Wow. There’s a lot we can learn from 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. If you have questions about any particular verse from today’s passage, I pray that the below comments will be helpful to you.
1 Corinthians 14:26 (NIV)
26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
On verse 26: The church of Corinth was full of creative and spiritually gifted people. Everyone was eager to share what they felt God had placed on their heart, be it a song, a message, a vision, a tongue or an interpretation of a tongue. Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth: check your motives before you share anything – always do it to build up the church, not to feed your own ego. In the same way, whenever you’re sitting in any church gathering large or small, check your motives whenever you share with others. Let it always be to build up the church and to exalt God’s name, not your own.
27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.
28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
On verses 27-28: This shows that Paul’s concern with tongues was mainly in regard to addressing the congregation publicly. He says if there’s no one to interpret, go ahead and speak in tongues but keep it between you and God.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
On verse 29: The risk with speaking prophecy is always this: how do you know if the person speaking is truly inspired by the Spirit of God, or is just communicating their own ideas and feelings? That’s why Paul says that “others should weigh carefully what is said”. How do you weigh a prophecy? Ask yourself: Does this word strengthen, encourage and comfort the church (verse 3)? Is what is being said consistent with Scripture? Is it consistent with other things that God has already been saying to the church during this season? Does it encourage the church to grow more like Christ in character? What is the track record and reputation of the person doing the speaking? By asking these questions, you’ll be better able to discern whether a word is truly prophetic or not.
1 Corinthians 14:30-33 (NIV)
30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.
31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.
32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…
On verses 30-33: Some of the Corinthian Christians thought “when God wants me to prophesy or to speak in a tongue, I can’t control it. I have no choice but to speak it all out because it’s the Spirit of God working in me.” Paul says, “That’s not entirely true. Spiritual gifts are always under the control of the person exercising the gift. In other words, you may be inspired by the Holy Spirit to exercise that gift in that moment, but if you want to stop it, you can. It’s not out of your control.” That’s why church services don’t need to run for hours and hours without any order, planning or control. In fact, I would submit that, since God is a God not of disorder but of peace, God is more pleased when church leaders thoughtfully organize and lead their meetings, doing so with a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, a sensitivity to where the people are at and always with the goal of encouraging the people and leading them to Jesus. As Paul says in verse 40, “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NIV)
34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
On verses 34-35: This is one of the more controversial verses in the Bible, but understand the context. Paul is not saying that women should not speak at all in the church. Women in the church of Corinth were already prophesying on stage (see Corinthians 11:5) and Paul had no problem with that. (His only issue with women prophesying on stage was that he thought they should keep their head coverings on – see our GAME sharing from 1 Corinthians 11). So Paul is not advocating that women should not speak on stage at church. Rather, much more likely Paul was addressing another problem: certain women would sit in the congregation and while listening to the message they would begin to call out and question the message publicly, or they would start chatting with their neighbours. All of this was disruptive and distracting for the rest of the congregation. That’s why Paul says, “women should remain silent in the churches…If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home” (v34-35).
What can we learn from this? When you’re sitting in a church gathering, don’t be a distraction to the rest of the people. Don’t get in the way of people’s worship. Remember that how you conduct yourself in a service affects the people around you, either negatively or positively. So, just as we’ve heard Paul say so many times in 1 Corinthians already, conduct yourself in a way that builds others up. That’s what love is all about.