Believers meet in Jesus' name the Holy Spirit is present. The reason He's there, and in the Body of Christ generally, is twofold:
for the building up of the Believers for the glory of God.
He's "the Spirit of Jesus" (Philippians 1'19) and where He is there's power. Power that frees and transforms.
Where He is the word of Christ is. Where He is psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are sung. And where He is Believers express Him in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
"I will build my Church (His Called-Out Ones) and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it," Matthew 16'18.
And it's through the Spirit that the Lord's intention is carried out. He works in many and various ways among humanity but especially in, to and through the Body of Christ.
At the time Jesus told His disciples about building His People they could have had no idea what He was talking about.
But He did give one major clue. He said:
“... when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth ... He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you," John 16'13-14.
That began to be fulfilled with Peter's preaching on the Day of Pentecost "by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven" (1 Peter 1'12).
Thousands were saved then and in the days following. The partnership between God and man had begun.
Later Jesus added Paul to the disciples' number (Acts 9'1-31). As an apostle and a teacher led by the Spirit, he would the main one to explain how the Lord would achieve His purpose.
He said that the building would be 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.
The apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers performed their ministries to the Body of Christ.
The building up began taking place, and is still taking place, "by what every joint supplies". These ministries are mostly referred to as "one another ministries" in the scriptures of Acts 2'1 to Revelation 3'22.
DON'T BE IGNORANT!
When Paul wrote: "Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant" (1 Corinthians 12'1-12) he was serious.
While referring to spiritual gifts, his knowledge of the Corinthian culture and its influence motivated him to also speak about it as it might influence Believers' thinking about the gifts.
God wanted the Corinthians, and all Believers, to be fully informed, to really understand and have the right thinking about gifts and culture. He knew that the enemy will deceive if he possibly can.
Back in chapter 10, verses 20-21, Paul had written to them about keeping themselves entirely separate from demons and from any involvement in demonic activity.
Now he is telling them that they can be sure about this, the spiritual experiences that happen in their meetings are all from God, by His Spirit, in Jesus' name.
He understands that they are partnering with the Holy Spirit in building up Christ's Body in ministering to one another.
These things have nothing to do with dumb idols or demons, he says. Information is power:
v1. "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
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).
Paul is emphatic. These things are from "the same Spirit", "the same Lord", "the same God": that's the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus, the Father God.
Sad to say, the significance of Paul's explanation is lost on some Believers because they do not believe that these things are for today. But Paul says "I do not want you to be ignorant".
For Believers to be in ignorance was always of great concern to him. In his letters he chides his hearers with "do you not know?".
If God has left these things in the Word that Believers have today, surely they must be for today.
Ignorance robs Believers of the blessings of Jesus. And they grieve the Holy Spirit. And unbelief hinders Him greatly too. Matthew said that Jesus:
"... did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief,"13'58. That's tragic!
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.
Test all things; hold fast what is good.
Abstain from every form of evil,"
1 Thessalonians 5'16-22.
BACK TO "SPIRITUALS"
Another look at what Paul says "Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant" raises a question.
Most times we simply read it and read on. But there is something in it that's worth thinking about. The word "gifts" is in italic letters. That means that it's not in the Greek manuscript.
Words printed in italics are words introduced to help when Bible translators encounter difficulty or uncertainty.
The plain translation is simply "spirituals". The introduced word "gifts" is found only in 1 Corinthians 12'1, 14'1, 14'12.
In contrast, in Romans 1'11 the word "gift" is in the Greek so the straight translation is "spiritual gift", no italics!
So what would the difference be if the word gifts was left out?:
"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.
Believers are told to desire spirituals and to be zealous for spirituals. So what are they?
The word "spiritual" is translated from the New Testament Greek "pneumatikos". Strong's concordance translates it:
"... 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 in spirituals with Believers in order to manifest Himself with a gift or a prophecy, when they are disposed to Him.
It's all about being disposed or being open to the Holy Spirit making contact.
Some Believers refer to "promptings of the Holy Spirit". They could very well be what Paul identifies as "spirituals"? What about encounters with the Holy Spirit?
Obviously, spirituals were very significant indeed to Paul. Shouldn't they be to us, too!
THE RIGHT WAY
At the beginning of his first letter Paul says to the Corinthians:
"... 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.
When it came to experiencing spirituals and ministering gifts they were to be discerning and: "... earnestly desire the best gifts".
So why did he quickly add "I show you a more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12'31)? Perhaps he knew that gifts were being ministered wrongly.
Seemingly the Corinthians' motivation and manner were unacceptable - not God's way of doing His will .
They were in need of some serious guidance. He says:
"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.
To minister the gifts to others the "excellent way":
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).
Someone may say, "surely there's no need today for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit's gifts".
But equally surely, "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 revealing that God knows about a difficult situation, giving hope to solve it?
Or a specific boost of faith that gives confidence to take a certain otherwise daunting step?
Or see and receive healings from God?
Or receive the working of a miracle?
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 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 Spirit in Whole Gatherings - 2
(ORDER, DISORDER AND ELDERSHIP INVOLVEMENT)
"... 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.
God wants these wonderful words of 2 Corinthians 3'16-18 to dwell in our hearts. He wants Believers to always gather together with "unveiled faces". Open to God.
Looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12'2), as in a mirror, true transformation takes place.
Changed from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty". Freedom to change - into the image of Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul wrote about the manifestational gifts of the Holy Spirit in relation to the members and the fact of the Spirit being Lord.
In chapter 13 he emphasises that love is the essence of all ministry.
In chapter 14 he begins with words that summarise the two previous chapters. Although issues about disorderliness are to follow, he nevertheless encourages them:
"Pursue love, and desire spirituals, but especially that you may prophesy," verse 1.
But there is serious disorderliness in their gatherings that has to be sorted. However, most Believers today do not encounter anything like the situation explained here.
Having said that, it's the word of Christ and therefore as such is applicable today. There is much to learn from these overeager Believers.
Exasperated about the chaos Paul says:
Verse 26. "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".
Verses 22 to 24. Most readers today are puzzled this explanation. But the Corinthians would have understood what he was referring to:
"... tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all".
To understand Paul's explanation it's helpful to keep in mind the four factors that are involved: prophecy, different kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues (see 12'10) and personal tongues speaking.
Verses 2 to 5. At the same time as doing some clarifying, he is very encouraging about their interactions with the Holy Spirit:
"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".
So, back to verses 22 to 24 for a presentation with words added in italics for modern readers:
"... tongues (that is, speaking out in different kinds of tongues) are for a sign (when followed by the gift of interpretation of tongues), not to those who believe but to unbelievers;
but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues (for interpretation or personal tongues too), and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
But if all prophesy (in the local language), and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all".
So, although tongues and interpretation are a sign for Unbelievers, Believers can still be edified by them. And although prophecy is a sign for Believers, Unbelievers are still likely to be powerfully affected by it.
Tongues-Interpretation is a sign for Unbelievers. Example: An Unbeliever comes into a gathering. A Believer speaks out with a gift of a kind of incomprehensible tongues. The Unbeliever is attracted to the "foreign" language being spoken out.
Immediately another Believer speaks out with a gift of the interpretation of tongues. The Unbeliever is attentive to the "message" that's being spoken out.
Prophesying is a sign for Believers. Example: Believers are gathered and ministering to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Prayers are prayed. One speaks out in prophesy - words of edification and exhortation and comfort edifying the Believers.
However, Unbelievers or a very new Believers may arrive. They hear the prophesying, understand it being spoken in the local language and receive it.
Note. Believers are to prophesy. But if one feels to speak out in tongues for interpretation they should be prepared to interpret if no other Believer does.
Paul is very clear:
"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," 1 Corinthians 14'15.
That's why he says:
"... if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say 'Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?" 1 Corinthians 14'16.
When he says, "... God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the congregations of the Saints" (1 Corinthians 14'33) he is serious.
While all that he says promotes order, Paul imposes it clearly by delivering the wisdom of God to 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.
Paul was a man of encouragement. Even when things definitely were not right, he did not instruct them to stop completely, he directed them to do it the godly way.
What a man! What an apostle!
"Let all things be done decently and in order" urges 1 Corinthians 14'40. Who would not want to be part of a meeting of the Corinthian, or Ephesian, Believers and find out?
If Paul's direction was in place it would be upbuilding, comforting, exciting and powerful. It would be carried on in God's love to the glory of God the Father.
Elders would play a big part in this. The oversight of a lively Eldership would ensure that conduct and ministries are acceptable to God.
They would oversee Believers' safety, both spiritual as well as natural. The experienced ministry of Elders and Wives could provide 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 would feel assured by their wise, gentle, discreet and timely actions when needed.
One thing is certain. The Believers' spiritual enemy is always looking for openings for his deceitful tricks!
BACK TO THE REASON
Believers should keep in mind that the two-fold reason for the Holy Spirit being present in gatherings, is for the building up of the Believers for the glory of God.
Wherever the Holy Spirit is involved our heavenly Father's name will be hallowed by His Children and Jesus will be honoured as Lord.
Wherever the Spirit is moving among Believers He ministers through them to each other. The Body of Christ grows from glory to glory.
That's why Believers are urged not to be ignorant, especially about the Spirit's spirituals. These things were part and parcel of the lives of early Believers.
Jesus wants His People to love each other and build them up.
"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 through them. Your Kingdom come indeed, Father.
In Jesus' name. Amen.