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"All Things Done for Edification"
1 Corinthians 14:26-40
Wednesday AM Bible Study
January 16, 2008
Theme: Paul closes this section of his letter on certain spiritual gifts with specific practical instructions regarding their use in the church.
This portion of Paul's letter gives us one of the clearest picture we have in the New Testament of what worship looked like in the early church. But it also highlights the problems that the Corinthians were experiencing—and how Paul's solutions would prove to be effective. It is a wonderfully practical portion of his instruction regarding spiritual gifts and the orderliness that is to characterize the church.
I. THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE (v. 26).
A. Paul describes the situation as it then was. As everyone came together in the church, everyone had something to contribute. Everyone had a psalm (i.e., a song), a teaching (i.e., a word of instruction), a tongue (i.e., a message in tongues), a revelation (i.e., a prophetic message to be heard and assessed by others), and an interpretation (either an interpretation of a message in tongues or an evaluation of a message of revelation). These things, however, were all being done at once and in a disorderly manner (see v. 23).
B. Paul doesn't seek to silence these things. Rather, he calls for them to be done in such a way as to best result in the edification of the rest of the church. Placing the emphasis on edification effectively stopped the confusion that resulted from everyone trying to exercise their gifts in such a way as to draw attention to themselves.
II. THE SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS OF THIS PRINCIPLE (vv. 27-38).
A. Regarding tongues (vv. 27-28). Paul doesn't prohibit anyone from speaking in tongues. Rather, he commands that it be done in such a way that only two or at the most three speak in a meeting; each one in turn; and with an interpreter—all so that the body may be edified. He instructs that if there is no interpreter, the one speaking in tongues is to be silent and "speak to himself and to God". To have no interpretation of the tongue would mean that there would be no edification for the body.
B. Regarding prophesying (vv. 29-33). Prophesying may be an idea that is broad enough to include the preaching of the word. But here, the use seems to be that of a message that is a new revelation; since it is subject to "judgment" from the others. As with tongues, only two or three "prophets" may speak; and the rest are called upon to "judge". No one is permitted to claim unqualified and unquestioned authority for any message that is claimed to be specially given (Acts 17:11). If someone is speaking, and another claims to have a revelation from God, the first is to be silent—thus preventing a competition of "prophets" speaking over one another. Everyone is able to prophesy "one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged"; because a loud multitude of voices edifies no one. What's more, the "spirit" (i.e., the motivating compulsion) of the prophet is subject to the prophet—that is to say, it always remains under the prophet's control. It is not outside the speaker's ability to stop and wait his turn; because "God is not the author of confusion but of peace".
C. Regarding women (vv. 34-35). Many scholars regard the words at the end of verse 33 to be applied to Paul's instructions concerning women; "as in all the churches of the saints". The women are to remain silent; and because of the context, we can take this to be in the context of a divine message authoritatively given to the church through tongues. This should not be taken as a command for women to be silent in the church in all situations; since they were permitted to prophecy under certain conditions (see 11:5). (Note that 1 Timothy 2:11-12 uses a different word; one which means to be in tranquil submission and attention. Paul's word in 1 Corinthians 14:34 means silence.) For a woman to give forth a message in tongues is essentially the same as making the claim to teach authoritatively in the church. Paul's reference to the command of the law is probably taken from Genesis 3:16. If they wish to question anything (perhaps in the sense of judging a prophetic message), they should do this at home with their own husbands—thus honoring the principle of male leadership and oversight of the church (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
D. Regarding the authority of Paul's words (vv. 36-38). These words speak of those who may think that they possess authority greater than Paul's—a claim which may have been made by those who were speaking in tongues and prophesying. If anyone thinks himself to be able to speak for God, then he should acknowledge Paul's authority in these matters. Paul here gives the strongest possible affirmation to the authority of his instructions.
III. THE SUMMARIZATION (vv. 39-40).
A. Paul clearly concludes by establishing priorities for the church. Not all the gifts are to be equally valued. The people in the church are to desire earnestly to prophesy; because it is the gift that most lends itself to the edification of the whole (14:1). But no one is to take Paul's instructions to far the other way, and forbid the speaking of tongues.
B. As a general rule, all things are to be done "decently" or "properly", and in an orderly way. If the exercise of a gift presents itself in a way that draws attention to self, disregards the edification of the body, conducts itself in an indecent or improper manner, and promotes confusion, it is not being used in love (see Chapter 13).
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