About Jesus Steve Sweetman
What About Abuses
In my last worship article I wrote about speaking in tongues in a worship gathering. One reason why tongues has been so controversial is because there has been abuses with this gift of the Spirit. Yet tongues is not the only gift that has been misused. Prophecy is another one of the nine gifts that has been used improperly. I have seen marriages come about through a so-called prophetic word. As a matter of fact, probably all nine gifts in one way or another have been misused. So what should we do about this misuse? Should we drop the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our times of worship to avoid this problem?
There has been a predetermined decision made in many churches today to limit the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a Sunday morning worship service. One reason why such a decision has been made is to stop the abuse of these gifts. For example, a person stands up in worship and gives a false or weird prophecy, or someone gets up and speaks in tongues in an unorderly fashion. We all have seen this happen. I could give many examples of weirdness in a charismatic worship service, so I certainly understand the problem. Therefore in order to stop such activity it has been decided not to allow these gifts at all. Thus the problem is solved.
This decision may solve the problem, but it creates another problem in my thinking. The problem it creates is that we limit the work of the Holy Spirit in the main gathering of our church. I would think that most church leaders would say that whatever they decide to do is based on their understanding of what the Lord is saying to them. With this in mind then, you could say that our Lord has led certain churches to the decision of limiting His activity through the use of His gifts. If this is so, I think I could suggest that the Lord is saying, "concerning Sunday mornings I feel that I should take a back row seat and not get too involved because I don't want anyone to abuse my gifts, and I certainly don't want to offend someone. Don't worry about me, maybe I can be more involved in another meeting instead of Sunday mornings". Now looking at it this way, that doesn't really sound all that good, does it? Should we really throw out the baby with the bath water?
Give me a little grace on this point and think
about it for a while. I have never been one to cause
major problems in churches by overly promoting my personal thinking, but in a
format such as this, I think it is worth thinking about. I have talked to
a number of people of late who are actively praying for a greater restoration of
the gifts of the Spirit. and the power of God in all we do, both individually
Let us take a brief look to see what Paul has to say about the problem of abusing the gifts. One point that Paul makes is that "I will pray with my spirit (or pray in tongues - 1 Cor. 14:15). I believe this is in the context of a meeting. Yes, he does qualify this point by saying that he will also pray with his understanding and that prophecy is often more beneficial than tongues. Yet these qualifications do not negate the use of tongues, or any of the gifts in a church gathering. Paul will not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Paul continues to say in verse 26, "when you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church". Paul is clearly saying that these things "must be done". He is not telling the Corinthians to stop using the gifts of the Spirit because they have been abusing them.
After encouraging these people to use the gifts that have been given to them, he sets forth certain guidelines in the way they should be used. He says that two or three can speak in tongues as long as there is someone there to interpret. (verse 27) Then in verse 29 he allows two or three prophets to speak while the others "weigh carefully, or judge what they say". This verse is the answer to our problem of abuse. Paul says that we should judge what is being said. If someone is out of order we should judge the situation and address it immediately in front of all to see and hear. You might say that this would be too embarrassing for the person in the wrong. Well, maybe it would be, but this is Paul's answer to the problem. I have seen it work in action. It soon gives a healthy respect for the gifts and teaches the church what is right and wrong in regards to spiritual gifts. Paul doesn't believe in throwing out the baby with the bath water. He believes in judging prophecy on the spot. He believes in immediate correction and exhortation. I am not suggesting we be unwise in the way we handle this. The situation will determine just how you go about this immediate response, but there should be an immediate response.
Paul goes on to say in verse 31 that "you may all prophecy..." Once again, he is encouraging "all" these people to prophecy. He doesn't want these people to stop speaking the Word of the Lord because they had some trouble in this area. He is teaching them the proper way to express their gifting, and how to correct things when they go wrong.
So in my thinking, and what I think I see Paul saying in 1 Cor. 14, we should encourage the gifts of the Spirit in our times of worship because this is part of the interactive nature of worship. The gifts of the Spirit are used by our Lord to speak to us, and give to us what we need, whether by a word of knowledge or a gift of healing.
In closing, the way to deal with false prophecy, or any kind of weird behaviour is to deal with it immediately, either opening, or privately. Everyone needs to see and learn how to properly use the gifts the Spirit that have been given them. The way to learn is to see it done in action, and experience the interactive nature of worship. Remember worship is an intimate two way conversation with our Lord. We are not leaving a message on God's answering machine so He can get back to us later. We are speaking to Him and He is speaking to us.