When my son was five I gave him a Swiss Army pocket knife for Christmas. He did not ask me, “What’s this for?” I’m sure he didn’t understand all that could be done with a pocket knife, but he was keen to get started. I sat him down and gave him a less than ten minute introduction on how not to cut himself or anyone else, and left it at that.
God has a gift for us: His Holy Spirit. Yes, our Western mindset may ask, “Why? What’s this for? What are the practical purposes of this gift?” But, unlike a pocket knife, I don’t think a ten minute introduction will get the explaining job done, or really even started.
Personally, I also find the question a little insulting. As though my wife were to ask me twenty years ago, “Why have a relationship with you? How can you give yourself to me and why should I care? What’s the practical purpose of you in my life?”
But, let’s get beyond that and hear Paul talk not on receiving the Holy Spirit, but on receiving gifts from the Spirit.
A Few Gifts From The Spirit
1 Corinthians 14:1
Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.
But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.
One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.
Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.
There are some notable differences between speaking in tongues and prophesy.
Speaking in tongues
- allows a person’s spirit to speak to God in a way that is not necessarily clear to others (mysterious)
- edifies a person, builds a person up
- builds up the church, so a body of believers is meant to hear and understand what is being said and be edified, exhorted, and consoled
Paul wishes that all did both, that all spoke in tongues and all prophesied.
Being Zealous and Giving Thanks
… since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted (unversed in spiritual gifts) say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified…
So we can receive the Holy Spirit and then be zealous about spiritual gifts? It’s not a one package deal? Open one box and just go for it? I can see how that would be chaotic. Kinda like having a pocket knife with a chain saw blade attached to it. One step at a time.
Praying in the Tongues
So when I pray in tongues, “my spirit prays”. Ah ha. If we’re not praying with our spirit, we’re praying with our minds. Got it.
Again, it seems both are done with other believers around.
AND apparently one of the things my spirit does when it prays is give thanks. And giving thanks publicly builds up other believers, so I need to give thanks with my mind “also”. We’re not meant to do one of these things only. Paul suggests we do both–pray with our spirits and pray with our minds–publicly.
Speaking In Tongues and Prophesy as Signs
In the Law it is written,
“By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.
So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesy, not to unbelievers but to those who believe. Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted (unversed in spiritual gifts) men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted (unversed in spiritual gifts) man enters, he is convicted by all; he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.
Things I’ve gleaned from this:
- Signs are given to people by God, but they are not necessarily listened to. Sometimes signs are ignored. (Not a good idea, I’d imagine. Wonder how many I’ve missed or ignored)
- Tongues without interpretation is not beneficial for outsiders (visitors).
- Prophesy is more than future telling. We know this from the Old T prophets, but there’s a good summary here. Prophesy: convicts people of sin, calls them to account publicly, and reveals the secrets of hearts. Those are not three ways of saying the same thing. The gift of prophesy is not license to attack someone. The repentant person listed above does not fall on his face before prophets, but before God. If all are prophesying as Paul describes above, it does not appear to be a prophetic “confrontation” with the person. Rather, the person repents as an observer of the prophetic gift in action.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’d be cool if people repented just because we’d accepted the Holy Spirit and then started using some of His gifts.