1 Corinthians 14c
1 Corinthians 14:29-30… And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent.
In the same way that tongues-speakers were to speak one at a time, using their gift to proclaim God’s mighty deeds (v. 27), so too were the prophets who proclaimed God’s Word through new revelations. There were two ways in which the NT prophets prophesied. First, some were able to receive new revelation from God. Second, others were simply reiterating what the apostles had taught (this is the function of pastors/teachers today).
In v. 29 there were to be no more than three prophets who had the floor, as it were, and they were to speak in turn (v. 30). Not only this, but the words they spoke were to be evaluated (“judged”) by those they spoke to. Now those that “judged” might have been the congregation as a whole (since all of them prophesied in v. 24), but they were likely those who had the spiritual gift of discernment – that special gift that grants the ability to distinguish between true and false spirits. The “others” in this context then, would be anyone who understood the prior teaching of the apostles who saw the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. If a prophecy uttered by a prophet in the congregation did not line up with apostolic teaching then it was to be discarded. This was what the Apostle John taught in 1 John 4:1… “test the spirits to see if they are from God.”
Now since v. 24 supposes that all are prophesying in the church, this passage cannot actually be limiting the prophetic utterances to only two or three prophets. Rather, the issue concerns the judgment of those hearing the prophecy. In other words, all who were gathered could prophesy in the corporate gathering of believers; they just had to do so in turn. But v. 29 seems to limit the prophetic speaking to “two or three” so as to keep order and to maintain the ability of those listening to evaluate the prophecies accordingly. What he was protecting against was a disorderly worship service where pagan and godless prophecies might enter in and go unnoticed amongst all the mayhem. Paul went to great lengths to make sure that all prophecies were orthodox and edifying. The tongues-speaking, without an interpreter, that no one understood was worthless in the worship gathering, and the prophecies spoken were potentially detrimental unless they were “judged” by the others present.
Verse 30 says that if, while one man is speaking God’s Word, another man receives a new revelation from God, the first man must cease from speaking. Possibly while one prophet was speaking God would reveal more of Himself to another prophet in that company. The new revelation took precedence over the old. It must not be overlooked here that this was an apostolic time period when God was revealing His Word to the apostles and prophets, and these two offices ceased following the completion of the NT. Any new revelations today violate the biblical mandate not to add or subtract from God’s Word (cf. Rev. 22:18-19).
Food for Thought
A scary trend in churches today is biblical illiteracy – when a large number of people don’t know enough about what the Bible teaches to evaluate the preacher’s words to determine if those words are orthodox. Hence, our churches are full of watered-down nothingness and heresy. One of the ways heresy is introduced is through “new revelations” in the modern day. Anything that would be added to the Bible through the so-called “new revelations” that many believe they receive would in fact add to or subtract from God’s written and completed work as found in the Bible. Jesus forbids that in Rev. 22:18-19. His words to John in Revelation were God’s final word of revelation to mankind. The Bible is sufficient for all preaching without new revelations.
1 Corinthians 14:31-33a… For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33a for God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
All Christians were able and were commissioned to tell about God’s mighty works through prophecy in the first century church, but they were to do so “one at a time.” The gift of prophecy was exclusive to a few, but the commission of a prophet was given to all – to declare God’s glory. The reason for this is in v. 31: “So that all may learn and all may be exhorted.” The word for “learn” means “to direct one’s mind to something so as to gain an external effect.” That’s what prophecy is for – to learn so as to edify the body of Christ. The second reason is for “exhortation.” This word can also be translated as “encourage,” but not in the sense of “to comfort” in this context. It rather refers to a “push to obey.” So when one man prophesies about God’s mighty works and what He has commanded for His children to do, one learns from hearing the message of the prophet, then he is pushed to obey God’s Word. It’s the twofold nature of teaching. First, we share the knowledge of what God has said; second, we exhort them to obey. Obedience without knowledge only brings skepticism as to why we do anything. But knowledge without action condemns us for knowing the truth but rejecting our responsibility.
When God is truly present and being worshipped in spirit and truth in any church there will be no competition or contradiction among those who preach His Word. In the first century Corinthian church Paul commanded this among the prophets. When he says in v. 32, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” what he is saying is this: “Now the prophets are responsible for their behavior and to be led by the Spirit.” In other words, because “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” prophets and their spiritual gifts are NEVER to be controlled by their gifts but to control those gifts. Paul wanted to put an end to the out-of-mind slain-in-the-spirit mentality of the prophets. When the Spirit leads the way His prophets are in control of themselves. After all, one of the fruits of the Spirit is in fact “self-control” (Gal. 5:23).
Food for Thought
Those preachers who say things like, “When the Holy Spirit takes over, you can’t worry about clocks!” so as to justify their long-windedness, they are prophets who are not in control of themselves. The self-control, or lack thereof, by God’s messengers is one of the tell-tale signs on whether or not the Holy Spirit is at work in the worship gathering of believers. The Holy Spirit has always brought order to chaos, even as far back as Genesis 1:2. It is the devil himself who is the author of confusion and disorderly conduct. As one man has commented, “Chaos and discord in a church meeting is certain proof that the Spirit of God is not in control.”
Now since the 21st century church does not receive new revelation from God, the messages of all prophets must be pitted against the teachings of the NT – the Word of God. Every message from the pulpit that is preached must be in line with what the apostles and prophets of the first century taught. Beware! For there are many false prophets today that are sent by the devil to deceive Christians. The Spirit is to be sought for guidance, and the spirits behind all prophets are to be tested (2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1–6). Even true prophets make mistakes in their interpretations through their own biases, and it is the task of every believer to judge them carefully. Of course this means that God’s children must know the message of the apostles and prophets as found in the Bible. Far too many preachers today get away with heterodoxy because their parishioners can’t tell the difference between orthodox Bible teaching and rank heresy.
Introduction to Women and the Bible…
The issue of women and the Bible is a controversial topic of discussion among Christians. The NT was written during a time when women were little more than third-class citizens. In the U.S., thankfully, this is no longer the case, but equal rights for women and equality in general are still very pertinent issues among women today when compared to their male counterparts. So when the Bible, God’s timeless and inspired Word to mankind, espouses a view that strikes a nerve among His children, teaches a doctrine contrary to the accepted norm of the day, Christians are forced to deal with the problem. How should they handle teachings that seem to reflect a first-century culture that held women in very low regard? The issue seems hopeless to many who have their minds closed to the clear teachings of the Bible and open only to progressive theology where God is supposed to change with the times. But the issue isn’t nearly as volatile as it may seem. First, women are never once in the Bible labeled as lower than men. They are a compliment to men, for the woman was originally created to be the man’s “helpmate” in Gen. 2. God made woman for man. Clearly man was (and is) not complete without the woman by his side (who was taken out of his side).
The problem came about when the woman fell to the temptation of the serpent in Genesis 3. She succumbed to his logic to disobey God, and then she led her husband into the sin. That changed everything, for it brought about the fall of every human being who would ever live. Following that terrible event a curse fell upon the earth and its inhabitants. God placed a curse upon the woman that not only gave all authority to her husband (a mandate that already existed), but gave her the desire to have his authority. So, though the man was given authority over the woman in everything, the woman’s curse was that she would want his authority.
Throughout the OT the women did traditionally submit to their husbands – certainly those of the godly line (Sarah, Leah, Ruth, Hannah, etc.). The fact that there was actually a woman who was a judge in Israel (Deborah) can only be viewed in a negative light, for she ruled over God’s people during the most wicked of times – the times when “Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 18:1; 21:25). Far too often Deborah is used as an example for women ruling over men. She ruled because the men were spineless as jellyfish, and she is an example of what happens to a society when women are given authority over men. Isaiah prophesied: “O My people! Their oppressors are children, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray, and confuse the direction of your paths.”
In the NT the Gospel writer Luke depicts Jesus as showing the utmost compassion and respect for women. And why wouldn’t he? Jesus created women, and he loves them as much as he loves men. They are different from men, not inferior to them. Now they have differing roles within the sexes, but their roles compliment each other, not contradict each other.
The Apostle Paul has been accused of male chauvinism. But his writings are said to be “scripture” by the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:16) who also added that it was the “ignorant and unstable” who twist Paul’s writings “to their own destruction.” Paul teaches that wives are to submit to their husbands and to respect them in everything (Eph. 5:22-23; 33); he teaches that women are never to teach or have authority over a man in the church worship gathering (1 Tim. 2:11-12); he teaches that wives are to submit to their head (husband) as the authority over them in the same way that Jesus Christ submitted himself to God the Father (1 Cor. 11:2-26); and he teaches that though women can teach, their audience must be limited to other women (Titus 2:3-5). All of these passages are consistent with each other and the teaching of the OT. So, when one comes to the admonition in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 it makes sense to understand that what Paul is saying here is consistent with all of scripture.
1 Corinthians 14:33b-35… As in all the churches of the saints, 34 let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
The word for “woman” and “wife” are the same word in the Greek text. Context always determines which use is best. In this context “wife” is best used because the woman is told to ask her “husband.” The same is true in Ephesians 5:22-33 where marriage is clearly in view.
What Paul is saying is that in every orthodox Christian church of the first century the women were to remain silent in their particular congregation. This is what was practiced by all the churches that Paul and the apostles started, hence, “as in all the churches of the saints.” The apostle has corrected both the tongues issue and prophecies. In each instance he uses masculine pronouns for those who were to speak in tongues and/or interpret those tongues. It’s never given to a woman to speak in tongues in the church service or to interpret those tongues. The same is true with prophecy. When someone is prophesying about God, again, only two or three could have the floor at one time. Each one was to speak in his turn, and each pronoun Paul uses is masculine. It is clear that Paul has only the men in view who were to prophesy in church.
So, in vv. 34-35, when Paul tells the women to “remain silent” he does so within the context of tongues-speaking, interpretation, and prophesying. If one man was prophesying and/or giving a new revelation from God, if the woman didn’t understand the prophecy or revelation, she was forbidden to speak out and ask what it meant or protest the contents of the revelation. She was commanded to ask her husband at home as opposed to asking in the public worship.
Paul says that the women were to “subject themselves just as the Law also says.” The “Law” here is a reference to the OT, specifically Gen. 3:16 (“Yet your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you”). This was part of the curse of women after the fall – not that they submit, but that they would desire to rule over their husbands. Now Paul adds that in submission to their husbands they are to remain silent during the church worship while the men interpret the tongues and receive revelation from God. This reference to the “Law” solidifies the fact that Paul is not referencing a cultural norm but rather a timeless scriptural mandate.
As v. 35 states, because it was completely inappropriate for a woman to speak in church, if she should have any questions about what is being prophesied in the public worship she has only one option: to ask her husband at home. The husband’s task would be to know enough to be able to answer his wife. Far too many fall way short of this standard.
Food for Thought
The entire teaching here regarding women is parallel to Genesis 2-3. God gave Adam the order to keep from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam told Eve of the warning, but she didn’t like it, so she disobeyed it. Her seemingly harmless rebellion subsequently plunged the entire human race into sin. Why? Because she didn’t like the order from God. Is it any different today? Can mankind expect to fare any better today just because we don’t like God’s Word? Let us be very careful in interpreting scripture, and let us be even more careful when we interpret something that we just don’t agree with. Just because we may not understand it fully or just not approve of it, this doesn’t negate what God has put before us. He has laid out His perfect Law, and it isn’t subject to negotiation. Those who obey God are the ones who truly love God, and only those who obey God can truly be called His children.
1 Corinthians 14:36-37… Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? 37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment.
Many today wonder if the words in the Bible are the true words of God. Some have rejected the whole Bible while others take every word as “God-breathed.” In the middle are some who only take the “red letters” in the NT as spoken by Jesus to be true. Paul’s words are sometimes disregarded as male chauvinistic, opinionated, and un-inspired. Verse 37, however, condemns those who believe such. Those who reject Paul’s words reject Christ’s words.
Verse 36 is a sarcastic statement aimed straight between the eyes of the arrogant Corinthians who thought so highly of themselves that they apparently believed that all gospel truth began and ended with them. This is typical of many churches today who look down on those who don’t possess their legalistic beliefs. They felt that they alone had all of God’s attention. Paul basically says, “God’s Word did not originate at your church!” They had no right to decide independently of other Christian churches what orthodoxy truly was.
In reference to v. 37, the NT has 27 books, and the Apostle Paul wrote at least 13 of them. He believed that as an apostle of Jesus Christ he was writing the very words of God. Verse 37 proves that what the Corinthians were reading were words from God Himself, and it shows that the Apostle Paul was a true apostle and prophet of God. His office of apostle is the first and foremost of the spiritual gifts (12:28), and even though his credibility was low among the Corinthians, he reminds them who he is and what he’s doing, namely, espousing God’s inspired Words to this immature group of believers caught up in the carnality of their world.
Whoever the prophets and tongues-speakers were in the church at Corinth they would likely have been infuriated at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians. And the women who took part in the worship service were likely just as miffed by being told to remain silent. After all, Paul was correcting their unorthodox behavior. His sharp words, no doubt, hit a nerve with these people, and though they might have greatly resented him for such, Paul claims inspiration for his writing. Anyone who was a prophet or who considered themselves “spiritual” was to understand that Paul was speaking directly from God – his words were the “Lord’s commandment.” The prophets were likely the high-ranking “clergy” who were respected by all, but Paul was sharply rebuking them. Those that thought of themselves as “wise” (3:18) and as “having knowledge” (8:2) were being shown that this wasn’t the case at all. It is likely that Paul was addressing only a few people here, as in 4:18 and 9:3, although his words were for the entire congregation as well as the church in the modern day.
Food for Thought
It is the basic human reaction for those who think so highly of themselves and their ministries to listen to no one. Their reaction to Paul’s rebuke should determine how “spiritual” they really are. This is a tried and true test for all of us today when we receive criticism for our actions. Do we listen, or do we become defensive? Are we willing to hear those who attack us and vow to pray through the accusation, or are we just convinced that we are always right? Our response will determine if we are as spiritual as we think we are. The long and short of this passage is this: Anyone who considers themselves to be spiritual people (as opposed to non-Christians who are not spiritual), they will heed the words of the apostles as found in the scriptures. They will submit themselves to God’s Word and put their own ideas aside.
1 Corinthians 14:38-40… But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner.
In verse 38 Paul sums up the place of those who reject his teaching as having come from God Himself. The Greek text literally reads: “But if anyone does not know this, he is not known.” The play on words here means that anyone who rejects the words of Scripture as found in the Bible should himself be rejected. Those who reject Paul’s words, Peter’s words, James’ words, Jude’s words, Matthew’s words, Luke’s words, Mark’s words, and John’s words are rejecting God’s Word – the are rejecting Jesus Christ. The litmus test for any false prophet and/or tongues-speaker is this: Do they listen to and follow the words of Scripture in their entirety? Paul’s words, specifically, especially regarding the place of women in the church and the use of tongues, are rejected today by those who simply don’t like what he said.
The word “therefore” in v. 39 draws a conclusion. Paul’s entire teaching is summed up in three concluding statements. First, they were to “earnestly desire” – they were to “set their hearts on” the setting forth of God’s Word – prophecy. He does not tell them to earnestly desire the “gift” of prophecy but the act of prophecy. Some had the gift, but the act of declaring God’s Word was for all, and they were to set their hearts, first and foremost, on this act.
Second, they were not to forbid the legitimate gift of speaking in tongues. Paul never told them to forbid it, but he did set the parameters for their use. Tongues were to be interpreted so that all could benefit, but the legitimate gift was not to be forbidden. The gift had a purpose, and it ceased just as Paul said it would soon thereafter. His words about tongues here were spoken in a day when they were still active. They served their purpose, and during the time in which they were active they were not to be despised because they were given by the Holy Spirit. Because they ceased very soon thereafter, v. 39 has no immediate application for the church today.
Third, in v. 40, all things in the worship service were to be done “properly and in an orderly way.” This included partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the role of women, tongues, and prophecy. Since God Almighty is most certainly a God of order, as seen in His creation, man, and His Laws, so too should the worship of His name be orderly. The word for “properly” literally means “gracefully,” and “orderly” literally means “in turn.” In other words, everything that Paul taught about church worship and order was that it was all to be done with grace, and everything was to be done in its turn. Males and females had their proper role and place in the worship and tongues and prophecy had their place and their order. This sums up Paul’s teaching concerning spiritual gifts to a church that was in tremendous disarray and chaos.
Food for Thought
A woman once shared with me that the Apostle Paul “irks” her with his “opinions.” As a result she rejects some of his teaching and takes what she likes from the Bible while rejecting that which offends her. God’s Word, through the Apostle Paul, condemns this kind of thought pattern by commanding that such a person “is not recognized” – they are not “known.” And those who are not “known” are left behind when our Lord returns to the earth. To their bewilderment, Christ leaves them behind even as they plead with him. He tells them, “Depart from me; I never knew you” (emphasis mine; Matthew 7:21-23; 25:12). Do you know Christ? Does he know you? Whether or not he knows you will be determined by your willingness to accept the words of scripture as inspired by God Almighty through the pen of man.
Proper and Orderly Worship
I) Tongues, Prophets, and Women
A) Rules for Tongues-speakers (26-28)
1) No more than three
2) Speak in turn
3) Must have interpreter
4) Remain silent w/o interpreter
B) Guidelines for Prophets (29-33a)
1) No more than three
2) Content evaluated
3) Speak in turn
4) Always in control
C) Directives for Women (33b-36)
1) Silence (as in all churches)
2) Remain submissive
(a) Gen. 3:16
(b) 1 Tim. 2:11-12
(c) 1 Cor. 11:5
(d) Titus 2:3-4
3) Ask husband at home
4) Not contingent on opinion
II) True and False Believers (37-38)
A) Words of the Bible are God’s words (37)
B) Those who reject any part of the Bible are rejected
1) Matthew 7:21-23
2) Matthew 25:12
III) Prophecy is Worship: Preach the Word! (39)
A) You must know God
B) You must read the Bible
C) You must pray
D) You must suffer