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1 Corinthians Chapter 14.
Spiritual Gifts are for the Benefit of the Church.
1. Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
Spiritual gifts are an important part of the ministry of the Church and Paul exhorts us both to love one another and to covet spiritual gifts that we might use them for building each other up in the faith. It is the motive that is important. If we love Christ and His people then we may show this love by giving ourselves to serve the Church, using among other things the spiritual gifts to do so
Of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul regards prophecy as the most useful. The reasons are plain. Prophecy ministers to everyone present at the same time, as God speaks directly to human spirits through human channels by this gift.
Prophecy More Useful than Tongues.
2,3,4. For the one speaking in a tongue does not speak to people but to God, for no one understands; he is speaking mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement, and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
Prophecy is more useful to the church than the gift of tongues. Though a man speaking in tongues is in direct communion with God, and is speaking of the things of God by the Spirit, only he is edified and no one else; for no one understands what he is saying. The benefit is to the individual alone, not the whole church.
Prophecy, however, is not man speaking to God but God speaking to men in words they can understand. Through this gift God conveys His Word, building us up spiritually, admonishing, urging, and encouraging us to do His will; through prophecy God reveals His will and gives us the strength to do it. Through this gift, God draws near to us and brings tender words of consolation and comfort when they are needed.
5. I wish you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets so that the church may be strengthened.
Paul recognized the genuine value of speaking in tongues, which is why he wished every believer to fully use and enjoy this gift. But in addition, he would have every believer to use the gift of prophecy. This implies that God is willing to give both gifts to anyone who ask for them. The gift of prophecy is the better gift of the two, in as much as it is greater in its usefulness.
If a message in tongues is interpreted, the two gifts together are equivalent to the gift of prophecy, since the church is built up as God speaks. So not only are we to seek for the gift of prophecy, we are also to ask God for the gift of interpretation.
6. Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I help you unless I speak to you with a revelation or with knowledge or prophecy or teaching?
What good would it be if, when Paul came to Corinth, he did nothing else but speak in tongues? None, of course. He would be like a foreigner coming to the church and speaking in his own language - for no one would understand him. So when Paul came he would bring God's Word to light by preaching and prophesying in plain language they could understand.
7. It is similar for lifeless things that make a sound, like a flute or harp. Unless they make a distinction in the notes, how can what is played on the flute or harp be understood?
When a musical instrument is played, unless the notes are played distinctly, who will recognize the piece being played?
8. If, for example, the trumpet makes an unclear sound, who will get ready for battle?
This would be a serious matter in war time, where troops depended on various trumpet calls to give them instructions. Unless the call of the bugle is understood, no one will get ready for battle.
9. It is the same for you. If you do not speak clearly with your tongue, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air.
In he same way, unless what we say is understood by the ones we are speaking to, we fail to communicate and are just speaking into the air.
10,11. There are probably many kinds of languages in the world, and none is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of a language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.
Though the world has many languages, all of which mean something to those who speak them, unless you can speak the other persons language you will not be able to communicate.
12. It is the same with you. Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, seek to abound in order to strengthen the church.
So then, since the Corinthians were zealous for spiritual gifts, they should make a priority seeking for those gifts which build up the church.
13. So then, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.
Whoever uses the gift of tongues by God should covet and ask God for the gift of interpretation, so that all the church may receive the benefit.
14. If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unproductive.
For when we speak in tongues, our spirit prays but we don't understand with our minds what is said.
15,16. What should I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. I will sing praises with my spirit, but I will also sing praises with my mind. Otherwise, if you are praising God with your spirit, how can someone without the gift say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?
Remembering that Paul is dealing with the matter in context of public worship; he does not mean that he will never speak in tongues in a public service. Rather, he will not only pray or sing in tongues, he will also pray and sing in his own language. Otherwise, others present will have no knowledge of what is said. Hence they will not be able to join in the worship or prayer, or even say "Amen".
17. For you are certainly giving thanks well, but the other person is not strengthened.
Giving thanks to God in the Spirit (tongues) is perfectly acceptable; it is true thanksgiving, but since no one else understands what is said, no one else is edified.
18. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
Paul was thankful for the gift of tongues, and made every use of it on every possible occasion, so much so that he could say "I use it more than any of you do."
19. But in the church I want to speak five words with my mind to instruct others, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.
When the church met together, Paul did not refrain from speaking in tongues, but it was better to edify others by speaking his own language. Five such words would do more for others than 10,000 in an unknown tongue.
20. Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking. Instead, be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to be mature in their use of the gifts. True, they were to be like children in their relationships and in their willingness to forgive; but they were not to be childish in understanding.
21,22. It is written in the law: "By people with strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, yet not even in this way will they listen to me," says the Lord. So then, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers.
The Word of God declares the gift of tongues to be a miraculous sign to unbelievers. Tongues cannot be a sign to unbelievers if they never hear them, so a ban on speaking in tongues in public worship cannot possibly be in view here! No such sign is needed by believers, who are already convinced of the living Christ's reality. Believers benefit more from the gift of prophecy.
23. So if the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and unbelievers or uninformed people enter, will they not say that you have lost your minds?
If all the church spoke in tongues through the service, how could those who did not understand take part or learn anything? Those ignorant of the gift would think the whole church had gone raving mad.
24. But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or uninformed person enters, he will be convicted by all, he will be called to account by all.
If however, the prophetic gift is being exercised, the visitor shall be convicted of the reality of the worship taking place, and his own heart will be searched as to his relationship with God.
25. The secrets of his heart are disclosed, and in this way he will fall down with his face to the ground and worship God, declaring, "God is really among you."
Through the prophetic gift the visitor may find God speaking to his/her heart about what no one else knows, and realise that they are in the presence of God who knows all things. In awesome fear they will acknowledge that God is truly present in the church.
Order in Church Services.
26. What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church.
What should be done in church worship? When the church meets, everyone should have something from God to bring to the meeting. Someone will have a psalm- that is, a hymn, a set piece of sacred music - laid on their hearts; someone may have been taught by God from the Scriptures and will want to share what they've learned - a doctrine; someone else may have a message in tongues and someone else the interpretation; someone may have a revelation - something which God has made known to them. Everyone should contribute to the meeting for the purpose of building up the church.
27. If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret.
It is not clear whether Paul wishes the church to confine itself to having three messages in tongues in one meeting, so that the gift is not overused, or whether he means that no more should speak consecutively without interpretation. The former would seem contrary to Paul's injunction "you may all prophecy one by one" as tongues/interpretation is equivalent to prophecy. The latter makes more sense. However, it should be remembered that there are other ways through which the church is built up, and room should be made for these. If a whole meeting is taken up with tongues and interpretation then other gifts are being neglected and the church impoverished. Paul does not want a one sided church. Certainly no two people should give a message in tongues at the same time.
28. But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God.
No message in tongues should be given unless a person with the gift of interpretation is present.
29,30,31. Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said. And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude. For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged.
No more than two or three prophets hosuld be allowed to speak before a time is given for the congregation to consider, weigh up and take in what has been said. Some church leaders infer from these verses that a maximum of three should prophecy in a single meeting, and so others should wait their turn next meeting. It is by no means clear that this is what Paul intended, but it is true that we have time constraints in church meetings, and that other gifts are ready to be used (e.g. teaching). It seems sensible to limit ourselves (without bringing ourselves into bondage) so as to make way for other gifts to be used for building up the church. No one is to "hog the limelight".
When a prophet is speaking and another has inspiration and begins to take over the prophecy, let the first person stop. The other prophets should weigh very carefully what is said in the light of scripture. They should be prepared to call into question anything unbiblical by consultation with the pastor who is responsible for all those present.
32,33. Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace.As in all the churches of the saints.
The Spirit of God does not so take a man over that he is no longer responsible for his actions. Even when a man receives divine inspiration, he remains in control of himself and is responsible to use his gift in the proper way at the proper time. There is no excuse for everybody prophesying at once and causing confusion, for God is a God of order and peace, and such order should prevail in our meetings.
Women in Church.
34,35. The women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.
Paul's instruction forbidding the women from speaking during public meetings should be seen in the context both of culture and of Scripture. Women are clearly expected to pray and prophesy in the presence of men, otherwise the instruction in 11:5 becomes meaningless (one would not expect a woman to cover herself only in the presence of other women). But to talk other than in praise, or by inspiritaion, or for ediification, is clearly meant. Quite simply, church is not the place to discuss the dinner or the kids. What was shame in Corinth is still shame in the present; for although our culture may be different, the lesson is the same. Paul had no problems about equality in the church (Gal. 3:28); but wives, according to the command of God (Gen. 3:16) are to be in subjection to their own husbands, and this submission should be evident in the church assembly. If a woman wishes to question what has been said in a prophecy, they should bring it up with her husband at home and not start a debate in the service. It is neither bondage, nor inequality, but a sense of propriety in public worship that Paul has in view.
36. Did the word of God begin with you, or did it come to you alone?
There were evidently certain women who rather than having an attitude of submission were pushing to take things over. This over the top use of women's freedom flew in the face of the customs of the other churches of the period. It was peculiar to Corinth. Which is why Paul asks in effect "are you of Corinth the first or only Christians? If not, why are you adopting standards all of your own, different to those of the other churches of Christ. Doesn't this itself show that you're wrong?"
37,38. If anyone considers himself a prophet or spiritual person, he should acknowledge that what I write to you is the Lord's command. If someone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
Those who were truly prophets or spiritual would understand that Paul was bringing the authority of Christ to bear on the situation in Corinth. These would be the elders, who were then responsible to do something about it. No one who contradicts Christ's teaching or the authority of his messengers should be recognised in church leadership.
39,40. So then, brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues. And do everything in a decent and orderly manner.
In conclusion, all believers should earnestly desire the gift of prophecy in order to build up the church, but that the use of tongues should never be forbidden in public worship. Everything in the meeting should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
Recommended for You - Further Reading in 1 Corinthians
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