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This is a continuation of Applying 1 Corinthians 13.
Let love be your highest goal! (1 Cor. 14:1)
As we begin this new chapter, Paul summarizes Chapter 13 with this simple command for Christians to make loving other people their highest goal. Yikes. Someone wasn’t paying attention when Yahweh and Jesus said that our Creators come first. You’ll find this same satanic reversal of God’s priorities popping up all throughout the Church. Today it’s popular for preachers to tell you to try to prove your love for God by loving people. But no, this doesn’t work. We must focus on God first. Jesus said the most important command Yahweh ever gave was that people should love God with all that they are. If we focus on fulfilling that one command, the rest will take care of itself. Our love for people flows from our love for God, not the other way around (see The Right Focus in Life According to Christ).
But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy. For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious. But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church. (1 Cor. 13:1-4)
It’s important to realize that prophecy is about more than just predicting the future. It is primarily about passing on the wisdom of God. If Paul wants all of his people to be prophets, it should be because he wants them all to have a rich personal understanding of truth. But notice how he talks about what prophets can do for others. Always with Paul the focus is on other people. He wants you to care about what you can do to bless your brother in the Lord instead of caring about what you can do to bless the Lord Himself. This is the wrong focus to have in life. God comes first.
I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened. (1 Cor. 13:5)
Here we go again with the ranks. Where does Paul get off deciding for God how He ought to work through everyone? God certainly wants us to all be growing in our knowledge of truth, but He isn’t going to call us all to function as teachers in the Church. In Chapter 12, Paul said how useless it would be if the whole body of Christ was composed of the same part. Now he says that we should all be prophets. It’s more Paul doubletalk.
Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you a revelation or some special knowledge or prophecy or teaching, that will be helpful. Even lifeless instruments like the flute or the harp must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody. And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle? It’s the same for you. If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space. (1 Cor. 14:6-9)
Does God know how to work through us or doesn’t He? Here we find Paul pondering how God could really mess things up if He overdid it with the gift of tongues. So does Paul think he’s wiser than God? Does he really think God needs our guidance when it comes to deciding how He will work through various souls?
Most of the nonsensical blabbering that you hear going on in the Church today is just a result of people intentionally faking tongues in order to gain the approval of others. Legitimate tongues are not something you can fake—they are a miracle that God suddenly performs through you and you have no control over what He says (see Speaking in Tongues). If you’ve been taught that you’re not really saved unless you speak in tongues, realize that the people who told you that didn’t know what they were talking about. Most Christians will never experience speaking in tongues and tongues don’t have bumpkus to do with salvation. Remember that God loves variety, and He intentionally works differently in each life.
There are many different languages in the world, and every language has meaning. But if I don’t understand a language, I will be a foreigner to someone who speaks it, and the one who speaks it will be a foreigner to me. And the same is true for you. Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.
So anyone who speaks in tongues should pray also for the ability to interpret what has been said. For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don’t understand what I am saying. (1 Cor. 14:10-14)
The Corinthians are clearly lusting after the showy gifts, and tongues is certainly one of those. It draws people’s attention when some guy starts talking all crazy, but what does this really accomplish? Paul argues that unless there is an interpreter available, speaking tongues in church becomes a distraction rather than a blessing. He’s right on this point, and as a general rule, God doesn’t leave us mystified when He speaks in our midst. All of this shameless shamming that goes on in church services today is about insecure Christians trying to prove the legitimacy of their salvation and about pompous fools trying to draw attention to themselves.
You really don’t want to get started with faking tongues. In certain denominations, there is enormous pressure to do this in order to avoid being labeled as spiritually flawed. But many who start faking tongues become fooled by their own acts and soon they boast of being able to speak in tongues whenever they want. Such boasting indicates how false their tongues really are, for God never allocates His power to humans. For someone to boast that he is able to speak in tongues whenever he feels like it is like a healer boasting that he can heal whoever he wants whenever he wants. As soon as people start claiming to be able to control the flow of God’s power, we know there is a major disconnect between those people and God. God does not take orders from us, and a proper understanding of God’s power and of our total dependency on Him leaves us with nothing to boast about.
Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand. For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don’t understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don’t understand what you are saying? You will be giving thanks very well, but it won’t strengthen the people who hear you.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you. But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language. (1 Cor. 14:15-19)
Notice how Paul boasts of being able to speak tongues whenever he feels like it. In other words, he claims he can make God perform miracles at his command. Paul is full of guff. True tongues is not something you can control; it is God forcing your vocal cords to speak a language that you do not understand. Contrary to what we’re taught today, most tongues are languages of earth, not some mystical language of angels. The true language of our souls is not verbal and cannot be expressed with audible sounds. So when someone boasts that they are speaking in “the tongues of angels” or speaking “in the spirit”, what they’re really saying is that they have no idea what they’re saying but they hope it’s something cool and mystical.
The common experience of tongues today is excited babbling in the midst of some adrenaline rush. With foolish teachers encouraging them to “help the Holy Spirit flow” by intentionally making nonsensical noises, many Christians honestly think they’ve spoken in tongues when they’ve just worked themselves up into a meaningless lather.
Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind. It is written in the Scriptures: “I will speak to My own people through strange languages and through the lips of foreigners. But even then, they will not listen to Me,” says Yahweh. [Isa. 28:11-12] (1 Cor. 14:20-21)
Once again Paul intentionally mangles the meaning of an Old Testament passage. In Isaiah 28, Yahweh is railing against rebellious Israelites and predicting the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. He describes Israel’s current leaders as a bunch of moronic drunks who babble foolishness as they wallow in their own filth.
Now, however, Israel is led by drunks who reel with wine and stagger with alcohol. The priests and prophets stagger with alcohol and lose themselves in wine. They reel when they see visions and stagger as they render decisions. Their tables are covered with vomit; filth is everywhere. (Isa. 28:7-8)
Next Yahweh describes the “wisdom” of these foolish rebels to be useless blather. Then Yahweh says that He is going to punish these fools by bringing in foreigners—the terrifying Assyrian army—to come and spank all over them. When the Assyrians arrive, they will speak in their own language, which will sound strange to the Hebrew speaking Israelites. The Assyrians will be God’s instruments of discipline, and this is why Yahweh describes Himself as speaking through them.
So now God will speak to His people through foreign oppressors who speak a strange language! (Isa. 28:11)
Of course prior to this, Yahweh has given Israel countless chances to repent but she always refused to listen. This is why Yahweh says:
God told His people, “Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.” But they would not listen. (Isa. 28:12)
What does this passage have to do with speaking in tongues? Nothing. The Assyrians aren’t speaking in tongues to the Israelites, they’re just speaking their own native language. There is no miracle of speech being referenced in this passage from Isaiah, but leave it to Paul to make up a bunch of baloney about what Yahweh actually meant.
Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind. It is written in the Scriptures: “I will speak to My own people through strange languages and through the lips of foreigners. But even then, they will not listen to Me,” says Yahweh. [Isa. 28:11-12] So you see that speaking in tongues is a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers. (1 Cor. 14:20-21)
And just how does this unrelated passage from Isaiah prove that tongues is a sign for unbelievers? It doesn’t, because the Isaiah passage is irrelevant. But the point Paul is making is that God typically uses tongues to show off to unbelievers. It works like this: you speak English. One day a Chinese man visits your church. The Chinese man isn’t a Christian but he’s seeking God. Suddenly God makes you stand up and say something in Mandarin. You don’t know what you just said because you don’t understand Mandarin, but the Chinese man hears you speaking a clear message from God to him. When the Chinese man finds out that you don’t speak Mandarin, he realizes that a miracle has occurred and God is glorified. Now of course this same pattern could happen between two believers, as well.
Now if the Chinese man stood up and shared with the whole group what God had just said through you, he would be “interpreting” the tongues. Other times the interpreter doesn’t understand the language, but they feel God impressing a specific message on their heart. This gets tricky, though, because it takes discernment to know when God is talking to you. Often interpreters are as phony as the tongues speakers and everyone is just trying to showboat.
Prophecy, however, is for the benefit of believers, not unbelievers. Even so, if unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your church meeting and hear everyone speaking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy. But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you!” (1 Cor. 14:22-25)
Paul says that a room full of tongues speakers results in an unholy cacophony, but a room full of prophecy results in immediate conversions. Paul is delusional. Get a bunch of people who think they have the gift of prophecy in a room together and they’ll all start fighting over the mic. Prophecy can be faked as easily as tongues. Today we have countless show offs in the church standing up and declaring, “I have a word!” Most of them are just talking to hear themselves. You really don’t want to stay in a church that encourages people to make a mockery out of God’s power.
Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.
No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say. But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately. (1 Cor. 14:26-28)
God is orderly. The fact that the Corinthian church is overrun with disorderly tongues proves that there was a whole lot of faking going on. Paul tries to restore order by limiting how many blabbermouths can speak in one service, and he says that there must be an interpreter available before anyone gets up to show off their gift. Of course who can say that the interpreter isn’t as fake as the tongues speaker and the two blowhards are teaming up just to get stage time? This sort of thing happens a lot, which is why you need to always seek confirmation from the Holy Spirit before you accept any message as being from God.
Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people. (1 Cor. 14:29-33)
Given what we know about the Corinthians, it is highly doubtful that these believers are mature enough to deliver a bunch of accurate prophecies. The fact that Paul gives a thumbs up to people cutting each other off encourages a major mess, but what else can he do? He isn’t in Corinth, so he doesn’t have any way of assessing the legitimacy of individual speakers.
Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings. (1 Cor. 14:34-35)
Paul says it’s “not proper” for a woman to announce she has a message from God. One wonders how Paul explains the fact that Yahweh spoke through many prophetesses in the Old Testament. There is no God-given law that says women should not speak. And by the way, God demands total submission from both men and women. There are excellent examples in the Old Testament of God favoring women with His special illumination, and even using them to direct and lead high ranking men. God has always invited women into His inner circle of illumination. Paul is totally out of line to tell the Holy Spirit who He can’t speak through during a public gathering of Christians.
Now back in Chapter 11, Paul said it was okay for women to prophesy and pray out loud in church as long as they kept their heads covered. Now he says it’s never okay for women to speak during the service. It’s yet more doubletalk from this apostle who can’t seem to make up his mind what he wants. Meanwhile, such contradictory orders are pretty rich coming from a guy who just said earlier in this chapter:
And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle? (1 Cor. 14:8)
Now even though Paul is contradicting himself and lying about what Yahweh meant in Isaiah 28, he insists that he is accurately speaking for God. He even goes so far as to say that if anyone in the Corinthian church doesn’t agree with Paul’s lofty assessment of himself, that person will be rejected by God.
Or do you think God’s word originated with you Corinthians? Are you the only ones to whom it was given? If you claim to be a prophet or think you are spiritual, you should recognize that what I am saying is a command from the Lord Himself. Those who ignore this will be ignored by God. (1 Cor. 14:36-38)
How arrogant do you have to be to say that anyone who disagrees with you will be rejected by God? Paul cannot stand the idea of anyone outshining him. Even though he’s miles away, he has to know the Corinthians are bowing down to his authority. Talk about a power trip.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking in tongues. But be sure that everything is done properly and in order. (1 Cor. 14:39-40)
It’s rather obvious that some free for all on Sunday morning isn’t productive. We have to wonder why the leaders in Corinth have let things get so out of hand. Are they weenies about standing up to rowdy showoffs in the church or are they afraid of crossing the domineering Paul by not getting him to sign off on their every move? Either way, this church is in a major mess.
UP NEXT: Applying 1 Corinthians 15: Paul Demotes Christ