READING: Psalms 140-142, 1 Corinthians 14:1-20
“He who prophesies builds up the church.”
1 Corinthians 14:4
Today, folks all over the globe will preach the Word of God to listening congregations. One of my own mentees will, in fact, be preaching his first sermon in a local church. He will experience what I believe is one of the greatest joys in the world: teaching, encouraging, and challenging people with the Scriptures. There’s little quite like the excitement of teaching the Word.
I am reminded today of our call to build up the church with the Word. As Paul dealt with the issue of tongues in the Corinthian church, he emphasized the importance of making sure we build up the church. He did not deny the reality of the gift of tongues, but he stressed speaking in order to strengthen others. “He who prophesies builds up the church,” he wrote (1 Cor. 14:4). Even those who spoke in another language were to be certain to interpret their words “so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14:5). The Corinthians were to “desire spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 14:1), but in their zeal for those gifts they were to “seek to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12). Uninterpreted languages would not facilitate that purpose, for how can others be built up by what they do not understand? In Paul’s words, “Otherwise, if you praise with the spirit, how will the uninformed person say ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you may very well be giving thanks, but the other person is not being built up” (1 Cor. 14:16-17).
So important to Paul was the communication of the gospel message that he would rather speak in the church “five words with my understanding, in order to teach others also, than 10,000 words in another language” (1 Cor. 14:19). His goal was not to impress others with an unintelligible spiritual gift, but rather to communicate the Word in such a way that others would grow spiritually. He wanted to catechize (to teach) the church, and that would happen in a language they understood.
This day, some people will come to church with a wounded heart. Some will have unanswered questions. Others will be looking for guidance and strength. Still others will be hoping that God will restore their homes, even if no one knows the anguish occurring behind the closed doors of their home. Some deeply desire freedom from sins that have been controlling them. In all these cases, though, just a few words in a language they understand will be better than thousands they cannot understand. Words that are comprehended can indeed make a difference.
- Thank God if you will hear – or teach – the gospel today in your language.
- Using the Word of God, build up someone today. Trust that God will use even just a few verses that you teach others.
PRAYER: “Father, use me to speak your Word to someone today.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Psalms 143-145, 1 Corinthians 14:21-40