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Ephesians 5:15-21

Scripture Reading Ephesians 5:15-21

F.  The Place of Tongues and Prophecy in the Church, 14:26-40

Introduction: this passage throws a great deal of light upon the worship services of the early church.

Note two things in particular.

First, Paul is stressing flexibility, but with order and dignity.

Second, the primary purpose for worship is edification.

The subject is the place of tongues and prophecy in the church.

Five rules are given to control the worship services.

       1. Rule 1: the guiding principle—gifts are to be used in church only to edify people (v.26).

       2. Rule 2: tongues were to be limited and interpreted (v.27-28).

       3. Rule 3: prophecy is to be limited and discerned (v.29-33).

       4. Rule 4: women are to keep silent in the church—not to exercise the gift of tongues in the church (v.34-35).

       5. Rule 5: guard against the potential abuses of the gifts (v.36-38).


    6.    Conclusion: the final rule and charge (v.39-40).

1.   (14:26) Church— Worship: rule one is the guiding principle—gifts are to be used in church to edify people.

The worship services in the Corinthian church had become very disorderly—confusion prevailed.

Many were speaking in tongues, talking, praying, and singing their own personal songs—all at the same time.

Each person was struggling for the right to share his latest inspiration and spiritual insight.

Note exactly what is said and the disorder is clearly seen:

“How is it then, brethren? when ye come, together, every one of you...

     hath a psalm [song, Greek],

     hath a doctrine [some teaching],

     hath a tongue,

     hath a revelation [some spiritual insight],

     hath an interpretation.”

The worship services had degenerated into utter disorder and mass confusion.

To the visitor, the services were hardly more than an uproar of mumbo jumbo and gibberish.

Everyone was talking and doing his own thing—all simultaneously.

Pride, super-spirutuality, and division prevailed.

Instead of love, respect, humility, unity, and edification.

Decency and orderliness were totally lacking.

             “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?” (1 Cor. 14:23).

    The situation had to be straightened out or else the church would never be effective in its witness for the Lord.

The primary answer to straightening out the disorderliness lay in the believers learning the purpose for their gifts: to edify and build up the church.

Note how often this chapter stresses the point of edification:

             “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (1 Cor. 14:3).

             “...he that prophesieth edifieth the church” (1 Cor. 14:4).

             “...that the church may receive edifying” (1 Cor. 14:5).

             “...that ye may excel to the edifying of the church” (1 Cor. 14:12).

             “For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified” (1 Cor. 14:17).

             “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” (1 Cor. 14:19).

2. (14:27-28) Tongues— Church— Worship: rule two is that tongues WERE to be limited and interpreted in church. Note several points.


1. Only two persons, at most three, were allowed to speak in tongues during one service.

    2.  “By course” means either in turn or else an equal share of time. There was to be only one person at a time speaking in tongues. There was to be no disorderliness or confusion.

    3.  There was always to be an interpreter. If there was no interpreter present, then the tongue speaker was to keep silent and speak only to himself and to God.

    4.  The person who spoke in tongues has control over his gift. The gift is not what it is commonly thought to be: a spiritual impulse from the Holy Spirit that the person cannot resist.

He not only can control his tongue speaking, he is to control it.

    5.  I seems the best course was for tongues not to be used publicly.

Paul just could not run the risk of stopping the Corinthians from using the gift of tongues in worship.

    It was too embedded and too violent an issue.

    To have insisted on its public demise would have immediately      alienated too many from his influence, and perhaps even have     caused the church to reject his ministry entirely.

    Just think of Paul in a distant city. Remember how the church was attacking him and his ministry—laying charge after charge against him.

    2 Cor. 1:12

Would it even be possible to correct the abuse?

     Tongues were said to edify self while prophecy edified the church (1 Cor. 14:1-25).

     Tongues were said to be an extremely sensitive gift with the potential of causing severe problems (1 Cor. 12:1-3; 1 Cor. 14:6-14, 36-40).

     Paul’s only practiced tongues only in private (1 Cor. 14:15-20).

     Paul’s statement is undeniably clear: he would rather speak five words that can be understood than to speak ten thousand in a tongue (1 Cor. 14:19).

    Throughout this passage one point is undeniably seen: the heaviest weight rests with the idea that tongues were best used for private and not for public use.

In I Corinthians 13:8 Paul addresses the gifts of prophecy, knowledge and tongues.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

The greek verb used fo pass away is to abolish.

Showing something will put an end to them.

I Corinthians 13:9-10. Perfect the Completed Word of God!

The greek verb used for cease indictaes the gift of tongues will     have ceased by itself.

The gift of tongues did cease by itslf at the end of the apostolic age.

That tongues had ceased should be very clear as tongues is not mentioned or adressed in any other New Testament book after Acts.

Tongues ceased to be an issue of record in the Early Church.

Mention of tongues is absent from church history since the first century A. D.

3. (14:29-33) Prophecy— Church— Worship: rule three is that prophecy or teaching is to be limited and discerned.

    4.  All qualified teachers in a church were to be allowed to speak.

 However, they were not all to speak in the same service.

The rule that only two or three could speak in a single service had already been laid down.

5. The spirits of the speakers are to be controlled by the speakers.

 Again, gifted believers, no matter the gift, are not overcome by an irresistable surge of the Spirit—not to the point that they cannot control themselves.

The simplest of reasons is given:

“God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”

    7.  The statement is strong: “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33).

All churches which allow confusion and disorderliness are strongly rebuked by the statement.

Their disorderly services are of self, not of God.

4.   (14:34-35) Women— Church— Worship: rule four is that women are to keep silent in the church

Note two points.

1. An interpretation of these verses must keep in mind the context of 1 Cor. 14.

To lift these verses out of context does violence to Scripture and to the high esteem with which Christ and the New Testament hold women.

Paul mentions this matter because women were possibly the ones most abusing the gift of tongues and of prophecy. Paul’s charge is for the women to calm down and to bring things into order.

The passage is directed both to the local problem of the Corinthians and to any other church where worship services were out of contreol and no longer glorifying God!

    2.  We need to consider this statement in the context of its day.

    We must consider the of the Corinthian Church and its effect on the early church and early Christians.

Paul's feeling was that nothing, absolutely nothing, must be done which would bring upon the infant Church the faintest suspicion of immodesty.

It would certainly be very wrong to take these words of Paul out of the context for which they were written and make them a universal rule for the Church.”

3. Whatever this passage is saying, it is not disallowing women from participating in the church.

Other Scriptures are clear about this:

             “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17).

             “And the same man [Philip the evangelist] had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy” (Acts 21:9).

    Paul clearly recognized the fact:

“But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth” (1 Cor. 11:5).

5. (14:36-38) Gifts, Spiritual: rule five is to guard against three potential abuses of the gifts.

1. Abuse 1: thinking that you are the only teacher; that is, that you have something that no one else has:

    some truth

    some insight

    some revelation

    some understanding

    Such an attitude is full of pride and it is a claimto be the originator and source of truth, to be like God Himself.

Thought 1. Too many persons and churches act as though they are the creators and originators of God’s Words.

    2.  Abuse 2: thinking that God speaks only to you. Too many believers and churches think they are special to God, and that God gives them truth and insight that no one else receives. The result is conceit, arrogance, criticism, judging, censoring, and divisiveness.

    3.  Abuse 3: thinking that you are more spiritual than others.

The rules laid down by Paul were commandments from the Lord.

Every prophet and every spiritual person must acknowledge the fact and obey the rules.

However, there were some in Corinth who had rejected Paul and the rules God had given him. They thought their gifts of prophecy and spirituality placed them above the rules and gave them the right to exercise their gifts as they felt led.

    Paul says no!

“Let all acknowledge that the things I write are the commandments of the Lord.”

If anyone refuses to accept and follow the rules, then let him remain in his ignorance.


There is a suggestion of judgment in this statement.

God will eventually take care of him who rebels and continues to selfishly act in ignorance.

6. (14:39-40) Gifts, Spiritual— Church— Worship: the conclusion is a final rule and charge.

    1.  Covet the best gift, which is to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1-5).

3. Do all things decently and orderly in worship.

4. However, note a crucial fact: this does not mean that a service is to be so formal that it is stiff and cold.

5. The picture painted by Paul throughout the present passage is orderliness with congregational participationging and the giving of offerings. The services were not to be staid and restrictive. They were orderly, but they were also flexible!


             “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?...Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:23, 40).


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