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1Corinthians 14

Thursday Evening Bible Study

October 15, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 3500 words

In Paul's day, Corinth was the capitol of the province of Achaia (southern Greece), and was the most important city in Greece.

Corinth was quite the cosmopolitan city. All merchant traffic flowing north and south, as well as east and west, flowed through Corinth.

Corinth was also the center of the world’s greatest immorality.

The Temple of Aphrodite stood on the hill overlooking the city, and every night 1,000 male and female prostitutes would come down into the city and encourage the citizens to “worship” the goddess of love.

Paul had established the church in Corinth in AD 51 on his second missionary journey. He had spent 18 months teaching and building the church before moving on.

It is now AD 56, and Paul is across the Aegean Sea in the city of Ephesus. He’s received a letter telling about the problems and questions in Corinth, and now he’s writing back.

Paul is writes to the Corinthians five years after establishing the church. They have questions, and he has answers.

The first issue raised was about the divisions in the church.

(1 Corinthians 1:11 NKJV) For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.

The second issue had to do with immorality

(1 Co 5:1 NKJV) —1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!

The third issue was about lawsuits

(1 Co 6:1 NKJV) —1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?

The fourth issue was about marriage.

(1 Corinthians 7:2 NKJV) —2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

The fifth issue had to do with eating meat sacrificed to idols

(1 Corinthians 8:1 NKJV) —1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.

We are now in a sixth area – how the church is to “get along”.

Paul has talked about people being parts of the body, and how we all belong to each other.
Our “part” of the body, our function at church, is defined by the spiritual gifts that God gives us.
Last week we talked about Paul’s “more excellent way” (1Cor. 12:31) of getting along – learning how to operate with love – agape love.
This week we get back on the topic of how the spiritual gifts are to operate in the church so we can all “get along”.

14:1-5 Prophecy and Tongues

:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

:1 pursuedioko – to make to run or flee; to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after; to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavour to acquire

:1 desirezeloo – to burn with zeal; in a good sense, to be zealous in the pursuit of good; to desire earnestly, pursue

:1 spiritual giftspneumatikos – belonging to a spirit; belonging to the Holy Spirit

This is the same word used for “spiritual gifts” as in 12:1

(1 Corinthians 12:1 NKJV) —1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:

:1 desire spiritual gifts

There are some people who would give you the impression that instead of using spiritual gifts, that they are just going to love, since that’s the “more excellent way”.

Paul says that the church needs BOTH.

Paul will explain why prophesy is a good gift as we go on.

:2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.

:2 does not speak to men but to God

The content of a tongue is addressed to God.

When the gift of tongues is exercised, it is the working of the Holy Spirit with your human spirit, bypassing your brain, and speaking words that you don’t understand. The words aren’t addressed to human ears, they are addressed to God. They are the words of the Holy Spirit speaking to the Father for you.
A tongue may be prayer that intercedes for something or someone, or a tongue may be in the form of praise to God, but either way, it is addressed to God.
When the early church first spoke in tongues, it was about praise to God

(Acts 2:11b NKJV) …we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”

In some Pentecostal churches, there is a tradition of the “message in tongues”, where a person speaks in a tongue, and then the interpretation comes as if it’s addressed to the church and that God was speaking to the church in tongues.
I’d like to suggest that it is possible that the “interpretation” wasn’t an actual interpretation of the tongue spoken, but more likely a prophetic word.
God has no reason to speak to us in a language that we don’t understand.
It is the gift of prophecy where God will use a person to speak to the church, not tongues.

:2 mysteriesmusterion hidden thing, secret, mystery

:3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

:3 speaks edification and exhortation and comfort

While tongues are addressed to God, prophecy is addressed to men.

There are three types of things that may characterize prophecy:

Edification - building others up.
edificationoikodome – (the act of) building, building up; the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness
Exhortation - urging people to action, encouragement
exhortationparaklesis – a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); exhortation, admonition, encouragement; consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment; persuasive discourse, stirring address
Comfort - to calm or console someone.
comfortparamuthia – any address, whether made for the purpose of persuading, or of arousing and stimulating, or of calming and consoling; consolation, comfort

Note:  Though these words all sound “positive” in nature, sometimes there is a negative “edge” to prophecy.

Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah would fail the test as prophets if everything they had to say was “positive”.

:4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

:4 speaks in a tongue edifies himself

This is not meant to be a criticism of the gift of tongues.

I’ve heard teachers say that speaking in tongues is somehow “selfish” because you are edified by it.

If you have the gift of tongues, exercising the gift will indeed build you up.

And without an accompanying interpretation, you will be the only one built up by tongues.
The individual speaking in tongues is built up because they are allowing the Spirit of God to work in them.

:4 he who prophesies edifies the church

While tongues just edifies the speaker, prophecy builds up the church.

This is the contrast that prophecy is to tongues.

Prophecy is from God, aimed at others.
Tongues is from God, and aimed back at God.

:5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

:5 I wish you all spoke with tongues

Paul isn’t saying that we shouldn’t speak in tongues. Tongues are good.

:5 even more that you prophesied

When we are together in church, the gift of prophecy has greater value because it is aimed at building up the church.

Remember that we’ve titled chapters 12-13 “Getting Along” in church.

Paul’s main focus is on how the church is to “get along” when they’re together.
When we are with other people, our focus needs to be on those other people.


Others Centered

To be honest, humans tend to be quite selfish.
We look at everything around us as if everything is about us, as if the world revolves around us.
When we seek to get promoted at work, to earn more money, or to buy some new “thing”, why do we generally strive for these things?
Because it’s all about “us”.
When someone criticizes us, why does it hurt our feelings?
Because it’s all about “us”.
Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry with His disciples, the disciples James and John asked Jesus if they could be His number One and Two disciples. They wanted to sit on either side of His throne as He ruled the world.
Jesus hinted that they were asking for the wrong thing. But the problem didn’t end there…
(Mark 10:41–45 NKJV) —41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

It was no different with Jesus’ little band of disciples than it is in the church. “Being great” in God’s eyes is all about learning to serve others. It’s about learning to put others first.

And in the church, when it comes to the use of spiritual gifts, our emphasis should not be upon the “gee-whiz” factor of spiritual gifts or who gets more attention. Our emphasis should be on how we are helping and affecting others.

14:6-20 Interpretation

:6 But 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?

:6 unless I speak to you either by revelation …

revelationapokalupsis laying bear, a disclosure of truth; concerning things before unknown

I also see “revelation” here as a general category, with knowledge, prophecy, and teaching as being types of revelation.
I believe “knowledge, prophesying, and teaching” would refer to the spiritual gifts of “word of knowledge”, “prophecy”, and “teaching”.

knowledgegnosis – knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding

prophesyingpropheteia – prophecy

Speaking for God.

teachingdidache – teaching

The point is that the church only profits when it understands what is being said.

:7 Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played?

:7 whether flute or harp

In the realm of music, if the noise coming from the instrument doesn’t make “musical sense”, it’s pretty hard to listen to.

I was a music major in college, and some of the hardest music we were required to study and learn was called “twelve tone” music. Would you buy this album of twelve tone music?

Video: Twelve Tone Commercial
Could you imagine listening to this as you drift off to sleep at night?

:8 For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?

:8 if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound

Trumpeters are used by generals to send messages to guide their troop movements.

Does anyone know what message this trumpet is sending?

Video: Reveille at West Point

It’s playing “reveille” or “wake up”.

What if the trumpeter doesn’t know how to play it right?

Video:  Reveille Fail
Some of the troops might wake up, but they’re gonna say, “huh?”

:9 So 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.

:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance.

languagesphone – a sound, a tone; a voice; speech; of a language, tongue

significanceaphonos – voiceless, dumb; without faculty of speech

Any legitimate language has meaning to someone who knows that language.

:11 Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.

:11 I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks

foreignerbarbaros one whose speech is rude, rough and harsh; one who speaks a foreign or strange language which is not understood by another.

The Greeks called all who didn’t understand their language barbars. Their language sounded to the Greeks as bar-bar-bar.

When we’ve done our mission trips to Russia, there’s a LOT that you won’t understand.

You won’t understand the sounds that come from peoples’ mouths.

You won’t even be able to read or pronounce the signs along the highway because their alphabet is different than ours.

You are truly a “foreigner” when you don’t understand what a person is saying.

Video: Funny Baby talking to Dog
Poor dog.

Paul is making the point that when tongues are being exercised out loud in a church service without interpretation, no one understands what is going on or what is being said.

:12 Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.

:12 zealouszelotes – one burning with zeal, a zealot

:12 for the edification of the church


Why gifts?

If you are excited about the practice of spiritual gifts in the church, you need to ask yourself “why”.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in the “gee-whiz” nature of spiritual gifts that we miss what they are intended for.
They are intended for the building up of “others” in the church. (1Cor. 12:7)
(1 Corinthians 12:7 NKJV) But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

:13 Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.

Keep in mind that the context here is about what we do in church when we are together.

When you are in church and feel led to speak out in tongues, then your prayer ought to be that someone will interpret.

If you are simply at home in your own devotional time with God, you don’t necessarily need to pray for interpretation.

:14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.

:14 my spirit prays

This is how the gift of tongues operates.

Your human spirit is being directed by the Holy Spirit.

Your human spirit is praying, but your mind doesn’t have a clue what is going on.

This is one of the reasons some folks struggle with tongues because they have a little trouble with the idea of doing something that doesn’t involve their mind directing it.

:15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.

:15 I will pray with the spirit

Paul is equating speaking or praying in tongues with “praying with the spirit”.

The phrase could also be translated “praying in the spirit” or “praying by the spirit”.

There are some interesting verses that use similar language such as…

(Ephesians 6:18 NKJV) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
(Jude 20 NKJV) But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
Could it be that Jude is talking about how we are built up by praying in tongues?

:15 pray with the understanding

Paul doesn’t just pray with tongues, but he also prays with his mind as well.  For us, that means “English”.

Note: There is a use of the human “will” throughout this passage.

Paul praying in the spirit or praying with understanding is a choice of his “will”.
The exercise of the gift of tongues (like all the gifts) involves an exercise of your will. The Holy Spirit does not take away your sense of control, making you roll around on the floor and do things against your will. You have to choose to open your mouth and speak. The Holy Spirit responds to fill your mouth with words.
Paul is making these comments because the church has the ability to choose how it will operate.

:15 I will sing with the spirit

The gift of tongues may be operated musically as well.

(Ephesians 5:18–19 NKJV) —18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

Could “spiritual songs” involve the gift of tongues? It’s possible.
I think some of the most beautiful worship times I’ve been a part of involved times where people were singing and worshipping God and exercising tongues at the same time.

:16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?

:16 the uninformed say “Amen”

uninformedidiotes – in the NT, an unlearned, illiterate, man as opposed to the learned and educated: one who is unskilled in any art

Paul is talking about the person who doesn’t understand “tongue”. I don’t think he’s talking here about a person who doesn’t understand the gifts, he’s talking about a person who doesn’t understand the language.

If they don’t understand the message, how can they agree with you and say “Amen”?

Note: Tongues can be a form of blessing and thanksgiving.

:17 For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.

When you give thanks with tongues, you will do a good job of giving thanks, but nobody else will be encouraged or blessed from it.

:18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;

For those who want to quench the gift of tongues, note that the Apostle Paul is claiming to exercise the gift quite often.

:19 yet 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.

When the church is gathered together, it’s best to be speaking in a language that others know so they can learn and be built up.

:20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.

:20 in malice be babes

There are some things where we ought to be like children.

In understanding the wicked ways of the world, we ought to be naïve little children.

But in understanding the ways of the Lord and how we are to act in church, we ought to grow up.

There are a lot of crazy things going on in churches today and we need to be careful what we do with them.

14:21-25 Strange Signs

This passage at first glance will sound confusing.

First he says that tongues are a sign for the unbeliever, but that when he hears the gift, he thinks you're crazy!

Then he says that prophecy is a sign for the believer, but in his example, he shows how an unbeliever can be saved through prophecy!

:21 In 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.

:21 With men of other tongues

Paul is quoting from Isaiah 28:11-12, where God is warning the nation of Israel that they are going to be facing judgment because of their disobedience.

The sign that God’s judging them will be the Assyrians speaking to them in a strange language.

God even promises to give these rebellious unbelieving Jews a sign that He is going to judge them because they will be taken captive by the fierce Assyrians, and they will be hearing people speaking to them in a strange, foreign language.

(Isaiah 28:11–12 NKJV) —11 For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, 12 To whom He said, “This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,” And, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear.

:22 Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.

:22 tongues are for a sign … to unbelievers

We get confused with this passage because of our understanding of the word “sign”.

signsemeion – a sign, mark, token; of that which distinguishes a person or thing from others

We think of a “sign” being something that causes people to believe, but it is also something that sends a message.

The idea of “tongues” in Isaiah 28 is not a positive one, but one that is a sign of judgment on unbelieving people.

:22 prophesying is …for those who believe

Prophecy, as we’ll see, is actually beneficial for all, but in different ways.

We’ve already seen that for the believer, prophecy brings edification, exhortation, and comfort.
For the unbeliever, prophecy brings conviction and examination.

:23 Therefore 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?

:23 you are out of your mind

This is the “sign” to the unbeliever.

It’s not a “sign” that causes them to believe, but it’s a sign to them that they don’t believe.


Tongues in a mixed group

Paul is saying that the use of the gift of tongues should not be practiced by everyone in a large group where there are unbelievers present.
They’ll think you’re crazy.
When people visit the hyper-Pentecostal churches where everyone is speaking in tongues at the same time, the general consensus of the unbeliever is not “Gosh, God is sure here …”, but they usually just think that the people are all nuts.

:24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all.

:25 And 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.

:25 the secrets of his heart are revealed

In a mixed crowd of believers and unbelievers, prophecy is better because it is in a language understood by the unbelievers.

God reveals secrets and people are convicted.

Note:  The exercising of the gifts can be done very naturally.  Though there are times when I am aware that I am exercising the gift of prophesy while I’m teaching, there are plenty of times when I am unaware of it, but it’s still operating.

People will come up to me and say things like, “Have you been following me around all week?”

14:26-40 Order at church

:26 How 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.

:26 each of you has a psalm …

Some have suggested that Paul is being sarcastic here, criticizing the church for being so disorganized.

It could be that Paul is simply saying…


Come prepared

For Sunday mornings and Thursday nights, I put a lot of time and preparation in because people are looking to me to have something to say.
I spend time in prayer.  I spend time studying.
But so should you.
What if God wants you to connect to others at church?

What if you tried going out to breakfast or coffee with someone and you shared what God had been showing you this week?

I remember once a long time ago on a midweek study not being quite prepared.
And that was the night that Poncho Juarez and his wife Marie showed up to visit our church.

I was so totally embarrassed.

I’ve never been unprepared since.

God shows up here every week.

Are you prepared to be useful?

:27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.

:28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.

:27 each in turn

We could look at this as a list of rules for the use of tongues in church, which is completely appropriate.

If tongues are allowed in the gathering, there should be no more than three people speaking out in tongues, and taking turns.
Speaking out in tongues in a public service should only be done if someone has the gift of interpretation.

And to be honest, sometimes you don’t know if that’s possible unless you try.

It’s totally appropriate to simply use your gift of tongues quietly, without interpretation.


Working together

I think that small groups are the perfect place to work on these dynamics.
In a small group, typically everyone gets a chance to share.
I understand from both Dave Ritner and my wife that at the Men’s and Ladies’ groups, there is often a chance to speak up and share.
The problem comes when a single person begins to monopolize the discussion.
The principle here is to give each person who has something to say a chance to say it instead of one person monopolizing everything.

:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.

:29 let the others judge


Test all things

You are responsible to figure out if a person is speaking for God or not.
Even if you get comfortable thinking that a person is fairly often right on, you still need to test things.
How can you tell if something is from God?
The gift of discernment might help.
If it’s something that predicts the future, you can tell by whether or comes to pass (Deut. 18).
The best tool you have is God’s Word.

Does it sound consistent with what you already know to be God’s Word (Deut. 13)?

The more time you spend in God’s Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice.

Paul wrote,
(1 Thessalonians 5:19–22 NKJV) —19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.


Recognizing prophecy

I think we face another challenge – not in testing something that someone claims to be from God, but in simply recognizing when God is speaking.
If God were to speak to you, would you recognize it?
I used to be an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel of Anaheim.

I used to love listening to Pastor Mark teach.

But there came a period of time when my nose was bent out of shape for some reason or another (I can’t remember why), and for a period of time I was getting NOTHING out of Mark’s messages.

But the idea dawned on me to start praying for Mark during his messages.

Instead of getting nothing, I found that I once again began to get fed from Mark’s messages.

Was it Mark that changed?  Not at all.  It was me and my heart that needed to change.

When you come to church, pray for the pastor, and pray that you will be able to receive from God’s Word.

:30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent.

:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

Just like with tongues, give others a chance to share and speak up.

:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

:32 the spirits of the prophets


Control is possible

Sometimes we get the impression that a person who is using a spiritual gift has no control over what they do.
You will see in some churches people falling to the floor, or interrupting each other because you are being “moved by the Spirit”.
The truth is, you have control.
One of the fruits of the Spirit is “self-control”.

Don’t blame your behavior on being “spirit led”.

:33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

:33 the author of confusion

When you are in a church gathering that seems filled with confusion and is out of control, maybe it’s not the Holy Spirit at work.

:34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.

:35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

:34 women keep silent

Keep in mind that Paul had already told us earlier about women “praying” and “prophesying” in church (1Cor. 11:5), so whatever Paul means, he can’t mean that women can never speak in church.

(1 Corinthians 11:5 NKJV) —5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.



In AD 56, just like the Jewish synagogue, women sat on one side of the church, and the men sat on the other.
Before Jesus came, women in ancient days were also unlearned about spiritual things.
So here’s these gals sitting off by themselves, and the preacher says, “We must be sanctified …”
And Wilma down in the second row says to herself, “What’s sanctified?”
Deciding to ask the only person she thinks knows the answer, she yells across the church, “Hey Fred, what does he mean by sanctified?”
And so Paul says that the gals should keep their questions until after the service, in fact, they should be asking their husbands these things at home.
It’s a shame for anybody to disrupt the service.
There are some things that we just have no control over, but there are some things we could pay attention to.

If you have a tiny bladder, sit in the back so when you need to get up to relieve yourself, everyone doesn’t turn around and watch you leave, and then watch as you come back.

If you have little kids in the service, we have rooms you could watch the service from, or sit in the back so when your kids make noise you can take them outside for a bit.

Quiet your cell phone.

Stop chatting with the person next to you.

:36 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached?

:37 If 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.

Paul’s saying that if someone is going to try and claim that Paul’s not teaching correctly, they ought to know that in fact he’s giving God’s commands on these issues.

:38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.

If you're going to be stupid, be stupid.

ignorantagnoeo – to be ignorant, not to know; not to understand

:39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.

:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

:40 decently and in order

decentlyeuschemonos (“good” + “figure”) – in a seemly manner, decently

in ordertaxis – an arranging, arrangement; order


How to get along

Here is the over-riding principle of how to get along with each other when we’re together.
All things should be done decently and in order.