For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?1 Corinthians 14:8(NASB)
There is much confusion in the Church concerning the gifts of the Spirit and their correct use. The Corinthians lacked no spiritual gift. They were endowed with all-speech, enriched in all-knowledge, and equipped with great spiritual giftings as a testimony that Christ was confirmed among them, and yet we discover they were argumentative, sexually impure, and had retrogressed into unprecedented carnality, immorality, and spiritual infancy.
In the early days of the Church, the gospel of grace was spread by word of mouth because the canon of Scripture had yet to be written. There was a proliferation of spiritual gifts in those early days of Christianity. Paul explained in Romans that an important reason for the dramatic numbers of spiritual gifts and grace given to Gentile believers in the early Church, was to provoke Israel to jealousy.
We read that Jews require a sign while Gentiles seek after wisdom. It must have been hard for Jews to accept the administrative change that took place at Calvary. It was difficult for them to let go of their Temple worship and other religious paraphernalia. It was very hard for them to accept that Gentile believers were equally accepted by God as Jewish believers and that together they made up a new category in God's economy, 'the Church' which is the Body of Christ.
But atonement had been made for their sins at Calvary - and for the sin of all who would believe on His name. The final Passover Lamb had been offered through the Person and work of Christ, and His Resurrection from the dead fulfilled many of the prophetic writings that pointed to their Jesus as their Messiah-King.
When used correctly, especially in those early, pre-canonic days, the gift of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophetic utterances, and teachings, was the main way that the Holy Spirit gave spiritual knowledge and guided early believers into truth. He also used them as a sign to Israel that the Holy Spirit of God was working in Gentile believers who started to be labelled as 'Christians' at Antioch.
When used correctly, the gifts of the Spirit were an amazing tool the Lord used to spread the message of salvation to Jew and Gentile alike in those early days of the Church. The gifts of the Spirit also authenticated the legitimacy of Christianity before any New Testament Scripture was written.
However, the carnal Corinthians were exploiting their God-given spiritual gifts in an ungodly manner. They were using their gifts for self-gratification or as a means of control. Their self-indulgent, carnal behaviour, presented the wrong message to the world about Christianity. Their conduct was more akin to the pagan masses than born-again children of God and so Paul chastised them for exploiting their spiritual gifts in this ungodly way.
He explained that unless they used their spiritual gifts correctly, they would be sending an indistinct message to both fellow-believers and the unsaved. Unless their spiritual gifts were used to convey the true message of God, they would convey a fuzzy and indistinct message.
Paul likened the use of spiritual gifts to a trumpet-call in the midst of a battle. If the sound of the trumpet is clear and distinct, the army will know what strategy to follow, "but if the bugle produces an indistinct sound," he adds, "who will prepare himself for battle?"
Just as spiritual gifts were exploited by some in those early days of the church, there are those today who continue to use their spiritual gifts for their own purposes - for self-gratification, self-exaltation, ungodly manipulation, or to control others. Let us use the gifts and graces with which we have been endowed wisely and for God's glory, or we will be likened to the sound of an indistinct bugle which confuses others and dishonours the Lord.
Thank You, Heavenly Father, for Your Word and the truths that are contained within its pages. I praise You for the wonderful way You taught the early Church the truths of the gospel and for protecting its message, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank You for the gifts and graces You have bestowed on me, and I pray that I may use each one wisely, with discernment, and for Your greater glory. I pray that I would say and do nothing that would communicate an indistinct gospel message to those with whom I have to do. Keep my heart pure and my actions honouring to You. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.