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1 Corinthians 14:23-34 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 46 secs

Women Silent in Church; Conclusion to Tongues; 1 Cor. 14:23-34


When the modern Pentecostal movement began at the turn of the century in 1901 they expected this gift of tongues to be human languages for the purpose of communicating the gospel in terms of missionary outreach. It was only after a period of four or five years that they realized that nobody was speaking legitimate human languages and they began to come up with rationalizations to explain this phenomena in terms of prayer languages or devotional languages or something like that. An interesting side note is that many Pentecostal-Charismatics have been traditionally dispensational. When we look at the dispensational chart the church age begins fifty days after the Passover on the day of Pentecost and extends to the Rapture. This is followed by the seven-year Tribulation period which ends when Jesus Christ returns to the earth at the second coming and that is followed by the Millennium. We believe, and what is clear from Scripture, that there is a gradual spiritual deterioration (actually cycles) down through church history. Then there is some disagreement among dispensationalists as to whether there is some kind of end-time apostasy before the Rapture occurs. That is based on the word apostasia [a)postasia] in 2 Thessalonians chapter two, and we believe that is not talking about an end time apostasy but is another word used for "departure," for the Rapture. In dispensationalism we see these periods, these cycles, throughout church history. However in Pentecostalism, because of their use of Joel 2, what they teach is that there is this deterioration and then there is this great end-time revival which they equate to the "latter rain."

This idea of some end-time revival before Jesus comes back at all, either the Rapture or second coming, is completely inconsistent with dispensationalism and completely inconsistent with the truth. That is why there has been a breakdown among Charismatics in the last thirty years and why they have been departing from dispensationalism by the boat load as they finally woke up and realized that this whole idea of this latter rain, this end-time event that would signal a new revival that must come before Jesus returns, has a problem. What is the problem with that? If anything has to happen before Jesus returns you don't have an imminent Rapture. What happens in churches that believe in the continuation practice of tongues is that they completely fall apart when it comes to the regulations that are given here in 1 Corinthians 14. 

The rest of the chapter is not too difficult, it is rather simple, it is much more practical as Paul addresses issues in the congregation. He wants to drive home the point in verses 26-40 that he has established in the first 25 verses, that is, the priority and significance of edification, spiritual growth. Technically this is referred to as the strengthening of our soul by Bible doctrine. The only way we can learn Bible doctrine is by understanding doctrine, and the only way we can understand it is first of all through the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit but we have to be able to understand the words of the man who is teaching the Scripture. If he is just standing up and speaking gibberish, or if he is speaking in a legitimate language that you do not understand, then it is meaningless and has no value. It is a complete distraction to any kind of learning or any kind of spiritual growth unless there is a translation. Once there is a translation, then the utterance has meaning and significance.

Paul is emphasizing that in prophecy, that is the giving of revelation in a language that is understood, it speaks to "men for edification and exhortation and consolation," v. 3. However, the person who speaks in a tongue, v. 4 edifies himself, and that is sarcasm. If it is not sarcasm then he is saying that it is legitimate for a spiritual gift to function in terms of self-edification and that violates the purpose and definition of the gift.

1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB "What is {the outcome} then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." What he is dealing with here is that they would all come together with something to say and they would all say it, it was a rather disorganized group as we saw in v. 23. There was a cacophony of blather here as one person would stand up singing, another would stand up speaking in tongues, another would stand up with some kind of prophesy or teaching; all kinds of different things were going on but it was just bedlam in the congregation. We think that would be absolutely crazy and why would they do something like that? Because of this pagan background of the mystery religions. So Paul's conclusion here is "let all things be done for edification." You can't edify the body of Christ if everybody is speaking at the same time and things are in a state of confusion. This is the theme of this section: that everything that is done in a church should be done in an orderly, organized manner. The public assembly of the local church needs to follow certain rules and regulations to achieve this.

1 Corinthians 14:27 NASB "If anyone speaks in a tongue [singular], {it should be} by two or at the most three, and {each} in turn, and one must interpret." Here we have a use of glossa in the singular but it is referring to the legitimate use of the gift. Why is that? Because of the sentence construction. "If anyone," talking about a person, singular, "speaks in a language." A singular person can only speak in one language at a time, he is not going to speak in two or three languages at a time. Here there is noun-verb agreement. The point that Paul makes here is that when the gift was being legitimately practiced only two and at the most three should ever utilize the gift in a public assembly, and there must be an interpreter present.

1 Corinthians 14:28 NASB "but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God." Some people will say, see Paul recognizes that if he is speaking in tongues he can speak to God. Notice the text: "he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God." That means there is nothing coming out of his mouth. Being silent means mute, no volume, no lips moving, no tongue moving, nothing coming out of the mouth. "And let him speak to himself and to God" is an expression of silent prayer. He is not saying he can speak in tongues as a prayer language. It is amazing how many people can't even read English!

1 Corinthians 14:29 NASB "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment." Paul now shifts to prophets. The gift of prophecy in the New Testament were similar to the gift of prophecy in the Old Testament. There has been an attempt by some of the people in the Vineyard movement, the Signs and Wonders movement, to prove that the gift of prophecy in the New Testament was a lesser gift than prophecy in the Old Testament and that therefore they were not subject to the rules and regulations of prediction, that sometimes they just misunderstood what God said, they just had these impressions and they blow it sometimes and are not always accurate. This is just the most absurd thing in the world because it diminishes the significance of God the Holy Spirit's work in these gifts. Furthermore, there is no basis for indicating that prophecy in the New Testament functioned any differently than prophecy in the Old Testament. It was a revelatory gift that had to do with communicating something God reveals. Here Paul is saying that there is a limitation on the prophets as well. Then, "the others" in this context is talking about the allos [a)lloj], not the heteros [e(teroj], which is others of the same kind. The others are other prophets. The one who spoke may be all screwed up, so when another prophet speaks the others with the gift of prophecy were responsible to evaluate what he said, to make sure it was doctrinally correct and that he was indeed receiving and had received a message from God. There was this basis of evaluation here, it wasn't just on the individual's own authority, there was always a criterion of evaluation.

1 Corinthians 14:30 NASB "But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent." As soon as the first one gets done, if there is somebody else with a message the first one needs to shut up and sit down so that the other person can then speak. In other words, one person did not dominate the entire worship assembly.

1 Corinthians 14:31 NASB "For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted. The point here is that the exercise of the gift of prophecy was to be exercised one at a time, not everybody standing up at the same time with this sort of gibberish and bedlam. [32] "and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets." Here is the word pneuma [pneuma] again and here it means a spiritual gift. That means it should not be understood as the spirits of the prophets but as the spiritual gifts of the prophets, and they "are subject to prophets" hupotasso [u(potassw], the same word wee find in other passages as being submitted to Christ or wives being submitted to their husbands. There was an authority structure here and the other prophets were to oversee the operation of the gift in the assembly so that a false prophet would not some in. [33] "for God is not {a God} of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." So here the reason that is given for having order and regulation does not some out of experience. The authority here that Paul comes up with is not tradition, not culture, not a matter opinion or Paul's personal opinion or prejudices; it is not any human factor. He says that the reason we have order in the body of Christ goes back to the essence of God. Because God is a God of order, just look at what He produced in creation. Everything is orderly, divided into categories, everything is clearly structured. God is a God of order, therefore if we are going to reflect Him in the public assembly of the church then we should conduct everything with order and regulation. There should be purpose, meaning and self-discipline. All of these things are involved in the public worship of the body of Christ. This is the standard rule for all churches.

1 Corinthians 14:34 NASB "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says." There are some who try to make this relate to tongues and that is, at least generally, in the context. It also would apply to prophecy. But it has to do with the fact that primarily in the congregation the leadership in the congregation in public worship came from the men. Why? Remember the church is a composite of families. There has been an attempt ever since the fall for a subversion of male leadership. The Bible emphasizes male leadership in the home and male leadership in the church. This has to do with the fact that God has structured reality a certain way. A congregation for the most part is a collection of families and if you have male leadership in the home and then you come to the church and there is female leadership in the church there is tension created, because now your spiritual authority in church is different from the spiritual authority at home and it creates a conflict. If you a pastor or a church leader and you start putting women into key leadership positions in the church what will happen is that you will feminize the church and it will run off the men. "… as the Law also says." In other words, he is arguing that this is a consistent position in Scripture, not Paul's personal opinion.

1 Timothy 2:8 NASB "Therefore I want the men [the male] in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension." Here the Greek word for men is aner [a)nhr], not anthropos [a)nqrwpoj] which would be man in terms of mankind, but here it is the male. [9] "Likewise, {I want} women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, [10] but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. [11] A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness." That is, in submission to the authority of the pastor who is teaching. [12] "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." In the Greek the construction is clear. Literally this would be translated: 'To teach, I do not permit a woman.' He is talking about the teaching of doctrine. "…or to have authority over a man."

1 Corinthians 14:35 NASB "If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church." What a profound statement! How counter that is to modern society. [36] "Was it from you that the word of God {first} went forth? Or has it come to you only?" In other words, are you going to say today, well that might have been okay for those people in the first century but not today?  In other words, You know more than God knows?  That is the arrogant position of modern man and modern women. They want to judge the Word of God. When you contradict the Word of God you are putting yourself in an arrogant position of judging the Word of God.

1 Corinthians 14:37 NASB "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment." In other words, if you are a prophet and if you are spiritual you will recognize the truth of what Paul says. [38] "But if anyone does not recognize [is ignorant]{this,} he is not recognized [he is to remain ignorant]." He is then therefore to learn. [39] "Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues." The reason he says that is because the gift is still operational. [40] "But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner." That applies to everything that is done in the local church.