When building a house, there are many different types of materials that must be put together in order to have the finished product. The materials in neat stacks on the truck or on the job site is not a house. Those materials in and of themselves cannot serve a family to protect them from a storm or provide a space to sit down and enjoy a meal together. The bricks, lumber, wiring, plumbing, and cement must be skillfully put together to provide a functioning home.
In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul is working to keep the pieces together. The letter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the means by which God is building His house. The threat in this letter was disunity. A functioning house needs to be a unity. Materials that are disunited do not make a good house.
From the beginning, Paul states that the Corinthian believers “are God’s house” (3:9). The Apostle attempts to correct many things that threaten the unity of God’s house. Whatever issue that might have been addressed there was an overwhelming and common problem of selfishness. I’m so thankful Jesus wasn’t selfish or I’d be lost without hope. The Selfless Savior offered himself up for us! Praise be to God!
Chapter 12 stated that God had arranged the various members (materials, you might say) just as He desired. The diverse people and gifts were to work together in One Spirit for the common good. Chapter 13 insisted that love was a necessary component in making use of the various spiritual gifts. It matters how you do something. One’s motives are very important.
Here in chapter 14, Paul identifies two of the speaking gifts. The Lord makes uses of various symbols to describe the functions of the church. So when the Bible speaks of building or equipping or edifying a building…a people, the way God’s house is built is by speaking God’s powerful word. We don’t use hammers and saws but preaching and teaching. You can trace this throughout the gospels as the means by which Jesus was building the Kingdom, namely, teaching.
The result of prophecy is for the building up of the church. Note these statements:
3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.
4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. – 1 Corinthians 14:3-4
My focus in this post has been the purpose of the speaking gifts rather than defining the gifts. I think too often we waste our time on this rather than the purpose. But I’m aware we must know what the gifts are in order for them to be useful.
Since the focus is primarily on prophecy as the means for building up let me briefly say that prophecy is normally defined as foretelling as we understand it in the OT. We understand that part of the book of Revelation is a foretelling of what is to come. But the Bible is complete. Though I may be wrong, I see this speaking gift at as forth-telling of what has already been foretold and some of that will be forth-telling of events, like the coming of Jesus and the Judgment, that have not happened yet.
These things will take place. Now is the time to build the Kingdom. The way we do that is speaking the gospel and teaching God’s word. We must work together and be put together by the Spirit and by the word. We are God’s house. We are living stones!
Let me end with these words of hope:
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,
5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 2:4-6
Wow! Behold the Cornerstone! Do you believe in him?