Thursday, July 24, 2014

BUILDING UP (1 Corinthians Chapter 14)

1 Corinthians 14:26b, “Let all things be done for building up.”

This verse serves as a fitting summary of the instruction given 1 Corinthians chapter 14.  The main theme of this and the two preceding chapters is the proper use of one’s spiritual gifts.  The church in Corinth was experiencing a variety of problems.  Amongst them was the misuse of the spiritual gifts that God had distributed amongst the member of the body.  Some were exalting themselves according to their particular gifts, deeming some gifts to be of a greater degree of importance than others.  Others were using their gifts for selfish reasons apart from love and their God-given intent—for the common good for the building up of the body.

The term “build” and its related words and phrases appear 7 times in this chapter.  The verb translates the Greek oikodomeo which means literally “to build a house.”  In this context it “is used metaphorically, in the sense of ‘edifying,’ promoting the spiritual growth and development of character of believers, by teaching or example, suggesting such spiritual progress as the result of patient labor” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

Much of the instruction in this chapter is specific to the issue of speaking in tongues.  Tongues and interpretation of tongues were amongst the gifts that God had given to the early church (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:30).  But the Corinthians were misusing the gift.  Paul taught three basic truths regarding the practice of tongues: 1) the practice of speaking in tongues in secondary to prophesy (Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:1-19); 2) the purpose of speaking in tongues was to be a sign to unbelievers (Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:20-25); and 3) the proper procedure for speaking in tongues was to do so in an orderly fashion (Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26-40).

But no matter whether it is in the practice of one’s spiritual gift, or anything else that is done, the primary purpose for the coming together of God’s people is the “building up” of the body (Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26).  The building metaphor is used by both Paul and Peter to express the truth of what God is doing in the spiritual realm.  Every believer in Christ is a part of God’s building project (Cf. Ephesians 2:21b-22; 1 Peter 2:5).  

“Building up” is a corporate and cooperate endeavor.  We mutually relate to one another in love according to a “building up” mandate.  The gifts we’ve been given are for that specific purpose.  God wants for us to grow in Christ-like maturity and that happens as each member of the body uses his or her gifts and for the right purpose: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, make the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

You may have heard of the “carpenter’s tool-belt.”  Brother Hammer served as the chairman.  The other members of the tool belt informed him that he must leave, because he was too noisy.  But brother Hammer said, "If I have to leave this carpenter’s shop, then brother Gimlet must go too.  He’s insignificant and makes a very small impression.”  Little brother Gimlet arose and said, "All right, but brother Screwdriver must go also.  You have to turn him around and around to get anywhere with him."  Brother Screwdriver turned to the other tools in the belt and said, "If you wish, I will go, but brother Plane must leave too.  All of his work is on the surface; there’s no depth to what he does."  To this brother Plane leveled his terse reply, "Well, then, brother Saw will have to depart too.  The changes he proposes always cut too deep.”  Brother Saw complained, saying, "Brother Ruler will have to withdraw if I leave, for he’s always measuring other folks as though he were the only one who is right.”  Brother Ruler then surveyed the group and said, "Brother Sandpaper doesn’t belong here either.  He’s rougher than he ought to be, and is always rubbing people the wrong way."

In the midst of the discussion, the Carpenter of Nazareth walked in.  He had come to perform his day’s work.  He put on His tool belt and went to the workbench to make a pulpit.  He employed the ruler, the saw, the plane, the hammer, the gimlet, the screwdriver, the sandpaper, and all the other tools.  When the day’s work was over, the pulpit was finished, and the carpenter went home.  All the accusations against each of these tools were absolutely true, yet the carpenter used every one of them.  No matter which tool He used, no other tool could have done the work better.  And the final product would be used to fulfill the purposes of God!  We are all gifted by God to serve and to be used by Him in the building up of the body of Christ.  Use--don’t ignore or misuse--the gifts you’ve been given.

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