Updated 4 Oct 2019
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1 Corinthians 14
In this chapter, Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to think about how they worship together. He realises that they are using many spiritual gifts, but he is also aware that there is a lack of order. He wants to give them some guidance as to how their worship could be more focused and beneficial for strengthening the church.
The Value of Prophecy
Paul is concerned that there is too much emphasis on the gift of speaking in tongues. He has no problem with the gift but he is concerned that it should be seen as one of the gifts, not the only gift. Therefore, he chooses to emphasise the gift of prophecy. Paul shares that prophecy has the ability to strengthen, encourage and comfort God's people. Prophecy builds up the church and helps God’s people to hear what He is saying to them at a particular time.
The Gift of Tongues
Paul teaches that the gift of tongues is a valuable gift, which is given primarily to strengthen and encourage a believer’s personal walk of faith. However, it can be unhelpful to others, because the rest of the congregation cannot benefit from that person's gift, unless the tongue is interpreted. Of course, a message can be shared in a tongue and then interpreted, but Paul suggests that it is often better for this gift to be exercised by the believer in silent prayer and worship to God.
The Body of Christ
In speaking about prophecy and tongues, Paul's main concern is for God’s people to be strengthened in their faith and for their worship to convey a deep awareness of being drawn into the presence of God. He is also conscious of the impact of spiritual gifts upon unbelievers in the congregation. Unbelievers, hearing the gift of tongues, will have no understanding of what is happening. However, prophecy that is truly from God, has the ability to bring an intense awareness of sin and the presence of God. It lays bare the unbeliever's innermost secrets and can lead that person to seek God's forgiveness and find salvation in Christ!
Order in Worship
Paul values spiritual gifts and teaches that they are to be desired. However, they must be exercised in an orderly fashion, so that each contribution can be carefully considered and understood. Worship in Corinth was not to be dominated by one person. Believers were encouraged to bring a hymn, a song, a word of instruction, a revelation concerning some truth, a tongue or an interpretation. Everyone should have the opportunity to share these gifts. Not just the minister or elders, but every member of the body of Christ has their own walk with God and is able to contribute something to help people grow in their faith and knowledge of Jesus. Paul says that there is no point in bringing a tongue unless it can be interpreted. He suggests that no more than two or three messages in tongues should be brought and no more than two or three prophecies. Too many contributions would cloud, or even lose, God's message through the sharing of many words. Paul again emphasises that the church has a responsibility to avoid chaos and should look to ensure a sense of order and peace in worship.
Paul has previously talked about God's created order and he sticks to this principle here, where he teaches that women should remain silent in church. This echoes what he has already said in Chapter 11, about Christ being the head of every man and man being the head of the woman. Paul has already confirmed the role of women in prayer and prophecy, but this must always be within the framework of God's created order. A husband has a God-given responsibility to love and care for his wife and a wife respects and honours her husband by asking him for answers to her questions.
Paul’s main aim is to encourage and provide space for wide participation and the development of spiritual gifts. However, Paul is truly committed to order and discipline, so that worship and the expression of God speaking, should be to the greatest benefit for all in the body of Christ.
Points to Consider:
- How important are spiritual gifts in the body of Christ where you serve?
- How much room do you give to allowing a wide participation in worship rather than confining it to just a few people?
- How do you balance a sense of discipline and order against being oppressive and controlling?
- How do we develop a healthy, balanced body of Christ and still allow individual giftings to grow?
- God is a God of peace. How do we make sure that our worship invites the God of peace to come among us, rather than creating a selfish atmosphere of rivalry and competition?
God bless you!
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 14
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