Today: [1 Corinthians 14:] Let All Things Be Done! In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul makes a strong case for allowing tongues, prophecy and what some call body ministry to take place in the gatherings of the church. The early church was an open and liberal body in its weekly meetings. They encouraged the gifts of God among them and made every effort to honor and respect the Spirit’s moving in their midst. Is this your experience in your church, and if not – why not?
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[1Co 14:1-20 KJV] 1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual [gifts], but rather that ye may prophesy. 2 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. 3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men [to] edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4 He that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 5 I would that ye all spake 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. 6 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? 7 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? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 9 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. 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them [is] without signification. 11 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. 12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual [gifts], seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. 13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 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. 16 Else when thou shalt 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? 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 19 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 in an [unknown] tongue. 20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
1 Corinthians 14 gives us a snapshot of early Christian conduct and activity as to how it met together and what their meetings looked like. It is fascinating that in the description of early church life and specifically how it gathered together you see absolutely no reference to elders or specific overarching structure. The early church conducted itself in an atmosphere of liberality and indulgence toward the believers who were each encouraged to determine what their gifts were and to demonstrate those giftings in the gatherings of the body when they took place.
Paul begins in verse 1 exhorting the believers to follow after charity (or unconditional love) that is expounded upon in chapter 13. Many who read chapter 13 see it as excluding the charismatic gifts, as though having love exempts a believer from seeking after or exercising the gifts of the Spirit. You will hear people express this saying “well I don’t speak in tongues or prophesy, but I have love, and that is all that matters…” This is not what Paul intends in his writing, and chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians makes this clear. We are (v. 1) to follow after agape, AND desire spiritual gifts – SPECIFICALLY seeking and cultivating in our lives the gift of prophecy. What word “desire” mentioned in connection with exercising the gifts means “to be jealous over.” God wants us to be jealous when someone else moves in one of the nine gifts of the Spirit, particularly prophecy. Are you jealous when you hear someone prophesy or do you choke up at the thought of you doing the same thing?
In verse 2 Paul makes the case that prophesying (in your known language) is better than speaking in tongues (in public) because prophesying declares the mind and heart of God in such a way that all those gathered can understand. This doesn’t mean we should reject speaking in tongues, even in public at times because when you speak in tongues you are speaking mysteries, yea verily the mysteries of God. When you prophesy on the other hand, you are not just speaking to God but also speaking to men in a particular way.
How do you know you are being prophesied to? Not everyone who says “thus saith the Lord” is giving forth prophecy in what follows. In v. 3 Paul says that the person who is prophesying is doing so when they are speaking to men for the purpose of edifying them, exhorting them and comforting them. Notice the glaring absences in what Paul calls prophecy and what men call prophecy today. In Charismatic and Pentecostal circles those who accept prophesy would say you are prophesying when you are giving a word of knowledge, or revealing things such as personal information that the prophet doesn’t otherwise know in the natural. In fact today it is taught and generally believed that if you do not reveal secrets or hidden information, then your prophecies are suspect, not really prophecies at all. This is precisely the opposite of what Paul is saying.
We also see that prophecy in Paul’s view is about edification, exhortation, and comfort. People today claim they are prophesying when they rebuke, excoriate or condemn. This is not prophecy as defined by the Apostle Paul. If the character of the word given is not that of edification, exhortation or comfort then it may be seen to be a prophesy but not by any metric established in the New Testament. Therefore you may safely disregard such words and spurious at best, demonic in origin at worst.
What is the purpose of speaking in tongues? Verse 4 says when you speak in tongues you are edifying yourself. Is this wrong? No, it is not. When you need to get built up and ministered to you can receive a prophecy that edifies you, or if a prophet is not available, you can edify yourself through speaking in tongues. How many like to be prophesied to? That’s great – do you realize that speaking in tongues is equivalent to being prophesied to when you speak in tongues and pray in tongues over yourself? Notice what Paul says in v. 5 – “I would that you all spake with tongues…” Why do people exempt themselves from a gift that God through the apostle Paul makes it clear that he wants ALL people to experience and engage in?
In v. six we see the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit, specifically tongues and prophecy – in Paul asking the question “what shall I profit you except I … prophesy to you…” Do you get that? The gifts of God are there to profit you not to detract from you. Don’t criticize people who want a prophet word. Getting a prophetic word causes you to prosper as 2 Chron. 20:20 declares that if we believe the prophets we will prosper. This is true in both the Old and the New Testament paradigm relating to the prophetic.
In verse 7 we see that it is all about the sound of God. Have you heard that “certain sound” from heaven that prospers and profits you? Prophecy is not meant to be tearing you down one moment and building you up the next. That fosters uncertainty. What is the certain sound? Always edifying, always exhorting, always comforting. We need prophetic consistency for the benefit of the prophetic gifts in our midst to advantage us and profit us according to God’s will and His word.
Another thing we should consider is the need to interpret what you pray in tongues. It isn’t always necessary to interpret tongues but the gift in 1 Cor. 12 is “tongues and interpretation” as one gift overall. If you have the gift of tongues, you have the gift of interpretation and should as led by the Spirit and prompted by the Spirit ask God for the interpretation of what you pray.
It is right therefore to pray in the Spirit and in our understanding. It is also good as the early church practiced to also sing in the Spirit and sing in the understanding. When you are doing this Paul says (v. 16) you are blessing with the Spirit. How do you know if you are blessing if the prophets are blessing one minute and condemning the other? That is the uncertain sound. Paul states this with boldness because his understanding of the prophetic and the gift of tongues was for the purpose of profiting, benefiting, blessing, edify9ing and comforting the saints and NOTHING other than this. That may not be your experience so you must compare your thinking and experience with what God’s word says and make up your mind what you are going to embrace and believe.
[1Cor 14:21-40 KJV]
21 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. 22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying [serveth] not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 23 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? 24 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: 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on [his] face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. 26 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. 27 If any man speak in an [unknown] tongue, [let it be] by two, or at the most [by] three, and [that] by course; and let one interpret. 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30 If [any thing] be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not [the author] of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
In verse 20 Paul says we are to mature in understanding, but in malice, we are to walk in childlike simplicity. The word malice means troublesome. Have you heard prophecies that spoke trouble and foreboding? That is what Paul is speaking against. This is not the purpose of the prophetic. What is the purpose of speaking in other tongues? Speaking in tongues is not just for private prayer because speaking in tongues is a sign for the unbeliever. Prophesy likewise is there not only for the unbeliever because they are not going to believe “thus saith the Lord…” Prophesy (v. 22) is for the benefit of those who believe. Is the prophesy you are speaking beneficial or is it troublesome? We need to quit prophesying all this negative garbage to the unbelievers because they aren’t listening and why should they?
Is speaking in tongues all we should do when unbelievers are present? No, we should prophesy around unbelievers WITH WORD OF KNOWLEDGE so that the secrets of their hearts are revealed, and they come to faith. Do you get that? A word of knowledge in a prophecy is only for those that are not born again. If you demand a word of prophecy, include a secret not otherwise known or you won’t accept it you are thinking like a pagan and acting like a pagan. You should stop this! You should as Jesus told Thomas to be not faithless but believing!
How did the church conduct itself? In verse 26 we see that every one of the people came seeking and expecting to be used of God in psalms, doctrine, tongues, revelation, and interpretation. Paul is ENCOURAGING and not discouraging this behavior. He is insistent LET ALL THINGS BE DONE (unto edifying). If all things are not being done then something is wrong regarding how we conduct church.
Paul goes on in v. 27 instructing that people should even be allowed to speak in tongues publically – perhaps in sequences of 2 or 3 and then they were to stop and let someone else interpret what is being said. If there is no interpreter then better to be quiet not because you are wrong but because the people you are gathered with are not mature enough in the gift of tongues to bring forth an interpretation. Likewise, the prophets are to be allowed to speak as others listen and judge the quality of what is said. How do you judge a prophecy? LIke a psychic reading? No. This simplest child can judge a prophecy by asking does it come forth as edification, exhortation, and comfort or as something else? Verse 31 says “all may prophesy…” May all prophesy in your church? Then you are not in a New Testament church. You are in a church that whatever their philosophy of ministry is they are quenching and grieving the Holy Ghost and why are you attending there? Better to meet with just a few where the liberty of the Spirit is operating than to meet in a large congregation what the moving of the Spirit is excluded in deference to some spurious platform religious performance.
What about keeping silence in the church? In v. 34 Paul says women are not permitted to speak? How do you handle this? In reality in today’s church both men and women are silent. In the pulpit and pew arrangement, the unspoken rule is that you are expected to sit down and shut up and let the professionals on the platform give you a religious performance. Better to be in a position to need to say someone needs to be quiet than to be a situation where no one, not even God himself is allowed to speak through anyone but the ones who think they are all that and an order of fries! It is time to relearn something and make up our mind that we want church and God desires it and not church as we have always experienced it.
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