1 Corinthians 14


  • 1Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

Prophesy serves those present who would benefit from hearing the word. Paul seems to emphasize this above all other gifts of the spirit because it is beneficial to the listeners. This is Paul's whole purpose in writing these letters. To bring about a godly order in their meetings so that believers are edified, taught the word, biblical unity and to be able to minister in the spirit when God uses them to prophesy. He is exhorting them to tarry one for another, show respect and not be pushy, rude and have unruly chaos which will not edify anyone else. Paul wants to see all used of God, but in a way that is fruitful and not confusing.

Worship and praise is great but the word needs to be brought forth as well. There always should be a priority given to the word. There is no substitute for the giving forth of the word. There should be a time for both.

Remember, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Without faith we canít possibly please God so we must have the word first to build up our faith. The faith in turn reaches the heart of God. Someone though has to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to make them a vessel ready to share the word to those around us.

Singing is great, praying both with tongues and in our own language is marvelous; testifying can be tremendous, but hearing either prophesy, teaching or preaching by those anointed to preach the word should never be neglected.

  • 1Corinthians 14:2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

One of the mysteries of speaking in tongues is that we can pray in the spirit. Sometimes we just don't know what to pray for but the spirit of God knows. Speaking in tongues is a way to pray to God. It edifies the one doing the praying. It does very little for the person who may be listening and is not praying themselves. However, sometimes when we hear someone praying in tongues it gives us the boldness we need to pray likewise and it reminds us that we are not alone.

So praying in tongues is between a person and God. It is wonderful, And I definitely will never apologize for tongues; but in public when itís time for the word to be brought forth, the one speaking in tongues must pray quietly or wait until the preaching is done and it is time to pray. It is not wrong to pray in tongues if everyone is praying together and it is time to pray. Just because you hear someone speaking in tongues out loud does not mean they are in the wrong. The only time when they have to remain quiet is when it is time for the word to be preached or taught and then we must all stop our singing, worship, praise etc. so that the word can be heard by those that need it. We must not ever go the opposite extreme and shy away from praying on tongues or other languages that God has given to us supernaturally. Supernatural praying in tongues is not a language we have studied or learned but it is supernatural utterance spoken through us by the Holy Spirit.

I get the picture here of people excited of the newly outpouring of the Holy Spirit and want to pray any time they desire without allowing for enough order so that all present can receive further teaching and understanding of the word of God. They were worshiping well but not doing so in a manner that all could benefit and learn. We must not write them off as "not of God" but realize they are just excited about their new faith. We need this but we need the word also. Prophesy and interpretation, preaching and teaching is also needed.

  • 1Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
  • 4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
  • 5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh, with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

I don't believe that Paul means that one person is greater than the other because that would contradict other scriptures. I believe he meant that in public assemblies where the word needs to be given to all present, it is better to prophesy than to speak with tongues out loud. The greater need is to prophesy. He is not downplaying speaking in tongues. How can one downplay any gift of God? He is just instructing us to keep silent when the word is brought forth so that those that need the word can be edified.

  • 1Corinthians 14:6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
  • 7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

Speaking in tongues is for our own edification and is between us and God unless there is one who will interpret what we are speaking. If we are not giving a message for all to hear to be interpreted, then we must lower our voice and speak only to God when in a public assembly and the word is being preached. We should never interrupt someone preaching the word to pray out loud in tongues or in our own language.

The same would be true if we interrupted the preaching or prophesying with singing, clapping, or any form of worship. Apparently the Corinthians may have thought since they could speak with tongues they could do it all the time in public, hindering the preaching of the word. If Paul had not have spoken about these things, we would see more interruptions than we do now.

Unfortunately some have taken Paulís writing to extremes and have excluded tongues and explained them away.

  • 1Corinthians 14:8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
  • 9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

If one got up and spoke in Latin, Spanish or by praying in the spirit when it was time for the word to be preached, it would not do the hearers any good. We have to speak in the language the hearers speak and understood in order to edify them.

  • 1Corinthians 14:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
  • 11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
  • 12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

When we remember the 13th chapter of Corinthians on love, we can see why it was so important to include it in the book of Corinthians. If we are made perfect in love, our desire would not just be our own edification but we would desire for unbelievers to receive the word and also for those that need comfort, exhortation and help to receive edification. We never should use the gifts of the spirit to puff ourselves up and bring attention or ourselves in any way. The glory belongs to God and the gifts are given to share the gospel with others and edify others. Never are they given to glorify a certain person or exalt one above another. If I lay hands on a sick person and they are healed, that doesn't make me any more holy than someone who does not. We have nothing that wasn't given from God and that isn't available to all who seek Him.

  • 1Corinthians 14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

If we do give a public utterance in tongues, we should pray that we interpret it so that the hearers can be edified.

This clarifies a little confusion. If it was wrong to pray in tongues in public then Paul wouldn't have said this. I've heard people say that it is wrong to ever speak in tongues in church and even discredited the person to did the speaking. Paul was not saying that. If one gives forth an utterance in tongues and no one interprets it, then we must keep silent and just speak quietly to God. There is no way we can know ahead of time that there is no interpreter. So if one just speaks and there is no one to interpret, that doesn't mean he is out of God's will or out of order. If he continues to speak in tongues when it is clear that there is no interpreter, then we can say he or she may be out of order but not if just one utterance is given.

However, let us remember the 13th chapter and walk in love not accusation. Give allowances for mistakes especially for those who have not yet understood the correct order that Paul is bringing forth to us. It doesn't mean a person is, "of the devil," if they make a mistake in this area. Walk in love.

  • 1Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
  • 15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
  • 16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
  • 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

Remember the word, "For thou verily givest thanks well." Tongues are not wrong and not a lesser gift. Some avoid it all together because they misunderstand Paul's message. He never says, not to speak with tongues. He only says that in public assemblies, we must be aware of others present and seek that they may be edified.

  • 1Corinthians 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
  • 19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
  • 20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

If we walked in love these things would have a way of working out. Paul was usually the one that did the public speaking and if he would have gotten up to speak and just start praying in tongues, no one would have been edified. After the preaching of the word there are many churches that have a time when all gather at the front to pray. At that time it would be okay for all to speak with tongues in worship as long as the word was not being preached. I've heard preachers who would get excited when they preach and speak forth a short burst in tongues but immediately returned to their message. There is nothing wrong with that type of utterance and it doesn't necessarily need to be interpreted. That was a burst of praise. If he continued a long time speaking in tongues then we might say, it was time to stop so the church could be edified.

Legalism rears its ugly head many times and has done so for many centuries. Remember that the legalists tried to find fault with Jesus many times. We do make the mistake of taking Paulís writings to extremes and making a legal law out of Paulís advice on how to conduct a meeting that will benefit all present. He is not making commandments on whether or not one is saved or lost. He is trying to bring order to those who were in disorder so that the whole church could be edified and not just the speakers.

Legalism uses a law as a club and usually lacks love and mercy. Does that mean that we have no laws and forsake sound doctrine? Absolutely not; we should endeavor to seek the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. What is Paul really trying to tell us?

Not to speak in tongues in public? No or no one could ever be publically baptized in the Holy Spirit and have any evidence of speaking in tongues like they did on the day of Pentecost or in the house of Cornelius.

Letís seek to understand the spirit of what Paul is trying to say instead of waiting to pounce on those that speak with tongues and make a false doctrine out of what Paul is saying. Paul is not making hell (heaven) salvation doctrine here, he is giving advice on how to have spiritual successful meetings in which all are edified.

Paul does this many times. In chapter 11 where he speaks of women praying or prophesying with their heads uncovered and men praying with their heads covered. He is not making doctrines about whether or not one should cut their hair, he is trying to keep peace and not offend people who have certain customs concerning men and women and how they should act. He is not making any commandments that would result in the loss of oneís soul if they have long hair or short.

Iíve read on the Internet that there are some that actually believe a woman will not enter heaven if she goes out in public with without a head covering of some kind.

There are others that have strict standards against speaking in tongues in public or even against speaking in tongues at any time yet they will ignore the hair chapter. Their women will get haircuts and do not wear head coverings. If youíre going to accept Paulís writing on tongues in a literal (This saith the word) sense, then one should accept his writing on head coverings literally.

  • 1Corinthians 14:21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
  • 22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

Paul here says that tongues are a sign for unbelievers and I believe that statement. There could also be many reasons for this wonderful gift of praying in tongues. I believe it is a sign for unbelievers.

1. That the Holy Spirit is present
2. That the Holy Spirit is speaking
3. That a person is praying
4. That the Spirit is for all tribes, tongues and nations
5. It represents a true sense of unity of the spirit and of truth as opposed to the false unity at the tower of Babel.
6. It shows us that through the Holy Spirit we can have victory over the tongue rather than use it the wrong way instead of the right way. We do not have to sin with our words.
7. It is a sign that God is keeping His promise to send the Holy Spirit.

  • 1Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
  • 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
  • 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
  • 26 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.

This is the main purpose of public assemblies. To help, to edify, to comfort, or bring forth the word, to strengthen to bless others until the end of the service when many of us gather just to pray. Tongues would be okay at that point when the preaching or teaching has concluded and it was prayer or worship time.

Love, Love, love is the key. Do all in love and for the glory of God. Don't seek just to be heard, just to glorify self or just to entertain. Seek for the good of others and for the glory of God. Will what I'm about to say help someone else or is it going to puff up myself?

  • 1Corinthians 14:27 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.
  • 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

He has to speak first before it can be known if there is an interpreter. Some take this to mean that no one ever should speak in tongues in church. Interpreters can be the one speaking in tongues or someone else. A person has to be yielded to the Holy Spirit at that particular time in order to interpret tongues. If there is no interpreter present, it could just mean that no one present has been spiritually prepared to interpret. To interpret tongues, I believe one has to be what we use to call, "Prayed up." He has to be spiritually in tune with what God wants at the time.

If we make rules and say that if there is no interpretation, they must not ever speak in tongues in a public assembly, then how could anyone ever receive the Holy Spirit if when they receive the Holy Spirit they speak in tongues as a sign that the spirit has come? If we forbid the public speaking in tongues, we may be quenching the spirit. Again I repeat, lets seek the spirit of what Paul is teaching, not the legalistic letter of what he is saying. He is not making a doctrine or creed for us to write up and have people sign. At times he does give commandments and instructions from the Lord and at other times he speaks for himself out of his own opinion. He does say at the end of this chapter that he is stating these words to be commandments from the Lord and he also says not to forbid the speaking in tongues, so we have to be careful not to misunderstand what he is saying and get it right or we will put people into bondage. Comparing these scriptures with other scriptures on the same subject may help.

  • 1Corinthians 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

Maintain order so that others can be edified. God does not cause confusion. In saying that, we must be compassionate toward the newbie that may have not learned to yield to the spirit in a way that edifies others. If we are quick to pounce on those that make mistakes, we may discourage them from ever being used by the Holy Spirit. Remember again to seek the will of the Holy Spirit and seek for all to be edified not seek to make a list of legalistic rules to bring people into bondage so that no one can be used by the Holy Spirit at all.

Again we are reminded of the 13th chapter on love that is previous to this chapter.

  • 1Corinthians 14:30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
  • 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
  • 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

Although the gifts are perfect, we are not perfect. We still have control over how and when they are used. The Holy Spirit does not take over and dominate our will. If all of us try to speak forth a message at the same time without waiting until one is done and the message is interpreted, then it will cause confusion.

We can hold back or we can yield to the spirit.

  • 1Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
  • 34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

The strange thing with this verse is that there is nothing in the law that refers to a womanís silence so it must be referring to the law of the land in that area. If it was in the law given by Moses, then Paul is one that teaches we are no longer under the law so why would he try to bring the church back under it in the case of a woman?

  • 1Corinthians 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

It could be that women were interrupting the service by making enquiries that should have waited until they got home. It is said that the old custom was that men and women sat apart on different sides of the building and didnít worship together as they do now.

Many take this to mean that women are not to give messages in tongues, prophesy, preach, teach or say anything in public. When we run across passages such as these we must consider other passages and again remember that Paul is not making commandments but trying to maintain order.

This has caused a lot of controversy about whether a woman can preach or prophesy. First of all let us consider other verses. The first one I will consider is the words of Paul himself in chapter 11.

  • 1Corinthians 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head.
  • 5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

Why would Paul give instructions about a women not praying or prophesying with her head uncovered if she was not to prophesy in public. Prophesying is done in public so the church can be edified. So we see from this passage that he couldnít be forbidding women to prophesy.
Now we will go to the book of Joel. Praise God for this passage for it shows that God uses women also.

  • Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

Daughters are women in case no one understands that. Peter quotes this verse on the day of Pentecost when both men and women received the Holy Spirit, spoke with tongues and prophesied.

  • Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

In Acts 21 we see that the daughters of Philip prophesied publically.

  • Acts 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was was one of the seven; and abode with him.
  • 9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

Why would God give women gifts of the spirit and then tell them not to use them? Why would God give women a burning desire to teach the word and then forbid them not to teach?

When we read all four gospels which contain the words of Jesus more than any other books of the bible, we see that Jesus Himself never put any limitations on women like many modern preachers do. If Jesus thought it was that important to suppress the use of women, why does He never mention it?

So Paul must be referring to something else.

Perhaps they had a habit of interrupting the men and asking questions in the middle of the service thereby causing confusion and disorder. Perhaps they wanted to take over the authority and were not allowing the men to use the authority given to them. We could suppose all kinds of things and we have to consider other verses. We know that women prophesied in the bible. Also Anna was a prophetess. God did use women.

  • 1Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

It could be that in the women in Paulís day figured that since God gave them the Holy Spirit and they could prophesy then they could speak anytime they wanted to and didnít have to submit to any male authority or even their husbandís authority. There was a woman spoken of in the church at Thyatira that was allowed to teach false teaching. Had she taught truth and was given authority to teach, it would not have been wrong. She was teaching evil things and was allowed to do so. All women who teach do not teach evil. There have been more male false teachers over the centuries than there have been false prophets among women. We see from both Old and New Testaments that God had women who were prophets. If it is not wrong for a woman to be a prophet in the Old Testament or like Anna the prophetess in the New Testament, then it couldnít be wrong now. God doesnít change.

I personally prefer a man for the church leadership because in my background and the way I was brought up, my Dad was my spiritual mentor. My mother was not serving the Lord at that time. Naturally, Iím going to be more comfortable with male leadership because of Dadís faithfulness to the Lord and He was the one who raised me, took me to church and taught me the word.

There are times though when God uses women to lead. It could be that there is a shortage of male leadership. It is better to have a Holy Spirit filled woman who is listening to the Holy Spirit than a half baked worldly male who does not have respect to the word or the will of God. Even if I prefer male teachers, I would rather hear a godly woman teach than a false male teacher who doesnít love the flock and who does not even know the Lord. Why should a woman be penalized for something in which she had no control? The way she was born, male or female.

If we lived in a remote place and there were no saved men called of God, and there was only a woman who was saved and had a burden for the lost, how can we say that God wouldn't want the gospel to be preached because there were no qualified men who would do it?

We can't just use Paul's words to forbid women to be used of God. Itís obvious to me that women were to be in subjection and not to assume authority that God doesn't give them, but there are many times when God uses women. Godly women though usually are not the type to desire to be domineering over men or anybody. None of us are supposed to control or dominate someone else according to the words of the Lord. The apostles were not supposed to be big chiefs either. Jesus said that whoever is chief among you let them be the servants. That is a trait of Gentiles, not Godís people and perhaps it is Gentile people who were used to a male dominated society that Paul is trying to deal with.

  • 1Corinthians 14:36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

This verse is strange indeed and I will include what another writer wrote about this verse.

"Remember Paul is writing this letter as an answer to one they previously wrote him. If we had a copy of that letter, this letter would be clearer to us but it wasnít given to us so we have to just guess what they wrote. Some believe they were trying to forbid women to speak or prophesy and wrote to Paul about it. As a result, Paul was just quoting what they had written to him previously and it caused him to write, ďWhat? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only?Ē Thereby rebuking them for trying to forbid women to be used by the Holy Spirit publically. Some believe Paul was saying. ďDid the word of God only come to you men and not to women? Is not the word for women also?Ē

As for their explanation for Paulís words to Timothy, they say that the word man should have been interpreted as husband and that a women should not attempt to use her new found freedom in the Holy Spirit to assume or usurp authority over her husband but submit to him as unto the Lord. This of course is presumed that her husband is a godly husband that is apt to teach and take godly authority.

  • 1Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

The word ďmanĒ here may have been meant to be ďhusband.Ē
If a woman is married to one unlearned in the scriptures then she is to submit in trivial things but in spiritual things she has to submit only to Christ for her husband would not be a proper spiritual leader in such cases. A godly woman though will have no trouble submitting to godly authority ordained of God.

  • 1Corinthians 14:37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
  • 38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
  • 39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

Paul said his words were commandments of the Lord. Many take all verses up to verse 38 to be commandments of the Lord but ignore verse 39.

"Forbid not to speak with tongues" is to be remembered for some have used this same chapter to do that very thing. We are also to desire to prophesy and not despise prophesy. They will edify, and comfort the whole church.

We must get away from the idea that tongues are strange and weird. It is a sign from God that He is among us, it is a sign that the gospel is for every tongue, tribe and nation, it is proof of the supernatural power of God and to speak by the spirit in this manner is beautiful.

The first time I spoke in tongues was on the way home from church in the back seat of my dad's car. He was driving. My step mother was beside him. I was in the back seat just thinking about God. No one was praying or even paying any attention to me. All the sudden I started saying, "Praise the Lord," quietly. I felt something take over my tongue and I began to speak in a beautiful language that I had never heard before. I could tell it was a language. The enunciation was perfect.

I never can deny the existence of God after that. That was proof to me that God exists, the bible is true and Jesus Christ is the way of salvation just like the bible teaches. I have proof every time I speak in another tongue.

  • 1Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

All must be done to edify the church, save the lost and bring glory to Jesus Christ. Love is the key.

1 Corinthians 15

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