Agonizomai: 1Cor 14:29-33a - The Way God Works in Us

Friday, August 29, 2008

1Cor 14:29-33a - The Way God Works in Us

29-33a Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33a For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

Context - the assembly of the church for public worship and fellowship. In the early church the model was similar to the synagogue, where every mature male could be heard. Scripture might be read and some commentary made upon it. Some insight regarding the passage might be put forward or discussed - always subject to the collective wisdom of the assembled body of men - especially those who were leaders and teachers.

The church was not radically different from this in format. Christianity was, for the first few decades at least, regarded as a Jewish sect, and not as a separate religion. Its roots were Jewish. Its governing mechanism was essentially Jewish, with an eldership comprised exclusively of men who were mature in the faith.

These are admittedly outward similarities related to form. Inwardly, the church was and is different in one major sense - that Jesus Christ is its head. Not that Jesus wasn’t also the de facto head of the old time religion - just that He has been declared Son of God in power by the Spirit through His resurrection from the dead. The foreshadowed and prophesied had now become historical reality. What had been partially hidden was now revealed for all time. God’s self-revelation for this world was complete.

But this self-revelation needed to be forthtold. It needed to be understood by the church in the context of God’s prior revelation to Israel. For this purpose, the Spirit gave gifts to men - that the whole church might be edified and their faith deepened through having opened up to their understanding the hand of God upon history for His express purposes of the eventual revelation of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Creation and Saviour of the world. The glory of God in Christ is magnified in such a way, as His people gain a deeper and deeper understanding of His character, power and purposes from the beginning of time to the end. This is the chief purpose of the Holy Spirit’s ministry - not to make Himself known, but to reveal Jesus Christ in all things to the glory of God the Father.

Thus there are men in the church to whom this expositional, this revelatory, this preaching gift has been given from the very outset. But note how this gift works, because it will help us to understand how all the gifts work. This gift does not work absent the will, rationality, critical thinking and discernment of all involved. A man cannot claim to be speaking Spirit given or inspired revelation - he cannot claim to be forthtelling or preaching infallible truth without this being tested by others. Men are not oracles. God gives to no one absolute infallibility. Scripture is rife with this truth. The only Infallible One is Jesus Christ. All others fail the test. Noah, Lot, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb, Elijah, David, Peter and all the other Apostles - you name them - all fall short. And to miss in a single point is to fall infinitely short the infinite perfection of Christ.

Old Testament Prophets were only "infallible" inasmuch as their utterances came true, and people were to look for this proof and to act towards the prophet accordingly. If it did not come true then God had not spoken - He had not put that word in the mouth of the prophet. Testing was an integral part of the process. Supernatural revelation came through fallible human agency, which needed to be tested. True revelation passed the test.

In the church, God’s revealing of Christ in the writings where He had previously been only foreshadowed is given through human agency; fallible human agency. As such it needs to be examined, tested and proven. The way that happens in the church is for others to be Bereans and for spiritually gifted men to check what has been asserted against what God has already said. Note, then, that this does not mean the Spirit of God is fallible, but that God chooses to speak through fallible human beings and that He permits error for our good - that we might learn to be watchful and discerning. The exercise of the New Testament Spiritual gifts is not exempt from this.

Also, good order is again emphasised. There may have been a number of people who believed they had something to say from God, but they had each to take a turn - and if someone got a revelation in the midst of someone else’s delivery they were to wait until the first had finished, and not burst forth with an interruption.

Once more we see that spiritual gifts are governed in their use by sanctified human faculties, such as self-control. It’s called self-control for a reason, even though such a thing is fruit of the Spirit; that reason is that the Spirit will not exercise self-control for a person. The person must do it. And I hope it is seen that Spiritual gifts are not manifested by "taking over" of a person’s consciousness or will, like a form of possession. There is no loss of control, no blanking out of the mind or abdication of the normal faculties that make us human. Possession is Satan’s imitation of Gods’ indwelling Spirit, and the graces and gifts that He brings. The Holy Spirit is gentle; He leads and woos and influences - He does not force or coerce or possess.

That’s not to say that He never acts in Sovereign power because He always does so - just that His means and His characteristic touch are amazingly gentle and self-effacing, as a general rule. The Holy Spirit is God, after all - and though He has a different function and is a separate Person from the Father and the Son, He is nevertheless one substance with them both. As such He shows Himself to be the same - gentle, but able to exhibit great power. Patient, but not without limit. Generally deferent towards His creatures, but always reserving sovereign authority unto Himself.

Indeed, God is not so much stated here to be a God of order (though he is that) as much as a God of peace; peace as opposed to confusion. Quietness, stillness, gentleness, patience and forbearance. God is longsuffering. He prefers that all things proceed without strife or noise and confusion - but He is not averse to showing wrath and thunder and destruction when it is indicated. And in His own House, in the Body of believers who are His temple, God sues for and will ultimately ensure that all is done according to His preference.

He therefore holds up to His church at Corinth in this admonishment from Paul His desire that all things be done without confusion and in good order - carefully and in a self-controlled manner. The commandment will soon enough bear its own fruit by those who heed it, with the aid of the grace and the Spirit of God.


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