Evening Bible Study
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.
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
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
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.
, 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
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.
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.
: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
: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.
we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works
God has no reason to speak to us in a language that we don’t
It is the gift of prophecy where God will use a person to speak to the
church, not tongues.
– musterion – hidden
thing, secret, mystery
:3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and
exhortation and comfort to men.
:3 speaks edification and exhortation
While tongues are addressed to God, prophecy is
addressed to men.
There are three types of things that may characterize
Edification - building others up.
Exhortation - urging people to action, encouragement
Comfort - to calm or console someone.
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
If you have the gift of tongues, exercising the gift will indeed build you
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.
: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
: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.
To be honest, humans tend to be quite selfish.
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.
(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.
: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
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?
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
Trumpeters are used by generals to send messages to guide
their troop movements.
Does anyone know what message this trumpet is sending?
It’s playing “reveille” or “wake up”.
What if the trumpeter doesn’t know how to play it
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.
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
You are truly a “foreigner” when you don’t
understand what a person is saying.
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 for the edification of the church
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)
:13 Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray
that he may interpret.
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
The phrase could also be translated “praying in the spirit” or “praying by
There are some interesting verses that use similar
language such as…
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”.
:15 I will sing with the spirit
The gift of tongues may be operated musically as
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but
be filled with the Spirit,
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”
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
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
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
: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.
For with stammering lips and another tongueHe will speak to this people,To whom He said, “This is the rest with whichYou 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
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
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
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…
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
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
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.
It’s totally appropriate to simply use your gift
of tongues quietly, without interpretation.
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
: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 best tool you have is God’s Word.
The more time you spend in God’s Word, the easier it is to
recognize His voice.
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.
: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
: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.
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
: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.
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
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,
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.
: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
going to be stupid, be stupid.
: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
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.