The Gifts of Tongues and Prophecy:
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-12)
Following the emphasis on love, Paul exhorts the church to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. He warns the Corinthian church about the improper use of the gifts of tongues and prophecy. Since the gift of prophecy benefits all believers, it is more important than the gift of tongues. The gift of tongue is the ability to speak in language unknown to the speaker (Acts 2:5-12). Prophecy is the Spirit prompted proclamation of the Word of God (Acts 11:27-28). The sign gifts served only to confirm the preaching of the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). The primary goal of gifts is to build up the church. Only a Christ centered use of the gifts brings glory to God. "Those who speak in tongues, speak not to men but to God. No one understands him but he speaks mysteries in the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 14:2). The scholars suggest that the word “Unknown” used in verse 2 is omitted in the Greek text. Those who prophecy, speak to the entire church for their edification, encouragement and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3). When a person speaks in tongues, only he is benefited. Speaking in tongues does not benefit others unless someone interprets it. Paul asks, if we don’t speak in plain language how do people understand? There are different languages in the world and none is without meaning (1 Corinthians 14:10). If I don’t understand the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me (1 Corinthians 14:12). Paul urges believers to seek the gifts that benefit the Church. All believers should seek to serve others in the church with the gift God has given.
The Essential Purpose of Tongues:
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:13-25)
Paul says that anyone who has the gift of tongues should pray also for the gift of interpretation so that others may understand (1 Corinthians 14:13). When we pray in tongues our spirit is praying but we don’t understand what we are saying. Paul wants to pray and sing with his spirit and with his understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). Singing with the spirit is singing from heartfelt feelings towards God. When we praise God in tongues, it is impossible for anyone to join us in praising God with understanding. Paul had the gift of tongues yet he preferred to speak five words that benefit the church. Paul says that as the church matured, her interest should be less in the spectacular gifts and more in the gifts that benefit the believers. Paul had in his mind Isaiah 28:11-11, when he wrote 1 Corinthians 14:21. Speaking in tongues is a sign not for believers but for unbelievers. The prophecy benefits believers and not unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). When an unbeliever enters the meeting and hears everyone speaking in an unknown language, he may think they are out of their mind (1 Corinthians 14:23). But if they are prophesying, he will be convicted of his sin and worship God declaring “God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). The spiritual gifts are to be exercised for the common blessing of the church as well as for the glory of God. May God help us to use the spiritual gift in an orderly manner so that others also will be able to exercise their gift for the blessing of the fellow believers.
A Call to Orderly Worship in the Church:
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-33)
Paul explained how to use the gift of tongues and prophecy properly in the church. When believers know God’s character they will desire to honor him in worship. Worship is our response to the knowledge of God. This personal knowledge of God resonates in our hearts and fills us with wonder and adoration to God. This would spiritually motivate us to worship God. Worship is the natural outflow of our hearts. God is worthy of our worship. Worship deepens and enriches our intimacy with God. It is the expression of our devotion to God. In the early church the worship service was not controlled by one person. There was open and free participation in the worship service (1 Corinthians 14:26-27). Only two or three people were allowed to speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let them keep silent and speak in tongues to God privately (1 Corinthians 14:28). To speak in tongues without an interpreter was not allowed in the church. Let two or three prophets speak each in turn so that all may learn and be encouraged. But if someone receives a revelation from God, let the first be silent and let him speak. In the church all things are done decently and in order for the glory of God. The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. God does not allow disorderly and disruptive behavior in the church. Our God is not a God of confusion but of peace and order (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Women’s role in the Church:
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:34-40)
The women should be silent during the church service and are not allowed to teach (1 Corinthians 14:34). They were permitted to pray and prophecy in public worship as long as they were properly dressed and allowed (1 Corinthians 11:5). But they are not allowed to teach or have authority over man (1 Timothy 2:12). Also they were not allowed to disrupt the meeting by asking questions and talking while the serve was going on. Paul says “If they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home”. They may ask their questions to their husbands or matured believers privately. Our sisters have the responsibility to train our children and young women to live a self-controlled and godly life (Titus 2:4-5). Paul mentions the names of many women who served the Lord with him in Romans 16. They were known for their hospitality. Christian women are the building block of our homes. They have the great responsibility to bring up the children in the fear of God. Here Paul uses his apostolic authority to instruct. If anyone refused to acknowledge his authority, Paul was not going to waste his time trying to convince him. Paul asks the Corinthians to earnestly desire the gift of prophecy and don’t forbid speaking in tongues. God in his sovereignty is able to give the gift of tongues in special situations for His glory. All that we do in the church must be a reflection of Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. Paul concludes chapter by instructing that everything in the church should be done decently and in order.