Articles

First Corinthians - Part 34

Introduction

Last time we examined the last verses of chapter 13 and went over the usage of the root of the verbs "καταργηθήσονται" and "καταργηθήσεται" which are translated in this passage "they shall fail" and "it shall vanish away" respectively. 

KJV  1 Corinthians 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
TBT  1 Corinthians 13:8 ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε ἐκπίπτει· εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι, καταργηθήσονται· εἴτε γλῶσσαι, παύσονται· εἴτε γνῶσις, καταργηθήσεται.

Today we leave chapter 13 and move into the next chapter which starts with a reordering of the temporary gifts. Prophecy comes first.

Chapter 14

After the statement of the abiding trinity of faith, hope and charity with the greatest being charity, Paul begins the next phase of his reply to the Corinthians' questions, 7:1,  and specifically matters relating to the gifts.

KJV  1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
 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.
 3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
 4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
 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.

The better road of charity was never to be left, however desiring spiritual gifts was not to be frowned upon indeed Paul says "and desire spiritual gifts". The gifts were important for establishing believers in the faith and provoking Israel to jealousy.
There clearly was an inappropriate use of the gift of tongues in the assembly and for this reason Paul compares prophecy with tongues (most of chapter 14 deals with tongues ). Prophecy was a better gift, Paul will develop this as we progress through the chapter -- here again we see the transient nature of the body formed locally in each assembly. Paul says in chapter 12:24,25  - that more abundant honour was given by God to the part that lacked in order that there should be no schism in the body, the reality was that better gifts were evident in the body and this honouring process was put in place to hold the assembly together. Instead of desiring those gifts that do not edify the entire church the believer should seek the better gift - Paul said "greater" is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues. The issue is edification and tongues simply did not have the same impact on building the church as prophecy did. Again look at the way Paul puts it -- "I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that you prophesied". Tongues was good but prophecy better.

 6 Now, brethren, if I come 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?
 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?
 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
 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.
 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
 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.

The correct and orderly use of this gift occupies most of this chapter. The great gifts expressing truth via revelation, knowledge, prophesying and doctrine are assumed to be encoded in a language which all could understand. If an unknown tongue is uttered -- where is the profit? To prepare for battle the army must here a clear and certain sound. Speaking to the air might look all religious but speaking to the air is hardly a profitable enterprise. In our age where these gifts are absent we should make sure that our speech is clear that our doctrine is edifying so that we make all men see!

 12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
 13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
 14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
 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.
 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?
 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
 18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
 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.

Edification of the church is a pervasive idea in this chapter and what leads to edification should be encouraged. An unknown tongue -- what is it exactly? Lets start with tongues or more specifically "other tongues" Acts 2:4,6 basically says that these were languages. An unknown tongue according to verse 14 could be used in prayer and in so doing the person would use his or her spirit but lack understanding. The unknown tongue was unknown to the person who uses the gift  -- this idea is extended to singing as well as prayer in verse 15 and blessing in verse 16,17. An unknown tongue was truly from the spirit and bypassed the understanding. Praying with the spirit was synonymous with praying without understanding. Even when the signs and wonders were in operation it was taught by the apostle that there should be understanding within the church.
 
 20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
 20 Ἀδελφοί, μὴ παιδία γίνεσθε ταῖς φρεσίν· ἀλλὰ τῇ κακίᾳ νηπιάζετε, ταῖς δὲ φρεσὶ τέλειοι γίνεσθε. 

This is a great idea -- we need to be mature and complete "τέλειοι" in our understanding "ταῖς δὲ φρεσὶ "  however in terms of that which is bad and evil (malice) we should be children " ἀλλὰ τῇ κακίᾳ νηπιάζετε".

 21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

From Isa. 28:11,12. - notice that the quote is from a passage which begins a thought in 28:9 

 9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (Isa 28:9-13 KJV)

In understanding be men -- weaned from the milk drawn from breasts. The verse backs up completely the thought given in verse 20. In addition there is the reminder of the Acts 28 boundary -- for here the verse is confirming Israel's prominence " ... with another tongue will he speak to this people". In verse 2 "the LORD hath a mighty and strong one ... a destroying storm ... vs 3 drunkards of ephraim shall be trodden under foot ... vs 4 ...fading flower ... eateth it up" the stammering lips and another tongue come from the Assyrian whom God will use to judge Israel see  Isa 33:9, Deut 28:49.


 22 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.

Tongues are therefore for a sign to the unbelieving Jew. Prophesying which is more akin to teaching is for the believer of any nation.

 23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

This was a possible conclusion when gifts were really in practice albeit without proper adherence to the rules. How much more with the fake pentecostal movement and people laughing "in the spirit" etc

 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

And this is certainly what we want -- we need to convince people and see them changed when understanding is present and enlightenment comes through the word of God rightly divided.

 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
 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.

Here it is "Let all things be done unto edifying". May our fellowships be thus oriented.

 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.

The above are rules for speaking in an unknown tongue

  1. By two or at most by three
  2. By course (by part) -- Not all at once!
  3. Let one interpret
  4. No interpreter -- then keep silence in the church.

 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.

More rules prophets speak 2 or three but one must judge. Hold your mouth until the other has finished. The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet -- the prophet can administer self control.

 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.

11:5 and Acts 21:9 shows that women prophets existed but perhaps rarely so and could only speak when dressed correctly. Otherwise and more generally women could not speak in the church. 

 36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

The word of God came originally  from God not from the prophet and there were many who would have the gift of prophecy.

 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.
 38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

These rules and instructions are given by Paul but as is true of the Gift of prophecy so it is of the apostle.

 39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Tongues were OK and good if used within the rules set out but it was better to prophesy.  Order and decency should be seen throughout the activities of the assembly.

 (1Co 14:1-15:1 KJV)