Let’s turn in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians, chapter fourteen, as Paul concludes this three chapter series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In chapter fourteen, verse one, he sort of combines both the thirteenth and the twelfth chapter. The thirteenth chapter of course, is devoted to love.
And he declares, Pursue (or follow after) love, and desire spiritual gifts, (Now in chapter twelve, he closed it by saying, earnestly desire the best gifts. Here he is saying desire spiritual gifts.) but especially that you may prophesy. Now he is going to compare the gift of tongues with the gift of prophesy. And as he compares the two gifts for the use within the church, the gift of prophesy is definitely a superior gift. So Paul said, desire spiritual but especially that you may prophesy.
2For he who speaks in a tongue (the glossa) does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. The gift of tongues is the gift whereby God enables us to communicate to Him in the Spirit, bypassing the narrow channel of our intellect. So often, we find that words are inadequate to express our feelings that rise from the Spirit as we are grateful to God for His goodness, for His blessings, those things that He has done for us. So the Spirit helps our infirmities and the infirmity of human language and the infirmity or the weakness of our intellect. We can commune to God in the Spirit. Now God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.
Writing to the Roman church (Romans 8:26), Paul said, for the Spirit also helps our infirmities or our weaknesses for we always don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit will make intercession through us with groanings, which cannot be uttered because it knows what is the mind of the Father. So it’s a great gift for a person’s own devotional life in worshipping God, in praying and in His communication with God. So he that speaks in an unknown tongue really isn’t speaking unto men, but unto God, for no man understands him, howbeit in the Spirit, he is speaking divine mysteries or beautiful secrets, in a sense.
It is interesting that in the Book of Acts (Acts 2)when the Holy Spirit came upon the church, they were all speaking in the glossa, the unknown tongue, that is unknown to the person that is speaking. However, though it was unknown to the person that was speaking, the dialects in which they were speaking were known dialects by the many people who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. They marveled because they heard all of them speaking in their various dialects as they were glorifying God and declaring God’s marvelous works. So those that did understand the dialects that were being spoken, understood their worship of God as they were glorifying God, as they were declaring God’s marvelous works. So it would follow that he that speaks in an unknown tongue really isn’t speaking to man. Through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, he is speaking unto God, glorifying God and giving thanks, declaring God’s wonderful works.
3But he who prophesies (on the other hand) speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. So the gift of prophesy is that of speaking forth under the anointing, the word of God, to the people of God. Sometimes, it’s edification, other times it is exhortation to get them busy. And at other times it is comfort to assure and to strengthen them to trust in God, knowing that God is going to work. So the gift of prophesy is to be used in the church to edify the church, to build up the church and to comfort the church.
4He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, It is a very edifying experience to speak in tongues as the Spirit gives you the ability and as the Spirit prompts your speech. Those that exercise that gift of speaking in tongues, will tell of the blessings that this form of communication brings to them as they worship God in a language that is prompted by the Holy Spirit, that they do not know themselves.
but he who prophesies edifies the church. It follows then, that when we are gathered together in a public assembly like this, we need to be more interested in the edifying of the whole church than personal edification. So if I would stand up here and speak in an unknown tongue, I might be edified, but the church wouldn’t be edified, thus it would be out of place for me to do that. When we are gathered together, the purpose is to seek the edification of the whole church, the whole body. Thus prophesy is a preferable gift to be operated in a public assembly such as this, than of the gift of tongues.
Now Paul said, 5I wish you all spoke with tongues, He is not demeaning the gift as we have said, we are told to covet earnestly or earnestly desire the best gift. There is no better gift to assist you in your prayer life and in your communication with God than the gift of tongues. But that means it finds it highest use in your own personal devotional life, as you in your own personal devotional life are worshipping God. It’s a very edifying thing to worship Him with the gift of tongues. I wish you all spoke with tongues, that you all knew this blessings, that you all were able to communicate to God with the help of the Holy Spirit, this way.
but even more (if I had a preference) that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, As far as it’s in the church and the use of the gift within the church, it is much better to exercise the gift of prophesy than the gift of tongues.
unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. Now the gift of interpretation of tongues is an accompanying gift to tongues. The purpose is that if the gift of tongues is exercised in a public assembly, that someone would get up and speak in tongues, we wouldn’t understand what they were saying unless someone with a companion gift of interpretation could then give to us an interpretation of what was said in tongues. If there is no interpretation, then the tongues are just meaningless sounds to us. They don’t help us. They don’t edify us. They don’t say anything to us. It’s just noise as far as we are concerned. So unless there is an interpreter that through the interpretation, the whole church might be edified.
6But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? Now this is a strange sentence as the middle of the sentence fits with both ends of the sentence. But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you? That is the question. If I just come and I speak in tongues, what profit it is going to be to you?
And then taking again, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? You cannot really be edified through my just speaking in tongues, exercising the gift of speaking in tongues. You can be edified and comforted and helped, if I speak to you by prophesy or if I speak to you doctrine, teach you the Word of God. Or if I exercise the gift of word of knowledge, these things are all a blessing. They build you up in your walk with the Lord and our desire should always be for the building up of the whole body, when we are gathered together in public worship.
7Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, The piano doesn’t have any life, but it gives sound if you hit the keys. A horn doesn’t have life, but if you blow on it right, it will give a sound. So we have instruments. They have no life. They have no ability to give sound of themselves, but if someone plays that instrument, then we can understand the tune if the person is skillful. If he plays the piano, we can recognize the tune. But if a little child just goes over and bangs on the keys, all you’ve got is noise. It’s no tune. It doesn’t speak to you about, Mary had a little lamb. You know, there is no melody. All it is, is just a noise. So it’s something without life that can make noise. But unless there is a distinguished recognizable pattern in the noise, then it really doesn’t speak to you at all. It’s just nothing more than noise. So the gift of tongues can be nothing more that noise unless of course, there is that interpretation of tongues.
So things that are without life, giving sound, whether they are flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, (that is they are played with skill) how will it be known what is piped or played? 8For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle? Now it used to be in the days before we had loud speakers and amplifiers and all, modern means of communication, in the earlier days, the armies and the men within the armies, were directed by the bugle calls. Because the bugle calls, the noise, could go out far. So they had different bugle calls. The trumpet would sound with different bugle calls. So we know that the “da, da, dot ta da” is the call to charge. So in battle, if a guy hears that, then he knows that we are advancing against the enemy. Now if the bugle player just blares on it, doesn’t give any distinction of notes, but just blares on it, you say what in the world is that? Do I go to lunch? Do I go get my mail or do I go to bed? Or do I wake up you know? They had the reveille. They had the various trumpet signals to direct the armies. So Paul is making reference to this, how that the trumpet was used in battle. But it had to have a distinct pattern of sound for it to actually communicate to the men the orders that were being given.
9So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. If you are just speaking in an unknown tongue, nobody understands it, it’s just noise in the air. Nobody knows what you are saying. You can’t really say, Amen, because I really don’t know what you are saying. So it’s just taking up time. You are being edified, but no one else is.
10There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, (there are a lot of different languages) and none of them is without significance. Language is an interesting thing. It is a covenant or an agreement between people that certain sounds are expressing certain ideas. It is marvelous that we can communicate to one another with these sounds. Now as long as we are in agreement that this sound means this particular thing, we are able to communicate to each other, our thoughts and our ideas in the language that we call English. This is just an agreement that these sounds mean these things. It takes the covenant between us that we agree that this is what these sounds mean.
Now it is possible to make an agreement with a friend and make up sounds and begin to communicate in your own little private language, as long as you have an agreement that the particular sound indicates or signifies that particular thing. So we can say okay, let’s make up a language. “Ugh”, means let’s go get a cup of coffee after church tonight. “Nugh” means good idea. Who’s buying? And so after church I could come up and say, “Ugh” and you would “Nugh”. We would take off and people would wonder what’s going on. But we have an agreement that this is what this sound means. As long as we have that agreement, we can communicate in sounds, but it takes the agreement.
What is always weird to me, is to stand on the street corner of a foreign country, where they speak a language that I do not understand. Standing on the streets in China or in Japan, and hearing the people talk to each other, I stand there bewildered. I wonder, what are they communicating with those sounds? Now, they are communicating, quite obviously. Every sound has a significance as long as we have agreed that this is what the sound is conveying, but unless we understand and have entered into that agreement, then those that are speaking are like foreigners to us.
As Paul says, 11Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner (the word barbarian (in the King James) means the same as foreigner) to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. It’s a foreign language. A study in frustration is to try to communicate with some one who doesn’t know any English and you don’t know anything about the language they are speaking. It’s a good practice, it’s a good exercise and it helps you to realize how important is the agreement as far as what sounds mean. Because they are talking, they know what they are saying, but you don’t. You answer them and you know what you are trying to say, but they don’t. So you start picking up things, you start pointing. You are usually repeating the same English word over, but they don’t have any idea what that word means. So you are as foreigners to each other or barbarians.
12Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, Paul said, concerning the Corinthians, they really didn’t come behind in any of the spiritual gifts. They were zealous for spiritual gifts.
let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. In other words, those gifts that are best used in the church to build up the whole body of Christ, of which tongues is the least in the whole church.
13Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. That is, if you want to speak in church, then pray that God will give you the companion gift of interpreting, so that you can interpret for the people that which you have spoken.
Now this brings up an interesting issue, if you have visited in Pentecostal churches, where there is a freedom of the exercise of the gift of tongues. Quite often, what is observed in those Pentecostal circles, is the exercise of the gift of tongues, but it isn’t followed by an interpretation, but it is followed by a prophesy. Many, many, times as I have visited within the Pentecostal churches. They are great brethren, I love them. They have a great zeal for the gifts of God, which Paul said. They will speak in tongues, but rather than giving the interpretation, they will follow it with a prophesy. And it’s very easy to discern whether or not it is an interpretation of the tongue or if it is a prophecy. Because if the interpretation, or the supposed interpretation comes forth as God speaking to the church, to exhort them to praise, or to exhort them to trust, or to exhort them to seek His face, then that’s a prophesy. He that prophesies speaks to the church for edification, for exhortation and for comfort. He that speaks in an unknown tongue, is speaking to God, these divine mysteries or is worshipping God or is praising God. Thus it would follow that a true interpretation would be addressed to God, praises, worship or whatever, declaring the glorious works of God, the marvels of God’s creation, perhaps. It’s more like the Psalms that extol God. Where, as in the Psalms, you read, I will praise You, Oh God. I will extol You among the nations and going on. Thus the interpretation follows that it would be the interpreting of the thanks or the praises unto God. So, we get this taught a little more clearly in the next few verses. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. So if you speak in an unknown tongue, in church, then pray that you may interpret.
14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, Now, this a very interesting statement. In Ephesians, chapter six (Ephesian 6: 11-20), where Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God, after we have put on the whole armor and are entering into the battle, fully armed, he said, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit. And so when I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays. Praying, he said, in the Spirit. He encourages them to do that.
In the Book of Jude (Jude 20), we read where Jude exhorts us to keep ourselves in the love of God. That is couched in, building up yourself on the most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
When I pray in an unknown tongue my spirit prayeth, though my understanding is unfruitful, which means that it is one of the highest forms of worship, because Jesus said, God is a Spirit and they that worship him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. So it is a marvelous way to worship God, the gift of tongues.
Thus if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding (my intellect) is unfruitful. Let me say that praying in tongues is an insult to my intelligence. It is a putdown of my intelligence. It is extremely hard to do intellectually. To just utter sounds that you don’t understand is an insult, an affront to your intelligence. I recognize that. It’s more like a childish thing. It’s interesting that Paul in the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians, said when I was a child, I spoke as a child, thought as a child and all. But Jesus said, except you become like children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. So, though my intellect is insulted, by the Spirit I am worshipping God.
15What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, (I will pray exercising this gift of tongues.) and I will also pray with the understanding. That is, I don’t spend my entire prayer experience speaking in tongues. I pray in English as well as praying in tongues.
I will sing with the spirit (That is, singing in tongues.),
and I will also sing with the understanding. That is a great way to worship God, praying, singing in the Spirit.
But he said, 16Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit (That is, singing or praying. What are you doing? You are blessing with the Spirit.),
how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at (What?), your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? So if I would just stand up here speaking in tongues, how could you say, “Amen”? Maybe I’m praising God in a very beautiful way, giving thanks to God for all that He has done for us as His people, the blessings that He has poured out and all, but how could you say “Amen” because you don’t understand what’s being said? I’m might be saying you are a dirty rat! So it’s necessary in order in to edify the whole church to exercise the gift of prophesy or word of knowledge or word of wisdom, some of the other gifts.
17For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. It’s a good way to praise God, but the problem is, if you do it in church, the others aren’t edified. That is why we do not encourage the public use of the gift of tongues, here in the church. The church is so large that it would be difficult to hear a person. Quite often in the Pentecostal churches, the abuse of the gift is so common that it is disruptive. It is often times disrupting the spoken Word of God, which is often the exercise of the gift of word of wisdom and word of knowledge or prophesy. So you are disrupting the use of the higher gift to exercise a lower gift. It doesn’t follow that the Holy Spirit would interrupt Himself.
So it’s interesting. One of the fathers of Pentecost, Donald Gee, one of the only theologians from that movement, in his book on the gifts of tongues, when he gets to the gift of tongues in the book as he is defining the various gifts and their uses, when he gets to the gift of the use of tongues, the chapter of the book is entitled, Tongues and Interruptions. Unfortunately, it often is that within the Pentecostal movement.
So Paul then affirms that he is not really putting down the gift itself, just the improper use of it. For 18I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; I have the gift. I exercise the gift. I, no doubt, exercise it more that all of you.
19yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. So though I have the gift, Paul said, and I exercise it regularly. Yet when I am in church, I don’t exercise the gift. I would rather speak to you in words that you can understand. I would rather speak five words that you understood than to stand up and stand and speak for an hour, in tongues, the exercise of that gift, which would be meaningless to you because you don’t understand what is being said.
20Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, As far as the area of malice goes, be like a child. But not with understanding, let’s reason this out, Paul is saying. Don’t be children in your understanding.
but in understanding be mature.
Now he quotes an interesting passage from Isaiah (Isaiah 28:11-12). He said21In the law it is written:
“With men of other tongues and other lips
I will speak to this people;
And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,”
says the Lord. It’s an interesting prophecy. It’s hard to understand why Paul is using it here, because the primary thrust of the prophecy was Isaiah, prophesying to the people, warning them because of their disobedience unto God and their rebellion against the Lord was going to bring the enemy against them. The enemy was going to conquer them. They would be hearing in their streets, foreign languages as these men from these foreign countries would be there in the streets in Jerusalem, communicating with each other. It was really the tongues that they would be hearing, would be a sign of God’s judgment on them because they had rebelled against the Lord. So it’s difficult to understand what Paul had in mind by using this particular passage from Isaiah at this point. With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; and yet, for all that they will not hear Me, says the Lord.
Now this next verse is the most difficult of all. In fact this next verse is so difficult that J.B. Phillips, in his translation, takes the liberty of changing the translation. Because the verse as it stands seems to be immediately contradicted by the verses that follow immediately after it. As Paul is explaining the verse, it would appear that he is totally contradicting what he has just said. So much so, that J.B. Phillips has taken in hand to change his translation to what he thinks Paul actually said. Now we don’t have any of the original manuscripts to look at. All we have are copies of copies of copies of manuscripts. None of the original manuscripts exist to the present day, which is unfortunate in one way. It is a blessing in another way. If we had the original manuscripts, every body would be worshipping them. They would become icons. They would be cutting them up into little pieces and you’d be buying them, putting them in a frame in your home. You would be going by, kissing it or whatever. So God had freed us from original manuscripts. The problem with not having original manuscripts, we can’t be sure that when someone was copying one of the early copies, that he didn’t make a mistake in his copying it. If there is any place where I think that there could be a copier’s error, it would be in this verse. I think that there is here a copier’s error. I’m not certain. I’m not saying that for certain, but from the way the whole thing flows, it would appear that this verse is completely contradictory to the immediate verses that follow. So it is extremely difficult to instruct on this without making an assumption that perhaps we do have a copier’s error.
Now in our statement of faith, we declare that we believe that the Bible is the divine, infallible, inspired Word of God in its original writing (note 2 Timothy 3:16). But in that we are making an allowance that perhaps somewhere along the line and perhaps with the Corinthian epistle, early in the copying, one of the fellows copying made an error. And his copy became copied by others. Thus the error was transferred on through. I don’t say that that is so, but it would appear to be so. Let’s look at it as though that’s the way it was. J.B. Phillips does and this is how he handles it.
22Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe (Therefore tongues are for a sign, to those who believe, leaving out the word “not”. Tongues are for a sign for those that believe, but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. (Prophesying serves for them that believe not. So the way it is translated, the way it is here, it would seem that Paul is saying here that tongues is a sign for the unbeliever and prophecy is the sign for the believers. But it could be just the opposite of that. Tongues is not a sign to the unbeliever, but is a sign to the believer and prophecy is not a sign to the believer but to the unbeliever.)
Now when you go ahead and put it in context, Paul then goes on to say. And this is where as I say, it seems to be contradictory to the way it reads. 23Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? So you see how it doesn’t flow? If tongues are a sign to the unbeliever then the next verse would say it’s a sign to them that you are crazy. If they come in and everybody is speaking in tongues, they’ll say you are crazy.?
24But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. But if the unlearned or the unbeliever comes into the church assembly and everyone is prophesying, and there comes in one who believes not or one unlearned, he is convinced of all and he is judged or convicted by all.
25And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. Now I confess to you my own difficulty in understanding it exactly as it is translated. It would seem to flow in the sense of the context by following J.B. Phillips.
If you have an insight into this, I would welcome this. If you want to write a dissertation, explaining this, I would appreciate it. I am open. I haven’t yet read anything that I find fully satisfactory, but I’m open and I’m sincere. If you want to take this as a challenge and try to, you know, explain it the way it is in the text, then I would appreciate it very much, having further insight.
You see, I don’t profess to know everything. In fact, the more that I know, the more I know that I don’t know. So it’s something that I have had difficulty with. I don’t have an adequate explanation to give to you as it appears in the text. So if you have insight into that please share it with me. Write me a paper or whatever. You’ll get an extra grade for the class.
26How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. Seek to edify the whole body. Their services must have been a real confused mess in Corinth. Everybody was doing their own thing. Everybody was seeking to draw attention to himself by the exercise of spiritual gifts or spiritual phenomena. God never intended the spiritual phenomena to be sort of showcased, to be put on display, to attract attention. Unfortunately, that has become the case in many places today. It becomes an attention “getter”, a showcase. People aren’t at all edified by that. Seek to edify!
27If anyone speaks in a tongue, (Now if this gift is exercised, these are the guidelines. These are the rules.) let there be two or at the most three (In other words, two or three, but don’t go beyond that.), each in turn, and let one interpret. (Don’t interrupt each other. Paul is setting out an order here now. If this gift of tongues is to be exercised in the church, it’s to be exercised under definite limitations. Two or at most three, that in course and one person interpreting.)
28But if there is no interpreter (further guidelines), let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. There are always those who do not want to take responsibility for their own actions. They try to blame the Holy Spirit for some of their folly. Oh, the Holy Spirit just took over and I couldn’t help it, you know. No, that isn’t so. The Holy Spirit just doesn’t take over and put you in the back seat. You are always in control. He will work with you. He doesn’t take control. You can’t really blame the Holy Spirit and say well, the Holy Spirit forced me to do it or I, you know, I couldn’t help myself. That’s wrong! You can help yourself. You are responsible yourself.
So with the gift of prophecy, ‘29Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. When a person is supposedly speaking for God, and quite often they use the words, “Thus saith the Lord”. They will preface the prophecy with, “Thus saith the Lord”. Well maybe it isn’t the Lord speaking. So we are to judge. Maybe they will “Thus saith the Lord” and say some off the wall things.
Now I understand that in the Catholic charismatic groups, in the exercise of the gifts of prophecy, sometimes there are prophesies that say “Thus saith the Lord”, worship Mary. Call on her to intercede for you. Well, we’re to judge whether or not that is truly God speaking. Whether or not it is the Lord saying that. But what is the basis for the judgment? The basis for the judgment is, is it Scriptural? Does it line up with the body of Scripture? Because you see, God is not going to contradict Himself. He’s not going to say something to us now, that will be contradictory to what He has already said. So the main line of judgment is, does it line up with the written revelation of God’s purpose and God’s will?
30But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. If someone standing up and prophesying, someone else maybe something is said that triggers and they figure, oh, they begin to speak, then let the first one hold his peace. Let the other person speak. Don’t, you know, get a bunch of people speaking at the same time, it’ll be mass confusion.
31For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. He that prophesies seeks edification, exhortation and comfort. So you may all prophesy one by one that you might be comforted or encouraged, that you might learn.
32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. This is what I was saying. You can’t say, the Holy Spirit impelled me to do it. I couldn’t help it. No, the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet. You have control!
I have a little grandson who is greatly enamored by the beauty of his grandmother. He is quite a little character. He gets around her. He says, oh, I’ve got to find my control button. You know, he is just so enamored by his grandmother. Well, you need to find your control button sometimes when you feel that the Holy Spirit is perhaps telling you to do something that would be out of order or out of line because the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33For God is not the author of confusion but of peace (If services are of mass confusion, that isn’t of God. He is not the author of confusion. He is the author of peace. He is a God of order.)
as in all the churches of the saints. Of all the churches, Corinth was probably the most disorderly of all.
34Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; Now, earlier on when we were in the earlier part of this letter, chapter eleven (1 Corinthians 11:5), Paul spoke of the women praying or prophesying in the church without their heads being covered. He did not say that it was wrong for them to pray or to prophesy, period. But what was wrong is that they weren’t wearing their veils and in Corinth it was an important things for a woman to wear a veil, lest she be thought to be one of the many prostitutes from the temple of Aphrodite. Because the badge of the harlots from the temple of Aphrodite was to go around unveiled. They would go around without veils. So they were immediately recognized as a prostitute. So Paul said the women in Corinth should wear veils. And when you pray or you prophesy with your head unveiled, it’s sort of dishonoring your husband.
So what he is saying here, let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, he’s not talking about their praying or prophesying. It isn’t an absolute gag on women in the church, but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And now we understand what Paul is talking about.
35And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Now, the early church and as the custom of the Jewish synagogue, where the men sat on one side up against the wall, the women sat on the other side, up against the wall. There was the space in the middle where the teacher would stand and would instruct. Now, evidently as the instruction was being given, sometimes the wife would call across the room to her husband. She might say, honey, what’s he talking about? What’s he mean by that? Is he talking about us? So Paul said, if you want to learn, wait until you get home. Ask your husband when you are at home because it’s a shame the way you are speaking out in church that way.
36Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? That is through the gifts and the exercise of the gifts. Now where Paul really sort of, well, it’s sort of clever. There may be those that may be disagreeing when they get the letter from Paul and say well, Paul doesn’t know anything. You know, he’s not as spiritual as we are and so forth.
So Paul said, he puts in this little guarantee here. 37If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. I mean if the guy is really spiritual or a true prophet, he will recognize. So it immediately puts the kibosh on anybody who contradict what Paul is saying. You know, if the guy is truly spiritual or a prophet, let him acknowledge that this is God’s command. This is the Word of the Lord, that I’m giving to you.
38But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. That is, he challenges us. Let him be ignorant.
39Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, Now he closed the twelfth chapter by saying desire earnestly the best gift. Now he is saying desire earnestly the gift of prophesy.
and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Don’t forbid that! But it’s better that you prophesy than you speak in tongues.
But, the final bottom line, 40Let all things be done decently and in order. That’s the bottom line! The services within the church should be orderly. Things should be done decently and in order.
Next week as we move into the fifteenth chapter, we’re going to be studying about the resurrection, the resurrection from the dead, our loved ones who have died, where are they now? When we see them again, what kind of a body will they have? What kind of a body will we have? What is our glorified body like? It is right to baptize for the dead? These are interesting subjects that we will be dealing with in the fifteenth chapter of Corinthians as we continue our journey through the Bible.
Father, we thank You for the instruction that comes to us from Your Word. Lord, we acknowledge what Paul has declared comes from You. So, Lord, may we give heed. Help us to understand more fully and more completely the gifts of the Spirit and how they are to be operated in our lives and in the church. Lord, may we indeed covet, desire earnestly, the gifts of Your Holy Spirit to be working through our lives. That we might be the instruments, Lord, through which, You can touch the needy world around us. Lord, we desire that the Spirit of God flow through us, out unto this needy world. And so we offer to You our bodies, that they might indeed become the temple of the Holy Spirit. That He would use us, to bring Your love, Your Word, Your joy, Your peace to others. Bless us this week. May we know the joy of having our lives as an instrument through which You accomplish Your purposes. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Transcribed from “The Word For Today”, Pastor Chuck Smith, Tape #8149, (NKJ Version)