1 Corinthians 14:29
“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”
Confusion broke out in the Corinthian church. Instead of meeting for the worship of God and the study of His word, the church had become a place for people to show off their spiritual gifts. Those with the gift of tongues saw the meetings as a time to speak or even sing in tongues. They thought the church existed to hear them sing. Others had the gift of prophecy, or at least they thought they did. To them the church existed as a place to share the things they thought were most relevant for the people to hear. I can imagine what the scene must have been like as the church gathered, opened in prayer, and then one by one, each louder than the last, the people began to share their thoughts and sing their songs. To the onlooker, it must have appeared to be a Christian version of “America’s Got Talent.”
Paul writes to correct their behavior and bring the fellowship back to something that honors God and impacts the community. In order to accomplish this, he reminds them of a responsibility that each Christian bears. He writes, “… let the others judge.” The standard of judgment that must lead the Christian, and shape the church, is the written Word of God. Paul is exhorting them not to accept everything done in the name of Jesus, as being from Jesus. This is a critical principle with much application, not the least of which has to do with the daily function of the local church. Scripture informs us, the purpose of the church is to glorify God, preach the Gospel, make disciples, and train up the next generation of leaders. To that end, the church is to teach the Word of God and provide an atmosphere where people can worship, pray, and develop godly relationships. Paul put it like this,
Ephesians 4:12-13 “. . . for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
We should view the church as a place where we are fed, instructed, built up, and equipped, in order that we might go out into the world, impacting our circle of influence for the Kingdom of Heaven. Sadly, today, many see the church as the Corinthians did. They think the church exists solely as a place where they can exercise their gifts, and when they are not allowed to, they become frustrated with the leadership and complain to others. In many cases, they leave their church and go to another one that will let them perform. While gifts are necessary for the church to function properly, the gifts are not given so we can showcase our talents. If you are not getting to do what you want at your church, don’t behave Corinthian. Instead, look at the fact that God may want to use you in a totally different way than He has in the past. Come to the fellowship looking to be built up and equipped for service, then ask God to set before you an open door to impact others for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Who knows, God may even want to use you in the children’s ministry…
Questions for 1 Corinthians 14
- After teaching on love in chapter 13, Paul exhorts us to pursue it, “to seek after eagerly”. Are you pursuing a love for God and others? Is it a driving priority for you to see love worked out in your life?
- We are also told to desire spiritual gifts. Do you feel this way about spiritual gifts in your life? Do you have a desire to see God work through your life and to equip you for that work with all the gifting He would give?
- As Paul exhorts us to desire spiritual gifts, he then goes on to teach that not all gifts are equal. Prophesying (biblically speaking), means to speak for God. This can be predictive (the sense that we often think of prophecy in our culture), or prescriptive, a word from God (instruction, encouragement, exhortation, see verse 3). He clearly puts this at the top of the list of spiritual gifts. Read verses 4-5. Why is prophecy so important?
- Read verses 2, 4. Speaking in tongues is a prayer language to God, and is personally edifying to the one who is using the gift. Speaking in tongues is one of the more dramatic, sensational, and unusual gifts. Yet its value is extremely limited. Read 6-11. List some of the limitations of this gift.
- Look at verse 12. What is the guiding principle here concerning the use of spiritual gifts?
- Read verses 13-20. Paul establishes that understanding is to take priority over ignorance. Did Paul speak in tongues? How often do his letters draw attention to this? When he ministered to others what was his priority
- The rest of the chapter is summed up by the idea in verses 39-40. Let all things be done decently and in order. All things are to be done, but not all in a public setting, and none in a way that is disorderly, chaotic, or that draws attention away from Jesus.
- Verses 21-25 speak of how gifts are a “sign” that points to God. Is this your focus when you seek to use your gifts?
- Verses 26-35 establish some guidelines for the church to function in a way that is orderly and not confusing. Have you ever been in a church service and been distracted by something out of order? How did that affect you receiving from God during that bible study?
- There are some pretty plain guidelines in this chapter concerning spiritual gifts and their use. But if a person will not receive the instruction, what is Paul’s position concerning them in verse 38?