Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Importance Of Prophecy, Order, And Submission In Worship: 1 Corinthians 14

Theme: Christ is God's wisdom...


2. For answering questions (7-16)
     D. About spiritual gifts (12:1-14:40)

Chapter 14 continues the thought that love is the most important work of the Spirit in a believer's life. As such, believers should desire to minister in a way which will build up the whole church and glorify God, rather than edify or exalt one's self. This involves preferring prophecy over tongues (1-26), order in the worship service (26-33), and personal submission (34-40).

To edify the body, one must prefer prophecy over tongues (1-26). Prophecy, in Bible times, included the ministry of foretelling events, and forthtelling God's message to men. Before the Bible was completed, prophets received direct, revelation from God. Since the Bible has been completed, there is a sense in which this gift is no longer in effect. 

The book of Revelation says not to add or subtract from the words of that book. Since Revelation is complete in its scope (giving details of events which will consummate God's program with man), was the last book written or endorsed by an apostle of Christ, and since all Scripture is equally inspired, our Bible is the final and complete Word of God to man. In the sense of receiving new revelation from God, then, the gift of prophecy has ceased. 

But if one understands prophecy in the sense described in verse 3, "one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation", the gift may still be in effect. When someone preaches or teaches from the Bible, he is speaking to the edification, exhortation, and consolation of believers. While he does not receive any additional revelation from God, he does prophecy in the sense he forth-tells God's message to men, when he teaches what the Bible says, and foretells the future when he exposits Bible prophecy like Revelation. 

Prophecy is more edifying to the body than the gift of tongues because "One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church" (4; cf. 1-19); i.e. many would not even be able to understand what a person who is speaking in tongues is saying. 

Further, tongues were intended as a sign for unbelieving Jews, whereas prophesy is for believers (20-22). If an unsaved person came into an assembly and heard people speaking in tongues, he would conclude they were mad, whereas if he heard them prophesying, "he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 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" (24-25). To edify the body, one must prefer prophecy over tongues.

Next, to edify the body, one must conduct himself in an orderly fashion (26-33). When the believers in Corinth prophesied, they were all speaking at the same time. Believers were supposed to wait their turn, because this would enable others to understand what was being said, and because, "God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in  all the churches of the saints." To edify the body, one must conduct himself in an orderly fashion. 

Finally, to edify the body, one must submit himself to God's authority (34-40). This passage instructs women to "keep silent in the churches", and wait till they get home to ask questions of their husbands (34-35). The reasons given are because, "they are not permitted to speak", but are supposed to "subject themselves, just as the Law also says" (34), because "it is improper for a woman to speak in church" (35), because it is part of the "Lord's commandment" (37), and because it is in keeping with God's order (40, cf. 33, 34). 

There are variant interpretations of how this passage applies today (Please see notes on previous chapter). Some think the instructions fit only the specific cultural situation of Paul's time and are null today. Others note the entire Bible was written in the context of local, cultural situations, and to dismiss a passage on this principle alone renders the entire Bible irrelevant. 

Another view is that this means women are only instructed to avoid disrupting prophecy with questions. Some object that if this were the case, why would it instruct women "not to speak", and to wait till they get home (rather than just until no one is prophesying) to ask questions? To edify the body, one must submit himself to God's authority and order.

Believers should seek to minister to the body in a way that will edify the body, by preferring prophecy to tongues, conducting themselves in an orderly fashion, and submitting to God's authority.

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