The Priority of Prophecy - In 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 Paul explains that the gift of prophecy is more important than tongues in public worship, unless it is accompanied by the gift of utterance. In that case, tongues and interpretation are equivalent to prophecy.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
1 Corinthians 14:1 — "Follow after charity" - Comments- Divine love just does not happen in a believers' life. He must pursue it like a hound chases a fox. When he loses the trail or gets off track, then do not give up, just keep on going, but find where you erred and correct the mistake.
1 Corinthians 14:1 — "and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy" - Word Study on "desire" - Strong says the Greek word ( ζηλόω) (G 2206) means, "to have warmth of feelings for or against." BDAG says it means, "strive, desire, exert oneself earnestly."
YLT, "Pursue the love, and seek earnestly the spiritual things, and rather that ye may prophecy,"
Word Study on "rather" - BDAG says the phrase μᾶλλον δὲ (rather), means, "but rather," or "rather. However, some modern English versions translate it to mean, "to a greater degree."
LO, "Pursue love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts; but especially that you may prophesy."
NAB, "Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy."
Comments- Paul tells us the secret to growing in the gifts of the Spirit. As we desire and seek after these gifts, they will begin to operate in our lives as we learn to yield to the Holy Spirit. These gifts must be sought after by a believer. Note these comments from Todd Bentley:
"It seemed that even this prophetic anointing was being caught. The Spirit of prophecy would come on the place and youth would begin to prophesy spontaneously under my mantle, similar to the story in 1 Samuel 10:10 of Saul prophesying when he came into contact with the prophets. As the youth continued to earnestly desire spiritual gifts, according to 1 Corinthians 14:1, they began to grow in the prophetic anointing too." 166]
166] Todd Bentley, Journey Into the Miraculous (Victoria, BC, Canada: Hemlock Printers, Ltd, 2003), 107-8.
1 Corinthians 14:1 — Comments- 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, "Even though you walk in love and you realize love is more important, still seek these spiritual gifts."
1 Corinthians 14:2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
1 Corinthians 14:2 — "howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries" - Scripture References- Note similar verses on praying in the spirit:
Romans 8:26, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
1 Corinthians 14:14-15, "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."
1 Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:3 — "to edification, and exhortation, and comfort" - Comments- This phrase describes how a father is to treat his children ( 1 Thessalonians 2:11). The opposite of encouraging someone is to discourage him by provoking them to anger ( Colossians 3:21).
1 Thessalonians 2:11, "As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,"
Colossians 3:21, "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
1 Corinthians 14:3 — Comments - The Old Testament prophet spoke words of doom and divine judgment, often followed by words of future hope and restoration. The New Testament prophet no long speaks doom and judgment because God has poured out His divine wrath upon His Son on the Cross. His anger has been appeased and God is no longer at war with man. The words of the prophet are now limited to edification, exhortation and comfort. For example, Jesus stood in the synagogue of Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah. He did not turn the scroll of Isaiah to chapters 1-39, which are words of divine wrath and judgment. Instead, He read from Isaiah 61:1-2 a. These words reflect the office of the New Testament prophet, which are words of comfort and restoration.
1 Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
1 Corinthians 14:4 — Comments- As we pray in tongues, our spirit prays, our faith is built up and we are edified. We pray God's will, because the Holy Spirit knows what to pray for ( Romans 8:26-27).
Romans 8:26-27, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."
Scripture Reference- Note a similar verse:
Jude 1:20, "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,"
1 Corinthians 14:5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
1 Corinthians 14:6 Now, brethren, if 1Come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by Revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
1 Corinthians 14:6 — Comments- Revelations refers to the revelations that Paul has received supernaturally from the Lord. Knowledge refers to Paul's understanding of how to live the Christian life. Prophesying refers to Paul walking in the gifts of utterance: tongues and interpretations, and prophecy. Doctrine refers to Paul expounding the Scripture in its Holy doctrine and commandments.
2 Corinthians 12:1, "It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord."
1 Corinthians 14:7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
1 Corinthians 14:7 — Comments- The renowned trumpet player and worship leader Phil Driscoll referred to the phrase "life-giving sound" in 1 Corinthians 14:7 in a testimony. He says that when he was in Bulgaria the Lord spoke to him and said that in order to change a nation one must change the sound that it hears. In other words, the people of any nation become what they see and hear. When the sound of worship and praise comes to a nation, many will embrace that sound and come to the Lord, thus changing the course of that nation. 167]
167] Phil Driscoll, "Sermon," Calvary Cathedral International, Fort Worth, Texas, August 2008.
1 Corinthians 14:8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
1 Corinthians 14:7-8 — Comments - Illustrations of the Use of Instruments- In 1 Corinthians 14:7-8 Paul gives illustrations from everyday life by explaining the two ways that instruments are used, both for music and for war. Their purpose is to make sounds that are understood, sounds that send a message because they have a meaning.
1 Corinthians 14:9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
1 Corinthians 14:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
1 Corinthians 14:11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
1 Corinthians 14:11 — Comments- The term "barbarian" is comparable to the Jewish term "Gentiles" in the sense that a barbarian was anyone who did not speak the Greek language. The Romans used in to refer to anyone who was not a Roman citizen. Note how Paul the apostle uses this same term to contrast it with the Greeks and as a person who does not understand the spoken language of the people.
Romans 1:14, "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise."
Colossians 3:11, "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all."
Luke uses it in the same sense.
Acts 28:4, "And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live."
Luke would not have used this term in Acts 28:2; Acts 28:4 in a derogatory manner after the kindness that the people of Malta had showed them.
1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12 — Comments- 1 Corinthians 14:12 is a key verse in this chapter on the gifts of utterance. Paul is trying to teach them to use the gifts in love to edify others, and not as a self-seeking pursuit. This verse summarizes the general principle, or conclusion, of verses 1-11, which is to edify the church.
1 Corinthians 14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
1 Corinthians 14:15 — "What is it then" - Comments- We can paraphrase the statement, "What is it then" to mean, "This is the result or outcome," or, "what is the answer to solve the dilemma?" After praying in the spirit, then begin praying in English and the interpretation will come out of your mouth.
Illustration- The first time I experienced this type of interpretation of tongues was in the early 1990's. I was attending the Saturday night prayer meeting at Word of Faith Family Church and had been praying in tongues for over an hour, as was the custom in this prayer meeting. I then began to pray in English so as to interpret. I was amazed at what came out of my mouth, for it was words that were not on my mind. I said, "There are many mountains that you will have to speak to and many strongholds that you will tear down."
1 Corinthians 14:16 — "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" - Comments- We have a few examples in the Scriptures of those who sang prophetic Song of Solomon, which is equivalent to singing in the spirit and the understanding. Moses and Miriam sang a prophetic song after crossing the Red Sea ( Exodus 15:1-21). Moses also testified to the children of Israel with a song before his departure ( Deuteronomy 31:30 to Deuteronomy 32:44). Mary sang a prophetic song when she was with Elisabeth ( Luke 1:46-55).
1 Corinthians 14:16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
1 Corinthians 14:17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
1 Corinthians 14:18 — Comments- 1 Corinthians 14:18 suggests that Paul wanted to bring all of the Corinthians to a place of operating the gifts of utterance, while balanced with loving one another. Paul deals with unity in the body of Christ in the first eleven chapters before he teaches on the operation and manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in chapters 12-14. One reason is that the love walk that Paul emphasizes in chapter 13must be in a person's life in order to maintain the work of the Holy Spirit. When we stop walking in love, the Holy Spirit eventually stops manifesting in and through our lives.
1 Corinthians 14:19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
The Gifts of Utterance - 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 discusses the manifestation of the three gifts of utterance, prophecy, tongues and the interpretation of tongues, and how they should operate in a church service. Paul spends much more time on these three gifts of utterance because they are the most easily abused. In other words, the three gifts of revelation and the three power gifts are not easily misused simply because it becomes immediately apparent when they are inaccurate. It is clear when a person is not healed, or when a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom is wrong. But a tongue, interpretation, or a prophecy is not so easily judged. Thus, Paul gives the church some basic guidelines on the gifts of utterance. Paul first explains how the gift of prophecy has priority over the gift of tongues, unless it is accompanied with an interpretation, because its objective is to edify the believers ( 1 Corinthians 14:1-19). Thus, prophecy is for believers, while the gift of tongues is for unbelievers ( 1 Corinthians 14:20-25). Paul then gives some guidelines on how to use these three gifts of utterance in the assembly ( 1 Corinthians 14:25-27). He concludes with a general guideline that everything is to be done decently and in order ( 1 Corinthians 14:36-40).
Outline - Here is a proposed outline:
1. The Priority of Prophecy — 1 Corinthians 14:1-19
2. The Purpose of the Gifts — 1 Corinthians 14:20-25
3. The Practice of the Gifts — 1 Corinthians 14:26-35
4. Conclusion — 1 Corinthians 14:36-40
The Purpose of the Gifts - In 1 Corinthians 14:20-25 Paul explains the purpose of the gifts of utterance in public worship.
1 Corinthians 14:20 — Comments- We are not to be childlike in the way we think, which is naïve simple-minded ( Jeremiah 4:22). However, we are to be like children in their sense of purity and innocence, rather than being full of evil. The word "men" is figurative of being mature, or perfect ( Matthew 5:48). In summary, we are to be wise, yet harmless ( Matthew 16:19, Romans 16:19).
Jeremiah 4:22, "For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge."
Matthew 10:16, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."
Romans 16:19, "For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil."
Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Illustration- Note that in Jeremiah 4:22, the prophet uses the same analogy about the nation of Israel as Paul uses to the Church here.
Jeremiah 4:22, "For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge."
1 Corinthians 14:22 — "Wherefore" - Comments - 1 Corinthians 14:21 says, "they will not hear me," which refers to unbelievers; so these are unbelievers being addressed by God, who speaks to unbelievers in a strange tongue.
1 Corinthians 14:22 — "tongues are for a sign" - Comments - Tongues are a sign to unbelievers, which is what we see taking place in Acts 2:7-8. On the day of Pentecost, these men understood their own language. Likewise, tongues are for a sign to unbelievers who come to church. Since the unbeliever falls under conviction because he understands what has been said, this verse implies that the use of the gift of interpretation of tongues is used to manifest the secrets of his heart.
Acts 2:7-8, "And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?"
1 Corinthians 14:22 — "but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe" - Comments - 1 Corinthians 14:3 says that prophecy edifies, exhorts and comforts. This type of message is not for sinners needing salvation, but for believers. Why would Paul deal at length with these two gifts and not the others: perhaps because tongues were the most widespread gift of the Spirit operating in the church? Also, the gifts of utterance are easy to abuse.
1 Corinthians 14:22 — Comments - When a message in tongues and interpretation is given, it is given to unbelievers. But prophecy is given to believers.
1 Corinthians 14:21-22 — Comments- Tongues Prophesied in the Old Testament- Isaiah prophesied that a nation speaking an unknown language would be used to speak to the people of Israel. God would use a foreign people to speak to His people since the Israelites refused to listen to Him. This prophecy was a sign to the unbelieving Israel when it was finally fulfilled. Assyria took over the nation of Israel in the time of Isaiah, the prophet, thus fulfilling the prophecy, which was a sign of God's judgment. Therefore, as in the Old Testament, thus the gift of tongues has the same fulfillment in the New Testament. Tongues are still a sign to unbelievers.
1 Corinthians 14:23 — "will they not say that ye are mad?" - Illustration:
Acts 2:13, "Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine."
1 Corinthians 14:23 — Comments - The tongues must be accompanied by an interpretation so that the message can expose the heart of the unbeliever and convict his heart of sin. Tongues alone cannot do this, as the person would seem as a barbarian to the unbeliever. Without understanding the tongues, unbelievers will say the church is mad, unlike the gifts of tongues and interpreting working together. Without the gift of interpretation, the noise of tongues coming forth sounds crazy. When the interpretation follows, this message can convict his heart.
1 Corinthians 14:25 — "And thus" - Comments - The phrase "and thus" means "Because of what the unbeliever has seen and heard..."
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 — Comments - The Purpose of Prophecy in Convicting the Sinner- In 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 Paul explains that prophecy can also convict the unbeliever.
Illustration - On the day of Pentecost about three thousand souls were convicted of their sins in an atmosphere of tongues and preaching.
The Practice of the Gifts - In 1 Corinthians 14:26-35 Paul explains how the gifts of utterance are practiced in the local church.
Illustration- Kenneth Hagin describes this passage of Scripture as a believer's meeting, in contrast to other church meetings, such as prayer meetings, evangelistic meetings, healing meetings and teaching meetings. 168] He tells about having Sunday morning believer's meetings while pastoring in East Texas in 1930-40. He held the believer's meetings in the morning because the attendance was mostly believers, while the night service was evangelistic because there were many unsaved visitors in that meeting. In this Pentecostal church, he rarely preached sermon. Instead, there was a lot of time waiting on the Lord, and allowing the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit to operate through the believers in the congregation. If the Holy Spirit had given someone an utterance, whether by prophecy or tongues and interpretation, it was given. If someone danced, it was to be prompted by the Holy Spirit. Someone may stand up and sing a Song of Solomon, or quote a verse, but all was done in an orderly manner as the Spirit led. If someone moved out of order, Hagin would simply bring that demonstration to a halt and get back in the flow of the Holy Spirit. Very often, the congregation sat in reverent awe quietly for long periods of time. Sometimes, an unbeliever would enter the service and experience the presence of God or see the demonstrations of the Spirit. These moves of the Holy Spirit brought many of the unbelievers under heavy conviction and resulted in their salvation ( 1 Corinthians 14:23-25).
168] Kenneth Hagin, Plans Purposes and Pursuits (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c 1988, 1993), 42-4.
1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a Psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a Revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
1 Corinthians 14:26 — "How is it then, brethren?" - Comments- We can paraphrase this statement to read, "How do the gifts of utterance work in a congregation? What is the orderly way in which they work?" The TCNT reads, "What do I suggest, then, Brothers?" God'sWord gives the paraphrase, "So what does this mean, brothers and sisters?"
Paul is about to give us some guidelines for an orderly way in which the gifts of utterance are to operation during a church service. He will then close this lengthy passage by charging the church to have everything done decently and in order.
1 Corinthians 14:26 — "every one of you hath a psalm" - Comments- The Lord sometimes gives people a song or a short tune, or even a poem.
1 Corinthians 14:26 — "hath a doctrine" - Comments- The Lord may open some one's eyes to a scriptural truth, which they had never quite seen before. The Lord may have showed them something special in a particular verse or passage of Scripture.
1 Corinthians 14:26 — "hath a tongue" - Comments- Others may have a message in tongues and someone interprets.
1 Corinthians 14:26 — "hath a revelation" - Comments- The Lord is always at work in a believer"s life. When they come together, there is much to share of what the Lord has shown them. To one person, the Lord may reveal to them that He is always with them (to those who may feel alone); to another the Lord may newly enlighten them to the truths of divine healing, to others the Lord may have said something to them about their situation.
1 Corinthians 14:26 — "Let all things be done unto edifying" - Comments- The idea of love is also in this passage. Love is seen in the charge to use the gifts of utterance for the benefit of others.
1 Corinthians 14:26 — Comments- All of these Psalm, hymns, and spiritual songs are uttered when we yield to the Spirit. It is in this manner that we are allowing "the word of Christ to dwell in us richly" ( Colossians 3:16). Kenneth Hagin says that these supernatural utterances of the Holy Spirit that are given to you "on the spur of the moment" are done so "by the spirit of prophecy." This is why 1 Corinthians 14:5 says that we may all prophesy. 169]
169] Kenneth Hagin, Plans Purposes and Pursuits (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c 1988, 1993), 123.
1 Corinthians 14:5, "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying."
Scripture References- We find a similar list of utterances in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.
Ephesians 5:19, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual Song of Solomon, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;"
Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual Song of Solomon, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
1 Corinthians 14:27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
1 Corinthians 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
1 Corinthians 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
1 Corinthians 14:29 — "and let the other judge" - Word Study on "judge" - Strong says the Greek word "judge" ( διακρίνω) (G 1252) literally means, "to separate thoroughly, to withdraw, and figuratively, "to discriminate, to decide." BDAG says it means in this verse, "to judge correctly." This is the same Greek word as used in 1 Corinthians 11:29 that is translated "discerning." This same Greek verb is used in 1 Corinthians 12:10 as a noun, and is translated, "discerning."
1 Corinthians 12:10, "To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:"
1 Corinthians 14:37, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord."
Comments- The phrase "the other" is a plural noun in the Greek ( οί άλλοι). It says others of a like nature, i.e, the other prophets are to judge.
1 Corinthians 14:29 — Comments- Just as the gift of tongues is operating in 1 Corinthians 14:27, the gift of prophecy must follow the same order in the service.
1 Corinthians 14:30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
1 Corinthians 14:30 — Comments- If, during a prophecy, someone receives a word from God, he should wait until his turn to give the message, and he should not interrupt the one speaking or the order of service.
1 Corinthians 14:31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
1 Corinthians 14:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
1 Corinthians 14:32 — Comments- Paul makes this point so that the Corinthian church can learn to hold their peace until the proper time ( 1 Corinthians 14:30), and so as a result there be no confusion to the hearers. We can also quench the utterance given to us to speak by the Holy Spirit by choosing not speak it out.
1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
1 Corinthians 14:33 — Comments- Confusion is what is produced when something is out of order, while peace is the product of order in one's life. We find examples of such confusion in the Old Testament Law. It tells us that when a man or woman lies with a beast, that it is confusion; or, when a man lies with his daughter-in-law, he has brought confusion. This is because such immoral acts are out of order in a god-fearing society.
Leviticus 18:23, "Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion."
Leviticus 20:12, "And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them."
1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
1 Corinthians 14:34 — "but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law" - Comments- In 1 Corinthians 14:34 Paul makes a reference to the Law. It is very likely that he is referring to Genesis 3:16 where God tells the woman to be subject to her husband.
Genesis 3:16, "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
Illustration- We see an illustration of a woman's subjection to her husband under the Law in Numbers 30:3-12 where her vow is subject to the husband's approval. We also see in the book of Esther a command from the Persian king for all wives to honor their husbands.
Esther 1:20, "And when the king"s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small."
1 Corinthians 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 — Comments - The Silence of the Women in Church- We can imagine in the ancient world where women had much less of an opportunity for an education. Perhaps they would whisper and ask their husbands to explain what is being said in the worship service. Within the context of this passage of Scripture, Paul is telling the congregation to conduct themselves in a holy reverence so that the Word of God can be taught and proclaimed, and the gifts of the Spirit can be uttered.
Women's Role in Public Worship- In the Jewish culture women did not join the men in public worship. For example, in Herod's Temple the women had a separate court apart from the men in which to worship and give offerings, which was called the "Court of the Women." 170] In the Jewish synagogues, the women were made to sit apart from the men. 171] However, in Greek culture the women had greater freedom. In Corinth the women were a part of pagan temple worship in which they held leading roles along with the cultic priests. They were accustomed to giving prophetic oracles and talking in their old forms of temple worship. Within this context, Paul was now going to give women a different role in public worship within the local churches. They were to be silent and submissive unto their husbands. When considering the entire New Testament, it is important to understand that Paul is not excluding all women from operating in the gifts of the Spirit, or from being called into ministerial offices; for such disciplined women conduct themselves in an order manner in Christian service. The context of this passage in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was to bring some form of order to the laity in order to enjoy orderly worship and allow the Spirit of God to move among them.
170] Josephus writes, "There was also on the other sides one southern and one northern gate, through which was a passage into the court of the women; for as to the other gates, the women were not allowed to pass through them; nor when they went through their own gate could they go beyond their own wall. This place was allotted to the women of our own country, and of other countries, provided they were of the same nation, and that equally." (Wars 552) See also Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services as They were at the Time of Jesus Christ (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1908), 48-50.
171] Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, n.d.), 261.
The Practice of Ancient Oracles- The classical writers reveal that the concept of sacred mysteries being utters as divine oracles was practiced in the ancient world. Regarding the use of oracles, the ancient Greeks regarded divine oracles as a form of worship until the time of the Persian war (490-479 B.C.). 172] The temple of Apollo located at Delphi was famous in the ancient world for delivering oracles to men by those in a trance, or they interpreted dreams or patterns in nature. 173] The Greek historians Herodotus (484-425 B.C.) 174] and Plutarch (A.D 46-100) 175] mention this place of oracles in their writings. While the Romans as a nation did not regard oracles as a religious practice, this custom continued within the Empire, but not without the contempt of the Romans. 176] This practice was later outlawed under the Roman emperor Theodosius (A.D 379-385). 177] King Saul's visit to the witch of Endor shows its popularity among ancient eastern cultures ( 1 Samuel 28:7-25). The damsel who prophesied over Paul and Barnabas in Philippi is an example of the proliferation of divination in the New Testament times ( Acts 16:16-24). The Sibylline Oracles, 178] a collection of Greek oracles compiled by Jews and Christians in the early centuries before and after Christ, reflect the widespread popularity that the Sibyl prophetesses held in ancient Greek and Roman history. Regarding the concept of "mysteries" ( μυστή ριον) revealed through oracles, Plutarch, writing about the Pythian priestesses who prophesied at Delphi, speaks of "interpreters of the sacred mysteries." 179] Thus, when Paul refers to the mysteries hidden from the ages being revealed to the Church ( Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 1:26; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 4:3, 1 Timothy 3:9), or when Luke, Paul, and Peter speak of the "oracles" ( λόγιον) (G 3051) of God ( Acts 7:38, Romans 3:2, Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 4:11), they are speaking in a cultural language that the Greeks and Romans understood, where pagans frequently sought oracles through divine utterance at the temples to reveal hidden mysteries for their lives.
172] C. H. Prichard, "Oracle," in A Dictionary of the Bible, vol 3, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), 629.
173] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Oracle."
174] Herodotus writes, "…and he [Dorieus] asked the Spartans for a company of folks, whom he took away as colonists; he neither enquired of the oracle at Delphi in what land he should plant his settlement, nor did aught else that was customary…" (Histories 542) See Herodotus III, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1938), 46-47.
175] Plutarch tells us that the Sibylline prophetesses of Delphi used poetic verses with their prophecies, saying, "…for when we drew near that part of the rock which joins to the senate-house, which by common fame was the seat of the first Sibyl that came to Delphi from Helicon, where she was bred by eh Muses…Serapio made mention of certain verses of hers, wherein she had extolled herself as one that should never cease to prophesy even after her death…" (Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 9) He later writes, "…but I am constrained to claim your first promise, to tell me the reason wherefore now the Pythian prophetess no longer delivers her oracles in poetic numbers and measures…and also the temple of Tellus, to which the oracle appertained, and where the answers were delivered in verses and song." (Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 17) See William W. Goodwin, Plutarch's Essays and Miscellanies, vol 3 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), 77, 86-87.
176] The Roman poet Lucan (A.D 39-65) reflects the contempt for such oracles by the Romans when he writes, "They had now come to the Temple, the only one which among the Libyan nations the uncivilized Garamantes possess. There stands Jupiter, the foreteller of destiny, as they relate; but not either brandishing the lightnings or like to ours, but Ammon with crooked horns." (Pharsalia 9593-598) See H. T. Riley, The Pharsalia of Lucan (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), 359.
177] C. H. Prichard, "Oracle," In A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), 629.
178] The Sibylline Oracles, trans. H. C. O. Lanchester, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English With Introductions and Critical and Explanatory Notes to the Several Books, vol 2 (electronic edition), ed. R. H. Charles, in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004).
179] Plutarch writes, "The interpreters of the sacred mysteries acted without any regard to us, who desired them to contract their relation into as few words as might be, and to pass by the most part of the inscriptions." (Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 2) See William W. Goodwin, Plutarch's Essays and Miscellanies, vol 3 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), 70.
Romans 16:25, "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,"
1 Corinthians 2:7, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden Wisdom of Solomon, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:"
Ephesians 1:9, "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:"
Ephesians 3:3-4, "How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)"
Ephesians 3:9, "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:"
Ephesians 6:19, "And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,"
Colossians 1:26, "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:"
Colossians 2:2, "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;"
Colossians 4:3, "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:"
1 Timothy 3:9, "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."
Acts 7:38, "This is Hebrews, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:"
Romans 3:2, "Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God."
Hebrews 5:12, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."
1 Peter 4:11, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
The reference to pillars and foundations of the Church in 1 Timothy 3:15 suggests that Paul had in mind the ancient Greek and Roman temples with their practice of divination, and that he compares this pagan scene of worship to the New Testament Church and the Holy Scriptures, which serve as its pillars and foundation.
Thus, we can imagine Paul's concern in the early Church at Corinth and other churches with the encroachment of these prophetic "priestesses" from pagan temples into the public worship of believers, attempting to deliver divine oracles. Thus, Paul makes restrictions upon the churches he established in order to prevent this encroachment and keep public worship pure and holy.
Conclusion - In 1 Corinthians 14:36-40 Paul concludes his lengthy discussion on the gifts of utterance in public worship by giving them some guiding principles. After stating his authority in this matter ( 1 Corinthians 14:36-38) he states the principle that prophecy is to be most desired, but tongues are also a part of public worship ( 1 Corinthians 14:39). In the uses of these gifts of utterance, he gives the principle that care must be exercised to express them in a respectful and orderly manner ( 1 Corinthians 14:40).
1 Corinthians 14:36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
1 Corinthians 14:36 — Comments- When Paul said, "What? Came the word of God out from you," in 1 Corinthians 14:36, he is essentially saying, "Did the ordinances of the Church originate at Corinth," or, "Were you the first church that I established?" In other words, Paul established this ordinance throughout the churches. When Paul says, "Or, came it unto you only," he is saying that they are not alone in obeying these rules.
In this statement Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to understand that they are to follow the same rules as other churches, and the customs that are not allowed in other churches should not be allowed in their church.
1 Corinthians 14:37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:37 — Comments - It was the voice of the prophet that carried the Word of God in the Old Testament. Their words make up the majority of books in the Old Testament. Thus, the New Testament church held this office in high regard, as Paul suggests in 1 Corinthians 14:37.
The New Testament church, because of its Jewish heritage, immediately incorporated the Old Testament Scriptures into its daily worship. However, these new believers quickly realized that some of the Old Testament teachings, such as the Law of Moses, must now be interpreted in light of the New Covenant. We see this challenge taking place at the first council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.
Acts 15:1-2, "And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question."
In addition to the recognition of the Old Testament, the apostles realized that they had been given the authority to reveal the new covenant with as high authority as they held the Jewish Old Testament. According to 2 Corinthians 3:1-11, they were appointed ministers of this new covenant.
The major requirement for all of the New Testament writings to be considered "divinely inspired Scripture" was apostolic authority. These twenty seven books had to have been either written by one of the twelve apostles, or either been imposed by these apostles upon the churches as an "instrument" of the Church, to be read and obeyed by all. Thus, we see the Gospels and Paul's epistles being read in gatherings alongside the Old Testament Scriptures, and being elevated to equal authority as other sacred Scripture.
Therefore, Paul's qualifications as a minister of the new covenant was elevated to a level higher than others due to the fact that God had given him the calling of writing much of the New Testament. Paul realized that his writings were on an equal level of authority as the Old Testament Scriptures.
Therefore, Paul held the authority to speak on the level of authority that Christ Jesus spoke while on this earth.
Scripture References- Note similar Scriptures that indicate how the New Testament writings became elevated by apostolic authority to become equal to the Old Testament Scriptures:
2 Corinthians 3:6, "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
Colossians 4:16, "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."
1 Thessalonians 4:2, "For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:27, "1Charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren."
2 Thessalonians 2:15, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."
1 Timothy 5:18, "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward."
1 Peter 1:12, "Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."
2 Peter 3:16, "As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."
Revelation 1:3, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand."
1 Corinthians 14:38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
1 Corinthians 14:38 — Comments- Paul opens this lengthy passage concerning the spiritual gifts by stating, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant." ( 1 Corinthians 12:1). Now in his concluding remarks in 1 Corinthians 14:38 he tells the church that if a person refuses to accept these guidelines on the operations of the spiritual gifts, then let him remain in his ignorance.
Illustration- It was asked of me by a parent of one of my old schoolmates from junior high school to visit her son in prison. He was my age and I had gone to school with him in Mowat Junior High School. Song of Solomon, Sunday morning (July 15, 1984), I went to the prison ministry where a group of Christians gather to visit jail cells and to witness to the prisoners. I did not know where this young man was and had not seen him in about twelve years, since Jr. High School. I knew that he was on one of six floors of this prison building. So they assign each Christian to different floors (six floors in the building), I was assigned to maximum security. I got in the elevator, not known which floor maximum security was on. I understood them to say the third floor was the one I needed. So I got off on the 3rd floor, went to a cell or two. I had lost the person that I was teamed up with, so I found someone to work with. But feeling that I was not in the right place, 1Came back to the first cell I had glanced into. There, I found the young man named Dallas Self and we talked a while. The Lord led me to this young man out of a large jail building without me asking anyone. Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!!!
When I was leaving this building with my Kenneth Hagin Faith Edition Bible, 180] a zealous young Christian who had been in this ministry group, asked me about my Bible. When I reply, he began to put down the Pentecostal message and declare that he was a Baptist. Some of his friends came over and supported him as he preached a little sermon. I quietly listened. They all left and I parted with them in the parking lot. As they walked away, I was feeling a little beat down. The Lord then quickened to me two verses:
180] Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments Authorized King James Version Red Letter Edition: Kenneth E. Hagin Faith Edition (Camden, New Jersey: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1972).
Romans 10:2, "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge."
1 Corinthians 14:38, "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."
Then I understood their fate of ignorance.
1 Corinthians 14:39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:39 — Comments - In 1 Corinthians 14:39 Paul seems to be repeating what he stated at the beginning of this discussion on the use of the gifts of utterance in the church assembly ( 1 Corinthians 14:5). They were to allow the gifts of utterance, but understand that prophecy held a greater role in corporate worship.
1 Corinthians 14:5, "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying."
1 Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
1 Corinthians 14:40 — Comments- The word "decently," or "respectfully," reflects the inward motive of our heart, while the phrase "in order," or "in an orderly way," reflects our outward actions.
The church at Corinth has experienced division, which brings chaos and disorder ( 1 Corinthians 1:11). The operation of the gifts of utterance were not done orderly ( 1 Corinthians 14:30). Therefore, Paul was writing this epistle to the church at Corinth to establish order in different areas.
1 Corinthians 1:11, "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you."
1 Corinthians 14:30, "If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace."
The Lord once said to me, "Let all things be done decently and in order and I can control the world. Satan gains control thru chaos and disorder. I gain control when you do things in order."
James 3:15, "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife Isaiah, there is confusion and every evil work."
The Lord spoke to Myles Munroe and said, "I honour faith and order." 181] Faith is what brings the blessings of God into our lives, but order is what manages those blessings. God honours those who are able to properly manage the blessings that He imparts to them, and He will continually give them more blessings to those who are faithful.
181] Myles Munroe, interviewed by Benny Hinn, This is Your Day (Irving, Texas), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.
Illustration- My experience in Uganda, East Africa is that Muslims try to gain control of these weak African nations through bombings and fear. They cause disorder and then blame it on the existing government, in an attempt to overthrow the nation. They know that through chaos and disorder they can gain control over a nation.
Scripture References- Note:
James 3:16, "For where envying and strife Isaiah, there is confusion and every evil work."
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany