1 Corinthans 14: 26-35
26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 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 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 saints, 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.
Oh boy, where do I begin? I couldn’t just pick a verse today; there was just too much. You really have to read the whole section. As I was reading, I gravitated writing on the first half of this chapter today because it is all about spiritual gifts. That is an exciting topic. But I figured that the second half of this chapter is more controversial, so why not?
When we read this, we have to keep in mind that this letter is a response to information that Paul received from the Corinthians. They either sent him a messenger, a letter, or both. We know this from 1:11 and it is inferred from 8:1 – among other places. Throughout this letter, Paul seems to be answering questions. When I read this section of chapter 14, it seems to me that this too is a response. Look at verse 26. He does not ask them if everyone has a hymn, a word, etc. This seems to be information he was told. I gather the question went something like this:
“Dear Paul, when we come together, everyone has a word to share. So many people want to sing a song, share a tongue, or prophesy that our services go all day long. We also have lots of people asking questions. So Paul, what are we supposed to do? Do we just let everyone speak? How do we know where to draw the line?” So in response, Paul says that there should be some order in the church. God is not a God of disorder, he says. So not everyone needs to speak. If you have 10 people give a foreign tongue, it is going to get confusing. In fact, some people might even be doing it to show they have the gift. That’s the wrong reason – this isn’t open mic night at church. This isn’t a karaoke bar.
So when you come together, make some sense out of it, Paul writes. In that time, women were separate in the temple and not allowed to speak. Does Paul believe women shouldn’t speak? Well it seems to say that here, but in 11:5 he says that women pray and prophesy. The problem was that the cultural norm was for them to not in this particular setting. Not only that, but there were cults that put women in the forefront in a not so good manner. Let’s not confuse people, let’s do what is culturally right so that we can lead people to Christ, not make them stumble.
Thus is the need for order. Holy Spirit led does not mean chaos. Notice that Paul does not tell them to stop operating in the gifts, he says to have order. Sure, there are churches that have put a complete stop to operating in the gifts because of this passage, but that was not the intention Paul had. He was responding to a question. Let the gifts come forth, but do it in a way that leads people to Christ. Do it in a way that is not overwhelming. Be respectful of the people you are ministering to. That’s a good lesson not only in a corporate setting, but in a personal one as well.