1 Corinthians 14:26-40
(New International Version)
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.
Paul sees the gathering of the church as a time when people come to participate and to give to one another, not merely to passively receive.
We can easily picture how this dynamic would work among the Corinthian Christians. They would, out of necessity, meet in small groups in different homes. There would be many “house churches” scattered all over the city of Corinth. As they would meet in these small groups, there would be a freedom, and a responsibility to not only receive but to give. So, one might give by reading or singing a psalm. Another might offer a word of teaching. Someone might pray in a tongue, along with an interpretation. Still someone else might have a revelation, a word from God’s heart and mind to the gathered church. In a small, home-fellowship type setting, this is how the church should work together.
When more people are gathered together, this “everybody shares something with everyone else” becomes more difficult. Among ten people, ten can share something with all the other ten. But among thirty, or sixty, or a hundred people, there isn’t time to allow everyone to share something with everyone else. This is why so many are blessed and find great spiritual growth through a home group, because it provides a perfect context for the “everyone shares something with everyone else” idea. The hunger for this has also led to the growth of the home church movement in our generation.
At the same time, there are potential pitfalls in this approach. It is easy for people of poor doctrine or weak character to dominate the group. It is easy for the group to focus not on the truth of the word, but on how one “feels” about the word. Spurgeon once described a man coming from such a gathering, and meeting a friend. “How was the meeting?” the one asked. The other answered, “Oh, it was wonderful. No one knew anything and we all taught each other!”
It is safe to say that when it comes to the “house church” or “larger church” issue there is no “right” or “wrong.” God has used both, is using both, and will use both. Both are essential and greatly needed for the health and the strength of the whole body of Christ today.
27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If 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.
Though Paul seems more positive about the use of the gift of prophecy in church meetings than the use of the gift of tongues, he still believes prophecy should be regulated. The gifts of the Spirit are never to be made the focus of congregational life. Worship and the Word are the focus, and the gifts flow under God’s direction around the focus of worship and the Word.
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 inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Because Paul assumed the right of women to pray and prophesy under proper authority in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, the context suggests that a woman speaking refers to either the judging of prophecy (something for the leadership of the church to do) or to disruptive speaking.
I also like to apply Proverbs 14:1 here: “The wise woman builds her house.”
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.
A worship song sung by a godly woman — Twila Paris and “We Bow Down.”
New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica