About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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What Does A Meeting Of The Church Look Like?

1 Corinthians 14 gives us a clear picture of what a meeting of the church should look like. No other chapter in the Bible is devoted to this subject.

We’ll see how our meetings compare to what Paul teaches.

Verse 1 says, "follow after the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts". That means there should be no competition on the worship team, and no arrogance in the pulpit. We leave our egos at the door. We don’t monopolize or manipulate what happens. We humbly prefer others more than ourselves in what is said and done, as hard as that may be.

We should "eagerly desire" spiritual gifts. I was told as a youth that I shouldn’t seek the gifts of the Spirit, but that’s wrong according to Paul. We need these gifts in our meetings.

Paul points out that prophecy is a good gift to seek because you are speaking the Words of God. Yet not all words spoken in a meeting these days are from God. Recently I saw one man storm out of a Sunday morning meeting in anger saying, "enjoy the fire and brimstone you bastards". I don’t think his words were prophetic.

In verse 4 and following Paul says that he’d rather see us prophecy instead of speaking in tongues, although he wished we’d all spoke in tongues. There’s one exception though. If you can interpret the tongues, go ahead and speak and all will benefit.

Paul clearly says that in a meeting of the church we should prophecy, speak in tongues with an interpretation.

In verse 6 Paul says that we should expect words of "revelation, knowledge, prophecy, and instruction". These can be added to prophecy and tongues with interpretation.

Paul then says that just as a musical instrument gives a clear distinction between notes, so should words spoken be understandable. It means tongues should be interpreted. It is also a practical point. We should speak loud and clear so all can hear - and don’t chew gum as you speak. I once popped a candy in my mouth and immediately I was asked to pray. Everyone noticed me chewing that candy quickly before I could pray.


In verses 13 to 18 Paul says that in a meeting we should pray and sing with both our understanding and our spirits. Praying and singing with understanding is praying and singing in our own language. Praying and singing with our spirits is praying and singing in tongues. Paul says that we should do both. I was amazed the first time I heard singing in tongues. That’s my favourite part of a meeting.

In verse 20 Paul told the Corinthians to stop thinking like children and start thinking like adults. He wanted them to grow up in what and how they spoke. There’s nothing wrong with educated speaking.

In verse 23 and following Paul says that the Corinthians should start prophesying more. He said if an unbeliever comes into your meeting and hears you prophesying the Word of the Lord, he will say, "God is really with you". That would be great on two counts. The first count is that an unbeliever would actually be in a church meeting. The second count is that he’d see God at work among us. We’d definitely have to leave our ego at the door to see that happen.

In verse 26 Paul says that "when we come together everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation". We’d all have the chance to participate, instead of just sitting and watching this week’s show.

Paul goes as far to say that "all of these things must be done". Note the words "must be done".

In verse 27 and following Paul gets right down to the point. He says that at least two or three should speak in tongues and interpret. Then he says that two or three prophets can speak.

Then Paul says something I find interesting. After these prophets speak, the rest of us should "weigh carefully" what they say. The KJV says that we should judge what is being said. Some churches prohibit prophesying because of the abuse of this gift. Other churches want prophecies to be written down and proof read by an editor before the possibility of being read.

Paul has the answer for wacky prophecies and its not one of the above. He says that we should judge prophecy immediately. If someone gets wacky, politely tell him he is out of order and why. He might be embarrassed and upset, but we’re talking about God’s Word here. This is Paul’s way of handing this problem. I’ve seen it work. You can tell everyone ahead of time that wacky prophecy will be judged.

Verse 31 says that "you can all prophecy in turn". Note the words "all can prophecy". Doesn’t he know that we could have a riot on our hands?

Paul concludes that God is the God of order, not confusion. That doesn’t mean that He has ordered creativity, spontaneity, and especially the leading of the Holy Spirit out of existence. God hasn’t done that. We shouldn’t either.

That’s what a meeting of Christians can look like according to Paul. Everyone participates. Some speak in tongues and interpret. We all can prophecy. Some have a revelation and others teach. We all listen carefully and speak to any wackiness. We sing and pray with both our understanding and our spirits. It is an orderly Holy Spirit experience with everyone taking part. We should not be mere spectators in a Sunday morning.

I know the arguments why these things shouldn’t take place on a Sunday morning. One argument is the meeting is too large for this to take place successfully. Things would get out of hand. Then maybe the meeting is too large. Why not down size into smaller meetings. Bigger isn’t always better.

Then there’s the argument that these things should be done in home groups. But Sunday morning is the jewel of the North American church, even though I believe it shouldn’t be. More people attend the Sunday meeting than attend home groups. Why place limits on Jesus?

Then there’s the argument that the gifts of the Spirit disappeared with the first generation church, which doesn’t make Scriptural logic in my thinking.

I could say more. These are only some of my thoughts, yet on the other hand, I pretty well quoted Scripture. How does Paul’s ideas compare to the last Sunday meeting you attended?

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