SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Paul writes about the many spiritual gifts that God gives each of us. But, he focuses specifically on the gift of tongues and prophecy. By combining verses 3 and 32 from this chapter, we can define "prophecy" as speech that strengthens, encourages, comforts or convicts its hearers.
- Prophecy is the gift of speech that strengthens, encourages, comforts, or convicts its listeners. He encourages this gift above others because it builds up the church and is meant for believers.
- Paul then writes about the gift of tongues. We first saw this gift in Acts 2 at Pentecost. Paul states that speaking in tongues is a good thing, however, interpretation of the language is a must. There are differing views on the definition of tongues.
- We see in the Bible that it was very clearly the ability to speak in a previously unlearned foreign language to enable a person to share the gospel with unbelievers.
- Some believe it also refers to a personal prayer language to God that edifies (builds up) the believer who uses the gift. That interpretation raises some questions: (1) How could praying in tongues be a private prayer language if it is to be interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:13-17)? (2) How could praying in tongues be for self-edification when the Bible says that spiritual gifts are for the edification of the church, not the self (1 Corinthians 12:7)? (3) How can praying in tongues be a private prayer language if the gift of tongues is a "sign to unbelievers" (1 Corinthians 14:22)? (4) The Bible makes it clear that not everyone possesses the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:11, 28-30). Why would God not give this gift to every believer, since we all need to be edified?
- Scholars who do not view it as a personal prayer language believe that what Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 14 was the ability to pray in a foreign language, which could have been useful in a church like Corinth, where people from different nationalities might have been present. But, as Paul explains, it would only be acceptable if someone was there to interpret it for everyone to understand.
- Regardless of how this is interpreted, the gift of tongues is not fundamental to the Christian faith. The idea of praying "in tongues" is only mentioned in this one book of the Bible, so it obviously wasn't considered essential to living the Christian life.
- Paul's main point of discussion was the importance of order in worship gatherings. This is something we take for granted today. However, back when the church was starting, there was no structure or set way of doing things. As a result things got crazy sometimes and everyone might get involved and anyone could share their opinions. Paul is asking the Corinthian church to establish some order in their services.
- Paul also makes the point, in verses 22-25, that when believers gather to worship they must be careful not to confuse unbelievers. This is one of the things we always keep in mind at Verve, as we have unbelievers in our services every week.
- Paul then makes a controversial statement that women need to keep silent in church. This teaching is debated, mostly because we don't fully understand the context in which he is saying it. However, we do know that women were generally not educated. As a result, historians believe that a problem existed in the Corinthian church where some women were disrupting the service by asking lots of loud questions. This is confirmed by Paul's statement "If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their husbands at home." It is very unlikely that Paul is referring to educated women in leadership. This seems clear because in other places Paul mentions women who were involved in ministry. For instance, in Acts 18, takes Priscilla and her husband on a missionary journey. And, in Roman 16, he gives a very long list of women who are working hard for God's kingdom.
- Paul makes it clear that God has given each of us spiritual gifts. But, he cautions they are to be used appropriately and should not cause confusion to anyone. Our gifts from God were given to help bring non-believers to Jesus and to build believers up in their faith. Spiritual gifts should not be sensationalized or used for any other reason.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- In your life, how might you be confusing people who are not believers? Is there anything about the way you act or talk that might give them the wrong idea about God, or what it means to follow Jesus?
- In your life, how are you doing at instructing and encouraging other believers, and being instructed and encouraged by other believers? Where does that happen in your life? And, if it doesn't, where could you start to experience that?