Study of 1 Corinthians – This is how we live – part 17

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Continuing our series on 1 Corinthians we now come to chapter 14 verses 26-40. The recording ends rather abruptly due to the wrong button being pressed near the end of the recording process. Most of it is here though.

This section of Paul’s advice is about release, but people have interpreted it a means of control. Paul is speaking of the word of the Holy Spirit and how it may be released in us and through us.

1) All May Speak
1 Cor 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 has” !? From where did they get it? This teaching of Paul’s regarding church practice and right order in worship assumes that the believers are “connected” to Jesus in the first place.

All can speak to God, all can speak of God, and all can build up another believer. All can contribute to a gathering and all can prophesy.

The status of women in church gatherings
All can speak? What of women in the light of verses 34 and 35?

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

Yes, but to find out what these words mean we must not pluck those two verses out of their context. See verse 31, “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.”

Prophecy is for the strengthening, encouraging and comfort of believers. Why would women be barred from exercising this simple ministry when Paul has just written that all can prophesy in turn? This was the age of the Holy Spirit which was introduced to the amazed onlookers by Peter. We read the account in Acts 2 when Peter quoted the prophet Joel in verse 17, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.”

See Acts 21:7-9
7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. 8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

We can see then that the role of prophet was recognised early in the life of the New Testament church and that women exercised that ministry, such as the daughters of Philip.

I can not accept that Paul is here going against the word of the Lord declared through the prophet Joel, commonly known among the Jews, and quoted by Peter. Had prophecy as a gift of the Holy Spirit not been bestowed on women as well as men, Peter could not have had announced the fulfilment of the prophecy as he did.

We already know that Paul believed that women could prophesy as he had already commented on it in chapter 11 of this letter when he said they should have their head covered when they did so.

1 Corinthians 11:5
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head…

Paul even gave the reason for that, that it was the tradition among both Greeks and Romans, and among the Jews, that no woman should be seen in public without a veil. If he knew about the daughters of Philip, and had already said that women should cover their heads WHEN they pray or prophecy, who would he now be saying something contrary?

What the apostle Paul is teaching about here is undermining of the free expression of the Holy Spirit by arguing or finding fault, etc. A woman who has prophesied, that is taught, is a teacher, is not going to to need to ask questions of her husband at home. The one who should ask questions at home is the one who has not understood and whose ignorance was causing disruption.

Of course there is something else we should bear in mind when we consider the place of women in the church in relation to the church in Corinth. In Acts 18 we read how Paul began the church there and how Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, became the leader of it! In every case except the first one, whenever the names of Priscilla and Aquila appear, Priscilla is mentioned before her husband indicating her priority of role.

2) All Judge
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others…

There have been various attempts to explain this. At the beginning of the 20th century Pentecostal outpouring this became a contentious matter. A reason for that is that some taught that if a prophet spoke it was only other prophets who had a right to weigh or judge the authenticity of what had been spoken.

For those who love their own status, or those who wish to control others, this is a tempting interpretation of the passage. However, another way of understanding this is to see that just as all may speak or pray as the are inspired by the Holy Spirit, so also all can participate in the hearing and applying of the prophecy. We can all make up our minds whether something is authentic (assuming it has already passed the test of being biblical in doctrine).

Sometimes it is not whether a proclamation is authentic or not for the group, it is whether it is for connecting with our own heart.

For this week, why not pray for opportunities to speak words of encouragement?

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