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1Corinthians 14 (web)

The Practice of Applying One's Spiritual Gifts


14:1 Follow after love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
14:2 For he who speaks in another language speaks not to men,
but to God; for no one understands; but in the Spirit he speaks mysteries.
14:3 But he who prophesies speaks to men
for their edification, exhortation, and consolation.
14:4 He who speaks in another language edifies himself,
but he who prophesies edifies the assembly.
14:5 Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages, but rather that you would prophesy.
For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages,
unless he interprets, that the assembly may be built up.
14:6 But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking with other languages, what would I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching?

14:7 Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp,
if they didn't give a distinction in the sounds,
how would it be known what is piped or harped?
14:8 For if the trumpet gave an uncertain sound, who would prepare himself for war?

14:9 So also you, unless you uttered by the tongue words easy to understand,
how would it be known what is spoken? For you would be speaking into the air.

14:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of sounds in the world,
and none of them is without meaning.
14:11 If then I don't know the meaning of the sound,
I would be to him who speaks a foreigner, and he who speaks would be a foreigner to me.
14:12 So also you,

since you are zealous for spiritual gifts,
seek that you may abound to the building up of the assembly.
14:13 Therefore let him who speaks in another language pray that he may interpret.
14:14 For if I pray in another language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
14:15 What is it then?
I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also.
I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
14:16 Otherwise if you bless with the spirit,
how will he who fills the place of the unlearned say the "Amen"
at your giving of thanks, seeing he doesn't know what you say?
14:17 For you most assuredly give thanks well, but the other person is not built up.
14:18 I thank my God, I speak with other languages more than you all.
14:19 However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding,
that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language.

14:20 Brothers, don't be children in thoughts,
yet in malice be babies, but in thoughts be mature.

14:21 In the law it is written, "By men of strange languages and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people. Not even thus will they hear me, says the Lord."  (Isaiah 28:11)
14:22 Therefore other languages are for a sign, not to those who believe,
but to the unbelieving; but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to those who believe.
14:23 If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together
and all speak with other languages, and unlearned
or unbelieving people come in, won't they say that you are crazy?

14:24 But if all prophesy, and someone unbelieving
or unlearned comes in, he is reproved by all, and he is judged by all.
14:25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed.
So he will fall down on his face and worship God, d
eclaring that God is among you indeed.

14:26 What is it then, brothers? When you come together,
each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation,
has another language, has an interpretation.
Let all things be done to build each other up.


14:27 If any man speaks in another language,
let it be two, or at the most three, and in turn; and let one interpret.

14:28 But if there is no interpreter,
let him keep silent in the assembly, and let him speak to himself, and to God.

14:29 Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern.

14:30 But if a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first keep silent.

14:31 For you all can prophesy one by one,
that all may learn, and all may be exhorted.
14:32 The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,
14:33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.
As in all the assemblies of the saints,
14:34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies,
for it has not been permitted for them to speak;
but let them be in subjection, as the law also says.
14:35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home,
for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.
14:36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone?
14:37 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual,
let him recognize the things which I write to you,
that they are the commandment of the Lord.
14:38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.
14:39 Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy,
and don't forbid speaking with other languages.
14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Discussion Questions


Seek Gifts which Edify

1Cor 14:1-4 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

For much of chapter 14 Paul downplays the significance of tongues over that of superior gifts. For the immature tend to overinflate that which is not so significant. In fact there are those among the Charismatic community who claim that you're not saved unless you speak in tongues. But Paul had previously said, "Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" 1Cor 12:30 Tongues is just one of the many gifts of the Spriit, and a minor one at that. And they are immature who think that by muttering certain words or phrases, even mindlessly, they should be reckoned as the spiritually elite in the Christian community.

The significance of a spiritual gift is proportional to the degree to which it is effective in edifying the body of Christ. If one simply seeks to edify himself, he is self-seeking, which as we learned from the previous chapter is not characteristic of love. There are those who listen to music to make themselves feel good. But if they show no concern for others, what love is it to seek to make yourself feel good? A baby may be made to feel good with a few meaningless words from its parents, but that baby has no concern for others. Prophecy is a more mature gift. A gift that those who love can apply effectively to the edification of others.

Another thing we learn here is is that despite that  "all such gifts are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." 1Cor 12:11, what is implied in the "eagerly desire" (or literally "covet") certain spiritual gifts is that we can influence the Spirit to give us certain gifts. Perhaps this is the point of  Mt 7:11 "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" or its parallel passage in Luke 11:13 "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Taken together this may refer to asking for gifts of the Holy Spirit. Gifts we can use for effective ministry.

Take time to consider what gift or gifts you would like to utilize for the purpose of ministry (consider prophecy especially) and ask your Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit to apart you with such gifts.

Prophecy Greater than Tongues

1Cor 14:5  I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

There are many kinds of tongues, as Paul had said previously, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels". 1Cor 13:1a In Acts chapter 2 the disciples miraculously spoke in the tongues of men not native to themselves. Music is another tongue as verse 15 also implies, as is art and there are others. It would be good if everyone could utilize some artistic expression to inspire themselves and those of a like tongue. Tongues plays upon the intuition and as such gives a certain flavor to Biblical ideas. But let not the sauce, the flavoring, be substituted for the meat. "Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Heb 5:14

By analogy consider the material in the Bible. Historical accounts require interpretation to derive proper applications. Historical accounts give us flavor but are open to all kinds of interpretation. It's the didactic sections, the prophetic sections - those which teach emphatically, utilizing propositional truth,  like the New Testament letters, are to be the foundation for such interpretations. That is, you don't derive doctrine from events, but rather you interpret events in light of doctrine.

Those who express themselves in obscure or intuitve ways should seek to translate their ideas if they are interested in others being edified by them.

Communicate Clearly

1Cor 14:6-9  Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

Tongues are viewed as mere babbling if no communication is taking place. Speak intelligible words. Don't babble. Communicate clearly. It does no good to others if others don't understand what you are saying. Is it not merely for ego's sake that some parade around in public babbling in tongues?

Another thing is that if a person can't clearly express an idea, they haven't really learned it. You haven't really learned something until you've applied it and are able to clearly  teach it. And when there's mist in the pulpit, there's fog in the pew. Better for one to keep silent if they don't know what the're talking about.

A Translation Ministry

1Cor 14:10-13 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.  If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.

Speaking in a foreign language is an ineffective tool if your audience doesn't speak that language. Therefore seek to become adept at communicating in their language. Or have others help along those lines. And translation is not just about words. It's about meaning. And to translate meaning one first has to understand the meaning. Thus "They read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading." Neh 8:8

While all gifts edify the church in some manner, yet some more than others. Apparently those gifts associated with communicating meaning are high on the list - Teaching, Prophecy, Interpretation. And again notice that one's giftedness is not simply a matter of fate. Often it's simply a matter of prayer. So no excuses!

Edify the Mind

1Cor 14:14-17 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

By analogy, music has melody and lyrics. Ever turn on the radio and find yourself enjoying a nice melody. But then when you listen to the lyrics your mind is not edified. Afterall, most non-Christian music is about sensuality. It doesn't edify the mind. Christian music has nice melodies, but if there were no words it could mean anything. Music without words does not edify the mind. While the melody gives flavor to the words, one could do without the melody and still be edified.

Now given also that the world always manages to infiltrate the Church, realize that in this post-modernistic culture art and music have become grossly corrupted and that the object is not even to communicate meaning, but to leave it up to subjective interpretation. Consider modern art forms. It is left up to the observer to interpret them however one wishes. And as for music, for much of it you can't even understand what the lyrics are. The saints should not be as the world. Meaning comes first - then flavor. (And of course, realize that the meaning of the Bible is not a matter of subjective interpretation.)

Mature Thinking

1Cor 14:18-20 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.  But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

A matured saint seeks to instruct others. Children are in the learning stage. But when they become parents they are put in the role of teacher. This is the way it should be in the Christian life. Hebrews rebukes the saints saying, "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again." Heb 5:11,12 Jesus said, "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."Mt 28:19,20 Let us all mature to practice that role which is our purpose in life, the work and duty which the Lord  has assigned for us.

Consider how children think and evaluate yourself as to whether your thinking is more like that of a child or of an adult.

The Effects of Tongues and Prophecy

1Cor 14:21-25 In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord. (Isaiah 28:11) Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?  But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

Apparently by "the Law" Paul is referring to the whole of the Old Testament, which reflects not only the regulations of the Law but also the history of Israels failure to live up to such regulations. But what is the meaning of this verse in this context? Perhaps the best illustration is in Acts chapter to where the disciples miraculously spoke in languages foreign to themselves but understandable to the foreigners around them. This kind of tongues is a sign to unbelievers, just as Jesus said, "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves." John 14:11 But tongues certainly would not be reckoned a sign to an unbeliever if he's not familiar with the language spoken. As it says here, he would just reckon such people to be crazy.

Prophecy's main purpose is to edify the church. But in fact it does more than that. It brings conviction to unbelievers - conviction of their sin. And this should be the initial objective in evangelism - to convince unbelievers that they are sinners subject to judgment. The gospel is always to be preached in this manner - the bad news first, and then the good news. The good news of God's grace is meaningless and irrelevant to those who are not convicted of their sin and of the judgment to come. Seeing as the Holy Spirit "will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:" (John 16:8), let us cooperate with him utilizing the gifts he has given.

It's all about Words

1Cor 14:26  What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

"Everyone" is literally "each of you". Everyone is important, which was Paul's point in chapter 12. Yet this is generally not practiced in the churches today. Generally today churches are structured around a strict lecture format. People come to church. They sit down. If they are to say anything or sing anything, they are told what to say and what to sing in accordance with the program established by the church leader or leaders. Very little participation is even encouraged. And even at that it's generally comes down to putting some money into the plate or setting up chairs or the like. But notice that the categories of things Paul mentions here that "everyone" should prepare beforehand are all about words, whether they be hymns, a word of instructiono, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Words are the primary minstry tool in the Christian community and each one of you should consider how to use words to edify the church.

A Regulation concerning Tongues

1Cor 14:27,28  If anyone speaks in a tongue, two— or at the most three— should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

Having spoken on the principle and purpose of tongues, here Paul derives an application - a regulaton. And this is one of the ideas behind Bible Study - to seek to understand the principles in order to develop applications which will regulate your Christian life.

By "one at a time" he implies that the service should be orderly as he also says later, in 1Cor 14:40 "everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way", and yet also should allow for individual participation.

If people can't understand the speaker, if there's no interpreter, he should keep silent. This implies that tongue speaks have the ability to keep silent. No "the Spirit made me do it" excuses allowed here. But it also implies that he would have known whether there was an interpreter - someone who understood him and could translate. Certainly this would be the case with foreign languages of men.

A Regulation concerning Prophecy

1Cor 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.

This is a regulation concerning prophets, not prophetesses. The Bible always applies the term "prophets" to men and never to women. Concerning women speaking he'll deal with in a few verses. But concerning prophets, the saints should first of all  not gullibly presume that whatever alleged prophets say is true. The Bereans were commended for such an attitude. "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1John 4:1 And what to weigh it against but scripture. Nothing but the Bible is above scrutiny.

But weighing carefully what is said is not limited to evaluating its source - whether it be of the Spirit of God, but also weighing carefully its application. Even concerning the Bilbe, while we all may acknowledge it is God's Word, to what extent do each of us carefully weigh what is said so as to derive applications relevant to our lives?

Allow for Interruptions

1Cor 14:30-33a And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

Prophecy here is not an adding on to scripture, but of applying it with conviction. "Do not go beyond what is written." 1Cor 4:6b Let those who prophecy quote scripture and show its application.

Seems to me that a discussion oriented Bible study group is a format which best fits what Paul has been describing and I highly recommend such a format. In fact this very principle spoken of here of allowing interruptions is a good idea. For some speakers can go on and on talking too much. If the Spirit moves another, they should be allowed to interrupt. But there has to be a spirit of politeness for it all to work together.

And once again just as with those speaking in tongues, those who prophecy should not excuse their rudeness or lack of self-control on the idea that the Spirit forced them to speak. The Holy Spirit forces no one. It acts in cooperation with the person's own will. If your meetings are disorderly, allow God to be involved.

Women to be Silent

1Cor 14:34,35 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

What about women who prophecy?  Didn't he  previously say that  prophets are allowed to speak - but in an orderly fashion? And doesn'tt he say in a few verses, "my brothers, be eager to prophesy"? But these are referring to men. Thoughout the Bible, both Old and New Testament, the term "prophet" is never applied to a woman who prophecies. In every case the Bible uses the term "prophetess". So in this case concerning the public assembly of the Christians, prophetesses are not allowed to speak.

This is an application of the principles he spoke of in chapter 11 whereby "the head of the woman is man" 1Cor 11:3b and likewise he says with regards to the assignment of roles in the church, "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve." 1Tim 2:11-13 Again he alludes to Biblical concept of male headship in defense of this application. It is not a matter of culture, but "as the Law says"

Women are to play a role subordinate to men. Her role is one of  submission, just as Jesus was subordinate to the Father. Her beauty "should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1Peter 3:4

However with regards to speaking, what he's referring to is speaking in an official capacity - like those in the church who prophecy in the public assembly. It's disgraceful for women to usurp authority over men through such public teaching. The implication is that women are not to be pastors over men nor even so much as to teach Sunday School classes where men are involved. However "older women are to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:3-5 Women are to teach children and other women. Consequently it would be good for churches to have separate Bible studies for women lead by women so that they could more freely practice their spiritual gifts with regards to speaking.

Think You're Spiritual?

1Cor 14:36-38 Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.

No suprise this follows his command concerning women being silent in the churches. Likewise in chapter 11 following his regulation concerning women he writes, "If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice— nor do the churches of God."1Cor 11:16 These sort of ideas generate contention among the worldly, and much more so today in the age of feminism where the culture of matriarchy reigns in the world whereby men are emasculated, being effeminized, and women are trained to assume authority over men, reckoning male authority with contempt. But let not the Christian be as the world.  One of the ways to test whether one is exercising their speaking gift by the Spirit of God or by the spirit of the world is by seeing what they think of the Lord's command here. Those who preach contrary to the concept of male headship are to be ignored, their spirit being that of the world.

Use Gifts in an Orderly Fashion

1Cor 14:39,40 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Even in regards to previous command concerning women, his intention is not to suppress the exercise of one's giftedness, but rather to teach the way in which it is to be applied appropriately. In fact, s I mentioned previously, there's too much silence in the churches, too much suppression and under-utilizations of one's spiritual giftedness in comparison to the regulations of which Paul wrote here. Churches today characteristically allow no one but the official speaker or teacher to speak and EVERYONE else remains silent, men and women. That is not an orderly way to utilize the giftedness among the church.

Fortunately there are churches which also have small groups available in which the church can practice its gifts. Though again, even those are sometimes merely geared around a purely lecture format. Assembling together is not to be a purely passive pursuit. All are to participate in some substantive manner.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Aug 15,2020