By Brooke Holt
“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? 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?” - 1 Corinthians 14:6-8
There are some great musical concerts in which you can feel like you are being lifted from the mire and frivolity of this life into something glorious and mystical. Then, there are those concerts of your young children or grandchildren. Maybe they are just learning an instrument or among a group of immature musicians. While there can be something so sweet about this learning process, there is also the pain of disharmony.
It was this pain of disharmony in the church that Paul addressed. As the Corinthians continued in the speaking of tongues in corporate worship, there was confusion and even chaos among them. People around them couldn’t understand what they were saying. Newcomers were likely a bit wary of such jabber. What was meant to unify them, such as music or the sermon, was disrupted by the noise of the congregation. This should not be so! Worship should be intelligible and edifying to all who are present.
To make his case, Paul used himself as an example. They all knew that Paul had the gift of tongues and used that gift regularly. However, Paul emphasized that he didn’t bring it to their larger gatherings because there would be no benefit to them. Speaking in tongues was and is a prayer language; it is a way for one’s spirit to connect with God through words and groans unknown to the speaker or the hearer (unless gifted with the interpretation of tongues).
Paul likens this prayer language in the general assembly of people to the improper use of musical instruments. There must be an orchestrated order to the playing of instruments; otherwise, there can be a lot of bad tunes. That flute, harp, or bugle can make sounds but not benefit those who hear them. The same was true for speaking in tongues. There was sound but no edification to those who heard the sound.
That gathering of God’s people should have harmony and be beneficial to everyone present. There is the invitation to lift up hearts, minds, and voices to the Lord in praise, to share in the read and spoken word, and to pray for one another. Each of these builds the body by strengthening those present.
How is your time in corporate worship strengthening you in your faith? Likewise, how is your participation in worship edifying the larger body of Christ? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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