Lesson 35: "Concerning Spiritual Gifts. . ." (I Corinthians 12:1) continued
I Corinthians 14:1-33
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #35. Welcome again! Please turn to ch. 14! We shall read in a moment; but, before we do, you must (as I have emphasized before) try to get a good hard grasp on all that has been said before in this book with respect to the Corinthian congregation. It is not easy for us to visualize a worship service at Corinth, back when their service was conducted with the benefit of spiritual gifts instead of the bible or book emphasis that we know, since spiritual gifts have been done away as we learned back in ch. 13:10 of our last lesson. As I emphasized, ch. 14 is a continuation of Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts, as they knew them at Corinth. Thus, we must interpolate somewhat to see how these things apply to us. In ch. 13 Paul digressed somewhat from his discussion of spiritual gifts in discussing the more excellent way, i.e., that "love" or "charity" is superior to all spiritual gifts and must regulate even such gifts. After Paul's digression of showing the more excellent way; Paul resumed his former discussion of spiritual gifts and how their use was to be regulated in the worship service at Corinth. The beginning of ch. 14 is where Paul returned to that discussion. Thus, you might think of ch. 13 as a parenthesis tucked into the middle of Paul's broader discussion. Let's begin by reading v.1-5. I Cor. ch. 14:1 beginning.
"Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all speak with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying."
Alright, in v.l, Paul exhorts to follow after charity, i.e., as he had discussed in ch. 13, the love chapter; but, that did not mean they were to despise spiritual gifts. They were to pray for and desire spiritual gifts to guide them, especially they needed the gift of prophecy, i.e., teaching under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Remember, of course, this was the source of their doctrine before the New Testament came into being. Then, I get the impression in v.2 here (as well as at the beginning of ch. 13) that the Corinthians were exalting the gift of tongues, i.e., the Holy Spirit endowed ability to speak with a foreign language; as superior to other gifts. That was probably because the tongue speaking gift was more attention getting and more spectacular than merely preaching under the influence of inspiration. We don't have the question that they apparently submitted to Paul that brought about this discussion; but, I am inclined here (from Paul's comparison of the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy in these verses) to see their question as having something to do with which gift was the greatest or which gift was the most desirable? Today my brethren bicker over faith and works, law and grace, instrumental music, etc.; but, likely one of the big bickerings at Corinth (at that time) was over which spiritual gift was the most superior and most desired. Thus, Paul in the verses we just read said that prophecy is more desirable than the gift of tongue speaking and then proceeded to show the wisdom in his answer. Paul's argument is summarized in two basic statements (v.3 and v.4). in his first statement (v.3), Paul said: "he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." In other words, when one preached or delivered the doctrine of God for Christians through inspiration of the Holy Spirit; that person was converting, building up, and encouraging spirituality. The word "edification" means to bring about moral and spiritual improvement. To "exhort," of course, means to encourage as Barnabas did it back in Acts 11:23. However, speaking in an unknown tongue or foreign language (v.4), even though done miraculously, really didn't accomplish any edification, or exhortation, or bring about any improvement either spiritually or morally. Instead, the miraculous ability to speak in a foreign tongue was merely a vehicle for prophecy or getting the word out by inspiration, you see. In v.5, the apostle restated his argument by expressing his desire that they put the emphasis upon teaching by inspiration instead of merely being impressed by the utterance of miraculous foreign languages. Nevertheless, Paul did not prohibit the use of tongues, if it could enhance their teaching. The emphasis must be upon understanding or edification. Then in keeping with Paul's style, after stating and restating his point; he began to illustrate. Let's read down through v.15. Beginning in v.6, please read!
"Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, buy my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."
Alright, back in v.6, Paul asks one big long question that adds up to this: would it profit you brethren at Corinth any if I (Paul) were to come to you and used some foreign language you don't understand? Would that make any sense? Obviously not! Isn't Paul's question just common sense? Yet in our day, or until recently at least; the Catholic church conducted their services in Latin; a foreign language, in English speaking countries, where very, very few understand Latin. Some today glory by babbling in so-called unknown tongues; that neither they themselves understand, nor do those that hear them understand. If Paul said anything in this chapter; he said, in effect, such so-called tongue speaking today is nonsense. In the last part of Paul's question (v.6): revelation, knowledge, prophesying and doctrine are in contrast to non-intelligible sounds, you see. These words imply a message is conveyed. In v.7-8-9 Paul compared foreign languages (not understood) to a musical instrument producing sounds that have no meaning, or in other words, no tune or meaning is communicated. In v.10-11 Paul pointed out that a human's voice varies (differs) from person to person. Paul says: "if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian," i.e., a foreigner, is the idea (v.ll). Then v.12 starts off, "even so..." What does it mean to say "even so?" That means the same principle carries here. Thus, they were not to be like barbarians, they were to use spiritual gifts to teach and edify the church, i.e., the Christians at Corinth. V.13 says in essence, if it were necessary to employ a foreign tongue (because of the audience, of course); do your utmost and ask God for strength to make it meaningful to all; not just the foreigners. V.14 and v.15 simply carries Paul's edification principle further to include praying and singing as well as teaching. Thus, we may conclude that their worship consisted of preaching, praying and singing. In ch. 11 we learned they were to partake of the Lord's supper. Later in ch. 16, we shall discover another item of worship which is giving. These five items are the only items of worship that were used in the New Testament church. The word here is "sing" (S-I-N-G). It is always sing No place in the New Testament is a reference ever made to "music," "play," "musical instruments," etc., i.e., when discussing the worship of the New Testament church. The principle of edification is extended to praying and singing also, check it out! Let's read some more! Paul continues his argument and drives the point home Let's read v.l6-19 - four more verses. Ready?
"Else, when thou shall bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words hi an unknown tongue."
Alright back to v.16! Paul posed the question: what would a non-Christian think that should attend their services by chance? To hear a lesson in a foreign tongue that they did not understand; wouldn't help them much. V.18 should not be looked upon as Paul boasting about his inspired ability to speak foreign languages. But, lest someone should think he was putting them down through envy; Paul made it clear that was not the case. In v.19, Paul considered five edifying words, i.e., five words that teach something more valuable than 2,000 times that many words that convey no message. Let's continue our reading down through and including v.33. We begin in v.20! Ready?
"Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serve th not for them that believe not, but for them that believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are die secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is hi you of a truth. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any many speak in an unknown tongue let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing is revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that ah1 may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
O.K., in v.20 Paul said in effect, grow up. If you want to play childish games, don't do it with truth. In v.21, the apostle quoted from Isa. 28:11-12. It's interesting that Paul referred to this as law, that word is usually reserved for the first five books of the Old Testament. From this quote Paul drew several conclusions. Tongues were a sign or a proof to unbelievers (as on the day of Pentecost, would be my example). Prophesy, or inspired teaching was the thing that really benefits the believer (v.22). Then in v.23-24-25 Paul continued this argument and shows that prophecy is desirable in teaching and convincing non-believers as well. The first question in v.26 is like asking: now what's the conclusion? The rest of v.26 is like saying, you're playing childish games, you're piddle-paddling, you are not delivering prophesy as needed to reach maturity and develop that "charity" as discussed back in the love chapter. The last sentence in v.26 is Paul's stated conclusion, "Let all things be done unto edifying." The worship service must edify, encourage, buildup, and develop faith that will bring about dedication and evangelization. Let all things edify: the Lord's supper, your fellowship, your singing, your praying, your teaching, your lifestyle, all things must edify. The emphasis here is upon worship; but this principle (or rule): "Let all things be done unto edifying" is not limited to the worship service. Then from the tenor of v.27-33,1 get the distinct impression that the tongue speakers at Corinth were monopolizing the worship service. So, Paul gave some more rules: (1) there would not be more than two speeches or lesson in a foreign tongue at any one worship service; or three as an absolute maximum. Even then, (rule #2) what was being taught in a foreign tongue should be interpreted and explained to the non-foreigners of the assembly (v.27). Ride #3, if there was not a gifted interpreter to translate, skip it (v.28). Rule #4, let only two or three prophets teach during an assembly. Rule #5, let everyone else listen to their prophesying and teaching. Let everyone: analyze, examine, ponder, consider, study and think about what was being said and taught (v.29). Rule #6, if the Holy Spirit revealed something to another of the prophets, the present speaker should give way to the later revelation. Obviously, the Holy Spirit would not interrupt unless the latter matter was more urgent. Rule #7, (in v.31), any member of the congregation could prophesy and teach. However, the teaching must be done one teacher at a time, i.e., by turn; and beyond that what they prophesied or taught must edify, going back to the rule at the end of v.16. Paul's words are (v.31), "that all may learn, and all may be comforted." Rule #8, in v.32 is more of a clarification than a rule: "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets," i.e., no one can claim they are hypnotized, mesmerized, or possessed in such a way as to claim exception to these rules. Because, the spirit of the prophet, (please notice the word "spirit" starts with a small "s," not a capital "S;" thus, this does not mean the Holy Spirit; but, the human will. Therefore, no one is to get carried away beyond self-control. This is a rule that many religionist need to read today. These rules would eliminate confusion, v.33. The confusion in their assemblies were not a part of Christianity. The confusion was coming from the lack of Christianity. We'll save v.34 thru v.40 for lesson #36. This has been a long chapter and the chapter coming up (ch. 15) is the longest chapter in this book; so, we may have to split it; until then, have a good day.