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Power From On High

Studies in 1 Corinthians 12-15, Power From On High:

Study #1: Are All Apostles?

1 Cor. 12:27-31: "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

"Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

"Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

"But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."

We have come to see this section of Scripture as follows: each fellowship has people good at this, and people good at that, and we strive to get long-term, even lifetime members of our Congregations into such slots.

We have pastors preaching for decades. We have Sunday school marms locked in tight. We have "visiting angels" in "our" Church.

Yet it is God's Church, not ours. (1 Cor. 10:32)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making sure that  in our congregations, there is some who are reading and able to preach, some likewise to visit those too ill to come, some likewise to speak and interpret the prayers in tongues

Remember, though, that this is the structure of the Church. "And God hath set some IN THE CHURCH..."

Look at 1 Cor. 14:4: "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church." See? In this section of 1 Corinthians, we are talking about "in the Church." This Church is God's Church, and Jesus is the Head.

1 Cor. 14:12: "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church." Again, this whole section repeatedly points out that these things take place in the Church. It talks about how we fellowship as a Body when we gather, when we assemble.

1 Cor. 14:18-19: "I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

"Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."

In Paul's personal prayer life, he spoke in tongues more than any of them.

But IN THE CHURCH, when gathered in assembly, he knew the priority AT THAT MOMENT was the edifying of the Church.

So, when we are all gathered together, some are set as apostles.

Apostles are sent.

Sent by who? The Bible mentions apostles of Jesus Christ.

Did not Jesus hand pick the first twelve? Did not the eleven go to their Lord to pick a replacement for Judas Iscariot? Did not Jesus handpick Saul of Tarsus, and did he not send Ananias to minister to Saul?

They were each sent to perform certain functions, none of which were necessarily limited in scope by preconceptions of what we think they should have been doing.

God gave gifts to men, including the gift of pnuema hagion, holy spirit.

Jesus too gave gifts, including the ministries of apostles, those who are sent.

Does Jesus still send apostles? I ask you this: is he still Head of the Body?

Not everybody who says "I've seen the Lord" has seen the Lord.

But Jesus does still send handpicked faithful on his missions of grace and mercy. There are still apostles, there are still prophets, there are still gifts of healings, there are still congregations that are more interested in a real relationship with the Lord and in mimicking the way the Church is supposed to be.

Even in congregations where the flock may have strayed, there are those in them that still want to know "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Thus, as individuals in this Church, we are not supposed to stop with what we have received in the past. We are to "covet earnestly the best gifts."

What is the best gift?

On Christmas morning, for many children in America, Western Europe, and many other parts of the world, the best gift might be a new iPod.

But to some of our children in Congo, a bowl of rice and a day of quiet at the front might be a godsend.

What are the best gifts?

The best gifts are not the most prestigious.

The best gifts are the most necessary, as Paul wrote, "That the Church may receive edifying."

In the Church, at any given assemblage, have all been visited by Jesus to make sure certain things were done? Is everybody going to prophesy? Are all going to heal or be healed?

In a gathering of five hundred, will all teach?

Let's ask another question. Can all five hundred teach? Probably, if all set their minds to it.

But if all five hundred are going about running the meeting, preaching, prophesying, speaking and interpreting tongues, trying to heal each other and work miracles, what do you have?

Confusion.

1 Cor. 14:33 & 40: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

"Let all things be done decently and in order."

That includes the ministries of apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, speakers and interpreters of tongues, and the Sunday school teacher.

Does it say "Not all can be apostles. Not all can be prophets"?

No.

We can each be what we need to be. We SHOULD each be what we need to be, do what we need to do.

Paul also said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

We each can covet the best gifts, which is to say, we are all to rise up and do whatever it is God needs us to do at any given time.

In the Friday fellowship we have in one of our homes, we might run the meeting and then maybe heal a cancer in one of the believers through prayer and faith.

One Sunday morning, we may simply attend the service, then comfort those we mingle with by sharing what happened Friday, and how God can deliver them as well.

You see, a pastor is one who cares for and comforts the flock. Many times in a church the one with the title and the paycheck, as wonderful a teacher he may be, is not the Congregation's only, or even perhaps best, pastor.

If you are a believing father or a believing mother you are certainly doing the work of a pastor with your children.

Pray God the man at the pulpit is not the only pastor among hundreds of people.

Friday, at the Bible Study, you are sharing what you have learned in 1 Corinthians.

Monday you are at work or on the subway doing the work of an evangelist, as in chance conversation your dedication to your Lord enters into the talk.

Wednesday, God works through you as you play your instrument in the worship service, and maybe are called on to speak in tongues and interpret.

And every day of the work, you have prayed for and with people, read and shared things from the Bible, encouraged people, treated your children with strong but tender discipline according to the Word of God...

Soon it is Friday again, but the needs of each day may be a little different.

Covet earnestly the best gifts, and yet there is a more excellent way.

Paul did not say, "BUT yet I show you a more excellent way."

He recorded "and yet."

He did not say, "there is a better alternative," he was saying, "in addition to this there is a better way. Do this, covet the best gifts, the necessary things, and I will show you the more excellent way."

It's all part of the picture, every bit of it.

We each are to "do all things through Christ who strengthens us," and we are to follow through this more excellent way.

1 Cor. 13:1: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

You see, Paul writes that if he does not have charity, he is become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

Sounding brass, like a chime, and tinkling cymbals sound nice, but the sounding brass is hollow, the cymbal flat. 

There is no substance.

Paul says, "I am become."

He does not say the tongues are wrong, or the prophesying.

He says that the error is in him, that he is hollow or flat.

He'll sound real good, he'll sound real religious, but he himself will be spiritually flat or hollow.

In addition to seeking the best gifts, not as an alternative to, but in addition to seeking the best gifts, we are to follow after charity.

It is all part of the package.

And what is this "charity?"

"Charity" is translated from the word "agape," which is another word for "love."

In the Greek were several words for love. We all know "phileo" and "eros." "Agape," in the few secular uses it has been found in previous to the writing of the New Testament, was used altruistically.

Agape love, charity, is not self-seeking. It is the love behind self-sacrifice, of putting others ahead of one's self.

We put God ahead of us by learning and keeping his word.

We put our Lord ahead of us by seeking to minister to his people.

We put the Body of Christ ahead of ourselves by pouring our hearts and lives out, by seeking the best gifts, and by seeking first to edify the Body in all things we do with the brethren.

It is this charity, this agape love, that will energize the guarding of you heart, and that will energize your fellowship with Jesus the Lord, and with your God, your Father.

Jesus in revelation warns of those that are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.

He will "spew them out."

If you want to be hot for God, this section in 1 Cor. 12-15 goes a long way in revealing what your lifestyle will look like.

So in the next seven studies in this series "Power From On High," this is what we will be looking at.

God bless you, and may the Father keep you and your hearts in His agape love as you seek doing His will,

In Jesus' holy name,

Amen.

 

 

 

 

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