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Paul now continues the theme he started in Chapter 13 relating to spiritual gifts, but now he particularly turns his attention to the gift of tongues. Also he makes a point, right at the beginning, to remind the Corinthians that everything should be done from a motive of love (v1).


It has been said that a good lecturer will:

tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; tell ’em; then tell ’em what you told ’em.

Paul does just that: as we read this passage notice verses 1 and 39.


So why does he favour Prophecy rather than Speaking in Tongues?

 

Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-6

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no-one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6 Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?


I was at a church in the 1960s when the Charismatic Movement was having a major revival. One of the young men, a worship leader in the church, received the gift of the Holy Spirit, but he was not mature enough to deal with it. He announced publicly that unless you had received ‘the baptism of the Holy Spirit’, demonstrated by the gift of tongues, you were not a proper Christian and had no place in the church.


When you talked to him it seemed that he regarded himself as special, a chosen one to whom this secret mystery had been revealed. There is a very great danger here.

Look at this dictionary definition – what word does it describe?


1. Of, relating to, or dealing with supernatural influences, agencies, or phenomena.

2. Beyond the realm of human comprehension; inscrutable.

3. Available only to the initiate; secret.

4. Hidden from view; concealed.


The word is Occult and not something that we would want to be involved with!


So what does Paul tell us about speaking in tongues? We’ll start by looking at verses 7-19


7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?

8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?

9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.

11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.

12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

13 For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.

14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

16 If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say Amen to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?

17 You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.

19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.


Now read verse 2:  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no-one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.


Why do we speak?

It is to communicate with someone else. If we want them to understand us we will try to use their language. It therefore follows that if we speak in the Spirit’s language only God will understand (unless the Spirit also acts as interpreter) and therefore it is a prayer to him.


Why speak in tongues at all? Discuss.


1) (V14, 15) Speaking in tongues is actually praying directly from our spirit. Our minds do not understand the meaning. No-one else understands either, so praying in public in this way is not likely to be helpful.


2) In the same church and at the same time as I explained above I spoke to a fine Christian girl who also spoke in tongues. She would never want to do so in public, she said she spoke in tongues in her private devotions where it drew her closer to God.


3) Sometimes people have spoken in tongues in church and immediately the pastor has asked if there is an interpretation. Personally I don’t remember any that seemed important for the church to hear. So it seemed that the prayer was directed to God, not the congregation.


Now let’s look at verses 20-23

20 Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

21 In the Law it is written:

   Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.

   

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.

23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?


Grow up! Says Paul (v20). Yes Isaiah prophesied that people will hear the Gospel from people who did not naturally speak their language, and that happened on the day of Pentecost.


But what they were doing in Corinth (v23) was of no benefit to unbelievers who did not understand and simply concluded that they must be mad.


Verses 14-16

14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

16 If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say Amen to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?


Paul says that worship in church should be something that everybody understands, so he suggests that praying and singing ought to be intelligible to the rest of the congregation for the benefit of all.


So back to verse 1: Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.


What is prophecy?

Preaching

Interpreting Scripture

Bringing a word from God


This is effectively the reverse of speaking in tongues!

Prophecy is where God speaks to the whole church and uses a human voice to pass his message on in a language that everyone can understand.


So why does Paul say (in v5) I would rather have you prophesy?


Read verses 24 and 25:

24 But if an unbeliever or an enquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’


Obviously God speaking to us must be more important than us speaking to him!


Now verses 26-40

26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two— or at the most three— should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.

28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.

30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.

31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.

32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.

33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints,

34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.

35 If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36 Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command.

38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.


Let’s be reminded: what is the purpose of Spiritual Gifts (v26)?


What are Paul’s rules for speaking in tongues?

No more than three people should speak.

They should not all speak at once but take their turn.

There must be an interpretation given.

If there is no interpretation the speaker should keep quiet.


What are Paul’s rules for prophesying?

No more than three people should speak.

If someone else has a revelation the current speaker should stop!

Others should weigh carefully what is said.


Why should they do that?

Because false prophets give false prophecy, misleading the church.


It is not acceptable to interrupt simply because you believe you have ‘a word from the Lord’ v 32 -33 points out that our gifts are under our control – God is not a God of disorder – v40 everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.


Now we must move on. We skipped verses 34 and 35:

34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.

35 If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.


There have been many explanations about these but before we look at this we must also read Paul’s earlier instruction in 1 Corinthians 11:5 –

every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head— it is just as though her head were shaved.


So obviously Paul expects women to pray or prophesy in church! So what other kinds of speaking can he be referring to? The suggestion in v35 is that they were asking questions. Others have suggested that they may have been chatting together.


There also may have been a local problem with one or more women who were assuming a leadership role (perhaps with their heads uncovered like men) more for the purpose of advocating Women’s Rights, rather than exercising a God-given gift.


Some have argued that this means that women should not teach (or at least teach men) in church. But when we looked at chapter 12 when we were looking at spiritual gifts, we read that teaching was a spiritual gift, and gifts are given by the Spirit to each one, just as he determines (v11). In fact Paul listed Teachers as third after Apostles and Prophets (v28).


Also it cannot be denied that many women have been called and used by God to be very effective overseas missionaries. Perhaps the clue is in verse 34: but must be in submission. Not specifically to men, but to those (including the Holy Spirit) who are in authority in the church.


v40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.


Styles of worship have continually changed over time. Some churches have ordered their services to such an extent that they have eliminated all opportunity for unplanned contributions from members of the congregation.


At the other extreme, there are ‘Charismatic’ churches that would appear to have no structure to their services at all.


How should we choose the church we attend?





1 Corinthians 131 Corinthians 15








Study 14   1 Corinthians 14:1-40
Tongues. Prophecy. Women in church.

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