6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? 7 Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? 8 For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? 9 So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. (1 Corinthians 14:6–9, NKJV)
Speaking in tongues was a temporary miraculous gift of the Spirit by which one spoke in a foreign language unknown to the speaker but understandable to the hearers (1 Cor. 12:7-11; 13:8). Such a miracle helped spread the gospel to the world (1 Cor. 14:21). Without comprehension, the gift did not edify the listeners (1 Cor. 14:2, 4-5, 11-12, 28). Paul used musical instruments to illustrate the goal of comprehension through clarity (v. 7-8). Then, he made his point that using the gift of tongue-speaking was intended for people to understand the gospel message (v. 9, 7). If it failed to accomplish this, then it was ineffective (even hurtful, 14:23). We want people to understand what we say when we teach God’s word. Let us use “easy to understand” words to promote mature understanding and spiritual strength in those who hear us (v. 9, 18-20, 26).
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit gave miraculous spiritual gifts to Christians during the initial period of the church, which ceased with the completion of revelation (Acts 8:14-18; 1 Cor. 12:11; 13:8-13). We can learn how to be edified even as this passage taught them how they were to use their miraculous gifts in an orderly way to edify the church. Edification results from things happening “when the whole church comes together in one place” (1 Cor. 14:23, 26). Edification is the process of building up, of spiritual strengthening. Both miraculous and non-miraculous songs and teaching of God’s word (revelation) was to produce edification. Singing edifies by “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16). Prayers edify the church through our mutual giving of thanks (1 Cor. 14:15-19). The Lord’s Supper edifies us as we remember the Lord’s death and proclaim it to one another (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Giving is arranged as a cheerful expression of thanksgiving to God and of devotion to His work and His people (1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 9:6-10). Teaching God’s word feeds the church with God’s truth that sustains our lives (Matt. 4:4; Acts 20:32). Edification is not about stirring up feelings (even though emotions naturally result from edification). It is the spiritual strengthening that takes place when we follow God’s word and worship together in spirit and truth.
8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11, NKJV)
Paul returns to soberness as he exhorts Christians (sons of light, sons of the day) to live so as to seize and preserve the salvation to which we have been appointed. It is necessary to protect ourselves from sin with faith, love and hope as we live for Him who died for us. Wrath is appointed for those who indulge themselves in the darkness of sin, choosing to reject the richness of God’s salvation for the futility of the flesh. Christians prepare for Christ’s return by living soberly. We are strengthened and comforted by the assurance of the eternal salvation to be obtained when Christ returns (2 Thess. 2:14; Heb. 10:39; 1 Pet. 1:6-9). You will never find comfort in the darkness of sin. Come out of your sin and live for Jesus. When He returns, Christians will live together with Him forevermore. If you are a faithful Christian, whether you are alive or dead on that day will make no difference. The difference will be whether you lived soberly in the light of truth and obtain salvation, or in the darkness of sin and obtain wrath.
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:12–13, NKJV)
After He ascended into heaven, Christ gave gifts to the world, (Ephesians 4:11, see Sword Tips #1213). The work of these inspired men produced the New Testament. These uninspired men help us know and follow them. According to verse 12, these gifts were given to equip or complete the saints of God, in order to 1) do the work of service given by the Lord, and to 2) edify or strengthen the church. Please notice, it is the word of God that gives us the necessary tools to serve, and to be spiritually strengthened. The goal of our spiritual ministry and strength is stated in verse 13: That we will attain to the maturity and unity to which we have been called in Christ. This is where Paul began this fourth chapter of Ephesians, as he urges Christians to walk worthy of our calling, carefully guarding “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, 1-6). Churches have strayed far from this spiritual work Jesus intended. The word of God is hardly preached, rarely studied, and viewed as opinions and traditions, rendered irrelevant by time and humanity’s progress. Let us return to honoring Christ’s gifts, by which the saving gospel is known and used, enabling us to be what Christ wants of His people.
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9, NKJV)
Having the liberty to do something does not automatically mean it is the right thing to do. Paul had the right to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, but under certain circumstances, he refused to exercise his liberty (1 Cor. 8:4, 13). If the use of Paul’s liberty led a Christian (whose conscience was weak concerning eating such meat) to violate his conscience (sin) by eating such meat, then Paul would forego his right to eat meat (1 Cor. 8:10-13; 10:28). He choose not to be a stumbling block instead of use his liberty (1 Cor. 10:32). The demands of love, not the selfish desire for a personal liberty, define and decide whether one uses a liberty (1 Cor. 8:1). Just because you have a liberty does not mean you must exercise it. Will your use of a liberty influence another Christian who conscience is weak toward that liberty to go ahead and violate his or her conscience? If so, then do let your liberty to become a stumbling block to another. Forego your liberty for the sake of your fellow-Christian. Such is the decision of brotherly love. The apostle reminds us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23).