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Order In The Church - 1 Corinthians 14c

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1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Stephen Caswell © 2000


When a building is constructed, there must be a plan, or everything will be in chaos. There was a church that had terrible problems building their parsonage, until someone discovered that the lumberyard had a different set of plans from that of the contractor. It was no wonder that the materials shipped to the site did not fit into the building! They weren't working to the architects plan. It doesn't matter what we are building, we have to follow the plan. The same is true of the Church. God gives us spiritual gifts to build His house according to His plan.

The Corinthian Church was having special problems with disorders in their public meetings. The reason is not difficult to determine: they were using their spiritual gifts to please themselves and not to build up their brethren. Add to this problem the difficulties caused by the liberated women in the assembly, and you can understand why the church experienced carnal confusion. The key word was not edification, but exhibition. Apparently there was a tendency for some of the Corinthians to lose control of themselves as they exercised their gifts, and Paul had to remind them of the fundamental principles that ought to govern the public meetings of the church. Church Order involves two things. 

I.  Edification    &    II. Organization

Firstly  Edification  


1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.


As we have observed previously the key to the use of spiritual gifts is edification. Ministry must build people up in their faith if it is to be effective. God uses many methods to impart spiritual truth to His people. Paul lists 5 of these methods here. First Corinthians 14:26 gives us a cameo picture of worship in the early church. Each member was invited to participate as the Lord directed.

a. Variation

Psalms edify God's people as they focus our attention on the greatness of God and His ability to meet human needs. Psalms whether read or sung bring comfort and encouragement to all. The word teaching means doctrine or instruction. God uses teachers to apply His word to everyday life. Teachers are important. They were third on Paul's list in 1 Corinthians 12 after apostles and prophets. Teachers edify the Church as they explain God's Word. Tongues is the God given ability to speak another language previously not known. The purpose of this gift was to reach foreign unbelievers with the Good News of God's grace in their own language. Interpretation enabled the Church to understand the message given to unbelievers.

The word revelation means to unveil or disclose something that has been hidden. As we study God's Word often the Lord reveals things to us. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth. When we share these things with others we build them up too. Bible study is a great opportunity to share what God has revealed to you. Leading the services gives men an opportunity to share what God has revealed to them.

Building a house requires the skills of many different tradesmen. Plumbers, tilers, bricklayers and carpenters. In the same way God uses many spiritual gifts to edify His people. Someone shares a word of testimony or encouragement. Preachers and evangelists edify the Church in a different fashion. God uses a great variety of methods to edify His people.


b. Interpretation


1 Corinthians 14:27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. Because understanding is required for edification, Paul commanded them to interpret all messages spoken in tongues. Immediately after tongues were shared someone had to interpret. Otherwise the Church could not be edified. 

c. Evaluation  1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.


Why were the messages evaluated? To determine whether the speaker had accurately communicated the Word of God through the Holy Spirit. It was possible for a speaker, under the control of his own emotions, to imagine that God was speaking to him and through him. It was even possible for Satan to counterfeit a prophetic message. When prophets spoke a word from the Lord the Church was to judge what they said with Christian doctrine. If the prophecy didn't line up with the Old Testament or Apostolic Doctrine it was to be rejected.


1 John 4:1-3 gives a warning here: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 gives a good balance on this: Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. I honestly believe that the gift of prophecy ended with the completion of the Bible.


However we ought to test all that is preached by God's Word. We should be like the noble Bereans that searched the Scriptures daily to see that these things were so. Many Christians are deceived by false teaching because they don't test what is preached with God's Word.


Speaking Words That Edify -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon


The Spaniards in Chili believed that no water was so wholesome or of so delicate a flavor as that which flowed through veins of gold. Certainly no conversation is so edifying to the hearers as that which pours forth from a heart stored with sacred knowledge, sanctified experience, devout contemplation's, and such like precious treasures.



a. Variation - How does this relate to us today? God still uses many methods to edify His people. Singing or reading a psalm encourages believers. Others can share a testimony. Someone else can share what God has revealed from the Word. Others teach the Word. When shared appropriately all of these things can edify the Church. Are you able to share something in the service? If you are able, please see myself or one of the deacons. 

b. Evaluation


I don't believe that God uses tongues and prophesy today. So interpretation has also ceased. But I do believe that we need to evaluate everything that we are taught. Do you test what you hear with God's Word? Paul commands us to test all things and hold fast the good!


Secondly  Organization


2 Verses summarize this section. Verses 33 & 40 For God is not the author of  confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  Let all things be done decently and in order.


a. Speaking

1 Corinthians 14:27, 29, 31-32 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.


Tongues Speakers: Note that the tongues speakers were the ones causing the most trouble, so Paul addressed himself to them and gave several instructions for the church to obey in their public meetings. Notice how Paul requires that everything be done in an orderly way. He limited tongues speaking to two or three. Each one had to wait their turn to share. Then one had to interpret. Prophets: Paul also regulated the prophets. Two or three were to share one by one and then their message was to be evaluated by the Church. In chapter 11 Paul requires ladies to be submissive to the male leadership when praying or prophesying.

D.L. Moody & Long Winded Speakers

Evangelist D.L. Moody was leading a service and asked a man to pray. Taking advantage of his opportunity, the man prayed on and on. Sensing that the prayer was killing the meeting instead of blessing it, Moody spoke up and said, While our brother finishes his prayer, let us sing a hymn!  We need to be mindful of others when participating in the service. We mustn't monopolize the meeting and limit the involvement of others.

b. Silence

14:28, 30, 34-35 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.


But what should the speakers do if they couldn't observe these rules. Paul commands them to keep silent. The words keep silent sigaw mean to hold your peace. This phrase is used three times in this section. Tongues Speakers: If no interpreter was present, then the tongues speaker must keep silent. This is a command, not an option. Also if three people had already shared a tongue others must keep silent. It was not a free for all, like we see in today's Pentecostal Churches.

Prophets: If while a prophet was speaking, God gave a revelation to another person, the speaker must be silent while the new revelation was shared. If God is in charge, there can be no competition or contradiction in the messages. If, however, the various speakers are making up their messages, there will be confusion and contradiction. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. They couldn't say that the Spirit overpowered them and prevented them from keeping quiet. They must use their gifts in an orderly fashion.

Our own self-control is one of the evidences that the Spirit is indeed at work in the meeting. One of the ministries of the Spirit is to bring order out of chaos. Confusion comes from Satan, not from God. When the Spirit is leading, the participants are able to minister one by one so that the total impact of God’s message may be received by the church.


Women: The ladies were not permitted to speak in the services. But doesn't this contradict 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul allowed them to share in the services under the authority of their husbands and the leadership? The answer is found by observing the content of their speech. Paul had already permitted the women to pray and prophesy, so this instruction must apply to the immediate context of evaluating the prophetic messages. It would appear that the major responsibility for doctrinal purity in the early church rested on the shoulders of the men, the elders in particular. The ladies could prophesy but couldn't evaluate prophetic messages.

The context of this prohibition would indicate that some of the women in the assembly were creating problems by asking questions and perhaps even generating arguments. The word ask ejperwtaw in verse 35 means to question or interrogate. Paul reminded the married women to submit to their husbands and get their questions answered at home. 1 Timothy 2:11-12 agrees with this. Let the woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 

c. Submission


1 Corinthians 14:34b, 36-38 but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. Or did the Word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.

The Ladies: Firstly Paul commands the ladies to be submissive. The word submissive u&potassw means to obey, to arrange under, [like a row of soldiers], to be subordinate. Firstly they were to be submissive to their own husbands as also stated in Ephesians 5:22. Secondly they were to respect and submit to the leadership of the Church. This of course harmonizes perfectly with the command to be silent and not assume a leadership role.

The Congregation: Paul reminded them that they had received the Word from him in the first place. They weren't the source of the Gospel. But as God's apostle, Paul was. So he commanded the whole congregation to acknowledge that his teaching was the Lord's commands. To bring order into the worship services everyone must submit themselves to the authority of God's Word. 1 Corinthians 14:38 does not suggest that Paul wanted people to remain ignorant; otherwise, he would not have written this letter and answered their questions.

It could be translated, If he ignores this [Paul’s apostolic authority], he himself will be ignored [by Paul and the churches]. Fellowship is based on the Word, and those who willfully reject it automatically break their fellowship with the Lord and His Church.

d. Summary

1 Corinthians 14:39-40: Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. 

Paul summarized the main teachings of 1 Corinthians 14 in verses 39–40. Prophecy is more important than tongues, but the church should not prohibit the correct exercise of the gift of tongues. The purpose of spiritual gifts is the edification of the whole church, and therefore, gifts must be exercised in an orderly manner. Public worship must be carried on in a seemly manner, that is, with beauty, order, and spiritual motivation and content.


a. Speakers

Paul asked the tongues speakers and the prophets to speak in turn. Two or three were to share and then the appropriate judgment or interpretation was to follow. This was not to be a time of exhibition but edification. Today we don't have tongues or prophets but the principle of speaking in turn applies.

b. Silence

If no interpreter was present, messages in tongues were not to be shared. Prophets had to hold their peace when God revealed something to another in the service. The ladies were not to assume the role of teachers by interpreting prophecy. They were to ask their own husbands for instruction if they were unclear on a matter. The overriding principle is peace and order in the services.     

c. Submission

The ladies in Corinth were not to take advantage of their freedom in Christ. They were to be submissive to their own husbands and the leadership of the Church. They were also to ask their husbands for instruction on things they didn't understand.

d. Summary

Before leaving this chapter, it might be helpful to summarize what Paul wrote about the gift of tongues. It is the God-given ability to speak in a known language with which the speaker was not previously acquainted. The main purpose was to reach the lost. Not every believer had this gift, nor was this gift an evidence of spirituality or the result of a baptism of the Spirit.

Only three persons were permitted to speak in tongues in any one meeting, and they had to do so in order and with interpretation. If there was no interpreter, they had to keep silent. Prophecy is the superior gift, but tongues were not to be despised if they were exercised according to Scripture. When the foundational work of the Apostles and prophets ended, it would seem that the gifts of knowledge, prophecy, and tongues would no longer be needed. 1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

Certainly God could give this gift today if He pleased, but I am not prepared to believe that every instance of tongues is divinely energized. Nor would I go so far as to say that all instances of tongues are either satanic or self-induced. A few missionaries have exercised this gift according to God's purpose and the spiritual guidelines. It is unfortunate when believers make tongues a test of fellowship or spirituality. That in itself would alert me that the Spirit would not be at work. Let’s keep our priorities straight and major on winning the lost and building the church. After all spiritual gifts are tools that we build with not toys to play with or weapons to fight with.


Tonight we have seen the importance of order in the Church. When there is order people are edified.

I.  Edification   


a. Variation - God uses many methods to impart spiritual truth to His people.


b. Interpretation - The message must be understood to edify God's people.


c. Evaluation - We are commanded to evaluate what we are taught with God's Word.


II. Organization

a. Speakers - In the worship services each one must share in turn. They must not dominate.

b. Silence - Not everyone can share their gift and people must be silent when this is required.

c. Submission - The ladies must be submissive to their husbands and the leadership. The entire congregation must be submitted to God's Word.

d. Summary - To summarize Paul's teaching let everything be done decently and in order.


2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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