Lesson 11 March 8-14
Worthwhile Worship

Read For This Week's Study: 1 Corinthians 14.

Memory Text:  "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church" (1 Corinthians 14:12).

Key Thought:  The way we employ our gifts in public worship must bow to the great law of love. Our spiritual gifts must be used in ways that build others up in Christ.

Sabbath Afternoon March 7

WHAT ARE THE TRUE MARKS OF THE SPIRIT'S PRESENCE? Since the summer of 1994, the so-called "Toronto Blessing" has swept through many Christian circles. The movement has been marked by a variety of phenomena including spasms, "resting in the Spirit," glossolalia, animal-like noises, and, especially, infectious laughter.  Rodney Howard-Browne has led in the "laughing revivals." Calling himself the "Holy Ghost bartender," Howard-Browne serves up his "new wine" of "holy laughter." Using characteristic gestures, pumping hands up and down above someone's head or scooping the air in a sideways motion toward a would-be recipient of "the blessing," ministers who have drunk Howard-Browne's wine pass it along to others.  Thousands have been supposedly blessed.  

If the Holy Spirit were to make Himself known in a worship service, what would be the expected results? How does a congregation ensure that they are participating in Spirit-led worship? What are the true marks of the Spirit's presence in one's life?  Paul's ancient counsel speaks to these significant questions, which remain crucially important to us today. 

Sunday March 8

PROBLEMS WITH TONGUES (1 Corinthians 14, especially verses 1-5).

How does the gift of tongues compare to that of prophecy? 1 Cor. 14:1-5.    

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 Paul is especially concerned with the misuse of the gift of tongues. While the direct treatment of the issue occurs in chapter 14, Paul has already prepared the way for his corrective comments. Paul's first mention of the gifts is congratulatory and this provides a positive framework for the later discussion. The Corinthian Christians are "not lacking in any spiritual gift" (1:7, NRSV). When Paul returns to the topic of spiritual gifts in chapter 12, he underlines the principle of diversity. That is, the church needs a wide variety of gifts. No one gift should be required of all and become the criterion for spirituality (Paul's discussion suggests that the gift of tongues is being used in some such way at Corinth).

Paul invariably mentions tongues last in lists of the gifts (1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 30). In two of the three lists he couples it with the gift of "interpretation of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:10, 30), a gift he will later require to be exercised whenever tongues play a role in public worship (1 Cor. 14:27). Finally, he has expressed the need for love in the use of the gift of tongues and has described the gift as transient rather than permanent (1 Corinthians 13).

Apart from the discussion in 1 Corinthians, the New Testament mentions "speaking in tongues" in several places. What is the main idea you learn from each passage?

Mark 16:14-18  ______________________________________________________

Acts 2:1-12  _________________________________________________________

Acts 10:44-48  _______________________________________________________

Acts 19:1-7  _________________________________________________________


It is true that in becoming too cautious to avoid false spiritual manifestations, we may not avail ourselves fully of the Spirit's genuine manifestations. Yet Satan's deceptions are becoming more subtle than ever.   We need the infilling of Spirit to give us true spiritual discernment.

What evidence do you have of the Holy Spirit in your life?   

Monday March 9

TESTING TODAY'S TONGUES (1 Corinthians 12-14).

What principles does Paul share in his treatment of spiritual gifts that can help us identify counterfeits of the Spirit's work?  Review 1 Corinthians 12-14.    

Throughout 1 Corinthians 12-14 Paul is interested in shaping the use of the gift of tongues at Corinth. In addition to the principle of diversity (1 Corinthians 12) and the law of love (1 Corinthians 13), Paul provides eight helpful directives. Today we will list three of them, Tuesday the other five.

1. The gift of prophecy should be prominent (1 Cor. 14:1, 5; see also 12:28-31).

Why does Paul rate prophecy so highly?  1 Cor. 14:1-5, 23-25.    

How does Revelation teach about the presence of the gift of prophecy among the last-day followers of God? Rev. 12:17; 19:10.   

The spiritual gift of prophecy is generally understood by specialists in this area to be more than predictive in nature, for it also brings God's words of encouragement, instruction, and exhortation to His people. It is expressed in ways that are recognized by the church as Christ-centered and biblically-based, which foster spiritual growth, harmony, and the building up of Christ's body. No wonder Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians to desire especially such a gift.

2. Spiritual gifts that are used in public worship should edify and encourage others (1 Cor. 14:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13).

3. Public worship should be intelligible (1 Cor. 14:6-12).

According to Jesus, how should Christian prayer contrast with Gentile prayer?  Matt. 6:7, 8.    

In what ways could your prayers to God resemble heathen prayers? How can this be remedied?   

Tuesday March 10


4. The gift of tongues, if used publicly, requires interpretation (1 Cor. 14:5, 13, 27, 28).

5. Those who speak in tongues should be able to practice self-control (1 Cor. 14:13-19, 28).

6. When unaccompanied by interpretation, the gift of tongues detracts from mission (1 Cor. 14:16, 17, 20-25).

"There is a great work to be done in our world. Men and women are to be converted, not by the gift of tongues nor by the working of miracles, but by the preaching of Christ crucified. Why delay the effort to make the world better? Why wait for some wonderful thing to be done, some costly apparatus to be provided?"--My Life Today, p. 219.

Some "have an unmeaning gibberish which they call the unknown tongue, which is unknown not only by man but by the Lord and all heaven. Such gifts are manufactured by men and women, aided by the great deceiver."--Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 412.

7. The number of participants should be limited (1 Cor. 14:27).

In 1 Corinthians 14:23, KJV Paul critiques a worship service in which "all speak with tongues." While Paul suggests this as a hypothetical situation, it may reflect the misuse of tongues in Corinth. Instead, Paul rules that:  1. Only two (or on rare occasions, three) should speak in a tongue; 2. They should do so successively rather than in unison; 3. The contributions in tongues should be interpreted. Paul gives similar guidelines for the gift of prophecy (verses 29-33).

8. Christian worship should be marked by orderliness and peace (1Cor. 14:33, 40).

Does Paul include the gift of tongues in his other lists of spiritual gifts?  Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11.   

For Paul, the gift of tongues should neither be required (1 Cor. 12:30) nor forbidden (1 Cor. 14:39). Is it possible that God would choose to revive a true expression of the gift?   

Wednesday March 11


Which of the following statements is true? Why?

1. The gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians is the same as that in Acts 2--the Spirit-given ability to speak human languages one has not learned.  Paul writes to counsel the Corinthians with regard to this gift, which is being over-emphasized and misused.  Acts 2 should be used to interpret 1 Corinthians 14.

2. The gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 is a gift of ecstatic utterance given by the Spirit.  Paul both affirms and regulates the use of the gift in the context of public worship.  The gift may have served only a temporary function in Corinth and may not be reflected in modern glossolalia.  One must attend carefully to the context of 1 Corinthians 14 before comparing it to Acts 2.    

In his book Speaking in Tongues: Biblical Speaking in Tongue, and Contemporary Glossolalia (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Adventist Theological Society Publications, 1991), the late Gerhard Hasel argued for the first position above. Roland Hegstad, treated the topic in Rattling the Gates (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1974).  He provided an even-handed review of the arguments and admitted uncertainty about the nature of the gift in Corinth (see pp. 52-77). He adds an important note. Any ambiguity about the nature of the gift "is far from saying that we are left without criteria by which to identify modem tongues as Biblical or non-Biblical" (p. 69).

"They give themselves up to wild, excitable feelings and make unintelligible sounds which they call the gift of tongues, and a certain class seem to be charmed with these strange manifestations. A strange spirit rules with this class, which would bear down and run over anyone who would reprove them. God's Spirit is not in the work and does not attend such workmen. They have another spirit."--Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 414.

Which of the directives provided by Paul do you think is most important today?    

It may be less important to come to determine the precise nature of the gift of tongues at Corinth than to ponder carefully the correctives offered by Paul ' These provide boundaries by which we may judge what is misused or false and concepts to help evaluate our public worship.     

Thursday March 12

HOW TO WORSHIP (1 Cor. 14).

It has been argued that 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 provides the earliest account of a worship service. As you read the account, what do you think such a service was like?    

Two features of Paul's portrait of public Christian worship are very significant. Paul envisions:

1. A high degree of participation (1 Cor. 14:26).

In fact, the level of participation may have gotten out of hand!  Nonetheless, inviting broad participation is important. Are you a spectator or a participant in worship?

2. A high degree of concern for the "outsider."

What negative effects might uninterpreted tongues have on "outsiders" in worship?  1 Cor. 14:13-17, 23.   

What positive effects would prophecy have on "outsiders"?  1 Cor. 14:24, 25.  

Paul has exalted hopes for the visitor who enters Christian worship. He dares to hope that such a one will be "convinced by all that he is a sinner" (verse 24, NIV) and join in the worship of God. Do we have such goals for our services? Do we envision them as times when nonbelievers may come to know the sweet joy of worshiping God? Do we plan worship services that will be accessible and inviting to nonmembers? Or are we only concerned about our own appetites for worship?

"Our meetings should be made intensely interesting. They should be pervaded with the very atmosphere of heaven. Let there be no long, dry speeches and formal prayers merely for the sake of occupying the time. All should be ready to act their part with promptness, and when their duty is done, the meeting should be closed.  Thus the interest will be kept up to the last. This is offering to God acceptable worship. His service should be made interesting and attractive and not be allowed to degenerate into a dry form. We must live for Christ minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day; then Christ will dwell in us, and when we meet together, His love will be in our hearts, welling up like a spring in the desert, refreshing all, and making those who are ready to perish, eager to drink of the waters of life."-Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 609.    

Friday March 13

Further Study:   See Selected Messages, vol. 3, pp. 362-378, for a report of Ellen White's counsel to a couple who claimed that God had given them the gift of tongues.

In 1 Corinthians 14:33-36, Paul argues that wives should be silent in the church assembly. The placement of the passage suggests that women were, in some way that is not explained, involved in the abuse of the gift of tongues. The passage requires careful examination if we are to apply it appropriately to our modem settings.   As you study the passage, keep the following points in mind:

1.  Paul's counsel is limited in that it does not concern all women, but only wives of Christian men who are also present in the assembly.  Additionally, it is focused on how women learn rather than on ways in which they minister (verse 35).  The concern was that women learn about theology in ways that did not cause disturbance in worship.   

2.  The counsel is addressed to an ancient culture that had very different standards for the behavior of wives than hold in many places today. Plutarch says that a virtuous woman "ought to be modest and guarded about saying anything in the hearing of outsiders" and that "a woman ought to do her talking either to her husband or through her husband."--Leon Morris, Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 197 (quoting Plutarch, Advice to Bride and Groom, pp. 31, 32).   

3.  Since Paul has confirmed the public praying and prophesying of women (1 Cor. 11:5, 13) and since women possessed the gift of prophecy (see Acts 2:17, 19; 21:8, 9), the rule against women's speaking in worship is not absolute.  Seventh-day Adventists, after all, believe that God granted the gift of prophecy to Ellen White.   

4.  We must recall the early Christian house-church setting in which there were no neat divisions between "Sabbath School" and "church."  If Paul's prohibition were taken directly to apply to all Christian women today, women would need to be silent in all gatherings for spiritual purposes, not just in the "church service."   

5.  There is much to be learned from the passage.  Paul is again (as in 1 Cor. 11:6) concerned about the good name  of the young Christian movement.  He does not wish it to be "disgraced," but to move forward in its mission.  Do you value Christian mission as highly? And, are you behaving in church gatherings in a way that facilitates the ability of others to learn, worship, or come to faith?   

Summary:  Paul's treatment of spiritual gifts provides important criteria by which the Christian can evaluate modem claims of the Spirit's gifts. It also challenges us to invite the Spirit truly to renew our public worship.   

Sabien's Faith, Part 2
Belinda Kent

Sabien faced fierce tests of his faith even before he was baptized in Papua New Guinea. But his tests taught him a lot about prayer.

Sabien's family needed a garden in which to raise sweet potatoes, bananas, green beans, and pumpkins to eat and to sell. As he cleared the land and prepared the ground for his garden, he thought about the wild pigs that often destroyed the villagers' gardens. Many times the people planted and tended their gardens all season, only to have the wild pigs trample over the plants and eat their fill.  

After Sabien planted his garden, he knelt down on the edge of the plot and told God how he needed the food from his garden to feed his family. He asked God to watch over his garden and protect it from the wild pigs.

The plants in Sabien's garden grew well in the fertile soil. But anguished wails of villagers' told that another garden had been destroyed by the wild pigs. Each time Sabien heard of another garden destroyed, he prayed that God would protect his garden. And when harvest time came, Sabien's garden was bountiful, while other gardens lay in waste. Sabien's family shared their food and their faith with those who had lost their gardens, and many others learned of God's care for His children.

Many women in the remote villages of Papua New Guinea have never attended school, and cannot read. I started a reading class for these women.  Together we learned to read and write in Pidgin, the trade language of Papua New Guinea. We used the Pidgin Bible as our textbook. Within a few months Manau, Sabien's wife, was reading the Bible. How her face shone when she was asked to read the scripture passage in worship. Now she can read with her children and guide them in their spiritual lives.

With access to short-wave radio and air strips, life is changing for the isolated peoples of Papua New Guinea. They need a solid foundation of faith and knowledge to keep them from failing prey to the charms of the modern world. Pray for the new believers in Papua New Guinea, and for those who have never heard the mess age of God's love.

Belinda Kent, her husband, John, and their four children serve as missionaries in Papua New Guinea under the auspices of Adventist Frontier Missions.


Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.

Last updated on March 6, 1998
Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Web Team
Copyright © 1998 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.