1 Corinthians Chapter 14

February 17, 2012

This Preaching in Shorts Bible study is on 1 Corinthians. Each chapter is read verse by verse with the major points highlighted and discussed.

You can listen to the study by clicking here

In Chapter 12 and 13 Paul has been talking about spiritual gifts, and that real spirituality is about love not about giftedness. The gifts were given for the common good and had to be used in the context of lover. In chapter 14 Paul is going to give some practical applications for dealing with the chaos that has been taking place when the church in Corinth gathers.

1 Corinthians 14:1-40 (NIV) 
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? 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. 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? 24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” 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 inquire 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 deal with two big topics in this chapter. One of them is about tongues, and the other is about the role of women in the church. The passage of scripture that gets talked about a lot with regards to tongues is 1 Corinthians 14:20-25. In this passage it seems as though Paul says that tongues are for and then that they are not for unbelievers. Which is it?

A look at the Greek culture will help to give some context. We have discussed that ecstatic utterances were considered by the Greek culture to be a sign of being connected spiritually. Paul has already challenged this idea in previous chapters.

But signs do have some limited impact on unbelievers. They might get them interested enough to investigate, but in and of themselves they are not enough to lead someone to conversion. If an unbeliever attends a Christian meeting and everyone is speaking in tongues, Paul says that their response would be “this is a madhouse”.

But if they come to a Christian meeting and hear the Gospel presented in a way they can understand it, they might be converted.

Ultimately, the Corinthians were told to give special attention to the gifts that would benefit the church as a whole, but not to treat any of the gifts with contempt.

What about the role of women in the church?

The Bible says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

Woman was created to be a companion to man and to be his “help meet” in responsibilities assigned by God.

Genesis 2:18,20 (KJV) “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him…but for
Adam there was not found an help meet for him.”

Woman was created as not just a helper, but a “help meet” zer kenegdô, which means a suitable helper. The words “helper” and “suitable” (thus translated in the KJV “help meet”) from the context implies that her mission is the same mission given to the man, a “co-missioning,” as it were, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) and “for worship and obedience” of God (Genesis 2:15).

When the man and the woman sinned, it brought curses on the world (Genesis 3:14-19).

One of the most tragic consequences of the fall was that there was a breakdown in relationships between men and women.

In Genesis 3:16 it says, “And her husband will rule over her” as an injunction of the curse.

From the result of sin, husbands try to dominate their wives and wives try to dominate their husbands. Neither is God’s ideal. Because of sin, men often view women as inferior and for their own use, not as companions or as helpers as God intended. Therefore throughout history things like polygamy, slavery and subjugation of women were practiced.

By the time Jesus entered the scene, women were being treated very poorly. They were bought and sold, traded and discarded. The position of women had been reduced to insignificance. But that was not how God intended it, nor is it God’s fault. He never condoned this behavior but instead offered a radically different paradigm.

Look at these New Testament women in the church.

First we have Priscilla (Acts 18:2,18,19,26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). Her husband was Aquila. Priscilla is mentioned six times in the New Testament. This is a famous husband and wife team. Four times her name is mentioned first,which suggests she may have had the gift of leadership and was the better teacher (Romans 12:7-8). Nevertheless, this husband and wife duo started churches all over Asia Minor. Paul honored this woman by calling her a “co-worker” in the ministry, a co-worker in the gospel.

Another example is Lydia in Acts 16. Lydia was a seller of purple, a cloth that had been died purple for royal gowns. She was wealthy, probably had a large house, and because of that she was able to host a church in her home.

In 1 Corinthians 1:11 Chloe had a church in her home. Obviously she was a small group leader, for they were shepherding a group of people.

In Philippians, Paul talks about a couple of women named Euodia and Syntyche. He says, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:2-3 (NIV) These are two woman who were literally “co-workers” with Paul in preaching the gospel (ver.3) who “labored side by side” which denotes a unity of sharing a common goal and task. Paul does not say that these women served under Paul but beside Paul. And yet some time after Paul left, they got in a disagreement to such a degree Paul had to bring this word of admonishment. He is saying, “You’ve been helpful to me. You’ve been working with me in ministry. Don’t rip it all up by getting mad at each other.” Evidently Euodia and Syntyche were in such positions of leadership in the church in Philippi that they endanger its unity.

In Romans 16, Paul mentions six other women who had ministered with him. Paul’s attitude toward these women is one of honor. He talks about Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary (“she worked hard for you”), and two sisters named Tryphena and Tryphose (names which mean “dainty” and “delicate”). Then there was a lady named Persis. Persis, he said, worked very hard in the Lord, so obviously she too had a ministry.

Philip had four daughters with a gift of prophecy (Acts 21:8-9). It says they went out proclaiming truth everywhere, sharing the word. They were gifted speakers. They were faithful to their calling and the New Testament instruction: “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.” 1 Corinthians 14:31-32 (NIV)

From these examples we can see that there were woman prophets, elders and leaders in the New Testament church.

What about the women should be silent and not teach verses. Let’s look at the big two. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35.

In 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NIV), Paul says this regarding about instructions for worship: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; She must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived. It was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

The word for between silent and Adam is important. “for” means nothing more than “furthermore.” So Paul then would mean that women are to receive instruction from men not because Adam was formed first, but Adam’s priority would simply be due to his educational advantage, which in fact can be seen in the creation account. Eve apparently had been easily entrapped (1 Tim. 2:14) because she was unlearned. The man had “walked” and talked with God in the Garden during that sixth day, which suggests that he had the educational and spiritual advantage of being “formed first” (1 Tim 2:13).

Dr. Don Williams suggests this translation: “I am not presently permitting a woman to teach or to have authority over men…” until they are taught.

Paul is offering Godly advice for us all. Until a woman has been taught she should not publicly proclaim doctrine or actively function in a place of authority in the church. Neither should any man! Indeed, Paul’s new liberating instruction to “Let a woman learn…” (1 Timothy 2:11) stands in direct opposition to what was expected of women, both Jewish and Roman, since, in those cultures, women generally were not encouraged to be educated.

This instruction was necessary to the early church, for although women went uninstructed in the synagogue, they were commonly taught doctrine in the church (e.g. Acts 2:42). Gifted for ministry by the Spirit and incorporated into the body of Christ, some of these women were quickly achieving positions of leadership, but they needed to be taught the appropriate scriptural knowledge that had not been available to them.

What about 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35

Let’s start in verse 26 for context

” 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.

Those verses are about things being done in order

Now, there is a shift.

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

Remember that the purpose of 1 Corinthians was to answer a number of questions raised by the Church at Corinth. Paul’s style was to write a brief quotation supplied by a Corinthian Christian, and then respond to it. Verses 3:1, 5:1, 6:1, 7:1, 8:1 are some examples.

Following this same pattern, Verse 14:33b to 14:35 is not a comment by Paul. Rather it may be a question raised by a Corinthian who objected to women speaking in church. The church member may have asked: “As in all of the synagogues of the holy ones, women should remain silent in the synagogues. They are not allowed to speak but must be in submission, as the Torah says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the synagogue.

To which Paul responds:

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

Actually, there is a small word at the beginning of 36 that is not translated in the NIV but is in the KJV. It is the word ay which is translated “What”. In our vernacular it would be REALLY. Did the Word of God originate with you? Paul is saying that the comment is way off base. The church was different than the synangogue. Women were not excluded but were to be integrated. There are different roles for men and women but in Christ they are equal.

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