Spirit Controlled Ministry
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, throughout chapters 8 to 11, he reveals the encroachments of carnality into their church; in this, chapter 14, he administers a specific rebuke to the evident license given by the saints at Corinth to the flesh, for here true Christian liberty is seen as the Divine control of the Holy Spirit. In this one chapter there are at least seven principles which constitute the Spirit’s control in the assemblies of the saints. The influence of the Holy Spirit is seen to be, not only the power of ministry, but the restraint of ministry as well.
THE QUALITY OF MINISTRY: All oral ministry must be to edification, exhortation, and comfort (vs. 3). Edification is for the mind, exhortation for the conscience, and comfort for the heart. The first builds up the Church in right thinking, the second, to right acting, and the third aspect of ministry binds up the wounds of the discouraged and broken-hearted.
THE COMMUNICATION OF MINISTRY: All ministry must be in words easy to be understood, “Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood how shall it be known what is spoken?” (vs. 9). The glory of God and the welfare of the saints must ever be before the speaker.
THE MEANS OF MINISTRY: The speaker must be conscious that he has a message from God. “That I may teach others also,” (vs. 19). It is only in malice and humility that we are to be children. In understanding we are to be men (vs. 20). We must ever guard against a waste of precious time by ten thousand words to no profit, and say as much as possible in as little time as possible.
THE POWER OF MINISTRY: Ministry in the Holy Ghost is convincing. It flows from heart to heart. Of the listener we read, “He is convinced of all, he is judged of all” (vs. 24). When the presence of God is felt in the midst of His people the consciences of all are gripped, there is indeed a holy atmosphere, and as the saints engage in their devotions the power of God is felt and known. It is according to the spiritual condition of the Lord’s people whether they bring that power and holiness with them or not when they come together in the Church.
THE APPRAISAL OF MINISTRY : Ministry is tested by the judgment of the saints (vs. 29). No man is the judge of his own ministry. There is a Divine liberty to minister, but only for those who are so gifted to minister by the Risen Head of the Church. The dignity of ministry is lowered when the assembly tolerates every one who feels that he has liberty to minister. Many a Christian conference and many a Gospel testimony has been ruined by an “every man” ministry. Verse 29 teaches that God-given gift should be acknowledged by the Church.
THE METHOD OF MINISTRY: God lays down principles, rather than rules and regulations, for the guidance of His people. Here an important principle is stated, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (vs. 40). We may, and do, adopt methods to carry out the principles of Holy Scripture, but these must be in keeping with the dignity and holiness of God’s testimony. Let us ever remember that God has given no legislation for methods. He has given His people wisdom instead. Methods may change in every generation and in every country, but principles never change. Consequently, God never meant that we should look in the Scriptures to find methods, for the simple reason He never placed them there. The grace and ability to distinguish clearly between principles and methods would save the Lord’s people from many a heartache and the Spirit of God from being grieved by vain wrangling.
THE PURPOSE OF MINISTRY: The aim of the Spirit in the assembly of the saints is to unveil Christ to every eye. In chapter 11, verses 10 to 16, the Spirit of God uses a simple exercise and custom to accomplish this end. Here He treats of the subject of Headship. “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (vs. 3). Men appearing in assembly capacity uncover their heads. Why? Because the head of every man is Christ. He must not be covered. The unveiled head of the man teaches what the aim of the Spirit is, the unveiling of Christ so that His glory fills every vision. (vs. 7).
Women appear in the Church with their heads covered. Why? Because the head of every woman is the man, he must be covered; put out of sight. The woman is the glory of the man (vs. 7). That glory must be veiled. The glory of Christ must have no rival in the assembly of His people. Every act of the flesh has its rebuke in the covered heads of the sisters. Thus, our very deportment teaches angels and ourselves that all flesh should be silent before God, that reverence and Godly submission to the control of the Spirit becomes us lest we in some way hinder His revealing of Christ in all His beauty to the hearts of His own.
We conclude by pointing to three verses that summarize these seven Divine principles:
“Let all things be done unto edifying,” (vs. 14:26).
“Let all things be done decently and in order,” (vs. 14:40).
“Let all your things be done with love,” (chap. 16:14).