This is Part 6 of my series of blogposts about speaking in tongues. I would encourage you to read each of them before coming to your own conclusions about this spiritual gift. There is so much I had to learn and unlearn when I gave up my own gift of “tongues”. For me, it came only after prayerfully searching my Bible over a period of years and surrendering my own feelings and opinions to the God I had come to know and love.
One verse has struck me with the importance of my speech, even that which included the “tongues” prayer language I practiced during my years in the Pentecostal church. It says in Psalm 139:4, “For there is not a word in my tongue, [but], lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.”
We also find in Hebrews 4:13 that we must give an account to God of everything we do or say. This revelation hit me and pushed me to study even harder to make sure my words, including this so-called prayer language I was practicing, were indeed genuine and from the Holy Spirit.
So here is the continuation of my study of 1 Corinthians 14. This latter part of the chapter provides the foundation of what Paul thought of as order in the church community.
“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.” 1Cor. 14:26
Paul is saying here: “Let me try to put it simply to you, brothers. When you’re in fellowship together, you may all share what God has put on your hearts, according to the gifts He has developed in each of you. Go ahead then and edify the church in these various ways I have listed. But always remember these gifts should work together to unify, enlighten, and heal the body of Christ, called edification.”
We see here a variety of ways God is blessed in our worship services. Songs, preaching, testimonies, and prayer are all avenues we may use to praise and worship God.
“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.” 1Cor. 14:27
If any speak in another foreign language, Paul tells them to confine it to two speakers, and no more than three, followed by someone giving an interpretation. This would support Peter’s belief that “no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20)
When each of the believers recognizes his responsibility and accountability to each of the other members in the body of Christ, we see stability and unity, resulting in everyone who comes to church, even visitors, being edified, or built up.
“But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” 1Cor. 14:28
If there is no interpreter(s) present in the church, they should keep still and speak quietly to God, like they would in their own home. It’s important to maintain a quiet, respectful atmosphere in the house of God.
“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.” 1Cor. 14:29
Very similar to verse 27, this verse tells us once again that those who had the responsibility to judge were those members who knew the language(s) of those two or three who were speaking, and were equipped to provide an interpretation of the messages.
This requirement prevented any private interpretations, false testimony, or incorrect teaching in the body of Christ. Besides, it was just essential to an orderly church service.
“If [any thing] be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” 1Cor. 14:30, 31
Verses 30 and 31 go together. They give the instruction not to speak over one another, but to wait and speak one at a time, removing all confusion. This allowed the congregation to fully understand and be comforted by the message.
The word “comfort” is mentioned also in verse 3 of this chapter. It said there that prophesying (or preaching) provides edification (helps us to grow spiritually), exhortation (teaches us how to live), and gives us comfort (brings us encouragement). All these blessings are brought about by God’s Spirit of promise and grace.
Obviously, these things occur most readily in an orderly, reverent congregation. Paul wants them to get the most out of their fellowship together.
“And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” 1Cor. 14:32
The prophets, both those currently preaching and those writers of the Holy Scriptures, are subject to each other. In other words, they must agree. God requires his servants, who are giving the message, by either the spoken or the written word, to have a unity of mind through the Holy Spirit.
A cross-reference text here is 1 John 4:1, which says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Of course, Jesus warned of this very thing too in Matthew 24:5, when He said, “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
In Ephesians 6:12, Paul calls us to wear God’s armor, because “we wrestle…against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].”
Paul had good reason to remind the Corinthians of the danger of disorderly services in their church. It could lead to members being deceived and misled by Satanic forces, thinking they were hearing God’s Spirit, when they weren’t.
“For God is not [the author] of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1Cor. 14:33
“He [God] requires that order and system be observed in the conduct of church affairs today no less than in the days of old. He desires His work to be carried forward with thoroughness and exactness so that He may place upon it the seal of His approval. Christian is to be united with Christian, church with church, the human instrumentality co-operating with the divine, every agency subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all combined in giving to the world the good tidings of the grace of God.” Ellen White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 9
We will save the completion of this chapter for next time. It begins with the idea of women not speaking in churches, a topic we need to examine carefully and thoroughly. What did Paul mean by that statement? Was it meant to deny the equality of men and women, as many have seen it? Seeing what God says about this subject throughout the Bible should help us understand Paul’s recommendation here.