I CORINTHIANS 14:37-40: “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, he should recognize that what I write to you is the Lord’s command. If anyone ignores this, he will be ignored. So then, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in other tongues. But everything is to be done decently and in order.” CSB
OBSERVATION: What should a spirit filled church service look like? Why do people generally react negatively to the word Pentecostal? Why is there so much misunderstanding and difference of opinion about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit? Could it have more to do with how we act than what we believe?
I am a Pentecostal pastor. I did not grow up in a Pentecostal church. I grew up in a Lutheran church. My initial experience was one of liturgy, form, and order. However, when it comes to order, you can err on either side of the spectrum. When I was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, I attended a charismatic independent church. You might say I was on the swinging pendulum.
Over the years I have pastored an independent charismatic church, a Brethren in Christ church, and a Foursquare church. I have learned wonderful things from all of these, including my Lutheran background as a child. And one thing I have learned is this. We all create our own liturgy that can become a stumbling block to someone who walks into our church. We can be so worried about our form, that we hinder the moving of the Holy Spirit. Or, we can be so free in our expression, that we hinder others from hearing the Spirit’s voice.
This is what Paul was addressing to the Corinthian church. If ever there was a spirit filled church, it was the church at Corinth. They were moving in the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each worship service was a powerful expression of everything the Spirit had given them. Yet, their freedom of expression, their exuberance of worship, their exercise of spiritual gifts, was missing the mark. They forgot that the goal of all that God has given us is twofold. It is to reach the lost and to build up the church!
I believe in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. When I say that I am a Pentecostal pastor, it is more than just a definition of the denomination that I am a part of. It is the realization that what happened on the Day of Pentecost is still happening today. All of God’s power, all of God’s gifts, and all of God’s call, are still for the church today. The supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit did not stop at the completion of the canon of Scripture. God is still calling men and women to salvation. Jesus is still pouring out His Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is still giving gifts of power to the church.
- “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 CSB
The issue is – how do we use them?
Paul does not discount any gift in I Corinthians 14. His issue is not whether the gifts should be expressed or exercised. His issue is how they are expressed and exercised. I have been in many a Pentecostal gathering where it was evident that no one ever read the 14th chapter of Corinthians. Everyone was doing their own thing. People were all speaking in tongues loudly, with no interpretation. And there was a general atmosphere of confusion and disorder that an outsider would interpret as madness.
So, what is the answer? Is it to shut down the gifts? Is it to forbid speaking in tongues? This is what I Corinthians 14 is all about. It is not a prohibition of using any gift. It is a guideline on how to use the gifts. And following these guidelines does not stifle our expression of worship. On the contrary, it enhances it. Why? Because it brings God’s order into our assembling. And it opens the door for one who is seeking to find God in our midst. Out style of worship should never deflect one who is seeking. It should both invite the presence of God into our midst and be an open door for one who is seeking to meet Jesus Christ as their Savior.
This is much different than being “seeker sensitive.” The seeker sensitive movement tended to dumb down things in the church in order to reach the seeker. God never tells us to dumb things down, or to stop moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. God simply tells us to do things decently and in order. When our worship is focused on giving Him glory, when we are operating in the gifts according to the principle of edification, and when we realize that the gifts God has given us are not for show, something wonderful happens!
- “If, therefore, the whole church assembles together and all are speaking in other tongues and people who are outsiders or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or outsider comes in, he is convicted by all and is called to account by all. The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, “God is really among you.” 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 CSB
In all my years of pastoring I contended for power and order. I believed that you did not have to exclude one in order to have the other. Moving in the power of the Holy Spirit is not doing things loosely. Rather, it is listening to His voice and doing things as He directs. It is using the gifts for the purpose of edification. It is watching our decibels and understanding the difference between talking to God and addressing the church. It is coming under the rule of peace as we move in the realm of power.
I am proud to be a Pentecostal pastor. In fact, in reality, all Christians are Pentecostal. The church was born on Pentecost. The church is fully dependent on the anointing and power fo the Holy Spirit. And, if we are going to fulfill His Great Commission, the church must be moving in the fullness and the gifts of the Holy Spirit! What a wonderful provision of God to show us how to do it in this wonderful chapter. It is the culmination of gifts and love. It is I Corinthians 12 and 13 put into practice. It is the call to moderation in all things, in the fullness of His power!
Lord, help me to walk in the fullness and power of Your Spirit, and in the fullness and of Your order and peace.
In Jesus Name!