“The Passages”

1 Corinthians 14



I Corinthians 14

Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you

may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, one who prophesies speaks to mankind for their building up and encouragement and consolation. 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but they who prophesies edify the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. They who prophesies are greater than one they who speaks in tongues, unless some one interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how shall I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will any one know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves; if you in a tongue utter speech that is not intelligible, how will any one know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning; 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with you brothers and sisters; since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 13 Therefore, they who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.

15 What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how can any one in the position of an outsider say the "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may give thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all; 19 nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature.

21 In the law it is written, "By men of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord." 22 Thus, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church assembles and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, they are convicted by all, they are called to account by all, 25 the secrets of their hearts are disclosed; and so, falling on their face, they will worship God and declare that God is really among you. 26 What then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silence in church and speak to themselves and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. *


Corinthians 1-33

A close reading of these verses yields great insights as Paul offers practical instruction and repeated exhortations. I urge you to read these verses fully now if you have not. Then I would like to make a few points from this whole section of the text.


I have underlined many phrases:

Ÿ         I note that his appeal is made to brothers and sisters, employing the word ALL frequently. I ask you to remember what you read from Paul in this chapter is pointedly addressed to brothers and sisters.

Ÿ         Paul’s appeal is to earnestly desire to prophesy, Paul’s states the reason prophesy is to be desired is that it edifies the church. Regarding spiritual gifts it is to be desired above speaking in tongues.


So, the obvious question is: Why would Paul implore sisters to earnestly desire to prophesy (publicly address the ecclesia in a way which edifies all) and then forbid them to speak? The contrast here demands a resolution or the reader is justified in thinking Paul a bit mad. One is legitimate in asking would he contradict himself to the same audience or even at all? Earlier to these very believers he refers to a woman praying and prophesying and yet this provokes no rebuke or even critical comment.


“The Restriction” 34-35

“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.  If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”   Let us use Paul’s response to help understand verses 34-35.  36. WHAT! Did the word of God originate with you, and are you the only one’s it has reached.  37 If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. 38 If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized.



 If in 33-35 he is admonishing the ecclesia not to allow women to express themselves in the Spirit as he is exhorting here, why would he say something like in “What” in 36. 

Either Paul is putting forth a statement and then rebuking himself, or he is repeating a statement and rebuking its authors. I would like to suggest he is rebuking others. Why? Because I don’t like what the verse says? No, it is because if these are Paul’s words, then he contradicts himself. In addition he then makes a statement here that contradicts other NT testimony.*  If in 33-34 he is admonishing the ecclesia not to let the females do any of this spirit led speaking why would he implore sisters throughout this chapter to earnestly desire to prophesy?


Once again I say the statement (verse 36) appears to be a rebuke from Paul. Now we would agree the idea he’s rebuking himself is a little silly. It seems more likely he is addressing the same old Jewish thinking he has had to correct before   Paul makes no gender references or restrictions in the body of this exhortation. Throughout 1-33 he pointedly addresses brothers and sisters using the Greek word for “related people”  men and women, “brethren.”  However there are those who would argue from Jewish oral teachings and Greek societal beliefs, that the women must veil if praying or prophesying. I suggest here they are putting down an argument that women must live in Christ’s Ecclesia even as Jewish Oral Law teaches for synagogue.  We know already how Christ felt about Jewish Oral Laws, and Paul once stated that he wished those who tried to get new converts to obey the Law (circumcision) would go and mutilate themselves.


So pay attention to Paul’s response to 33-35: 

36 What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for making their oral tradition equal to God’s word and then making God’s word void by employing their traditions. The word of God originates with God himself, your opinion is not equal to God‘s word. Paul’s rebuke here is very is stern. Your restrictions for women is not God’s law. Do you think you can import your tradition into Christ ecclesia? 37 If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. 38 If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized. Who ever you are whatever you think you are. What I have been saying to you brothers and sisters is (by contrast to your assertion here) a command of the Lord . If you do not acknowledge this fact then you are not to be acknowledged.  39 So, my brothers and sisters, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” Now after reminding them what he is saying is a command of the Lord he repeats what he is referring to. 39 So, my brothers and sisters, earnestly desire to prophesy. Paul is being perfectly clear about what he means “what I am saying is from the Lord” by restating the exhortation for all to desire to prophesy so there is no doubt what he refers to.


 To then suggest that Paul is saying no women may speak is to make utter nonsense out of this chapter. 40 but all things should be done decently and in order. There is a decent order in the ecclesia but it is an order of attitude and behavior for the sake of the Gospel message in the Ecclesia.  Paul makes NO reference to the sex of the believer in his exhortation for order here. And when one tries to assert that there IS a female restriction they receive a stern rebuke.



So, this chapter does not by any means teach women must be silent in the ecclesia, it rebukes such a thought sternly. The subject is edifying believers and making a sound appeal to outsiders. Paul teaches an orderly manner of these expressions in a way that makes observable sense of the actions of believers motivated by the “spirit’.


My beloved brothers and sisters it is reasonable to believe from the textual evidence here that the Lord himself has commanded sisters as in “all” believers to earnestly desire to “prophesy”. Female believers are also motivated to obey Christ now in His ecclesia just as any members of  “one body” might be. But we forbid them to obey Christ and question their humility if they object to our practices. My brothers and sisters, should we not be very uneasy about defying the Lord’s command and quelling the spirit for the sake of our traditions?


Are my assertions here correct, are they justified? Ask yourself if this understanding compliments or contradicts other scriptures! Ask yourself if it is consistent with other allegories! Ask yourself if it is consistent with Jesus’ behavior during his ministry? But by no means can it be judged correct or incorrect based on our current practices! Just like the Jewish system during Christ’s ministry and in Paul’s day the correctness of a practice must be judged by God’s word not the traditions of men.




* I have changed the English words from the masculine in some cases to convey the gender neutral meaning. Like in our English when both sexes are being referred to the gender neutral is masculine in the Greek as well. Some believers not realizing this treat the text as though it is referring to males. However please feel free to check the Greek yourself to confirm this, if any change has been made inappropriately,  please accept it would not have been intentional.


** Paul would be contradicting himself in his teachings elsewhere in allegory and in the observable activities of female believers in the Epistles.  In all the allegories of the body he repeats only one criteria for a function in the ecclesia. Once again I repeat that criteria is one’s “measure of faith” or “Christ’s gift” that determines service in the body.