As we begin looking at this most important of chapters in 1 Corinthians, we are going to encounter a lot of wrong theology. This theology is because many people, particularly the false teachers of the Charismatic movement have placed undue theological emphasis on the words used without considering their context, their meaning, or what Paul was trying to say to a group of errant believers in the first century AD.
We will hopefully avoid that same error by taking those things into account.
What we are hopefully getting to sink in by the repetition of the concept every week is that these two letters that were included by the Holy Spirit in the canon of the New Testament were actually a series of FOUR letters that were CORRECTIVE in nature, and not treatises of theology like Ephesians or Hebrews, or Apologetic works like Romans. This means that we MUST take into account that context is important as to what is being spoke, to whom it is being spoken, and what Paul is driving at in actual essence, not just isolated bits and pieces of verses used at random with no regard for any of that, as Kenneth Hagin actually did in his book called Prayer. This is the chapter that he, and as a result, many other charismaniacs use to teach, justify, and otherwise propagate their false beliefs and practices, that sometimes include snake-handling, incidentally.
And beloved, if Paul felt that correction was necessary, it was. In what was it necessary? Well, everything, apparently, from dividing the body of Christ over teachers (even legitimate ones) to the uttering of nonsense syllables and calling this imitation the “gift of languages,” the church at Corinth needed help. In that spirit, after 11 chapters of instructions and corrections to their thought, in chapter 12, Paul told them of two lists of gifts (that we determined from the verbiage was not exhaustive necessarily), that covered many of the same gifts in the same contexts – that these gifts were given to people at the pleasure of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God Himself at their justification by faith. These gifts were given to specific people to build up the church by serving the community of people in it with them, however God has gifted you. The lists themselves had some crossover, and that was important in the dismantling of the doctrine that says the first one was for individuals and the second was for the church, one of the basic doctrines of the Charismatic movement. That was about the gifts themselves.
Then in chapter 13, we looked primarily at the motivation that should be behind the operation of ALL of those gifts, and that is what we defined as Agape Love, or the Love of God, that self-giving, self-sacrificing commitment to another by choice. We determined from our study there that if you were trying to do these things without that agape love, your efforts were wasted, since anything done outside of God’s love pertaining to these gifts was useless – that’s right, it was absolutely NO benefit either to the performer of the gift or the intended recipient (or any standing nearby I suppose). We also discussed how the gifts of Prophecy and Knowledge are on a sort of countdown clock to when we will not any longer need them – the eternal state of the believer. Tongues, by way of contrast to those gifts, along with the other sign gifts of miracles and healing stopped all on their own with the death of John, the last capital A Apostle, and so it was said through at least 500 years of church history from Clement of Rome to Augustine of Hippo. The latter of those two explained in his comments on Acts 2 that those gifts were only for the verification of those original Apostles. Although many dispute Augustine on this, it is also the historical position of the early Church Fathers, excluding Tertullian, who was carried away with Montanist error along with the other followers of Montanus, a second-century heretic that believed in extra-biblical revelation from God. In fact, we briefly saw that every one of the few times it has come up in church history, it was successfully refuted and it disappeared, up unlit the 17th and 18th centuries, when it evolved into something from outside of Christianity called New Thought under Emmanuel Swedenborg and a few others, until it was “discovered” by a sufferer of tuberculosis named Phineas Quimby, who came up with something called the Law of Attraction based on this New Thought to try to cure his own illness, a particularly serious case. From there, it was grabbed with both hands by one Kenneth Hagin, who is considered today to be the grandfather of the modern Charismatic movement. Apparently NOT an unassailable line of truth, is it?
This chapter this evening will now talk about how the Corinthians were misapplying the gifts of the Holy Spirit and what Paul was telling them was supposed to be the proper administration. Last week, we looked primarily at the difference that Paul resented between “tongues” and “prophecy,” of which Paul said prophecy was better, because it was spoken in the same understandable language as the people it was being spoken to, and could thus build them up in their most holy faith. We then compared it to the false teaching of men like Ken Hagin or Ken Copeland that say it is a language of angels, and went through why this isn’t correct. This evening, we are going to see that in fact, there are limits to how these things can be done, because God is a God of order, and logic, and peace, not one of chaos, disorganization, and stupidity. You’ll see what I mean from the text.
I broke the text down into thought units as follows:
KV39: The Order of the Local Gathering
39: Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.
20-25: What is “Tongues” really all about?
26-33: What should order look like in a church?
34-39: Various other regulations, or Was Paul a misogynist? (No…)
We have to remember that Paul is addressing a local gathering of Christians, in this case located in Corinth. Sometimes we think that Paul is addressing all things equally, without respect to location or local need, and that just isn’t so. Recall that Paul had to write four corrective letters to these folks, because God bless them, they really didn’t get it, and so he had to tell them what was what! Cultural considerations aside, Paul was dispensing truth to these folks by the bucket-full and in the main they got it, though it took them a while (remember, four corrective letters). However, by the end of the first century, they had gotten a handle on it, at least if we can believe the letter in AD 95 from Clement of Rome.
Another thing we can (easily) fall into is that we tend to think of Paul as a scholarly theologian, and he did have those kinds of credentials, but he didn’t rely on that. No, instead, he spoke to them the word of God that God had revealed to him and to others. He wasn’t an ivory tower kind of guy. Instead, he was a man of the people that spoke plainly, and it got him into a fair amount of deep water, and some of that was literal water. Some of it was figurative, and worse than being shipwrecked at sea, like being beaten with rods, or stoned and left for dead. That was Paul, friends.
We need to understand that Paul was trying to teach people the right way to approach the living God. If he uses analogies, that’s fine. If he speaks plainly, that’s fine too. We must make the effort to understand what is being said, and not close our ears and minds at the words or the analogies or situations he uses.
KV39: The Order of the Local Gathering
39: Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.
After last week, one would naturally come to the conclusion that I was ready to excommunicate all the heretical charismaniacs from the church single-handedly, but nothing could really be further from the truth. As I have said before, I was saved through that movement, and my first couple of years as a Christian were there before my unceremonious exit. I saw some things there that troubled me, and that is going to come up this evening, so we are going to talk about it in our accustomed fashion – one verse at a time.
You see, there is an order to the way things should be done in the house of God, especially concerning the ordinances of the Lord’s Table and Baptism, but in other areas of exercise as well. In this study, we’re going to see that, and I need to point out ahead of time that we in this text have a very unique window into the first century church and its right practice. Let us look carefully at this and see what the Lord has to tell us through His servant Paul.
20-25: What is “Tongues” really all about?
We need to look at the actual purpose for the actual gift of tongues, and we need to understand why it has no actual purpose today. We’re going to do that in this paragraph. I have to give a bit of a hat tip here to Matthew Henry, John MacArthur, and the scholars that put the notes in the .NET Bible. Tongues it seems did in fact have a real purpose, and it wasn’t that of private prayer language or ecstatic utterance. Let’s have a look.
20: Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.
• I must note for the record that this was the exact opposite of what the Corinthians were doing at the time. It was the theological and moral loveless immaturity that was causing every problem in Corinth at this time. This led to the misuse and even the counterfeiting of the actual gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Yes, that IS blasphemy, and it continues even today in the Charismatic movement in a number of ways.) The Corinthians were anything but babes in evil. Remember that verb that formed all on its own, to “Corinthianize?” It wasn’t a compliment. The Corinthians had it exactly backwards. They had all the fakery and none of the reality of the gifts of the Holy Spirit going on, kind of like Charismatics today.
• What was needed according to Paul was for the Corinthians to be mature in their thinking, and to walk in a worthy manner of the salvation the Lord had gained for them at Calvary. Instead, they were mature in all the evils that we have seen throughout the study of the book – divisions and the formation of sects or cliques, licentiousness, lasciviousness, vain philosophies, sexual impurities (a guy sleeping with his own (step)mother!), and all of the things that go with all of that. Now Paul is addressing their counterfeit sign gift of tongues, which if I’m being honest, is really the easiest one to fake. But what were “tongues” really for?
21: In the Law it is written, “BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,” says the Lord.
• Paul here quotes the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah 28:11. We will look at that.
○ Indeed, He will speak to this people through stammering lips and a foreign tongue…
• Isaiah spoke these words to the Northern Kingdom of Israel (often known in Scripture as Ephraim, the largest of the northern tribes), and said how because they WOULD NOT hear the word of the Lord, The Lord was going to send them into captivity, which is the context of that entire passage. Isaiah was telling them that when a people came and spoke to them in a language that they did not understand, judgment was coming on them quickly. They didn’t listen, and they were carried away into captivity by Assyria, from which the northern kingdom never returned. Then the Prophet warned Judah (the Southern Kingdom) that they too would be carried off the same way by the Babylonians. That happened too, in the days of the prophet Jeremiah He too spoke of this, if Jeremiah 5:15.
○ “Behold, I am bringing a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel,” declares the LORD. “It is an enduring nation, It is an ancient nation, A nation whose language you do not know, Nor can you understand what they say.
• Jeremiah said the same thing – that when they heard the speaking of another language, judgment was coming suddenly and quickly.
• When the Jews heard this on the day of Pentecost, they also should have understood that judgement from God was coming for them – and it did in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem abut 40 years later. Interestingly, there really isn’t a compelling reason for the gift of tongues to exist past that time. So what is the babbling going on today in Charismaticism? I think it is the same kind of chicanery that befell the Corinthians – the babble of people who want to feel special and don’t understand that it is Christ that makes them special if they will only turn to Him in simple faith.
22: So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.
• The tongues that were spoken were not actually spoken to show that the Spirit had come to live inside you, in other words, that you had been saved. This was never to be a sign to believers. What should have been the sign for believers being filled with the Holy Spirit? Look at Acts 4:31 –
○ And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
• That sign for believers being filled with the Holy Spirit is that they began to speak the Word of God with Boldness! Tongues is NEVER mentioned here. In fact, I find it fascinating that over the period of the construction of the canon of the New Testament, we do not have one recorded instance of someone that spoke in tongues recorded for us. Not one person ever gave a message in a language that they did not know where the Holy Spirit, the Author of Scripture included it for us. But we DO have the bold men who proclaimed Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection. Paul is one of them. Honestly, people need to get their priorities and their stories straight.
• No, the legitimate expression of tongues was instead a sign to unbelievers, and from what has been said above to the unbelieving Jew that judgment was coming. History shows that, and we’ve already mentioned the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, so there is no need to go further.
• In contrast, Paul begins to tell us that prophecy is very much a sign for the believer, and he is about to explain how.
23: Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?
• Paul is starting his explanation with a sort of “What if.” I’ve actually lived through that scenario. I told this in brief last week, but this was my very first time to a church of any kind as more than just a tourist. I was sitting in the back with my friends Greg and Brian, and then all at once, the entire congregation began this Charismatic notion of “speaking in tongues.” I would have qualified in that moment as one of those “ungifted” men (uneducated is a better translation of idiotes, though some would argue that the word idiot would be an apt description of me – the words mean different things) that Paul was referring to. I had been saved on a Tuesday (I had to look it up, it was indeed a Tuesday), and this was my first ever church meeting as a believer. So June 23, 1985 was the first Sunday I was ever in a church as one that had a right and duty to be there. Beloved, I think I explained that the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I got a little freaked out emotionally. I had to fight my instinct (and it was a strong instinct) to drop into a defensive stance. I succeeded, but only just. I never moved a muscle per se. But that’s what I thought was going on. The world had just turned on its own ear and everyone had gone insane all at the same time. “They are mad,” is what the 18-year-old me would have exclaimed in that moment if you had asked me.
24: But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;
• Now contrast that very weird and spooky scene with a room full of people sitting in orderly fashion, and everyone who speaks is speaking the Word of God, or prophesying in the most general sense. As an unlearned person, I would have drank it all up and begged for more. In fact I did ask for more. It took me three weeks to read the entire New Testament, and back then I actually had the ability to remember things I had read. For the next couple of months, I was a walking New Testament. The Lord was using that in my life, too. I was a smoker at the time, and I would feel bad every time I had to stop and light a cigarette, because I would have to lay that little Gideon NASB NT down for a moment. Then I got to the bit about being a temple of the Holy Spirit and the Lord really started to convict me about it. You all know what I mean, even if your issues were not my issues. With some it was the booze. Drugs. Porn. Sex. Money. Worldliness. All or some combination of those or other sins. And I was eventually called to account on every single one of those things in some fashion. The Lord changes those that are His.
25: the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.
• And that’s what happened. You know, if you are really the Lord’s child, a real believer, a member of God’s elect, chosen from before the foundation of the world, this will be your experience as well. The secrets of your heart will be brought to your own attention. Notice it doesn’t say “disclosed to everyone.” I believe that means that it will be disclosed to all those that need to know. A lot of those things, if you will obey, will stop at just you. I can personally thank God for that. I can give personal testimony that God wants to do this for (not to) everyone of His children.
• You know, once upon a time, I held a grudge. I had been wronged, to be fair, and for a survivor of child abuse, in a very grievous way, in a way which gutted my ability to trust a brother. I suppressed my rage (like most abused children do apparently) and told myself that it was okay. I would forgive him. I told myself and everybody else that I had. But it would leak out. I would stiffen when someone would speak this person’s name. I would back way up to make sure he could get past me in a show of “camaraderie,” which was really avoidance on display. After a while, I convinced myself that I really had forgiven him. And then I took a vacation to visit some of my favorite people on the planet in Chicago. I was not actually taking a vacation, I was running from a situation if I’m being honest. I had been beat up inside pretty badly by this brother, and wouldn’t admit it to anyone, especially not myself.
• One night, I was fellowshipping with my friend Garth (I don’t think anyone here knows him, but his last name actually starts with an X). It started out fine, and then from my perspective it took a real left turn. We were talking about the reasons (the real ones) for my trip to Chicago. I was explaining the situation I needed a breather from, and that brother’s name came up. I guess I wet into a freestyle string of name calling that we learned to do in church when we wanted to assassinate someone by character as it were. My good friend wasn’t fooled. “Well, have you forgiven him?” He asked. I answered in the affirmative, and he said, “Because it sure doesn’t seem like it.” And he gave me a five-minute sermonette about how I was bashing him and only hurting myself, and it was making HIM sad and worried about me. I was – well – blown away. When I finally discovered my ability to speak again, I couldn’t deny anything he said. And I hated that. And I still love him for it all the more. That night, I really did forgive that brother, and I think I learned the real meaning of that word forgiveness. I put it behind me. I let it go. And then a very strange thing happened on my return to Ottawa. The Lord began to deal with that particular brother on every point of how he hurt me, and it came out (to me anyway) that I was not the only one that had suffered by his hand like that. It was sad, but it was also kind of vindicating. I hadn’t been (as I had been told) imagining things. Now – what could I do but praise God for His mighty and merciful works in all of our lives? That brother left fellowship a few months later while we were all at a conference over a long weekend. It was the saddest thing of all. There was some good news, though, because that fellow was restored to fellowship several years later, and he really had been dealt with by God. We are ALL works in progress. My friends, fall on your faces. God was and is certainly among us.
• Sometimes, I see things like this at work in you. I have tried, like my friend and brother in Chicago, tried to be faithful to tell you the truth. I have met with varying degrees of success, but the Lord is faithful to complete the work he began in all of us. Just know that there is a real-time application of this happening in the lives of all believers, especially the believers who are attending this live.
So what was tongues really all about? Well, it was a warning to the unbelieving Jew that judgment was coming suddenly. But there was more to it. For the Gentile, it was a sign of great blessing – God was no longer going to restrict His presence to one nation, but had now freely made himself to deal with us all in reality. For those that will turn to Him, He will perform works in us of such a nature that when we stand back looking over it from eternity, we will marvel at the delicate touch of the Master’s hand. Even though these things seem difficult, hard, unpleasant, or downright horrid at the time, He is performing that great work in us as people speak the Word of God – Truth, yes, truth as it is in Jesus Christ – to us, and we allow it to renew our minds day by day, one day at a time, one step at a time, one verse at a time, one issue at a time. Praise the Heavenly Father above, for He is worthy to receive all glory and honour and power and dominion and majesty forever! Amen! Hallelujah!
26-33: What should order look like in a church?
Now at the start of this paragraph, I should probably let you I on a bit of a secret – that last paragraph went in a way that I really wasn’t expecting, but I do think I did it justice in exposition, but is was a little more personal than I initially thought it would be. But I went where I had to go to properly extract the relevant meaning from the text. But it got me a little off track from the lesson plan as it were, so I’m making a hard right turn here to try to get back on course. So buckle up, buttercup, here we go.
We have said a number of times that God is not a God who is a god or confusion, but is rather a God of Order, who stills all chaos and confusion, and Scripture demonstrates this. Look with me for a moment at the heavenly scene in Revelation chapter 4. Verses 5-7 say:
Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.
Throughout the history of mankind, the sea has always been something dark and foreboding, where chaos originates and is even used in analogy and type in the poetic language in Scripture. In the paganism of ancient man, the sea was where Chaos lived – in the persons of the deities that ruled it from Poseidon to Cthulhu. It’s depths are dark, and no light is there. There is no transparency to it. But note the sea that is before the throne of Almighty God. It is like crystal in transparency. It is like glass in its calmness. There is no confusion or chaos in the presence of the Creator of the universe.
We should expect the same thing from the Church, the corporate body of God the Son, the Anointed One of God, the Messiah. There is an order that should be reflected in our worship. Otherwise you get everyone shouting in “tongues” all at the same time, and the result is unintelligible chaos, kind of like in my first church, Calvary Pentecostal. As it turns out, that part of the Sunday evening worship was out of order. Paul will explain in this paragraph.
26: What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
• The first thing that Paul does is to sum up his last paragraph. So with all of the prophecy and such going on, what does this mean for us as the church, the body of Christ? What is the outcome of all that? It goes like this – when WE assemble (and now you cannot say that the New Testament does not teach that we must assemble, because Paul is simply assuming the fact), that everyone has something to contribute. Paul even makes – you guessed it – a list!
• Each one has a psalm. Interestingly, the Greek word psalmos means a striking of musical strings. I do think that the Psalms of the Bible are great stuff for worship, for encouragement, all that. And learn how to play the banjo…hahahaha! Some people write poetry. I’ve even done it from time to time. Just because I don’t publish it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
• Has a teaching. The Greek didache literally means teaching or doctrine. Now it says Each in the NASB, but the Greek word hekastos can be translated “Every.” This is something that we should ALL aspire to. We should be able to take a verse or passage and explain what it means and how it relates to what we are doing or what needs to be done. Thank God for the brothers that bring encouraging meetings to a prayer meeting. Now answer this question – how does this (Biblically) encourage the saints to be faithful in prayer? Or how does this encourage me to see Christ in all of the Scriptures? You can do it, I know you can. Why am I saying this? It will become apparent in a few verses.
• Has a revelation. I don’t think this means what Charismatics think this means. The word here is apokolupsis, meaning an uncovering or a revealing, apo, out from, and kaputo, from covering or hiding. We all read the Scriptures every day – or we should be – and I can suggest a great reading plan if you need one – The McCheyne Bible Reading Guide – and we should all be seeing Christ in all of the Scriptures; to steal a line from the old poem and completely misuse it, “every chapter, every verse, every line.” And we should be able to explain it to children in simple words.
• Has a tongue. Okay, the word here is the word, glossa means tongue, right? Well that word can also be used (and is here) to mean the organ whereby you speak. So make sure the Holy Spirit has yours, and not the cat. But if you DO have something to say in another language to the Church, you need to make sure you have the next one.
• Has an interpretation. Interestingly, the word here is the Greek, hermeneia. We get our English word “hermeneutic” from it, and it means to interpret. Are we interpreting the tongue of the previous phrase? We better be – but this isn’t the only thing that needs to be interpreted. What about the sense of a particular passage? It’s also a part of exegesis of a text. I have no doubt that this is referring to the “language” of the previous phrase, though.
• And after that list what does Paul say? Let all of these things be used in the edification of the Church, the corporate body of Christ. Now – can that be done if everyone is babbling in chaos all at the same time? No. Next verse.
27: If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret;
• So if anyone DOES actually speak to the church in an unknown language, there are some restrictions. It seems that not everyone is allowed to speak, and certainly not all at once. I’m not saying it, Paul is. How convenient for Ken Hagin to have left this passage out of his book.
• In fact, in any given meeting of the saints, only two or three such messages should be given at a time. In fact, I would argue for less being better because the translation of such a speech would effectively double it in length. Two people – or at the MOST three. What number here is visibly excluded? Right, the number one. Single-man ministries are things to be careful around. Some are fantastic. But often what looks like a one-man ministry is not. I guarantee John MacArthur is not a one-man show. He has an elder board he is accountable to. Be aware of what checks and balances a ministry has in the event someone runs off the rails. We here at Berean Nation.com are no exception – I run the site, but I am accountable for what I say or write to a group of guys, folks. Some are here tonight. Ministry of any sort should be characterized by a plurality of leadership, and that leadership is raised up by God. And when you meet to hear the Word, only two or three at a time should speak. More on that in a moment.
• It must be stated that these three people cannot all speak at once. “Each in turn” is the phrase that Paul uses. I am not in favour of a system of seniority by age here, I’ve heard brilliant young preachers preach memorable sermons, and men who are elders bore me for 30 minutes. I have heard it said, and I don’t know where this originates, but it seems true enough – a man’s gift makes room for him. We’ve already looked at how this MUST be interpreted if it is in an unknown language, but Paul says it again, so I will also! Just be advised this WILL either shorten the message or lengthen the meeting. Moving on.
28: but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.
• THIS is interesting. If there is no interpreter, the speaker of the unknown language must remain silent! This implies something rather interesting – those who are to interpret the message are known before hand, or can be picked from a pool. And this isn’t something you can easily fake unless someone is speaking gibberish – then anything you say it meant is an acceptable translation. Those who had this gift of interpretation must have been an interesting group of people. I have been in meetings where the speaker spoke either French or Spanish, and there was an interpreter. I speak enough French myself that I can at least verify the translation (not much else). But what happens if there is no interpreter? Well, that individual must “keep silent in the church.” Words of the Apostle Paul. Let that man speak to himself (not out loud in the church) and to God. If you cannot get up to give your word, you must SHUT UP and stay in your chair.
29: Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.
• Now Paul deals with how prophecy is to be handled in the church. Again, note the emphasis on plurality – two or three. Not one. That’s interesting to me. Then it says something NOBODY likes to hear – let the others pass judgment. Which “others” would those be? The other prophets, presumably. All those who speak the word of God publicly and apply it to life. Usually that is the Pastor. Wait – you mean the local gathering should have more than one? Oh yes, beloved, even if they aren’t paid for it, or aren’t paid well. And more than one should speak at a service, meaning each one should “prophecy” in our definition of “speaking the word of God.” And let any of the others that do not speak judge the accuracy and efficacy of the messages given. Hey, if it’s good for the tongue-speakers, it’s good for the prophets also. Now – how many times have you seen THAT in a church meeting? If you’re the average church-goer in North America, not very many times.
• Now that “pass judgement” is a derivation of the Greek word, diakrino. This is another way of saying the English word “discern.” Remember how the discernment was one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Chapter 12? I think this is that gift in action. It is today one of the most under-utilized gifts of all, with more attention being paid to things like niceness and so-called unity at the expense of truth and all that jazz.
30: But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.
• All of these words used in multiple ways in a foreign language that are translated into English! The revelation spoken of here refers to the ones sitting by and passing judgment. I haven’t seen this very often, mostly because it doesn’t happen all that often anymore, but if one of the “prophets” has something unhidden for him about that passage, he has the right, perhaps even the duty, to speak up and speak the truth that was revealed to him because of what the other prophet was saying. With my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, I call this “progressive revelation.” This is usually exercised when error is spoken, and it is a corrective measure, but it doesn’t have to be. It is this corrective action that I have seen used, and it too was done in order. When the young preacher had finished his sermon, the older preacher got up and opened the word, and gently corrected the brother from the Scriptures. The brother being corrected saw his error, and apologized, and no more was said about it. But that second brother waited for the first to finish. And the first kept silence. I don’t know if that’s what that means, but the events certainly fit.
• Another point to make here is that in that time, new revelation from God took precedence over what had been repeatedly hashed out before. This is not a real issue in the church today because we have the completed canon of Scripture and that can tell us all we need to know under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit.
31: For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
• Paul is explaining why the prophets speak one at a time. If this happens, all are able to understand, and all are built up in their faith and convictions. Remember, the word “exhort” means strong encouragement, as opposed to reproof or rebuke. Encouragement of God’s people from His Word has its full and complete expression like this. So – not mass cacophony no matter what – but one at a time so that things can be understood. This is important given what I know happens in many Charismatic “congregations.”
32: and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;
• This is a VERY interesting verse. I had to think and pray and consult what the Spirit was really saying through Paul here. John MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians was the most clear about this, but other commentators didn’t disagree. What this is telling us is that there is not such a thing in speaking the prophetic word as an out-of-spirit or out-of-mind prophecy. Rather, the Lord would give the man the message, and the man would have his mind intact, and know what the message was and that it was from God, and then have full control over his faculties to speak it. Compare this with what occultic mystics teach about speaking to higher beings or powers – they advocate the emptying of the mind of thought, and entering a trance-like state, perhaps even traveling in your spirit to another plane of existence to speak with your ascended masters and auto-write or auto-speak the words of the message you are given. Beloved, and there be any clearer difference between the messages from the servants of the enemy and the messages from the servants of God? In the occultic method, you are bypassed and the spirit-being speaks directly through you. Have you ever seen a guy named Chuck Pierce? From the word salad that he spouts and calls prophecy, it is pretty clear that if his mind is involved, he is complicit in the lies he tells. Google him if you must – or better, have a look at Chris Rosebrough’s most recent Prophecy Bingo video on YouTube. Chuck features quite prominently. In Christianity, God gives you the message, and then tells you to deliver it. This actually requires the use of your mind! The other bypasses it. My friends, the spirits of the prophets are subject to prophets. Right down to the personality, delivery, and word choice. If all of a sudden I heard myself speaking words and couldn’t stop or control myself, I would be very confused – at a minimum.
33: for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
• And here is the main point for what has gone on earlier in the chapter. God is not a god of confusion or chaos. In His presence there is peace, and there is order and constancy. There is nothing to disturb the subjects of the King. Beloved, we are told that we should try to live in that state. Paul tells us to have all joy and peace in believing in Romans 15:3. God does not do things that will violate that peace with Him if you are His. Even in trials, you have this sense of “everything’s going to be okay” because your trust is in the One that knows it all in advance. How does that work, I hear you ask from the internet’s back row? Well, I have no idea, but it works very well, and I speak from experience.
• Paul goes on to say that God is like this in all the churches of the saints. There is no difference between gatherings. From Corinth to Philippi to Ephesus to Antioch, God is a God of peace and joy and love and kindness and longsuffering. He makes His sun to rise on the righteous and unrighteous alike (and HE doesn’t have to). So if you’re trying to say, well it doesn’t work that way around here, you might want to consider if you are really in one of the “churches of the saints,” and the word “saint” here just means “holy ones,” and is the most common reference to believers in the New Testament.
In this section we saw that there should be order in the church. Paul is telling us that there is a regulative principle for real in things to do during a church gathering. Is there a corresponding normative principle? I think there can be, but one should always take great care not to violate the rules of worship that are set out for the New Testament church like here. As you can tell, I tend toward the Regulative Principle in worship. But that is perhaps a discussion for another time. The Normative Principle misapplied is what is responsible for places like Bethel in Redding, California. I think we do well with a conservative course here, steering deliberately away from danger. After all, why would we want to do something that would involve disobeying Almighty God or that violates His order? And these are not the only things that God has a regulations in His house.
34-39: Various other regulations, or Was Paul a misogynist? (No…)
Paul says some very strong and controversial things to the gathering of believers at Corinth. Some of these have caused modern feminists to call Paul a misogynist, or led them to believe that he hated women. I am here to say that Paul loved women like he loved men, and that it was Christianity under the leadership of the Apostle Paul that was responsible for all of the modern protections that are in place for women today. These are slowly (and sometimes rapidly) giving way to the standpoint theory of the modern feminism movement. The 5-cent tour of Standpoint Theory is that originates in Marxism, and takes on the position that females are an oppressed group by men (sadly this has at times been true, adding fuel to their fire), and that no one can actually understand what an oppressed woman feels like in her oppression if they are not female themselves. They resort to things like story-telling to make their point, and if I’m being honest, their point was not hard to make, with all the Harvey Weinsteins of the world out there, and the MeToo movement exposing what was really going on upon the “casting couch.” Hint: There is a reason it was a couch – one could lay down on it in a way that cannot be done with a seat or a chair. And for any man that didn’t get it or didn’t understand it, and pay attention, here is the real trick, that was just more evidence of the strength of the oppressor. Women who disagree with this are seen either as sell-outs or proof of male oppression. Does this sound familiar, Beloved? It should – Standpoint Theory is where Critical Theory and Intersectionality come from, in a traceable lineage in the literature. There is even a theological branch of it, seen in the theology school in Frankfurt, Germany that first wrote the ideas down and put them into action. But I digress. This is supposed to be about the other regulations in the house of God, and we’re going to dive right in and explain what we have to as we get there, and we are going to get there one phrase at a time.
34: The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.
• The very first thing that the Apostle Paul says here is that the women are to keep silent in the churches. In case you missed that, he then says that these women are not permitted to speak. Those are not translation errors, that is what the Greek says. But if we take these verses without an understanding of the terms, and an understanding of the cultural context, and of the position of these verses in Scripture, you will encounter all the angry feminists and have no answer or reason. What does this mean? Whenever I have to say anything about a controversial issue, I try to do my homework. I read no less than five scholarly sources on what the text says and means. Here is what I arrived at.
• There is a great debate about verses 34 and 35, and the two camps are about as opposed in thinking as one can get. A spokesman for one side said that these verses should be cut from scripture, not because of what they say, but because he doubted they were part of the original letter. Figuratively speaking, he would take out his pen-knife as Jehoiachin did, and cut out the bits he didn’t like. The problem with Dr. Fee’s argument is that there are NO manuscripts that omit these verses. The difference in the manuscripts is essentially where these verses occur, with the minority view placing them after v.40 of the chapter. In other words, Paul leaves us no choice but to deal with his words here. Some believe (and there is some evidence of this) that these two verses were intended as something he had as an afterthought, so he went back and wrote it himself in the margin. Also, because of the variability of the location, it is possible, however unlikely, that this was something that crept in to the manuscript as an error or a political push of some kind. I think of it a different way, and I am on the opposite side of these ideas because they are all conjecture. I think some things can be discerned.
• There is an argument that this is an example of a verse division that the folks who did that got wrong. The last part of v.33 is proposed to belong to verse 34. That would render a reading something like:
○ And for all the churches of the saints: The women are to stay quiet in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but instead should subject themselves, just as the Law also says.
• This would mean that this was NOW regulation for ALL the churches, not just the church at Corinth, and we have already seen examples of this Corinth-only teaching, like say the man excommunicated for sleeping with his (step)mother. We do know that the letters to the Corinthians were ALL corrective in nature, and it is not difficult to imagine that much of what Paul was saying was to correct issues unique to this gathering, and that seems to be the majority position of commentators that I read, Including John MacArthur, Matthew Henry, the .NET Bible Commentary, and an NIV commentary. I think Dr. MacArthur puts in most logically when he explains that the phrase I relocated is more of a logical introduction of the topic of women in the church than a logical conclusion to God not being a God of confusion. Paul was saying that women not speaking in the church had nothing to do with geography, culture, or local issues to Corinth, but were in fact universal to all the churches. This is consistent with a traditional Complementarian view of Scripture, incidentally. For the record, this is the point of view that says that men and women were created to be equal, but that God has designed different yet complimentary roles for men and women in the church. That means that there are certain jobs that women are excluded from in the church, like teaching from the pulpit. There are certain jobs that men are excluded from like having babies, that is giving life to the human race.
• Lest you think that complementarianism is just an excuse for men to oppress women, it is balanced against the strong encouragement for husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the Church – and He died for it. That’s a pretty big call to fulfill. But is this saying that women are not allowed to speak in church? I don’t think so, because it seems that in chapter 11:2-16, permission is given for women to pray and/or prophecy in church meetings. Paul isn’t revoking the right for a sister to address the entire church meeting. The silence spoken of here is not regarding the absolute prohibition of women not speaking to the entire church. That would sometimes shoot half our announcements, and with our announcements and the ladies that give them, they do well, and we do well to hear them. Some would say then that this has to do with the restriction on women that prevents them from taking an authoritative teaching role as per 1 Tim. 2. Another interesting thought is that this relates to the previous evaluation of the prophets. A woman asking the questions here would violate the women having authority over men thing. Whatever the case, these words are in the text, and you have to decide where you come down on them. And you cannot dodge it by being a demagogue and say stuff like “You’re trying to take away the right to preach from women!” Have you all noticed that’s been done at least twice at our church council meetings? It has been, and by the same person. And no one wants to speak up about it. Be fair in your analysis and even in your hermeneutics, please. And don’t scream “your interpretation, your interpretation” at me, because you suggest in that statement that I am WRONG. What’s your interpretation. Can we have an honest discussion, and if needed debate over this from the Scriptures? I’m guessing not.
35: 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.
• This is just a continuation of what was said in the previous verse, but Paul here is still being consistent in that he is putting the responsibility on the husband to instruct and inform the wife in a marriage relationship. If a female of the species starts to ask questions in a church meeting, it is a disgrace to the church, to the husband or father of the woman herself because they have not been doing their jobs properly. It is a disgrace to the church because it has left the needs of the woman unmet, and that is a shame on the pastors and elders. The church is however, a place for those questions to form. We are not discouraging the questions! We just need them to be asked in the right context. I am not trying to be discriminatory or inflammatory. I am just telling you what the Word says. Moving on.
36: Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?
• Now it is easy to assume this is something Paul is saying to the women in Corinth because of the position of this, but it isn’t. This is spoken to the whole gathering at Corinth. What you must understand is that many of the believers in Corinth had a hard time with what Paul said, and fought him over it tooth and nail even when he was there. They felt that they had a corner on truth, and they really didn’t. Paul was setting that record straight. He is flat-out posing them a question designed to stop people in their tracks. Was it your from which the word of God went forth? Of course it wasn’t and everyone knew it. Or has it come to you only? Again, of course not. It’s like Paul was saying, “Hey! What is wrong with you people?” (LOL) Seriously, people! EVERYONE else got this and has nary a question about it! What is your problem?!?
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.
• Here is Paul getting down to brass tacks. These are the things that will really stick to the wall. You think you’re a prophet? You think you’re spiritual? You think you have a super walk with Christ? Well, if you really do, you will recognize the things that I have said here as not my words, but the Lord’s commandment. Are you even willing to do that?
38: But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
• Well, if you WON’T say it, everyone will no that you’re no servant of God if you go ANYWHERE else. Boy, that’s missing today. Look at what a steaming hole of a swamp not just Charismaticism, but evangelical Christianity has become today. It seems like any person that decides to call themselves a Christian is accepted as one without anyone checking to see if he or she is one. And these false converts are allowed not only to speak in church, but they allowed to EASILY worm their way into positions of authority in the local church, and even into positions of power within the denomination or whatever serves as its governing body. From there, they run their fake agendas and run every real believer into the ground so that they are either silenced or they leave for a place where they can actually be fed. AND NO ONE WILL DRAIN THE SWAMP THAT CAN. So you’ll pardon me that if someone tells me that Paul didn’t author say, the book of Ephesians, I have REAL trouble accepting them as a brother in Christ. I mean the very first verse says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints that are at Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus.” Beloved, if they want to fight and argue with what Paul or any of the writers of Scripture (Old or New Testaments), we have reason to doubt their salvation! Now, there is a little good news with that. We can evangelize them! Clearly they need to know Jesus in a saving way.
39: Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.
• Paul now returns from what seems to me to have been an aside of sorts, and comes back to his point of a few lines ago – desire earnestly to prophecy, that is to speak forth the Scriptures, the very word of God, and do not forbid to speak in other languages. And we shouldn’t. You never know when we might get a visit from an America that needs a translator into English, LOL!
40: But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.
• And with that, he restates his earlier instructions about everything being done in the proper order. I’ve thought this for years, but I never really ever said it out loud to anyone. We need to be careful in how we approach worship in the church. It is not okay to grab a guitar and a blanket and go sit by the canal with a couple of friends and sing Kumbaya and Michael, Row The Boat Ashore for 20 minutes and then go home. That might be a good time of fellowship, but it isn’t worship. There seems to be this attitude in worship that anything goes, and I don’t believe that for a New York minute. If anything really goes in worship, then why is there chapter after chapter and book after book in both Old and New Testaments that tell us how to approach God? I have asked that question privately of a couple of itinerant brethren over the years, and both of them agreed with me. Whatever you can glean from the Scriptures about how the church should meet for what kind of meeting should be your regulative principle. Write it down so others can follow it. Revise it over time as your understanding of what the Lord is telling you in Scripture grows into more clarity. Adhere as closely as possible to what Paul says and what patterns of worship can be seen in the New Testament for worship. Never, and I repeat, NEVER make any of this up as you go along. Don’t just do what others do blindly. Know why! Understand what you are doing. And then do it all “in the spirit,” as Paul has said earlier in the book, and in other books as well.
But Ger, I hear you say, our place of fellowship isn’t like this! I think I understand. Neither is mine, and it isn’t for lack of trying. What can I do? Well, I am a firm believer in a “bloom-where-you’re-planted” mentality, because God put you where you are. If He wants you to leave, HE will take you out. How He will do that is up to Him, but you can pray about it I suppose. It just seems like such a misuse of prayer in a way. It isn’t the needs you have that should be in your prayers unless you balance that against all of the bad stuff that can come out of you and affect others. That’s what James talks about, anyway. Brothers, I’m praying, and you should be as well. You should be learning to do what I do, all of you. “I’m not capable” is no excuse. You’re supposed to desire to prophecy, that is speak the word of God to people and apply it to their situation. Learn how to worship. Learn how to pray. Learn how (and these days when) to fellowship! And do it all yesterday, and do it while you stay off of everybody’s radar.
So now you know why I am not a Charismatic anymore, though it is where I started. The Lord has had a lot of mercy on me to bring me to a place where I can teach others about that movement’s false teachings and not be bitter against it for the wrongs that I suffered there. I am in fact still thankful for the friendships that I formed there, and the stuff I really did learn there. I am not trying to shoot at anyone or grind an axe of any kind when I decry what the Charismatics have become. I call on them all to drain the swamp it has become. Call out false prosperity teachers. Stand against sexual sins, especially those that are under the colour of authority, like so-called evangelist Clayton Jennings, who after sexually exploiting several girls, got caught and had his credentials justly revoked when he wouldn’t submit to some kind of restoration plan. Eventually he went a little crazy, and his wife, fearing for her and their daughter’s lives, called the police. It seems he had gone on a rampage and flipped their bed over, broke their television, stuff like that – and it got him arrested and charged. Now the charges were dropped because his wife wouldn’t press the charges, but he’s still out there trying now to be a life coach and what is called a “spoken word” artist. In fact he’s just come out with a new album that shows he is in reality still unrepentant, and blames all the “bloggers” that took him down. Dude, somebody had to. You can’t sleep with six girls on one tour and then go home to your wife and daughter and still call yourself a Christian. You just For real! can’t. You need to repent and believe the Gospel. For Real. Before your time runs out, and we don’t know when that is going to be.
I’m not sure how I got onto that topic, but suffice it to say you NEED to really seek after God with your whole heart. I do realize that it is difficult to work up motivation to continually do this job, especially one where there are very few people saying thank you (you shouldn’t need them) and little or no pay (that should not motivate you) and have to face too many stronger opponents all the time (Goliath didn’t deter David, nor did Goliath’s four other brothers – he picked five stones from the brook). There is a discipline to a worthy walk to the Lord, and that is up to you with the Lord’s help. I’m too tired, you say. Jesus got Himself hanged on a cross for 6 hours after he was given 39 lashes with a cat-o’-nine-tails. His blood touched the cross before they put in the nails, you know. But I have health problems! Don’t make me laugh. I’m a diabetic heart patient with high blood pressure, and it’s one of the ways I can relax! I’m in pain! I also have arthritis and degenerative disc disorder, and a chronic bad back that resulted from a fire-fighting injury. What’s your excuse? But I’m a wimp! Okay, I get that, so am I sometimes – but when we are weak, He is strong. My big question after all of this analysis to you all is this: What is it going to take to get YOU to WALK in a WORTHY manner? I can’t even do that for myself, never mind you all. And yet, like I said, when I am weak, HE is strong.
Or maybe you need yet to make that great exchange that Paul talks about in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ – nevertheless, I live – yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Exchange that mess you call a life for His holy and righteous life. He already took your punishment. He died for you – now LIVE for HIM. And Beloved, I cannot do that for you. You must do it for yourself. I pray that you would all turn from your sins and walk in the Spirit – in a worthy manner of Kurios Iesus Christos. And that’s what I saw in the chapter. It is a call for the Corinthians to repent, and we should follow suit.