One: 1 Corinthains 14.26-40
July 28, 2013 Series: One | First Letter to the Corinthians
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 14:26–14:40
So here at Damascus Road, we preach through whole books of the Bible because all of God’s Word, not just the pleasant, easy to understand and agree with passages, are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. And today’s passage is no exception to that.
Last week, Sam covered the often confusing, even sometimes scary subject of prophecy and tongues. I told Sam I’d do him one better and preach about prophecy, tongues, AND submission – which is always a crowd pleaser. So with that, let’s get started.
Hopefully you’ve caught most of the sermons and have a good sense of what’s going on in this poster-child church in this idyllic little 500,000 person town called Corinth. By way of brief review, Corinth is a bustling port city full of commerce, idol worship and uninhibited sexual exploration. Paul founded the church himself and writes this letter to the church 3 years later when he hears how horribly broken it is.
Throughout the letter we’ve seen that their values and their focus are in the wrong place in so many ways
o Chap 1 - They value the praise of men and status – boasting about who they follow – love to drop names ( 1 Cor 1-4, 11)
o Individuality over the body
ï‚§ Chap 5: sexual perversion and have a careless – “live and let live” attitude – man sleeping with his dad’s wife and nobody in the body is stepping in to discipline him
ï‚§ Chap 6 willing to take each other to court to “get mine” rather than be wrong for the sake of Christ
ï‚§ Chap 7 - Marriages are woefully broken
ï‚§ Chap 11 - desecrating Lord’s Table by treating it more like the early-bird special at Anthony’s than the Christ-exalting remembrance it’s meant to be
ï‚§ Chap 12 - Coveted each other’s spiritual gifts and were either puffed with pride or deflated with despair
We add to this quagmire one more defect and deviation that Sam preached on last week – when they assemble it’s a circus. People are speaking out of turn, talking over top of each other because they love the sound of their own voices. The Corinthians were all too eager to exercise their spiritual gifts as a way of exalting themselves and showing others how uber-spiritual they were. Sadly, using the very gifts that God had given them, they were actually tearing the body down and destroying it.
It’s to this messed up, chaotic, disjointed body that Paul writes the following words. In our text today, Paul is going to show us that there’s
1. An OBJECTIVE for our worship
2. An ORDER to our worship
3. And an OBSTACLE to overcome that leads to deeper worship
REGARDING OUR OBJECTIVE – BUILDING UP –
26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
At the outset of our passage today, we’re reminded of one of the overriding themes of not just chapters 12-14, but really of the whole book—as followers of Jesus we’re called to edify the body – which means to build each other up. Paul says this against the backdrop of his earlier remarks in 11:17 —“you come together not for better but for the worse”. He has to repeat himself over and over because the Corinthians have no concept that the church is actually ONE body with many interdependent parts, as we saw in chapter 12 and that we’re to exercise God-given, others-inspired agape love for that body, as we saw in chapter 13.
Now if you’re like a lot of folks, it’s tempting to justify and to define your life on the basis of what you haven’t done. “I don’t put people down. I don’t fight with my spouse or significant other. I’ve never offended anyone at church. I’m not like ‘those’ people. “
EXAMPLE: There are times when Ethan, our 7 year old, will get in such a nasty attitude with his brother. Caleb will ask Ethan a question like, “Hey Ethan, what do you think of my Lego car?” and Ethan will ignore him with a slight scowl on his face. So I’ll intervene…”Hey E, could you respond to your brother please? He asked you a question.” To which Ethan has responded, “I don’t want to say anything because what I’m thinking of saying isn’t nice.”
As a follower of Jesus it’s not enough not to tear down. It’s not enough to not fight with your spouse. It’s not enough not to yell at your kids. It’s not enough not argue with your neighbor over his dog’s poop in your yard. God has called us to be builders.
The thing is I don’t think a lot of the Corinthians were even necessarily trying to tear down their fellow believers. I think in many regards they just got so caught up with what they thought was deeply spiritual, which for them were outward manifestations of spiritual gifts, that they’d squeezed out all bandwidth in their hearts and minds for them to even consider the needs of their brother or sister, or to consider how God might be calling them to use the gifts He’s given them to building up the body.
Often times that subtle narcissism or self-focus that we’re all plagued with through our fallen nature isn’t so evident and apparent because it’s couched and wrapped up in good things like endless book reading and podcasting and bible study. Many of us pursue spiritual growth like a monk – in a vacuum, apart from community. We think we can learn all that’s worth learning through study.
The reality is we’ll never reach our deepest level of spiritual maturity in the ivory tower. It’s when we allow our study and our theology, our Orthodoxy, our right thinking about God, to inform and inspire our Orthopraxy, our right living for God, that we become most like Jesus. There’s a cheesy cliché out there that I believe has a good deal of truth to it – “if God can get it through you, He’ll get it to you”. Carly will attest to this—my desire to study and my grasp of what I study and read in Scripture almost exponentially increased as I became more and more involved in service and leadership here at DRC. There’s a reciprocal relationship between the two. Conversely, I believe that if you’re not focusing yourself on building others up, all your study will only yield a bunch of intellectual head knowledge and leave your heart underdeveloped.
So I wrap up this thought simply asking you where and how are you building up the bride? We still have a number of gaps at this campus that need filling in KidsRoad, slides & sound, Roadies, clean up crew after service and more.
In addition to that, whose lives you’re investing in? Who are you seeking to love on and build up in the knowledge of Christ? If no one is on that list, I’d suggest that faces and names that might have crossed your mind when I asked that very well may be the ones God wants you to reach out to. Let’s not just not tear down, let’s be intentional about building others up!
For all the ways the Corinthians fail at as a body, within their brokenness there’s a nugget of beauty. Notice how Paul says in verse 26: “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation…” They came prepared!! They weren’t just spectators and consumers. They were participants and contributors in the worship service.
Two weekends ago, Ken Hughes and Brian Mcgill and I rode our bicycles 204 miles from Seattle down to Portland with 10,000+ other folks. I’d done the ride once before in 2009 and agreed to do it again with them because I felt like I needed a commitment of that caliber and a commitment amongst brothers to get back into better health.
That ride was July 13 and 14th. Guess what. We prepared for it. And we didn’t start preparing for it the week before! We started in February or March. And I’ll tell you what, having committed to do the ride, a significant part of my motivation for doing all the preparation when I didn’t want to ride in 40 degree weather and a downpour, was that I knew they weren’t going to ditch me on the ride because we’d all agreed that fellowship on the ride was a high priority. And knowing they weren’t going to ditch me, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t the one slowing them way down. I wanted to make sure I could keep pace and make it an enjoyable ride that way. But it required preparation.
And God hasn’t called you to be a mere spectator here at DRC. He’s called you to be a participant, an active member of the body of Christ. And your body needs you prepared for the challenges ahead
Are you prepared when you come to worship Christ with the Bride? At a minimum that involves things like getting enough sleep the night before, reading the upcoming sermon scripture with your family and talking about it, spending some time in prayer for the people God might want you to reach out to the next day.
Don’t just spectate and consume. Prepare yourself to be built up by God and to build others up.
ORDER – Regarding Tongues and Prophecy
So if our OBJECTIVE as we worship God is to build our body up, we need some order, some structure. So Paul writes concerning tongues and prophecy:
27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.
28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent.
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged,
32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
I don’t know if you’ve ever worshipped in a charismatic body, but if you have, and if tongues have been spoken to the whole congregation and not interpreted or ordered in anyway, or someone gets up and says, “Thus says the Lord”, it’s easy to walk out of that gathering and want to toss the baby out with the bathwater and be done with tongues and prophecy altogether. We can’t forget, though, that tongues are a gift from God. The gift isn’t the problem, it’s the heart of the user that’s the problem
EXAMPLE It’s like your 8 year old kid or nephew at Christmas time and they get this new gift that consumes all their attention and turns them in to a monster. They won’t share, their rude, obsessed, sleep with the new toy. The toy’s not the problem—the child just needs some healthy direction for enjoying the toy without obsessing over it. And so it is with the Corinthians.
EXAMPLE: It’s as though the Corinthian body never learned how to walk, like a newborn horse. But whereas a foal knows instinctually what to do to mature and learn to walk in no time, doing what’s “natural” for the Corinthians isn’t to begin working as a singular unit, it’s further division and dissension. So Paul adds some specific bracing here on the proper exercise of tongues to get the body functioning in the right direction.
3 main restrictions Paul gives: only 2-3 tongues speakers, 1 at a time, and the tongue needs to be interpreted or else the person with the tongue needs to keep silent.
Paul gives them very similar restrictions regarding prophecy: only 2-3 speakers in any given gathering, 1 at a time, and the prophecies are to be weighed against Scripture. Notice with these guidelines and restrictions that both speaking in a tongue and prophesying can be controlled. Paul says that the spirit of the one prophesying isn’t a runaway train. The spirit of each prophet is subject to the prophet him or herself.
I think it’d be helpful to talk about what prophecy is and isn’t under the new covenant. Under the old covenant, prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah—when they spoke, they were speaking the very words of God. God’s hand an spirit was on them in such a way that they were able to accurately and authoritatively speak for God. So we read in Heb 1:1, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets”.
But we know that’s not the case for prophets under the new covenant because Paul here tells the Corinthians to weigh what each person prophesies. I guarantee you that no Israelite at the base of Mt Sinai had the hutzpah to say to say to Moses, “Hey Mo, that’s an interesting word you just spoke. But I’m thinking you might have misunderstood what you heard a little bit. It was likely more like 7 commandments. Good effort though!”
No, the New Covenant equivalent of the Old Testament prophet was actually an apostle like Paul or Peter. It’s their words and their writing that rises to that same level of being directly inspired by God. New covenant prophecy lacks that same precision and authority. Instead, it’s more of a sudden impression from God on the heart or mind. That’s why we read in 1 Cor 13:9, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”
Pastor and theologian D. A. Carson describes prophecy this way “In common church life, [prophecy] was recognized to be Spirit-prompted utterance, but with no guarantee of divine authority in every detail, and therefore not only in need of evaluation (1 Corinthians 14:29) but necessarily inferior in authority to the deposit of truth represented by the Apostle Paul”
So what does that look like? It’s as simple as someone saying, “I’m not certain, but I THINK / GET THE SENSE / HAVE A FEELING that God is saying…”
EXAMPLE: Man who walked out on family.
While it’s hard to say exactly who is called upon and qualified to publicly weigh each prophecy the big picture idea is that no matter how seemingly credible someone is—pastor, humble, uber-deacon, bible study leader extraordinaire—you don’t take their word for it, ESPECIALLY if they begin with “thus says the Lord…” You test the spirits and the prophecy against Scripture itself, which is the very thing we see the people of Berea faithfully doing in Acts 17.
At this point, many might be thinking, “well that was a bit of a waste of time” since our gatherings aren’t marked by excessive, out of control, tongue speaking and prophesying. Not so fast. This is just food for thought, but perhaps it’s not an issue b/c we’ve gone too far in the other direction. Sam referenced 1st Thesalonians 5 last week. Paul’s warning to them is much more fitting for our body: “ 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.
There’s something to be said for exuberance in our worship gathering. It’d be a-ok if a few more of us put our hands up while we sing. Why do our favorite sports teams get exceedingly more outward celebration from us than the living God does? See, a lot of times we confuse and misinterpret our orderliness as a sign of respect and honor to God when really it’s a sign that we fear man more than we fear God because we’re concerned of what others are going to think.
2 Samuel 6:20-23 records this:
“And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. “
In this regard, we don’t have the Corinthian problem so much as the Thessalonian problem. We’re inclined to despise and squelch any upwelling of emotion or expression in response to the grace of God in our lives. Be careful that you’re not more concerned with what Michal thinks about, that is, what man thinks of you than you are with how God views you.
OBSTACLE TO WORSHIP: LACK OF SUBMISSION
So we’ve covered how one of our main OBJECTIVES in our worship is to build others up in Christ and that some of that can be achieved through establishing ORDER. Now let’s tackle an OBSTACLE to worship that builds others up.
33b As in all the churches of the saints,
34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission (NASB: let them subject themselves), as the Law also says.
35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
If you’re paying attention to the last few chapters, Paul would seem to be contradicting himself here, since he said in 11:5 that women could pray and prophesy. Whenever we come across apparent contradictions in Scripture, folks always find creative ways to deal with those. For example some commentators go so far as to suggest that these 2 verses were added by a later scribe. The problem with that idea is that these two verses appear in the earliest manuscripts, so there isn’t any warrant for cutting these verses out and rescuing Paul from his seemingly chauvinistic self. We have to deal with them head on.
It’s easy to read a passage like this and think Paul is completely brutish and repressive. Looking from the 21st century to the 1st century, it’d be easy to make that error in judgment. The fact is that within the Greek ekklesia, which was the gathering of Greek citizens for political reasons, women weren’t allowed to speak at all! In contrast, women in the Christian ekklesia, or church, were in fact encouraged to do so. So the reality is, as it always does, the gospel actually liberated women from certain cultural limitations.
With that in view, it’s hard to fully reconstruct the situation Paul is addressing with this letter. Some commentators believe that part of the problem was that after a husband uttered a prophecy, his wife would weigh in on the prophecy, maybe calling his character or behavior at him into question and thus showing disrespect.
I’m inclined to think two things are going on. First, it’s likely the women and men didn’t set together in these services. They were segregated on opposite sides of the room, so wives couldn’t lean over to easily ask a question of their husbands, leaving them to either ask from across the room, or possibly carry out little side conversations with the woman sitting next to them. These conversations would obviously create disorder and confusion.
Secondly, this passage comes right after the section on the weighing of prophecy. It’s very possible that women were taking their newfound cultural freedom in the Christian ekklesia, their ability to speak and participate, farther than appropriate. Yes, women were invited to publicly pray and prophesy, but the weighing of those prophesies in terms of guarding the purity of the church’s doctrine was to be left to the male elders and leadership of the church. If this were the only verse in Scripture that referenced role distinctions, it’d be a tough case to make, but the fact is, Paul couldn’t be more clear than in 1 Tim 2: 12-13: I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve”
Whatever the exact situation was, the big idea is that Paul reminds the Corinthians that the God has established, both in the family itself and in the church, the family of God, prescribed roles based on being male or female. These roles aren’t equal, but they also aren’t inferior—they’re complimentary. They’re God designed and ordained from the beginning of creation. We read about this in Genesis 2, and that’s likely the passage Paul is referencing when he says “as the Law also says “ in v34. When we try to buck God’s established order for the family and the church because we find it objectionable, given the pressures and values of the culture we’re in, we reject God’s peace and invite heaps of confusion.
Men, husbands you’re not off the hook. The scripture says, “let them ask their husbands at home.” When was the last time your wife asked you a question about the things of God? If she isn’t asking you questions, why is that? Does she see a hunger in you to know God better yourself or does she think she stands a better shot of getting the M’s score last night than getting your understanding on a particular passage? Men, you need to be able to lead your wives in your pursuits of God.
That’s a heavy burden, I know. But be encouraged. You don’t have to be know-it-alls or theologians. You just need a humble heart that says, “this is my take, but let me study that a little more or talk to a pastor OR why don’t we study it together!? You don’t have to know it all, but you DO need to take the initiative to shepherd her and your family!
SUBMISSION TO SCRIPTURE, GODLY AUTHORITY & CHURCH TRADITION
36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?
37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.
38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
40 But all things should be done decently and in order.
The Corinthians, with all their expressions of gifts of the Spirit , are high on themselves. They’re the pompous teenager that all of us were at one time or are right now. “Mom and dad don’t have clue. I know how this thing really works!” By God’s grace, in our early 20’s, most of us begin to grow out of this mindset and realize how much wisdom our parents actually have.
Paul is the parent here who sees his teenage child setting herself up for a world of hurt because her eyes are too blinded with pride. So he asks them 2 rhetorical questions to slap the narcissism out of them and then he draws a thick line in the sand. He tells them that if they think they’re so close to God, then it ought to be readily apparent to them that what He’s writing is the gospel truth.
He’s saying, “The gospel didn’t come FROM you Corinthians—it came TO you. You received it! It’s not yours to reinterpret and reimagine to fit your desires or cultural situation. That’s largely what he told them back in chapter 4:6: “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.”
I don’t know if the Corinthians would have had access to some sort of rudimentary form of the gospels, but I do know that we have them. And Jesus has some astonishing and terrifying words recorded in Matthew 7:22-23
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
We see in Matthew that it’s very possible to do a lot of spiritual things but to not know Jesus. It would seem these folks in Matthew 7 weren’t aware of how far they’ve drifted from knowing and being known by Christ. That drift starts slowly but surely when we downgrade or altogether ditch the authority of Scripture over our lives and pay little heed to how other faithful churches across the centuries have of worshipped the one true living God.
Paul has had a lot of challenging words to say today about submission, and they weren’t just about the roles we find ourselves in in virtue of our genders. He’s called the person with an uninterpreted tongue to share to be silent. He’s called the prophet who’s had his turn to submit and make room for another. He’s called for women to submit to their husbands. And now he’s calling the church to submit to what God’s Word declares. Ouch, that’s a lot of submission.
I would suggest to you that a heart of submission, like tongues or prophecy, is a gift that only comes from God. But it’s an even greater gift and always results in the body being built up and the head, Christ Jesus, being magnified.
One big thing to remember about submission – we’re not looking to Lucille Ball or June Cleaver or Marge Simpson for our picture and understanding of submission. In fact, we’re not looking to any woman for that. We’re looking to a man. And not just any man, but the God man, Christ Jesus himself. If anyone had reason and right to claim equality and egalitarianism, it’s Jesus. Instead, Christ submitted himself to the Father, who was worthy of that submission. And not just the Father, but to His creation—to be spit upon, and mocked and murdered. And we were not worthy of His submission. But He submitted because it was the will of His Father and He loved us.
And because of His submission, His joyful enduring of the cross, all of us who put our trust in Him have been born again and have received His same Spirit, who not only equips us with outward manifestations, but more importantly, with an inward disposition that wants to respond to His lavish grace poured out on us by pursuing or abstaining from whatever will build His bride, the church, up.
That’s the gospel good news this morning. But there’s more.
You and I will inevitably fail at this. We’ll either misuse or abuse the gifts God has given us, or out of apathy, not use them at all. And we’ll often resist and rebuff any admonition or encouragement from godly authority in our lives.
Hear God’s Word spoken over you and me, spoken by Paul out of the 1st chapter of this letter. Now that we’ve become familiar through months of study with this deeply broken church, God’s word in 1 Cor 1:4-9 is staggering and so encouraging:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor 1:4-9