1 Corinthians 14

This devotional is written by Alex Iddin.

1 Corinthians 14

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Intelligibility in worship 14 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an enquirer, say 'Amen' to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:

'With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.'

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and enquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an enquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!'

Good order in worship 26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two - or at the most three - should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace - as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.

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.

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.


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The end of verse 26 jumps out to me here: "Everything must be done so that the church may be built up."

This is an inspiring and confronting verse. The call for St. Mary's and every church is that whatever we do as a church family together; Sunday services, praying together, small groups, worship, community outreach or any other collective effort, it must be done so that the church, not just our church St. Mary's, but the whole church of God may be built up.

What does this look like? It probably means something slightly different to each one of us but to me it looks like making every effort to allow our community to reflect God's plans and will for us in order that we might achieve three things: be a community that looks inwards and loves each other and provides comfort and support where necessary, be a community that looks outwards to our world where so many desperately need the love of Jesus and thirdly to be a church that looks upwards to God for our guidance.

We aren't called to just focus on ourselves and never on those outside the doors, because that's not spreading the good news. Nor are we to ignore the needs of those in our church and only focus on the world, because that's not looking after the different parts of our church body. There is a balance to be struck and what I love about this passage is that God gives his gifts according to the need that is present.

In verse 22 Paul writes: "Tongues are...for unbelievers, prophecy however...is for believers." I don't personally think that God wants us to never prophesy for unbelievers, or never speak in tongues in front of each other because we are believers. I think the point to take away from this is that God will provide for whatever He has called us to, all we have to do is trust in him and be faithful to His plans and His gfits. He is a good God who will lead us gracefully while we do His work. Each one of us has gifts from God, and our job as a church is to encourage each other to fearfully use those gifts.

Despite the word count I feel I should briefly address verses 34 and 35 which have caused a great deal of pain to women in the church for hundreds of years and have been used to deny many women the opportunity to lead in churches. I am no expert but from my limited reading and understanding there are a few explanations that theologians give for these verses. The first is that these verses weren't written by Paul and were added some time later and therefore there is a question mark over how, if at all, we should read them. The second explanation which theologians like NT Wright give, is that Paul is referring to social and cultural specifics present at the time in the church, which aren't present now. Namely that the services would be conducted in formal, classical languages such as Greek or Arabic and most women would not be taught these languages and would instead speak a local dialect. So when Paul is writing this he is referring to how difficult it would be for women to engage in the leading of these services due to not speaking the language used. Either way I don't believe that Paul is making a definitive theological rule for how women should engage in Church for all time and I don't believe that the Bible supports the view that women should not be active participants in the running of the church. If this is a particularly difficult passage I encourage you to speak to a member of the leadership team.

Lord God, please help us to be a community that lovingly looks after one another, help us to look beyond our walls to those in the world who so desperately need You, and help us to always look to You first before anything else. Amen.

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