Scripture Reference: Isaiah 28, Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 14:1-25
The Regulation Of Spiritual GiftsDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | January 29, 2006
Selected highlights from this sermon
For many years, there has been controversy in the church about some of the spiritual gifts. Some feel that the gift of tongues is crucial evidence for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Others may disagree.
To an outsider, hearing people speak in unknown languages no doubt raises more questions than it answers. The Apostle Paul explains the purpose of this gift.
How should we handle this controversy and how can we demonstrate that God is clearly among us in the church?
In the early church God gave some people the ability to speak languages that they had never heard, and to speak them obviously supernaturally, and I’m sure they spoke them very, very well. It’s spoken of in the Bible as the gift of tongues. It’s a subject that we should all be interested in for some obvious reasons.
First of all, we should wonder whether or not God wants us to speak in tongues. There are some of our brothers and sisters who say that we aren’t filled with the Spirit unless we speak in tongues, and the gift is for everyone. And if you want all that God has for you, you’d better get the gift. Well, we have to find out whether or not that’s the case.
Second, we should be interested because we have to ask ourselves this question: Is the gift as it is described in the New Testament the same kind of gift that is oftentimes exercised today, especially on television by certain ministries? That’s where we hear about it the most. Is that the same or is that something different? We should be interested in that.
And then, for all of us, the power of the tongue! Oh, the Bible has much to say about the power of the tongue. The Bible says that the tongue is a fire set on fire by hell. It’s so important that God wants the control of your tongue, and the devil also wants the control of your tongue, so anything that has to do with the tongue I think is important. And Paul devotes a whole chapter in the New Testament to the gift of tongues.
So what we’re going to do is we’re going to answer various questions. We’re going to answer questions like, what was it? What was its intention? What was its purpose? Is it something that we should seek? Is it something that is practiced today? Is that scriptural? All of that in the next 30 or 35 minutes!
So today I invite you to fasten your seatbelts. You can even put your seat back if you could, but you can’t, and let’s go on a journey. We’re going to take off and in a few moments we are going to land, and we hope that you enjoy the journey.
As you know, when I preach I want people to have their Bible’s open. That’s always important. Never has it been more important than today. All Christians bring their Bibles to church. You didn’t bring one? Draw the conclusion. (laughter) There are some limited ones in the pew—not enough for everybody. We expect all members and attenders to regularly bring their Bible to church, and today so many times I’m going to ask you to put your finger on the text, so you be ready.
What was this gift? Acts chapter 2! I’ll tell you the story. They are there in the day of Pentecost. They are praying in the upper room. The Holy Spirit comes upon them and God supernaturally gives them the ability to speak languages they’ve never heard. For lack of time I’m going to begin at verse 6 of chapter 2: “And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?’” The Greek says his own dialect, and then it lists them: “Parthians and Medes.” Later on Egyptians and people from Cyrene, and you’ll notice it says in verse 11: “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Awesome miracle!
Now, let’s take our Bibles and turn to the major text for today, and that’s 1 Corinthians 14. This is a series of messages entitled A Passion for the Church. Chapter 12 we had two messages on spiritual gifting and the unity of the body. Chapter 13—love for the body. And now Paul is going to give some instruction on regulating this gift of tongues which was out of ntrol in the Corinthian church, so what I’m saying today applies particularly to the body of Christ. If you are here today, and you are not a believer, I want you to listen, and by the time we are finished, we will indeed be speaking to you as well. But this message, which always isn’t my favorite because I know that it stirs some controversy, which being interpreted means for me I’ll be getting some letters, it’s primarily to believers, but all the rest of you listen in because you’re going to learn.
When Corinthians was written by Paul, there was a problem in the church regarding tongues. Some people had the gift and they were exercising it. That was perfectly fine, but they weren’t exercising it in the right way. And in chapter 12 you remember he says, “If the foot should say to the hand, ‘I have no need of thee, etc.’” he was arguing for the unity of the body. We can just imagine a foot having he gift of helps. That would make sense, wouldn’t it? If you are a foot in the body you’ve got the gift of helps. But, you know, the person with the gift of the tongue, needs the person with the gift of helps in the body, and says, “You’re not as spiritual as I am because I can speak in tongues; you should become like me. You should become a tongue too. In fact, I don’t even know whether or not you are saved because you’re not speaking in tongues.” We can imagine that that kind of thing was going on.
So Paul writes 1 Corinthians 14 to straighten out two issues. Number one, if you’re going to use the gift of tongues, be sure that an interpreter is present. And number two, don’t think that it’s a gift that just comes upon you that you can’t help. Later on, Paul is going to say that in any meeting at the most two should do it, maximum three. Do it in order and keep quiet unless an interpreter is present. So he’s got to straighten this out in the Corinthian church.
Are you ready now for the text? He says in verse 1: “Pursue love (That’s, of course, playing off of the last chapter.), and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” What is prophecy? Prophecy primarily is what I’m doing right now. It is speaking the Word of God in a language that you can understand. It is bringing a word from God to a congregation. Oftentimes it included being able to predict something but not necessarily in all instances. Prophecy is the proclamation of the Word. If we extend the meaning we could even say that it pertains to Sunday schools and elsewhere where the Word of God is being proclaimed in a relevant way, in a prophetic way to the needs of the day.
So he says, “I especially want to emphasize that,” and now Paul, in this chapter has two verses, which in my way of thinking has been seriously misinterpreted and has spun all kinds of theories that I really don’t think the Apostle Paul had in mind. And the first instance of a verse like that comes in verse 2: “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” Some people have said, “Well, you see, what happens is when you have this gift and you are using it, why indeed you are speaking to God, and nobody is understanding you, and you are uttering mysteries. You have no clue what you are saying. Your mind is disengaged. And there you are. You are uttering things and you don’t have a clue what is coming out of your mouth and all these mysteries that nobody knows anything about. I think it’s a very dangerous way to interpret what Paul is saying.
When we come to this verse and another like it in a few moments, what we need to do is to understand that Paul is speaking here from the standpoint of the congregation. What he’s saying is that a man who speaks in an unknown language speaks to God, and God is listening to him, and he’s even being edified because, believe it or not, I’m edified by my own sermons. I hope that you are too. He’s being edified, but he’s speaking mysteries because nobody understands him. There’s no interpreter.
A parenthesis! You’ll notice in the book of Acts that there were no interpreters. There didn’t have to be because that was a cosmopolitan situation. You had ten or twelve different language groups represented so, you know, if Peter is up there and he’s speaking Egyptian, all the people from Egypt gather ‘round and say, “We can’t believe Peter is doing this.” And if James is speaking Parthian, then all the people from there gather around James. But when you are in a church with a captive audience and a man speaks in some actual language, and there is no interpreter, he is speaking mysteries. That’s what Paul, I believe, is trying to say.
“On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding, their encouragement and their consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.” Some people have interpreted this to mean that you can have your private prayer language, etcetera, etcetera. I see the gift of tongues functioning only in the church, and for the benefit of the church.
Now he says, “I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” Some people interpret that to mean that prophesy is better than tongues, but if you have an interpreter, it is brought up to the level of tongues. What Paul is going to imply as he moves through the argument is, “Hey, in light of the fact that it’s the message that is important, the tongues really aren’t necessary if you are prophesying.” That is to say, if you are expounding the Scriptures.
And then he says in verse 6 and following: “Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? (Something you can understand) If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.”
Now verse 10 shows me that indeed here in Corinth the gift of tongues was actual dialects—actual spoken languages. There’s no reason to make some great distinction between Acts and Corinthians. Look at what Paul says in verse 10: “There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” That’s what Paul is saying. It’s the message that is important.
Now we get to another verse that has often been misinterpreted. Verse 13: “Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. (Either he should interpret it if he can do it or the gift of interpretation was a separate gift.) For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.” I need to stop there.
So many of our friends take that verse and they say, “See, there’s such a thing as praying in your spirit and you have no idea what you are saying. Your mind is totally disengaged and you are saying things that you don’t understand. Nobody else understands them. These are ecstatic utterances. They are mysteries, and even your mind is blocked off. And I have to tell you again my opinion. Very, very dangerous! I could tell you stories of people who shut down their minds and spoke, and what they spoke under the inspiration of the Spirit is not coming from God.
What Paul means is this. Look at it again from the standpoint of the congregation. What he means is this, and in the text, and later on, he equates praying in the Spirit as praying without an interpreter and praying with the mind as praying with an interpreter so that the content of what you are praying or speaking about becomes intelligible to people. What he means here is this. Verse 14: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind (my being understood) is unfruitful.”
Let’s take an illustration. Sometimes I’ve had Pastor Ramos (our Spanish pastor) close in prayer, and I always tell him that when he gives the benediction to always give it in Spanish. That’s why we bring him here so that we can hear it in Spanish. Now, Spanish is a very beautiful language. It’s almost a musical language, and some of you can speak it and you understand it. I don’t apart from a few words. When he prays, I know that he’s praying in the Spirit because I can see the enthusiasm on his face, his intensity, the glow on his face, but from my standpoint he’s not praying with his mind because his being understood is being unfruitful for him. I say Amen at the end because I trust his theology, but I can’t just chime in and say “Yeah,” because I don’t know exactly what he said.
In fact, that’s exactly what Paul says here. He says, “If somebody prays in a tongue, you don’t even know whether or not you should say Amen at the end.” It’s not that he doesn’t know what he’s saying or that the gift of the tongues means that the person doesn’t know what he’s saying and his mind is engaged, but from my standpoint his mind is unfruitful because I don’t understand what he’s saying.
So he says in verse 15: “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit (That is to say, I will pray with the intensity of the Spirit, and even the gift of the Spirit), but I will pray with my mind also. (I will pray in such a way that my being understood will be of benefit.) I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (I will sing in such a way that I can communicate the contents of what my mind has.) Verse 16: “Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit,” (no interpreter—all that you hear is this unintelligible language) how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. He says in verse 18: “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in a church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
And I believe that verse 19 confirms the interpretation that I just gave. Paul is saying: “I am using the expression of speaking with my mind when I am talking about giving an intelligible lecture or sermon or revelation in language people can understand. To speak in the Spirit means that I am talking, and I know what I’m saying, but nobody else receives any benefit, and my mind is unfruitful for them.” Bottom line if we have to miss it, and I know we can’t, is that Paul is saying: “Clarity, clarity, clarity!” It’s so important to speak intelligibly.
Now I grew up in an atmosphere where my parents frequently took us to meetings where there was speaking in tongues, so I’ve been to tongues meetings. And then even as I grew up I deliberately attended some just to observe and to try to understand. One of the things that I even noticed as a child was that sometimes everybody was speaking in tongues simultaneously. Sometimes there were interpretations that were given. Sometimes they were just snatches of Scripture like John 3:16 and so forth, and all of this was going on. But when it came time for the offering I noticed that it was always given in plain English. At that time the tongues stopped and we all began to understand very clearly what the needs were and how much we should give. And Paul would agree with that. He says: “In the church I would rather speak five words that people can understand than 10,000 words that nobody understands.”
So the first question that we’ve tried to answer is the question, “What was the gift?” And I believe that it was the gift of actual intelligible dialects that were spoken in that day. I also believe that it was exercised within the church, intending to build up the Body, and that was what the gift was all about.
And now we come to another question, a critical question. Why this gift? Doesn’t it seem strange that God would do that? I mean, have you ever wondered when you come across something like this, and you said to yourself, you know, “What was God thinking when He gave this gift? What was its purpose?” Paul is going to answer that.
You’ll notice now we’re answering that question—number two. What is its purpose? Verse 20: “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” What he’s saying is, “Get beyond some of the squabbles that you are having about this. Act mature.” And as far as being an infant is concerned regarding evil, have you ever noticed how kids can fight? They can fight in a sand box until they are crying, pounding each other, and then two minutes later the tears are gone and they are all playing as if nothing happened. Paul says, “Regarding evil, be like infants, but in your thinking be mature.”
Verse 21: “In the Law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.’ Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers.” I’m going to stop there and I’m going to pick it up in a moment. I have to ask you to hang on there. Is your finger in the text? That’s what I want to ask.
At last, at last we begin to understand the purpose. Well, what’s this business of, “In the Law it is written?” It’s a good idea to go back to the actual quotation. You don’t need to turn to it, but you know that your margin will tell you that it’s a quotation of Isaiah 28:11. Now Isaiah is the book of signs. It gave a sign regarding the virgin birth. Isaiah is also giving another sign here. He’s predicting the dispersion of the Jews. They are going to be dispersed into many different countries and are going to learn different languages. But he’s also predicting a time when there is going to be a radical transformation. You see, the Jews were called by God. They were given the covenants and they were to be custodians of the covenants and they were to be missionaries to their neighbors, telling them about the true God, Jehovah. But they failed. They disobeyed, and you know, they paid dearly for that disobedience, so Isaiah here is predicting a judgment.
Now to us this is no big deal, but to the Jewish people of the time this was huge because Hebrew is such a beautiful language. I mean, it’s a beautiful language and they thought to themselves, you know, that God only speaks Hebrew basically, just like some Spanish people today think that that’s all that He speaks. Well, we know that He speaks English too. But Isaiah is predicting that the time is going to come when God is going to speak to His own people through the stammering, guttural sounds of Gentile languages. That’s actually what the Hebrew means here. “For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue (verse 28) the Lord will speak to this people, to whom he has said, ‘This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose;’ yet they would not hear.” says God. Wow!
So tongues are a sign to the nation Israel – to the Jewish people. Tongues are a sign that the era of the Gentiles has come in, that the Gospel is now going to be proclaimed through the stammering lips of Gentiles. And when this happens the Jewish people should know that the transition to the Church is taking place, and that God is going to save the Jewish people. But most of them are going to hear the Gospel not through Hebrew, but through the stammering lips of Gentiles.
Your Bible is still open, I hope, to 1 Corinthians 14. Now is the time to really look at this text carefully. Verse 21: “In the Law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people.’” What people? The Jewish people! (Isaiah 28:11) “To this people I will speak with foreign tongues and yet they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Verse 22: “Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers”.” Alright, now let’s skip to verse 23: “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?”
Have you all been thinking in the last two minutes that Paul contradicts himself? Verse 22: The tongues are a sign for unbelievers.” Verse 23: “If the whole church comes together and there are foreigners and you are speaking in tongues, they are just going to think that you are crazy.”
There is a translation of the Bible that I will not mention. It was made by a man, a very interesting translation. All of the translations are made by men, but usually a committee. This translation is made by a man on his own, and it’s a good translation, but there’s a footnote in it, which I read years ago, which in effect says: “Paul apparently didn’t realize that he’s contradicting himself.” If I could add a little color we could say that he wrote verse 22 and then went for a sandwich, and came back and wrote verse 23 and didn’t realize what he had just written. Is that consistent with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? I don’t think so.
What Paul is saying in verse 22 is that tongues are a sign, for unbelieving Jews, that the era of the Gentiles has come in. But if the whole church is gathered together and there are lots of people that are not Jewish, and there are foreigners and they are from every place under heaven, and you speak in tongues in that context, it will be meaningless and they’ll just think that you are mad, that you are crazy. The only way to interpret this is to realize that it’s a sign to the Jewish nation.
The book of Acts, four times at least, speaking in tongues is recorded. Maybe it happened more than that, but every time it happened, it is the Gospel going to another segment of society. It’s going to Samaria and they speak in tongues. And then it goes to the Gentiles in chapter 11, and Peter goes there and he gets criticized for going to Gentiles. And then he comes back and he says, “Well, you know, they received the Holy Spirit just like us. You know, they were speaking in tongues.” And they say, “Oh really? Well then, wow! God has also granted to Gentiles the gift of life.”
As the Gospel goes out throughout the book of Acts, and it goes and envelopes other language groups, you have this phenomenal, unbelievable gift of tongues. And isn’t it interesting how God’s Word is so true? Let’s look at 2000 years of history. Most Jewish people who have come to trust Christ as Messiah have heard the Gospel, not through Hebrew, but through Gentile languages. You have, for example, German Jews who have heard the Gospel in German. You have Russian Jews. They heard the Gospel in Russian. You have many Jewish people in America. They heard the Gospel in English. And so the Gospel comes through all these different Gentile languages.
And the gift of tongues was in those early centuries of the church as God was getting the church started. To prove that the era of the Gentiles had now come, He gave this miraculous gift. And maybe this explains why that gift faded after the first century and it never came back to the church again until the early 1900s in Topeka, Kansas (in 1901), and then the famous Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in 1905 where the modern charismatic movement was born. Isn’t that interesting? Now there were fringe groups, of course, that maybe did, but mainstream Christianity did not have these gifts for all of those centuries because it no longer really applied. It was now established that the era of the Gentiles had come in.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, what about today? Can the gift be exercised today and so forth? Is today what we see on television the same kind of gift?” The answer to that question is for the most part no. What you see on television today is not actual dialects of languages being spoken. Dozens of studies have been done. Linguists have taken tape recorders to these meetings. They have yet to find an actual language. They find the repetition of certain phrases and vowels, and they find strange noises that maybe they can’t identify, but there’s no evidence that there’s actually a language being spoken.
Now whenever I say that, I receive letters, and the letters go like this. They say, “You are just plain wrong because I was in a meeting…” In fact, I received a letter like this some time ago. He said, “I know this to be a fact that somebody came from China and wasn’t able to speak a word of English, and was in a Christian meeting, and was able to stand up and speak in English. They were from China and knew only Chinese, and now they could speak in English, and they brought this beautiful exposition of God’s Word.”
My friend, if that story is true, I say, “Bravo for God.” That’s wonderful. Let’s not put God in a box and say He can’t do this. My goodness, if He wants to give somebody the gift of speaking a language that they’ve never learned, let God be God and let’s simply acknowledge the fact that God can do as He wills with His people.
All that I know is this: I have a sister and brother-in- law who were in Mexico 21 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They were at the Acatec Indian Tribe, 265 miles south of Mexico City, and I visited them there in Mexico. They began by breaking down a language that had never been recorded. They began and they were trained as linguists, and they began to break it all down, and it took years for them to understand it. It took years and years for them to make that translation of the New Testament. They would have given anything for the gift of tongues to be able to walk in there and for all those years that they had to labor to speed all that up and suddenly know the Acatec language. But for some reason God didn’t give them that gift. They had to do it the hard way. And I think that most people in Wycliffe would agree that it’s got to be done the hard way.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, what about the gift of interpretation? Is that different than it used to be?” And the answer to that is a resounding yes. I can assure you that it is different than it used to be. The gift of interpretation today is not translation. You say, “Well, how do you know that?”
I became friends with a man who has the gift of interpretation. He is very godly. And remember we’re talking here about our brothers and sisters. He’s very godly. In fact, I am sure that in the day of rewards he will be rewarded much more than I will. He’s a good faithful-hearted man and he has this gift.
So one day I said to him, “You have the gift of interpretation.” He said, “Yes.” I said, “When you interpret a message, do you actually understand the words that are being said?” And he said, “No.” Well, that’s interesting. I said, “How then do you know what to say?” He said, “Well, the Spirit impresses it upon me and then I take it from there.” I said, “That’s interesting. The Spirit impresses you. You don’t understand those words any more than I understand them.” He said, “Yeah, that’s right.”
Then I was watching TV and there was a man who was doing teaching along this line. He’s not on TV anymore, but he was a very nice man I’d never met. But I was fascinated by his teaching because he had actually dealt with all these issues. And then I was watching one day and he said this very interesting thing. He said, “People think interpretation is difficult because they think it’s translation.” But he said, “It’s not. You discern the mood of the speaker and then you take it from there. If he seems to be exhorting God, then you exhort Him. If he seems to be praising God, then you praise. If he seems to be praying, then you pray.” Wow!
There was an extensive study done and this is what is written. Two people who did some investigation into this gift said, “In order to investigate the accuracy of these interpretations, we undertook to play a taped example of tongues speech privately for several different interpreters of tongues. In no instance was there any similarity in any of the several interpretations. The following typifies our results. One interpreter said the tongues speaker was praying for the health of his children. Another said that the same tongues speech was an expression of gratitude to God for a recently successful church fund raising effort. When confronted with the disparity between their interpretations, the interpreters offered the explanation that God gave to one person one interpretation of the speech, and to another person another interpretation. They showed no defensiveness about being cross-examined, and generously upheld alternate interpretations as equally valid.” Boy, we ought to pause there for a while.
A couple of months ago I was in Mexico. I had a wonderful interpreter—I think. (chuckles) I always tell my interpreters (I’ve preached through interpreters many times), “If I’m preaching a bad sermon, go ahead and make it better.” You know? (laughter)
Now let’s suppose that I was preaching because I had this great burden, which I did have for the people of Mexico, that God laid on my heart. And then I discover later that he was saying something entirely different, so I get a different interpreter and preach the same message, and discover that he’s saying something entirely different and there’s no relationship to what the first interpreter said. Why am I even there? Why even have the gift of tongues if you don’t understand the words? Just discern mood, and go with mood! Don’t even bother trying to connect it.
Now let me bring this down. If there’s anything clear in the Scriptures about tongues, it is that interpretation was always translation. Paul would have insisted on it, that if you’re getting a special message from God, you had better interpret it correctly, or else you are answerable to God, taking His message and then going with your own mood, or your own thing.
What we need to do is to realize that what’s happening in most instances, and I know that I’ll get letters about deceptions, but in most instances it has nothing really to do with the New Testament. In the rest of the passage, the Apostle Paul goes on and gives five different rules for tongues speaking, and he mentions how that they should speak only two at a time, or rather in order, but at the most, two, and at the most three actually. It says two, and at the most three, and how the other person has to wait for the other person because there’s no such thing as, you know, “the Spirit just came upon me and I just needed to speak.” That’s not found in the New Testament. That’s found in other religions, and other situations, but not in the New Testament, because Paul says everything should be done decently and in order.
He also gives the controversial thing that women should be silent in the church, and people discuss what that means. Was it universal? Was it local? One of the reasons why it’s such a problem to interpret that is because in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul says as long as a woman is veiled she can prophesy in the church, and she can pray in the church, so how do you reconcile the two? Well, I think I’ve scared up enough rabbits in this message without getting into that.
But here’s the take-home today that I want you to get from this message. Notice what the Apostle Paul says. I love this. I pray this often for The Moody Church. Yesterday I was here in the auditorium praying this for the church.
Paul says in verse 24: “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.”
You say, “How shall we pray for Moody Church?” Pray that verse. I pray that those of you who are in the balcony, though you are sitting far from the pulpit here, and I cannot see your eyes (though I can see your faces), I hope that you know that where you are sitting God is among you, and where we are sitting, that God is here. God is in the music. God is in the Scripture reading. God is in the testimonies. God is in the offering, that God may dwell here with His people. That’s the point that we want to seek. (applause)
And even here today there could be somebody, and God is using even this message (though it is of a different sort) to remind you that you are exposed before God. You know, those sins that you hide, that you’ve tucked away, that you’ve rationalized? You’re exposed before God. It is very clear to Him. And then the good news that Jesus died for sinners, and that if you embrace Christ as Savior, you can be forgiven, you can be cleansed and you can belong to the family of God forever. That’s the good news that has been proclaimed from this pulpit ever since this church was founded, and with God’s grace is going to continue to be proclaimed with clarity —clarity in language I hope that you can understand. May God and His blessed presence be with us!
Our Father, today we ask that the Word of God, as it has been proclaimed, may be beneficial to help us to understand. And we want to thank You, Lord, for all of our brothers and sisters who differ with us. We know that they, too, are precious in Your sight, and that along with them we shall enjoy eternity forever. So we pray that this word of clarity may not cause further division, but further understanding and an appreciation for what Your holy Word teaches.
And now, Lord, our needs are so diverse, and this message has been so pointed in a different direction. Would You even take these words and use them for Your glory? In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.