Commentary on 1st Corinthians

  April 24, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #8: Questions Concerning Christian Worship, 1 Corinthians 11.2-14.40
  Subtopic 8.5: Prophesy and Tongues and the Service of Worship, 1 Corinthians 14.1-40


Lesson 8.5.2: Test of Self Control
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14.26-36

1 Cor 14:26-36 (KJV)

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.
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.
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
29  Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
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.
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.
36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

 

Commentary

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.


How is it then, brethren? 
Or "what is it brethren?" What are the facts? What actually occurs in your meetings? Do those things which I have described exist? Is there that order in your public worship which is proper and demanded by God? The Arabic renders it, "what is the sense of my words?" The meaning of what he had said, the drift of his whole discourse; or rather the gist of it is, what is to be done in the circumstances he was about to propose? It is implied from him asking this question that there might be some things going on within the Corinthian Church which were improper, and therefore they deserved to be scolded by the apostle.

Paul shows in this passage the way in which they may remedy those problems they caused by their “bad” behavior. First of all, each gift must have its place; it must be used at the appropriate time and in the proper degree. Furthermore, the Church must not be caught up in unprofitable exercises, but in whatever is done, they must aspire for the edification of believers. He speaks of edification in this way: “Allow everyone who has been endowed with some particular gift, make it his goal to employ it for the benefit of all.” This is the way that we must understand the word that has been rendered everyone—that no one may apply it universally, as they could if all men were endowed with a miraculous gift.

This passage presents a lively image of an early Christian meeting. Officers in every church were appointed to conduct the services and especially to teach, but the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were not confined to them or to any particular group of people. Any member present who experienced the working of the Spirit in any of its extraordinary manifestations was authorized to use and exercise his gift. Under such circumstances confusion could hardly fail to result. It has been made clear in this chapter that such disorder did prevail in the public meetings in Corinth. The apostle's purpose in this whole passage is to correct this evil.

when ye come together,
“When ye come together”; as a church into one place, to worship God.

every one of you hath a psalm,
“Everyone of you hath a psalm” does not indicate that everyone there had this gift, or any other gift mentioned in this verse, but that there were some among them that had one or another of these gifts. It seems reasonable from what we have thus far learned about the Church at Corinth, that some of the Christians there were so full of themselves, and so eager to show-off their respective gifts, that, without waiting for permission from the minister who presided over the assembly several began speaking or singing at the same time, and some began while the minister was speaking.

hath a doctrine,
The King James Dictionary defines “doctrine” as “the act or result of teaching.” “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim 4:3-4; NKJV). Sound doctrine is healthful doctrine; that is, doctrine that contributes to the health of the soul, or to the salvation of sinners. Are we living in that time when Christians will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables”—a time when men would seek a kind of preaching more conformable to their desires and feelings?

The gift he speaks of here is the ability to discern doctrines (in an extraordinary manner, without study) in the Word of God, which benefit the church; and then being capable of teaching them, and instructing men in them in a very edifying way.

hath a tongue,
Others had the gift of speaking with divers tongues (various foreign languages); or had knowledge and skill in speaking the Hebrew tongue, and could not only pray and sing in that language, and read the sacred text, but could deliver a sermon in it. It is a gift of the Spirit, whereby a man is able and impelled to deliver a heavenly message or to pray or sing in a foreign language even though it produces great confusion. The oldest manuscripts change the order to "revelation, tongue, interpretation" which is the proper order, since revelation must come first, then speaking, and finally interpretation—“Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret” (1 Cor 14:13; NKJV).

hath a revelation,
“Hath a revelation” refers to some truth which has been revealed specifically to him by the Holy Spirit; perhaps an explanation of some mystery, or a revelation concerning some future event, or a prophecy, or the power to explain some of the truths implied in the types and figures of the Old Testament, or the mysteries of the Gospel. As a prophet he has received a revelation from God which he wants to communicate. “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge” (1 Cor 14:29; KJV). “Let the other judge” means that others will determine whether they speak by inspiration.

hath an interpretation.
That is, is prepared to give the interpretation of some discourse previously delivered in an unknown tongue.

Now the apostle answers the question, “What should be done in a situation like this, where there is a variety of gifts, and everyone wants to exercise his peculiar gift?

Let all things be done unto edifying.
“Let all things be done unto edifying” implies that each of these things might be done; every gift might be made use of: he that had a psalm might sing it; and he that had a doctrine might deliver it; he that had a tongue might speak with it; and he that had a revelation might declare it; and he that had an interpretation might make use of it. The only consideration was that care was taken to insure everything done would edify the church that was meeting together; otherwise, if it was only for the sake of making a show of their gifts and talents, and to feed their own pride and vanity, nothing good could come of it; it would be better to do and say nothing: but if done for edification it could be encourage, and each gift might be made use of.

The key in the exercise of any gift is “Let all things be done unto edifying.” Throughout this chapter this has been the overriding principle and continues to dominate the apostle’s thinking as he goes on to give instructions on regulating the proper exercise of these gifts. Incidentally, this paragraph is also significant because it gives us the most intimate glimpse we have of the early church at worship. Here we are able to see something of what the early Christians actually did when they assembled to worship God. According to this passage, public teaching was not restricted to one definite office. Everyone had the opportunity to participate in the corporate ministry of the church in New Testament times. During worship, various members offered psalms, teachings, tongues, revelations, and interpretations. Paul encouraged this practice, but stressed that all aspects of corporate worship were to edify the church.

“Edification” (lit. “House building”) was used figuratively as growing, improving, or maturing. Paul was concerned that spiritual gifts not be exercised in the interest of self-development or self-display, but rather according to the law of love that served and built others up.

THE CONCLUSION: THE EDIFYING OF THE CONGREGATION IS A RULE AND MEASURE OF THE RIGHT USE OF ALL SPIRITUAL GIFTS

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.

If any man speak in an unknown tongue,
After giving a general rule on the proper use of the various gifts of the Spirit, Paul will now discuss each one individually and give specific instructions. He begins with the gift of tongues that is, “speaking in an unknown tongue,” such as the Hebrew language (which has already been conjectured), because this was the gift they desired the most. St. Paul has said in this chapter that it would be best for them to restrain their speaking in an unknown tongue in their assemblies. The reason he has suggested is that they have the wrong motivation; they spoke in tongues because they were proud and pretentious and wanted to be admired by others. "It is not," says he, "a gift intended for the edification of believers; however, since you will be exercising it in your meetings, let it always be done for edification."

The worship services of the early church do not seem to have been dominated by one individual, rather there seems to be the open and free participation in the worship service by all who would choose to participate.

The rule of the synagogue was, "In the law, let one read, and one interpret; in the prophets, let one read, and two interpret."—In Esther, "ten may read, and ten interpret."

 let it be by two, or at the most by three,
Let no more than two or three speak at the same meeting, and they should not all speak at the same time, but in succession; and let someone interpret, so that everyone there will understand it. The Arabic version renders it, "let him speak to two, or at most three, and separately." The thought is that only two persons, who had the gift of speaking in an unknown tongue, or three at most, should be permitted to speak during a worship service, since too much time could be taken up this way if more were allowed to speak, and that could prevent a more useful and edifying exercise being employed. Also, they should not all speak at the same time, since that would be mere gobbledygook and cause confusion, and make them took like madmen, and what they said would be entirely useless. Therefore, everything should be organized; when one has completed speaking he should set down so the next man can speak, and when he is done he should set down so the third man can speak; and each speaker should have an interpreter who can make sense of what they said, and express it in a language the people understood. I do not know how it was in ancient Corinth, but today I know people tire out quickly and they have a short attention span. I have found that sermons should be held to 20 minutes, and should never exceed 30 minutes. The complete service should last about one hour.

It appears from this and the preceding chapter that many in Corinth were endowed with the gift of tongues; and it is certain that they were liable to exercise the gift even when it could be of no real advantage, and when it was done only for show. Paul had told them (see 1 Corinthians 14:22) that the main intention of the gift of tongues was to win over unbelievers; and here he shows them that if that gift was exercised in the church, it should be in a way that would promote edification. They should not speak at the same time; nor should they think it was necessary that all should speak at the same meeting. It should not be permitted to produce disorder and confusion; nor should the assembly be kept beyond a reasonable time. The speakers, therefore, in any one assembly, should not exceed two or three.

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1 Cor 14:22 (KJV) “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”

and that by course;
By course means to take turns. They should speak separately; one after another. They should not all speak at the same time. The situation existing in Corinth at that time was that those who spoke in tongues had so little self-control that several would speak at the same time.

 and let one interpret.
There must be edification, but there must also be order. If someone is going to speak in a tongue, there must be an interpreter, and the message must make sense and be in agreement with the Word of God. If the Church of God follows a procedure which differs from this, the Spirit of God is not in it—you may be sure of that. If no interpreter is there, or if two or three have already spoken, the one wanting to speak in a tongue is to be silent. He can go off somewhere and speak by himself.

Interpretation was a legitimate Gift of the Spirit, and it is mentioned in several places such as 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 Cor 12:10; KJV). Someone must interpret whatever is spoken in foreign languages so that the speaker may be understood, and the church be edified. Without an interpreter, tongues were useless; therefore they should be dispensed with. This would not cause inconvenience to the church, except in so far as they are helps to preaching, as the Hebrew and Greek languages are at this time. Paul, however, allowed tongues, in order that he may not seem to deprive the assembly of believers of any gift of the Spirit. Paul said before (see 1 Corinthians 14:22,) that tongues, to the extent that they are for a sign, are suited to unbelievers; nevertheless there are some advantages for believers also, since tongues joined to interpretation means nothing is obscure.

The tongue-speaker might also be the interpreter, although that was not usually the situation. Paul will not allow several interpreters to speak, because that would have been unnecessary, and would only have shortened the time available to the others speakers. The practice followed by Paul and his suggestion to the Corinthians was: It may be lawful for one or two, or at the most for three, to use the gift of tongues, one after another in an assembly, so long as there is someone to explain their speech. But if there are no interpreters present, he that has the gift should speak to himself alone.

This practice of using interpreters in the early churches seems to be borrowed from the Jews, who had such an officer in the synagogue, called a "Methurgeman", or "an interpreter". The rules to be observed by the Methurgeman are as follows (by Maimonides Hilchot Tephilla, c. 12 sect. 10. ll.). “From the times of Ezra it has been customary that an interpreter should interpret to the people what the reader reads in the law, so that they may understand the nature of things; and the reader reads one verse only, and is silent until the interpreter has interpreted it; then he returns and reads a second verse: a reader may not raise his voice above the interpreter, nor the interpreter raise his voice above the reader. The interpreter may not interpret until the verse is finished out of the mouth of the reader, and the reader may not read a verse until the interpretation is finished out of the mouth of the interpreter; and the interpreter might not lean neither upon a pillar, nor a beam, but must stand in trembling, and in fear; and he may not interpret by writing, but by mouth: and the reader may not help the interpreter; and they may not say the interpretation written in the law; and a little one may interpret by the means of a grown person, but it is no honour to a grown person to interpret by the means of a little one; and two may not interpret as one, but one reads and one interprets." And elsewhere it is said:
• An interpreter might not interpret according to his own sense or according to the form of the words, or its literal sense; nor might he add of his own, but was obliged to go according to the Targum of Onkelos.
• The interpreters stand before the wise man on the Sabbath days, and hear from his mouth, and cause the multitude to hear.
• The interpreter stands before the wise man, the preacher, and the wise man (or doctor) whispers to him in the Hebrew language, and he interprets to the multitude in a language they hear, or understand. And sometimes these sat at his side, and only reported what the doctor whispered privately.
• And they never put any man into this office until he was fifty years of age.

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1 Cor 14:22 (KJV) “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.” The miraculous gift of tongues was never designed for the benefit of those who have already believed, but for the instruction of unbelievers, that they might see from such a miracle that this is the work of God; and so embrace the Gospel.

28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

But if there be no interpreter,
That is, there were none present in the assembly of believers, including the tongue-speaker, who possessed the gift of interpretation of divers tongues. David Schulz renders it, “if, however, he does not know how to make himself intelligible.” Paul takes for granted here—considering the intimate union existing among the Christians in those days—that the members of the Christian community have a mutual knowledge of the special abilities of each other.

The miracle which conferred the gift of tongues seems to have been the instantaneous impressing on the mind the perfect knowledge of a language, with which the person was previously unacquainted. It would seem from that moment on the person receiving the gift would be able, without any new miracle, to use the gift as he saw fit; in the same way that a lame person, after having been restored by a miracle was able to the resume their former life. Paul, himself would be one example of this theory: When he took the Gospel to what is today Asia and Europe, he was able to use the gift to communicate with the local citizens in their own language. It was just as natural for the Apostle, whom the Holy Spirit had enabled to speak a strange language, to use that language anytime afterwards, as it was for the cripple whom Jesus restored to the use of his limbs, afterwards to walk, run, and perform all the functions of a man perfectly sound and whole. This theory would account for the abuse of the gift of tongues by those who could not reproduce it when called on to do so.

let him keep silence in the church;
He should not use his gift in front of the congregation, unless someone who can interpret for him is present. It is best for some other interpreter besides the tongue-speaker himself to give the interpretation, since it would be pretentious of him to interpret his own words. But, if no one can interpret, “let him keep silence in the church,” since without an interpreter anything he says will be entirely useless. But, if another were present who could interpret, two miraculous gifts might be exercised at one time, and in that way the church would be edified, and the faith of the hearers strengthened at the same time. But, if there were none to interpret, he was to be silent in the church, and only exercise his gift between God and himself, that is, at home, in his prayer closet. Notice, first of all, that private devotions are out of line when the church has met for corporate worship, because all who are present during public worship should take part; and secondly, that even in the highest degree of the inspired impulse to speak, a man could control his own will. “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor 14:32; KJV). A prophet can wait his turn in silence; he is not compelled to speak at once, because his spirit is subject to him. He can be silent if he wants to.

and let him speak to himself, and to God.
“Let him” who can speak in an unknown tongue, “Speak to himself” in silent meditation and prayer, but not speak in public what his hearers will not understand. Unless a minister speaks in a language which his hearers understand, or someone interprets his meaning to them, it is God’s will that he should not speak at all.

“Let him speak to himself and to God,” or rather, “Let him enjoy his gift in his own conscience, and let him give thanks to God.” Because, in this way, the expression to speak to himself and to God, means—to recognize in his own mind and be thankful for the blessing conferred upon him, and to enjoy it as his own, when there is not an opportunity for sharing it in the public assembly. He draws a contrast here between this secret way of speaking, and speaking publicly in the Church—which he forbids.

He may use his gift for his own edification, and to the glory of God, by speaking with a low voice, or in his heart, which only he may be conscious of, and God who searches the heart of men, and knows all languages, and fully understands all things; and consequently he may be edified, and God may be glorified by him. On the other hand, if he used his tongue-speaking openly and publicly it would be a hindrance to others. It would be better for all concerned if he would retire to his own house, and exercise it by himself, and in the presence of God, where it might be useful to him. But it would be highly improper for him to use his gift in front of the public congregation; since, instead of assisting, it would but dampen their devotion, and therefore it is only reasonable for him be silent.

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

Let the prophets speak two or three,
The term “prophet” is not used here in the classical sense of one predicting future events by immediate inspiration, but it refers instead to one who speaks for God, interprets scripture, and preaches the Gospel; the Gospel minister.

In this verse, the apostle makes the transition from speaking about tongues to the rules regarding the “prophets.” He sets a limit on the number of prophets, as he did on the number of tongue-speakers; which is “two or three” for both. It was necessary to set limits, because, as they say, a “multitude breeds confusion.” We know from everyday experience that this is true. He does not, however, restrict the number as definitely, as when he was dealing with tongues, since there he added the restrictive clause, “at the most;” which he omitted from the rules for prophets. Although we cannot know for certain the reason for this restriction, we can make some educated guesses:
1. He may have been concerned that those who were less skillful speakers would prevent those that were better qualified from having the time and opportunity of speaking; since he would, undoubtedly, have assigned the duty of speaking to those who were the most qualified. He may have thought that some listeners might become disgusted if they were forced to listen to the unskilled speakers.
2. Those with a slight smattering of learning are more inclined to promote themselves and seek to speak whenever they are permitted to do so. The old proverb still applies; “ignorance is bliss.”
3. Tongues are less useful, therefore ought to be used more sparingly.
4. There were, undoubtedly, more than a few prophets in the church at Corinth. Two or three of them might prophesy, or explain the prophecies of the Old Testament, or preach the Gospel at one opportunity or meeting: he does not use that restrictive clause, "at most", as before, because if there was any necessity or occasion for more speakers, more might be employed, so that care was taken not keep them too long in Church or to send them away bored to tears.

The manner of prophesying was to be similar to the rules for tongues and interpretation; no more than two or three are to speak, one at a time, at one meeting or assembly; otherwise confusion would rein and nobody would be edified.

and let the other judge.
The prophets, who do not take part in the speaking, have a job to do, since Paul says here that they are to evaluate the speakers, more specifically, they are to insure that what they have to say is in line with the Word of God. But not them only; it is something we all must do according to the level of our knowledge and understanding; all believers, the private members of the church and all who possess a spirit of discerning. We see from this that the appeal of judging the prophets was joined with that of prophecy, so that whoever could speak prophetically was qualified also to judge the other prophets.  Judging is called “discerning of spirits” in 1 Corinthians 12.10: “to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” It is for the advantage of the church, that there are some that are skillful in judging, who will not allow sound doctrine to be perverted by the imposters of Satan, or to be corrupted by that which is silly and insignificant.

It may seem, however, to be wrong for men to be given the liberty to judge the doctrine of God, which should be immune from all controversy. My answer to that objection is that the doctrine of God is NOT subjected to the scrutiny of men, but there is simply permission given them to judge by the Spirit of God, whether it is His word that is preached, or whether it was fabricated by a human mind, without any authority, and under some false pretext; whether it comes from the spirit of antichrist, or whether from the Spirit of God. This is the standard by which we might judge all doctrine; is it according to the word of God. We are not to believe every spirit, but try them, whether they were of God, and test their doctrines by his word, whether they were true or false; for the spiritual man is in a measure capable of judging all things that are of a spiritual nature, through his experience in the word of God, and by the assistance of the Spirit of God.

In the next verse, Paul, teaches that the other prophets will be useful to the Church, even by keeping silence.


30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.

The situation he proposes is, “If, while one is speaking, an important truth is revealed to another, or is suggested to his mind by the Holy Spirit, which he feels is important and ought to be shared with all present.”  His instructions to the Corinthians, in this case, is for the speaker to pause, be silent and allow the inspired prophet to immediately inform the church of his revelation. But this seems unnatural, and does not agree well with the context. Why must one that was speaking by inspiration be immediately silent, so that another who is also inspired can reveal his revelation? Certainly, he who had the new revelation could wait for his turn; but why must he who was speaking before be silent, when he was delivering the commands of the same Spirit? Would the Spirit of God persuade one to speak, and, before he had delivered what he had to say, cause another to interrupt him, and convince him to be silent?

 
The reason for this seemingly inconsistent assertion by the apostle may be meant to avoid any occasion for the Corinthians to complain, that the Spirit is bound, or that his mouth is shut. Here is another reason—that all have the opportunity and liberty to speak to the church, when there is good reason for it, and provided no one unreasonably intrudes—having a desire to please himself, rather than to serve some useful purpose. Whenever the occasion arises, the way will be open to them. This approach requires humility on the part of all—everyone must be willing to give way to another that has something better to say. Only this is true liberty of the Spirit—not that everyone be allowed to blab out rashly whatever he pleases, but that all, from the highest to the lowest, voluntarily allow themselves to be under control, and that the one Spirit be listened to from whatever mouth he speaks from.

It is clear that this method could cause confusion, and there would be those that would not like it, at all. That may have led to a different interpretation of “let the first hold his peace.” Some have rendered this clause, "If any thing be revealed to another, let him not immediately arise and interrupt the first, but let him sit still till he have done speaking" (verses 32 and 33 would seem to support this interpretation.) "Let him that was speaking immediately hold his peace, as soon as another intimates that he has a revelation," would have introduced a confusion which this advice was intended to prevent.

I believe Paul is speaking here of the ideal church, not the church at Corinth, where confusion was the norm; and I am of the opinion that this method could not be followed successfully in our day. The rule that should be applied today is this: Those who want to share a special truth revealed to them by God must do so in order and no more than two or three should speak one at a time on any occasion. The only exception to this would be in the event that a person felt strongly compelled, while someone was speaking, to inject a thought, and in this situation “let the first hold his peace.” In other words, the new communication is entitled to be heard at once.

31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

For ye may all prophesy one by one,
In the verse immediately preceding this one, Paul said if one of the hearers receives a prophetic impulse he believes the audience should hear the speaker should desist so that the one who received the impulse can inform everyone there. Only one should speak at a time; and he should speak in a language understood by his audience. When he says “Ye may all prophesy,” he does not include believers universally, but only those that were endowed with the gift of prophesying. The Apostle has already implied that at every assembly there would be unendowed worshippers, who only came to worship and to benefit from the gifts of others, and that "all" are not prophets (1 Corinthians 12:29). Furthermore, he does not mean that everyone ought to have an equal opportunity to speak, but rather, according to the benefits it would convey to the people; some will speak more frequently than others. No one will always be passed over; but an opportunity for speaking will present itself, sometimes to one and at other times to another.

Paul makes it clear here that no one is “overwhelmed” by prophecy. They are still in control of the exercise of the gift; they can choose to use it or keep quiet, even when the Holy Spirit is moving upon them. The Holy Spirit does not take control like a demon does in demonic possession! How, then do we explain the actions of those that shout and writhe and jump or act weird, supposedly under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Often, they are actually resisting the Holy Spirit, and this leads to stress, which finds an outlet in strange actions.

that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
“That all may learn and be encouraged (comforted):” This is the goal. The gifts are merely the means used to achieve this purpose. The purpose is never to have a tongue or a prophecy at a meeting. You can have a hundred tongues, or a thousand prophecies, but if no one learns or is encouraged, there is no point to it. And, if God chooses to bring the learning and encouragement by a means that does not involve the gift of prophecy or tongues that is up to Him. We judge the success of a meeting not by whether tongues or prophecy were present, but by whether God’s people learned, were encouraged, and were built up and equipped.

He said “that all may learn,” with the emphasis on “all.” This is applicable to everyone, but it is particularly suited to the Prophets, and Paul has them especially in mind here. No one will ever be a good teacher, who is not himself teachable; likewise, no one will ever be discovered who possesses such an abundance of the knowledge of biblical doctrine that they cannot derive some benefit from listening to others. Therefore, everyone who desires to serve the church as a teacher should be willing to be students themselves, and learn from others whenever others have the means of edifying the Church.

“May be comforted” means may be exhorted or cheered or encouraged or that all may receive consolation. And so we may conclude, that the ministers of Christ, should not be envious of each other’s gifts, instead they should rejoice that they are not the only persons that excel, that they have fellow-ministers with the same gift—a view expressed by Moses which he related in sacred history. “And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, ‘Moses my lord, forbid them!’ Then Moses said to him, ‘Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD'S people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!’" (Num 11:27-29; NKJV). When Joshua, inflamed with a foolish jealousy, was greatly displeased, because the gift of prophecy was conferred upon others also, Moses scolds him: “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD'S people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” And, undoubtedly, it is a special comfort for godly ministers to see the Spirit of God whose instruments they are, working in others too. It is reassuring; too, that the more there are of ministers and witnesses, it contributes to the spread of the word of God.

 

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

Those who received inspiration from the Holy Spirit, were at the very moment of inspiration, and even afterwards, in control of themselves. This could not be said with regard to tongues where it appears that the spirit of an individual is out of control, but in the exercise of the prophetic gift, all is done decently and in order. But it was just the opposite with the heathen oracles. The Delphic prophetess was a mere organ; her prophesies were said to be delivered in a fit of ecstasy, when the presence of the god or devil was supposed to obliterate all the impressions of human ideas.  The priests and priestesses who served in the heathen temples were thought to have received maniacal inspirations that produced intense excitement or enthusiasm similar to violent possession which threw priests and priestesses into contortions—wild gyrations, the foaming lip, streaming hair, and glazed or glaring eye—have no place in the self-controlling dignity of Christian inspiration. Even Jewish prophets, in the outburst of emotion, might lie naked on the ground and appear delirious—“And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Sam 19:24; NKJV). But the genuine inspiration in Christian ages never obliterates the self consciousness or overpowers the reason; it abhors the hysteria and imitation and frenzy which have sometimes disgraced churches and filled lunatic asylums.

Here Paul asserts that the "Spirits of prophets are under the control of prophets,” meaning that: A prophet can wait his turn in silence; he is not compelled to speak at once, because his spirit is subject to him. He can be silent if he wills it. 

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

For God is not the author of confusion,
The word translated "commotion" in Luke 21:9; "tumult," in 2 Corinthians 6:5 and 2 Corinthians 12:20 is our word “confusion.” "Confusion" is, as St. James says (See James 3:16), the result of envious and ambitious egotism. Confusion such as more than one speaking at a time is not from God. God demands peace and order "in all the churches of the saints." If there is confusion and disorder at a church meeting, it isn’t from God. God may do things we don’t understand, and things that seem strange or unpredictable to us, but there will not be a general atmosphere of confusion or weirdness. Some, in justifying their strange and unbiblical practices at church meetings, have stated this spiritual principle: “God cannot reach the heart without offending the mind.” This is unscriptural nonsense. It results in the attitude that the more confused and crazy and weird it is the more it must be from God. How different from the teaching of Paul here!

This is a very valuable statement by the apostle, and it contains an important principle; that we do not serve God unless we are lovers of peace, and eager to promote it. Wherever there is a tendency to argue, it is certain, God does not reign. This is real easy to say, and we know it is true. But in spite of that, most persons fly into a rage about nothing, or they cause trouble in the Church, because they desire by some means, to rise in the estimation of others, and be seen as an important person. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But from those who seemed to be something--whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man--for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me” (Gal 2:6; NKJV). He undoubtedly refers to those who were the most eminent among the apostles at Jerusalem. They were thought to be, or were actually, men of reputation; that is, men who were foremost and influential among the apostles. Yet, Paul says, “What they were in the past makes no difference to me.” The idea seems to be this: Paul means to say, that whatever was their real rank and standing, it did not in the least affect his authority as an apostle. What they were, or what they might be thought to be, was immaterial to his claims as an apostle, and immaterial to the authority of his own views as an apostle. He had derived his gospel from the Lord Jesus; and he had the fullest assurance that his views were just. He did not treat them with disrespect; but he did not regard them as having a right to claim an authority over him. “God shows personal favoritism to no man” is a general truth, that God is not influenced in his judgment by the rank, or wealth, or external condition of anyone. Its particular meaning here is that the authority of the apostles was not to be measured, by their external rank, or by the reputation which they had among men. God was not influenced in his judgment by any such consideration—and neither should we.
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James 3:16 (KJV) “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” Certain evils are perpetrated by ungodly traits. Envy and self-serving behaviors undermine the believer’s fellowship both with God and with fellow Christians. In essence, James warns Christians that ungodly traits never generate godly outcomes.
Because envy seeks personal aspirations above others, the common good ceases to be the uniting spiritual element among believers. Likewise, the spirit of servanthood and mutual affection is rendered ineffective as the governing principle of Christian unity because selfishness elevates one’s personal interests at the expense of others.
Therefore, Christians must be aware of the ways of the flesh by recognizing its self-defeating results and its negative impact upon the community of believers of which they are members. Accordingly, a Christian environment suffering from confusion and evil circumstances has been infiltrated by envious and self-serving believers, engendered and nurtured by Satan himself.

but of peace,
This is the reason why the spirits of prophets must be assumed to be subject to the prophets. They are from God; but God is not a God of disorder or of commotion, but of peace. Therefore every spirit which is from him must be capable of control. Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that, in judging the servants of Christ, this point must be kept in view—whether or not they seek peace and harmony, and, by conducting themselves peaceably, avoid conflict to the limit of their ability, while always bearing in mind that this peace must support the truth of God. Because, when we are called to battle against wicked doctrines, we must win the fight. We must, make it our aim to see that the truth of God maintains its ground; but if the wicked resist, we must go against them with tenacity and without fear, or else the blame for any damage done to the kingdom of Christ can be placed on us. Blessed are those conflicts which are necessary to maintain the kingdom of Christ.

as in all churches of the saints
This clause is a reflection of the destructive turbulence and disorder which disgraced the Corinthian Church. Other churches kept the rules Paul gave them regarding the exercise of their spiritual gifts, and for that reason it was reasonable to expect the church of Corinth to observe the same regulations. And it would be absolutely scandalous for them, since they exceeded most churches in spiritual gifts, to be more disorderly than any in the exercise of those gifts. Note, though other churches are not to serve as our measure of what is proper, yet the regard they pay to the rules of natural decency and order should restrain us from breaking these rules. And furthermore, since Paul has proposed the other churches as examples, it would be a shame not to follow them.

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.
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.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak;
Paul evidently meant this to be a general rule, and one which ought to be universally observed, because he repeats it in 1 Timothy 2:11, 12—“Let a woman learn by listening quietly and being ready to cooperate in everything. But I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to listen quietly.” These verses have to do with the learning and teaching of doctrine. Keep in mind that the women led in the heathen religions of Paul’s day, and they were sex orgies. Paul is cautioning women not to speak publicly with the idea of making an appeal on the basis of sex. By this admonition Paul would also strictly forbid women to speak in tongues. At the same time, it is fair to interpret it as a rule made with special reference to time and circumstances, and there were obvious exceptions in both dispensations:

OLD TESTAMENT:
• Judges 4:4 (KJV) “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.” Deborah was one on whom the Spirit of God descended, and who was the instrument of conveying to the Israelites the knowledge of the Divine will, in things sacred and civil.
• 2 Kings 22:14 (KJV) “So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.” Huldah is a prophetess, of whom we know nothing about except for this incident. She is consulted on the meaning of the book of the law; for the secret of the Lord was neither with Hilkiah the high priest, Shaphan the scribe, nor any other of the servants of the king, or ministers of the temple!
• Neh 6:14 (KJV) “My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.” A prophetess who along with certain prophets must have said something that made Nehemiah fearful.


NEW TESTAMENT:
• Acts 2:17-18 (KJV) “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” Under the Gospel dispensation, neither bond nor free, male nor female, is excluded from sharing in the gifts and graces of God
• Acts 21:9 (KJV) “And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” This is mentioned, it would seem, merely as a high distinction divinely conferred on so devoted a servant of the Lord Jesus, and probably indicates the high tone of religion in his family.
• 1 Cor 11:5 (KJV) “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” It is tacitly implied that women were allowed to prophesy as long as their head was covered.

These apparent discrepancies (or exceptions to the rule) may be reconciled as follows:
1. Paul's prohibition against women speaking in the churches is applied when "the whole church is come together into one place" (1 Corinthians 14:23). It is an official meeting of the church. "Church" in the New Testament always means the congregation. It does not apply to such informal meetings as the church social or prayer-meetings, but to formal gatherings of the whole body.
2. It may be that even this prohibition was due to the circumstances that existed in Ephesus, where Timothy was, and in Corinth, and would not apply everywhere. If so, it applies wherever similar circumstances exist, but not everywhere. Both were Greek churches. Among the Greeks, if a woman spoke in public it would cause the remark that she was shameless. Virtuous women were secluded.

Teaching is a gift that God’s Spirit gives to both women and men. All believers are to teach one another (Col. 3:16) and to share with the community what they have learned (1 Cor. 14:26).

Priscilla, together with her husband Aquila, instructed a Christian brother, Apollos, in matters of theology (Acts 18:26). The apostle Paul recognized Priscilla’s ministry and obviously loved and respected her as well as other female co-laborers (Rom. 16:3, 6, 12; Phil 4:3). Paul also encouraged older women to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3–5) and admonished Timothy to respect Lois and Eunice, his mother and grandmother, for instructing him in the faith (2 Tim. 1:3–5).

Although Paul was a great advocate for women to exercise spiritual gifts, he taught that gifts needed to be exercised in a manner that honors the Word of God (1 Tim. 2:12). New Testament women were encouraged to exercise teaching ministries but were to do so within the God-ordained pattern of male-female complementarily.

It appears that the Church of the Corinthians was infected with this fault too; that the women were given the fullest liberty to talk during the service, and you can imagine how disruptive that would be. Hence the apostle forbids them to speak during the regularly constituted church services, either for the purpose of teaching or of prophesying. This, however, is meant for the Corinthian Church as it existed at that time. This rule should not be applied today, except for women prophesying as it applies to preaching the Word of God, which Paul does restrict to men specifically called by God to that glorious service. Women are the most valuable asset the church has today, in practically all other areas—music, singing, teaching children and other women, church staff, missions, etc. It is sad to see that in most churches men have advocated their traditional roles to women. Congregations are always made up of mostly women, whose husbands stay home instead of attending church.

but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
Christianity emancipated women, but did not place them on a level equal with men, as the following verses show.
• 1 Peter 3:1 (KJV) “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;” Ladies, consider that your husband is by God's choice, the head and ruler of the house; do not, therefore, attempt to usurp his authority; because, even though he does not obey the word—is not a believer in the Christian doctrine, his rule is not impaired; because Christianity never alters civil relations: and your affectionate, obedient conduct will be the most likely means of convincing him of the truth of the doctrine in which you have believed.
• Eph 5:22 (NKJV) “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Christ is the head or governor of the Church and the head of the man, so is the man the head or governor of the woman. This is God's edict, and should not be disobeyed. The husband should not be a tyrant, and the wife should not be the governor.
• Titus 2:5 (KJV) “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” God’s Word is honorable regardless of the behavior of women, but seemingly the behavior of Christian women plays an important part in the honor that the world gives to God’s Word.

Paul recognized that women were praying and prophesying in public worship and did not condemn them for doing so—But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head…” (1 Cor. 11:5). Yet here he commanded that women “keep silent in the churches.” One way of resolving what some consider a discrepancy is by considering the particular type of speech that Paul found unacceptable. In this passage, he was probably discussing the gift of prophecy, and more specifically, the evaluation or judgment of prophecy (See 1 Cor. 14:29–39). Paul allowed women to participate in worship and, indeed, expected that they would do so (v. 26), but here he may have been forbidding them from giving spoken criticisms of the prophecies that were made because he was concerned that the principle of headship be demonstrated in the public assembly of believers. Women’s silence during the evaluation of prophecy was one of the ways in which this was to be accomplished. Another way to understand this command for women to be silent is in relationship to Paul’s command to the believers to do all things “decently and in order” (v. 40). God “is not the author of confusion” (v. 33). The women could have been displaying some kind of disorderly conduct such as talking during church. Others suggest, since the subject of major discussion in chapter 14 is tongues, that the prohibition to women is to refrain from making rapturous sounds. Clearly this cannot mean that women are forbidden altogether to speak in the assembly, “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth…” (1 Cor. 11:5).

“Be under obedience, as also saith the law” refers back in time to the Fall of Creation when the first couple rejected the Creators plan. The sentences passed on man and woman at the time of the Fall affected their relationships to God, nature, and each other. The judgment which followed is not necessarily related to the nature of the sin committed. However tragic and far-reaching the consequences have been, sin did not force the Creator to cancel His plan. Rather, sin perverts and hinders our response to His plan. As a result of the Fall, pain has been added to childbirth, tyranny to headship, rebellion to submission, and problems to work, as well as separation to the fellowship of marital union.

Of particular interest to women is the twofold judgment of Genesis 3:16, which says:“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.” Women were assigned “pain in childbearing.” Childbearing itself is not the judgment. Children are a heritage and reward from the Lord (Ps. 127:3), and giving birth is a woman’s opportunity to link hands with the Creator to continue the generations (Gen. 1:28). Imagining a pain-free childbirth experience is difficult, but this is apparently the original plan of the Creator.

The second part of the judgment is what concerns us here—“your desire will be for your husband and he shall rule over you”—described the painful consequences of sin in the male-female relationship. Both the man and woman chose to ignore the Creator’s plan and do things their own way. The complementary roles of man and woman, which had originally functioned to produce unity and harmony, would henceforth be a source of friction. God’s plan did not change. However, woman would have a sin tendency to disrespect man’s role of leadership, and man in his sinfulness would tend to abuse his authority and even crush the woman.

Christian men and women are given clear principles to counteract these effects of sin and are reminded of their equality as persons—“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7; KJV). Men, you are to use your superior strength and experience in her behalf, and honor her by becoming her protector and by supporting her. We were created to have a complementary, harmonious relationship: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col 3:18-19; KJV). The apostle suggests a voluntary relinquishment of one’s rights to another. Paul always used the term “submit” to describe the role assignment of a wife to her husband (1 Cor. 14:34; Eph. 5:21, 22; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1). The concept suggests mutual submission and intimacy, as the means of promoting a union ordained by God with love as the binding agent. Love characterizes the servant leadership of the husband, and love awakens the submissive cooperation of the wife. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can a woman truly relinquish her desires and line up under her husband’s leadership. Also see Eph. 5:21–33.

And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home:
Paul may be anticipating an objection. Women may say, "But if we do not understand something, can’t we ask a question publicly so we can learn?” “No,” Paul replies, “if you want information, do not ask in public, but wait until you get home and ask your husband.” He does not want to give the impression that he is shutting out women from opportunities for learning, but he wants them, if they do not understand something, to inquire in private, so that they do not stir up any debate in public. When he says, “husbands,” he does not prohibit them from consulting the ministers themselves, if necessary, since all husbands are not competent to give an explanation of religious doctrine and traditions; but, since he is speaking here about regulating the conduct of the members of a local assembly, he considers it sufficient to point out what is unseemly, so that the Corinthians may guard against it.

In the ancient world, just as in some modern cultures, women and men sit in different groups at church. In the Jewish synagogues, men and women would sit apart; and the Jews would not allow a woman to read in the synagogue; though a servant or even a child had this permission. But if a woman chatted with the other women or called out to her husband sitting far off, she would be dealt with severely. The Corinthian church may have adopted the same kind of seating arrangement, but with many women from Gentile backgrounds, they did not know how to conduct themselves at a church meeting; there seems to have been the problem of women talking among themselves, speaking in tongues, or disrupting the meetings with questions. Paul is saying, “Don’t disrupt the meeting. Ask your questions at home.” He is referring to irregular conduct; that is, doing anything that would show they were not being obedient. Paul is teaching them how to behave in church.

for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
The Greek word rendered “speak” is laleo, which means, “To talk, question, argue.” It should be pointed out again that Paul acknowledged the right of women to pray and prophesy under proper authority in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16; but here the context suggests “speak” refers to either the judging of prophecy (something for the leadership of the church to do) or to disruptive speaking. In both situations it would be “a shame for women to speak in the church” assembly. It is worth mentioning that there is no hint of such a prohibition to any churches except the Grecian churches. Wherever it would be shameful, women should not speak.

 

36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
In this verse and 37-40, the apostle closes his argument with a justifiable scolding of the Corinthians for their extravagant pride and self-conceit: they managed their worship services with their spiritual gifts like no other church; they did that which was right in their own eyes, and they resisted any form of control and regulation. Now, says the apostle, in order to beat down this arrogant attitude, "Came the gospel out from you? Or came it to you only? Was it from you that other Churches received the Gospel? Are you the mother Church? Or, if not, is it now limited and confined to you? Are you the only church favored with divine revelations, and have you set yourselves up for a model to be copied by all the Churches of Christ? And will you dispense with the decent rules and orders and traditions followed by all other churches in favor of your brazen spiritual gifts, and thereby bring confusion into Christian assemblies? You have admitted irregularity and confusion unknown in all the others. You have allowed many to speak at the same time, and have tolerated confusion and disorder. This is intolerable behavior! Pray for yourselves!”

The disregard which the people of that church showed for the customs of their sister churches seemed to indicate arrogance. They acted as though they were entitled to be independent and to dictate the rules to others. Paul takes the authority of the church for granted. He assumes that anything contrary to the general sentiment and practice of the people of God is wrong, because he understands that the church is the body of Christ, those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, and whose chaBackgroundracter and conduct are controlled and governed by His influence. When it was needed or proper the apostle could rebuke with the best of them; and it is certain his rebukes were called for here.

Note, those whose spiritual pride and self-conceit throw Christian churches and assemblies into confusion must be taken to task and humbled, though such men will hardly tolerate even the slightest criticism.

The argument here is, that the church at Corinth was not the first that was established; that it was one of the last that had been founded; and that it could, therefore, claim no right to differ from the others, or to advise them. The same argument is employed in 1 Corinthians 11:16: “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (1 Cor 11:16; KJV). This is a rebuke of the Corinthians' self-sufficiency and quarrelsomeness (1Co 1:20).

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