Friday, July 28 2017
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
In the conclusion of last week’s study in verse 19, Paul mentioned six things; six history-changing facts that would have followed if Jesus had not risen from the dead. They are: (1) Our preaching is vain; (2) our faith is empty; (3) the apostles are made to be liars; (4) our sin still remains unatoned for; (5) death has triumphed over our loved ones; and (6) life itself is made utterly miserable.
But thank God for the following verses beginning from verse 20!
Verses 20-28 The Last Enemy Destroyed
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God[a] has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all."
Twice, Paul mentioned "first fruits." What he refers to here is the ritual given to the Israelites in Leviticus 23:9-14, where on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which followed the Passover, the day after the Sabbath, there would be the offering of the first fruits of the barley harvest. The Jews were commanded to bring a sheaf of grain, the first of the harvest, to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord on the first day of the week after Passover. Jesus celebrated First Fruits in the appropriate manner by rising from the dead on that day. He also gave the Father His Proper First Fruits offering; graves were opened and dead people rose and were seen after His resurrection in Jerusalem (Matt. 27:53). Paul's argument is that not only did Jesus rise from the dead on the exact day predicted by the ritual, but, furthermore, his resurrection is a sample and a guarantee of the entire "harvest" of resurrection, which would include ours as well. Jesus was the first human being ever to be resurrected from the dead.
What about Lazarus and a number of others who were raised from the dead? Yes, they did return from the dead, but they were not resurrected. There is a difference! Resurrection means more than merely coming back to life. They were resuscitated; brought back to the same life they left. But resurrection does not do that. Resurrection brings us to a quality and a dimension of life we have never lived before. It is not simply a return to existence as we know it now; it is a lifting to a higher, more free, more marvellous dimension of existence than we have ever known. Jesus was the first one, therefore, to be resurrected from the dead. It was the same Jesus, he came in the same body, but he came back to a different level of life.
Paul goes further; "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead." Death passed upon our race because of the fall of Adam, so all who are part of the new creation, the new race in Christ, shall also participate in the resurrection of the dead. As Paul says, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." Now he is talking about believers, those who have already fallen asleep in Christ. In Verse 18 he says, "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ ..."; in Verse 20 he speaks of "those who have fallen asleep"; and in Verse 23, "those who belong to Christ." So when he says, "in Adam all die," he is not talking about the unbelieving world, although it is true that they all die in Adam, but he is talking particularly about believers. Believers die because, as far as their bodies are concerned, they are part of the race of Adam, and that is why we are not caught up into glory immediately. But, also, we are "in Christ," and those "in Christ shall all be made alive." This is his argument. By man came the breakout from Eden; by man came also the breakthrough back into Paradise, by means of resurrection. What he is really saying then is that resurrection is just as certain as death.
Beginning in Verse 24, the apostle moves on to that final scene, to the time when Christ has returned into time and reigned already for 1,000 years of millennial peace and righteousness on the earth. He will have completed his work, subdued his enemies, cast the devil and death and Hades into the lake of fire (as we read in the book of Revelation), and then delivered the kingdom back to the Father.
Now the apostle says, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death." This can be seen to be true in both an individual and a universal sense. Universally, death is never going to disappear from this earth until we come to that moment, described in the book of Revelation, when a new heaven and a new earth come into existence. But there is coming a time when this body will die, and death then is destroyed for us. "The last enemy to be destroyed is death." Once we pass through the experience of death into resurrection, like our Lord himself, we shall never die again; that is the wonderful statement. Christ having once died, Paul says in Romans, never dies again, and we share his existence. He is the first fruits of the great harvest of which we are a part.
Verses 29-34 (MSG) - Effects of Denying the Resurrection
“29 Why do you think people offer themselves to be baptized for those already in the grave? If there’s no chance of resurrection for a corpse, if God’s power stops at the cemetery gates, why do we keep doing things that suggest he’s going to clean the place out someday, pulling everyone up on their feet alive? 30-33 And why do you think I keep risking my neck in this dangerous work? I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I’d do this if I wasn’t convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn’t be the end of me? Not on your life! It’s resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live. If there’s no resurrection, “We eat, we drink, the next day we die,” and that’s all there is to it. But don’t fool yourselves. Don’t let yourselves be poisoned by this anti-resurrection loose talk. “Bad company ruins good manners.” 34 Think straight. Awaken to the holiness of life. No more playing fast and loose with resurrection facts. Ignorance of God is a luxury you can’t afford in times like these. Aren’t you embarrassed that you’ve let this kind of thing go on as long as you have?”
The first part of verse 29 is an interesting read. “. . . what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead?” This is what some religions have erroneously adopted and people go and baptize on behalf of someone who was dead; claiming then that the dead person has fulfilled the requirements of salvation in the after world and can enjoy further spiritual benefits in the spiritual realm. Historically, just north of Corinth was a city named Eleusis. This was the location of a pagan religion where baptism in the sea was practiced to guarantee a good afterlife. The Corinthians were known to be heavily influenced by other customs. It is probable that the Corinthians were being influenced by the religious practices found at Eleusis where baptism for the dead was practiced. So, Paul used this example from the pagans in 1 Cor. 15:29, when he said, "...if the dead are not raised, then why are they baptized for the dead?" Paul did not say we. This is significant because the Christian church was not practicing baptism for the dead, but the pagans were. Paul's point was simple. The resurrection is a reality. It is going to happen when Jesus returns. Even the pagans believe in the resurrection, otherwise, why would they baptize for the dead? He then continued to rhetorically ask: “Why are we (the apostles) in danger every hour?
Verses 35-49 (MSG) - Parallels in nature help us to grasp the truths of the resurrection
(35-41) “Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different. (39-41) You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like!
(42-44) This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!
(45-49) We follow this sequence in Scripture: The First Adam received life, the Last Adam is a life-giving Spirit. Physical life comes first, then spiritual—a firm base shaped from the earth, a final completion coming out of heaven. The First Man was made out of earth, and people since then are earthy; the Second Man was made out of heaven, and people now can be heavenly. In the same way that we’ve worked from our earthy origins, let’s embrace our heavenly ends.
Thursday, July 20 2017
Contributor: Alex Alajiki
INTRODUCTION: Last week, we looked at the second part of Paul’s instructions for the proper use of the gifts of the spirit during worship services. He corrected the Corinthian Church about the importance of the gift of prophesy to edification. He made us to realise that gift of tongues must come with interpretation to benefit the Church.
This week, we are studying one of the most important subject in the gospel of Christ; the resurrection.
1) The True Gospel of Christ: 1 Cor.15:1-2
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
The Church in Corinth was going through many doctrinal misunderstanding and Paul needed to remind them the gospel he preached to them, 1 Cor.2:1-2. By means of that message, God had saved them. (In other words, he had given them a right relationship with Himself.) However, that message was not just important on the occasion when God saved them. It is both necessary and essential through their entire lives as Christians to hold fast to the original gospel that they believed. Paul wanted them to know that they were saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord (Eph.2:8-9). He also wanted them to remember the purpose for which God saved them. They learn this from the resurrection of Christ. In other words, Christ became alive after his death - and God will do the same thing for them, too. God is giving them a wonderful life with him, which will never end (Eph.2:5-7, Rom.6:4).
2) The Risen Christ: 1 Cor.15:3-8
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time
Paul chronicled the passion of Christ here to show that Christians believe are not ideas, but real events that happened
The events of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection were foretold by David 1000 years before in Ps.22 and Isaiah wrote about it 700 years before Christ’s death in Isa.53.
Christ’s death is so important because of what He achieved by his death. All people have done many wrong and evil things that are against God’s law (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23). The punishment that everyone deserves for their evil deeds is death (Romans 6:23). Christ alone obeyed God perfectly (Hebrews 7:26-27); he alone did not deserve death. But Christ suffered death so that God could forgive many people (Hebrews 9:28; Isaiah 53:6)
His death and shed blood is the atonement for our sins (1John 2:2).
Christ was buried for a period of three days to confirm that He actually died. He was in the grave from Friday until Sunday morning when he resurrected (Ps.16:8-11). Paul does not merely mean that Christ’s spirit was alive. The same body that the men had buried became alive again. In fact, his body was not just alive again; it had a new quality of life (1 Cor.15:35-44). His body had received the same quality of life that already existed in his spirit.
Paul gives a list of occasions when people saw Jesus alive after his death (15:5-7). This began to happen on the third day after Jesus’ death, and continued during a period of 40 days. Paul’s list does not include every occasion when this happened. That is clear from such passages as John 20:11-18, Luke 24:13-32 and John 21:1-2. Perhaps Paul selected the most important occasions to give evidence that Jesus is alive.
Peter and John went to the grave, but they did not find Jesus there (John 20:1-10). However, later that same day, Jesus met Peter (Luke 24:34).
Many people were witnesses of the fact that Jesus became alive again after his death. Here, Paul mentions an occasion when over 500 brethren were present.
He was also seen by James. However, it seems quite likely that Paul actually refers to James, the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3). Paul refers to this James in a similar manner in Galatians 1:19; 2:12.
Paul met the living Christ on his to Damascus to persecute the Church (Acts 9:3-7; Acts 9:17). All these appearances were to show that He actually rose from death.
3) God’s kindness to Paul: 1 Cor.15:9-11
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Paul too had seen that Christ was alive and from Paul’s experiences, we can see how great God’s kindness is. Christ met this cruel enemy of the Christians, and Christ gave him a new life and commission him as an apostle
Paul hardly dared to consider himself an apostle. He did not think that he had any right to compare himself with Peter and the other apostles. They had served Christ loyally for such a long time. But now, because of the kindness of God, Paul is not only a Christian, but an apostle too.
The word ‘apostle’ means someone whose master sends to carry out an important task. God had given Paul an important task: to declare God’s good news to people from all the different nations (Galatians 1:15-16).
Paul worked harder than any of the other apostles, and he had more success than any of them. However, Paul did not believe that this was the result of his own efforts. God, because of his kindness, had done these things. God showed his kindness to Paul when God saved him. Then God used Paul’s work to show his kindness to many other people. Those people had become Christians when Paul declared God’s good news to them.
4) The Risen Christ, Our Hope: 1 Cor.15:12-19
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
The resurrection of Christ is the fact upon which the whole of the gospel rested upon (15:17-18). It was after resurrection that He presented Himself before the father (John 20:17)
It astonished Paul that some of the Corinthian Christians actually thought that there is no life after death. He himself had declared in Corinth that Christ became alive after his death. This was the message that Christians were declaring across the world. More than 500 of them were witnesses of that fact. This was an essential part of God’s good news.
Already, twice in this letter, Paul referred to dead Christians as people who ‘sleep’ (11:30; 15:6). Paul was not just using a word-picture. He really believed that after death, Christians will live again. Their spirits are already alive with God in heaven. Their bodies will become alive again when Christ returns. This is as certain as the fact that Christ became alive again. In fact, it will happen because Christ became alive again.
There are still many people today calling themselves Christians although they do not believe in life after death.
In 1 Corinthians 15:16-19, Paul examines the nature of this kind of religion. He considers it a terrible religion, because it cannot offer any real hope to anyone. He feels sorry for a person who has such beliefs. Christ died and became alive again to save his people from their sins (evil deeds). If that did not happen, then God cannot forgive anyone. God’s plan to save people would have failed completely. So, such a belief could achieve nothing.
Christianity is not for this life only. That is, its purpose is not to make people happy in this world. People should not become Christians in order to make themselves wealthy, impressive or important. A religion that tries to satisfy people’s feelings now has no value after death.
In the end, the only worthwhile religion is the one that can save people from death and hell. Christ died on the cross to achieve that; he became alive again to prove it.
Friday, July 14 2017
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
Last week’s study saw us looking at the first part of 1 Cor.14 as we considered Spiritual Gifts and Church Order. We learnt that the gifts are for edification of the body of Christ, that worship should be all involving and beneficial, and that common language promotes corporate worship. We concluded by striking a balance that we should do both; pray in unknown tongues and in ordinary language that everyone understands. Today we shall be concluding our study of chapter 14 as we receive instructions that will help us grow into maturity.
THE TRUE PURPOSE FOR THE GIFT OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES – Read Verses (20 – 25)
We know that children are quick to be struck with novelty and strange appearances. They are taken with an outward show, without enquiring into the true nature and worth of things. Do not you act like them, and prefer noise and show over worth and substance; we should show greater maturity in judgment, and act a more manly part; be like children in nothing but an innocent and inoffensive disposition, void of all guile and malice; but should have wisdom and knowledge that are ripe and mature. A double rebuke is implied in this passage, both of their pride upon account of their gifts, and their arrogance and haughtiness towards each other, and the contests and quarrels proceeding from them. Christians should not be unskilful in the word of righteousness (Heb. 5:13), but unskilful in all the arts of mischief.
Apostle Paul then went further to address their misuse of the gift of tongues in the church.
When he quoted Isa. 28:11, he was referring to the fact that tongues were used as a token of judgment from God than mercy to any people (v. 21). The meaning in this view is that it is an evidence that a people are abandoned of God when he gives them up to this sort of instruction, to the discipline of those who speak in another language.
In verse 22 he mentions that tongues were meant to be a sign to unbelievers and not to believers. They were a spiritual gift, intended for the conviction and conversion of unbelievers, that they might be brought into the Christian church; but converts were to be built up in Christianity by profitable instructions in their own language.
For gifts to be rightly used, it is proper to know the purpose they are intended to serve. To go about the conversion of unbelievers, as the apostles did, would have been impossible without the gift of tongues, and the discovery of this gift; but, in an assembly of Christians already converted to the Christian faith, to make use and show off this gift as the Corinthians did was out of place, because it was of no advantage to the church; not for conviction of truth, because they had already embraced it; not for their edification, because they did not understand, and could not get benefit without understanding, what they heard.
In Verses 23 - 25, Paul inferred that the reputation of the church among unbelievers required them to prefer prophesying over speaking with tongues. Because, if, when they were all assembled for worship, and the ministers were speaking in unintelligible language, and unbelievers should drop in, they would conclude them to be mad! And this would make Christianity ridiculous to a heathen, to hear the ministers of it pray, or preach, or perform any other religious exercise, in a language that neither he nor the assembly understood.
If, instead of speaking with tongues, those who minister plainly interpret scripture, or preach, in language intelligible and proper, the great truths and rules of the gospel, a heathen or unlearned person, coming in, will probably be convinced, and become a convert to Christianity (v. 24, v. 25); his conscience will be touched, the secrets of his heart will be revealed to him, he will be condemned by the truth he hears, and so will be brought to confess his guilt.
DISORDER REPROVED – Read Verses (26-33)
In this passage the apostle reproves them for their disorder, he blames them for the confusion they introduced into the assembly, by showing off their gifts (v. 26). The picture Paul painted here was that of pandemonium that cannot be in anyway edifying. and so, he corrects and regulates their conduct for the future by the following:
1. As to speaking in an unknown tongue, he orders that no more than two or three should do it at one meeting, and this not altogether, but successively, one after another. And even this was not to be done unless there were some one to interpret (v. 27, v. 28) either the speaker or another. Note this is different from praying in tongues.
2. As to prophesying he orders:
(a) That two or three only should speak at one meeting (v. 20), and this successively, not all at once; and that the other should examine and judge what he delivered, that is, discern and determine concerning it, whether it was of divine inspiration or not because there might be false prophets, mere pretenders to divine inspiration.
(b) That all (two or three) might prophesy, one by one, or one after another, which could not be where any one was interrupted and silenced before he had done prophesying; but might easily be if he someone else receives a word while another is speaking, holds his/her peace till the former prophet had finished what he/she had to say. And, to confirm this sense, the apostle quickly adds, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (v. 33); that is, although they have these spiritual gifts, that can be expressed anytime by the leading of the Holy Spirit, they still possessed their reason, and capable of using their own judgment in the exercise of them.
Divine inspirations are not, like the diabolical possessions of heathen priests, violent and ungovernable, and prompting them to act as if they were beside themselves; but are sober and calm, and capable of regular conduct. The man inspired by the Spirit of God may still act the man, and observe the rules of natural order and decency in delivering his revelations. His spiritual gift is to be managed by his discretion. The apostle gives the reasons of these regulations.
That they would be for the church’s benefit, their instruction and consolation. That God is not the God of confusion, but of peace and good order, (v. 33).
Therefore, divine inspiration should by no means throw the Church into confusion, and break through all rules of common decency. And finally, that things were being orderly managed in all the other churches (v. 33); they kept to these rules in the exercise of their spiritual gifts, therefore the church of Corinth should do the same.
THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE! – Read Verses (34-35)
Here the apostle enjoins silence on the Corinthian women in public assemblies, and to such a degree that they must not ask questions for their own information in the church, but ask their husbands at home. So many scholars have tried to interpret this passage and as it is normal, inclined towards their individual bias! But let’s look at it from a more balanced view as it is our tradition. Let’s say for instance, the Spirit of prophecy came upon a woman in the church, should she not prophesy? Anna, for instance was a prophetess, in the temple she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of him to all them that looked-for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). What about Philip’s daughters who prophesied? (Acts 21:9).
The reason that is given why women should keep silence, is, because they are commanded to be under obedience. Apostle Paul referred to the same in 1 Timothy 2:11,12. The early church evidently followed Jewish practices in religious education. In Israel, mothers taught their daughters, and it was the father’s responsibility to teach his sons in all areas, including religious education. So, Paul’s prohibitions here are consistent with the practices of his day. *
Others have said that the silence enjoined in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 must be a specific, limited silence. Numerous suggestions have been offered, some have also suggested either that 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 was not written by Paul but was inserted by a copyist or that it is a question from Paul’s opponents in Corinth which Paul denounces in 1 Corinthians 14:36.
One view is that the speaking prohibited here is mere babbling. There is, however, nothing specific in the context to support this meaning of “speak,” and such nonsense would certainly have been prohibited to all persons in the worship Paul described not women only. Another view suggests that the speaking prohibited is speaking in tongues (glossolalia) since that is frequently mentioned in the preceding context (1 Corinthians 14). However, glossolalia is always referred to as “tongues” or “speaking in tongues” and never simply as speaking.
The view that seems to make the most reasonable sense is the speaking prohibited here to women to refer only to disruptive questions that wives (usually uneducated in the culture of Paul’s time) were asking their husbands.**
This is made clearer when we read these verses in the MSG version: “Wives must not disrupt worship, talking when they should be listening, asking questions that could more appropriately be asked of their husbands at home. God’s Book of the law guides our manners and customs here. Wives have no license to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking.”
CONCLUSION - BE COURTEOUS AND CONSIDERATE IN EVERYTHING. Read Verses (36-40)
In these concluding verses, the apostle closes his argument, by rebuking the Corinthians for their extravagant pride and self-conceit; they behaved in a manner that would not easily endure control nor regulation. As so Apostle Paul addresses them to beat down this arrogant humour. He asks rhetorically in verse 36:
“Did the word of the Lord originate from you [Corinthians], or has it come to you only [so that you know best what God requires]?”
In other words, if you think everything revolves around you; then you are mistaken!
In verses 37-38 Paul adds: “You who claim to have the gift of prophecy or any other special ability from the Holy Spirit should be the first to realize that what I am saying is a commandment from the Lord himself. 38 But if anyone still disagrees—well, we will leave him in his ignorance.”
It is just with God to leave those who choose to remain blind wilfully shutting out the light; to the blindness of their own minds. Those who would be ignorant in so plain a case were justly left under the power of their mistake. Romans 1: 28, Rev 22:11
He then sums up all in two general advices that once again strikes the required balance in verses 39 and 40. “So, my fellow believers, long to be prophets so that you can preach God’s message plainly; and never say it is wrong to “speak in tongues”; however, be sure that everything is done properly in a good and orderly way.”
With this passage Paul was admonishing the Corinthian church that
(1.) They should not despise the gift of tongues and that they should prefer prophesying. This is indeed the scope of the whole argument. It was to be preferred to the other, because it was a more useful gift.
(2.) And that all things be done decently and in order (v. 40).
Avoiding indecencies and disorders such as childishness (v. 20), or any expression that would give people the opportunity to discredit the church and refer to the church as a gathering of mad people (v. 23), or cause confusion, (v. 33).
Instead they were to do things in order; they were to speak one after another, and not all at once; take their turns, and not interrupt one another. God is not to be dishonoured, nor his worship disgraced, by our unbecoming and disorderly performance of it and attendance at it.
Parts of this study was culled from Mathew Henry's commentary on 1 Cor. 14
* 1Tim2:11-12 footnote on AMP
** DAVID SCHOLER'S ESSAY ON WOMEN IN MINISTRY
Tuesday, July 11 2017
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
Last week in our study of Love - The Universal Spiritual Gift, we learnt the characteristics of love; that it was greater than any spiritual gift because without love, the most glorious gifts are of no account to us, and of no esteem in the sight of God. and finally, that love was eternal.
Today we will be studying Paul’s response to the Corinthian’s misdirected flaunting of the gift of speaking in tongues as we address spiritual gifts and church order.
Verses 1-5 – THE GIFTS ARE FOR EDIFICATION OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
“Let love be your greatest aim; nevertheless, ask also for the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives, and especially the gift of prophecy, being able to preach the messages of God. But if your gift is that of being able to “speak in tongues,” that is, to speak in languages you haven’t learned, you will be talking to God but not to others, since they won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be a secret. 3 But one who prophesies, preaching the messages of God, is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them. 4 So a person “speaking in tongues” helps himself grow spiritually, but one who prophesies, preaching messages from God, helps the entire church grow in holiness and happiness. 5 I wish you all had the gift of “speaking in tongues,” but even more I wish you were all able to prophesy, preaching God’s messages, for that is a greater and more useful power than to speak in unknown languages—unless, of course, you can tell everyone afterwards what you were saying, so that they can get some good out of it too.” (TLB)
From this verse of scripture, we can deduce that Paul wants the Corinthian church to not that gifts are fit objects of our desire and pursuit, but they are not greater than love; hence we should make that which is of greater value our goal. And so, Paul starts off with what everyone should aim for – love. “Make it your greatest aim” he says and then directs the Corinthian church to seek spiritual gifts and then zeroes in on which spiritual gift to prefer. But see what he means by prophecy; being able to preach the messages of God. He also assigns the reasons of this preference. And it is remarkable here that he only compares prophesying with speaking with tongues. It seems, this was the gift on which the Corinthians principally valued themselves.
Paul’s angle was this: “What cannot be understood can never edify". No advantage can be reaped from the most excellent discourses, if delivered in unintelligible language, such as the audience can neither speak nor understand: but he that prophesies speaks to the advantage of his hearers; they may profit by his gift. So, the best and most eligible gift which best answers the purposes of love and does most good is that which benefits the entire body of Christ such as prophesying, or preaching, and interpreting scripture as opposed to that which can edify ourselves only
This is not a license to despise any gift, but the best gifts are to be preferred. Every gift of God is a favour from God, and may be improved for his glory, and as such is to be valued and thankfully received; but then those are to be most valued that are most useful. In verse 5, Paul infers that greater is the one that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, unless he interprets, that the church may receive edifying.
Verses 6-11 WORSHIP SHOULD BE ALL INVOLVING AND BENEFICIAL
"Dear friends, even if I myself should come to you talking in some language you don’t understand, how would that help you? But if I speak plainly what God has revealed to me, and tell you the things I know, and what is going to happen, and the great truths of God’s Word—that is what you need; that is what will help you. 7 Even musical instruments—the flute, for instance, or the harp—are examples of the need for speaking in plain, simple English rather than in unknown languages. For no one will recognize the tune the flute is playing unless each note is sounded clearly. 8 And if the army bugler doesn’t play the right notes, how will the soldiers know that they are being called to battle? 9 In the same way, if you talk to a person in some language he doesn’t understand, how will he know what you mean? You might as well be talking to an empty room. I suppose that there are hundreds of different languages in the world, and all are excellent for those who understand them, 11 but to me they mean nothing. A person talking to me in one of these languages will be a stranger to me and I will be a stranger to him." (TLB)
Obviously, some of the members of the church in Corinth must have flaunted their gift of speaking in tongues due to the emphasis Paul laid on it. He showed them how vain it is to flaunt speaking unknown and unintelligible language is. It was altogether unedifying and unprofitable. He does this by using several illustrations; musical instruments with notes not sounding clearly, the army bugler that calls soldiers onto battle. To talk in an unknown language in a Christian assembly is altogether as vain and to no purpose as for a trumpet to give no certain sound in the field or day of battle.
If one is asked to preach or teach in church and they start to speak in an unknown tongue is to talk gibberish; it is to play the barbarian; it is to confound the audience, instead of instructing them; and for this reason, is utterly vain and unprofitable.
Verses 12-14 COMMON LANGUAGE PROMOTES CORPORATE WORSHIP
“Since you are so anxious to have special gifts from the Holy Spirit, ask him for the very best, for those that will be of real help to the whole church. 13 If someone is given the gift of speaking in unknown tongues, he should pray also for the gift of knowing what he has said, so that he can tell people afterwards plainly. 14 For if I pray in a language I don’t understand, my spirit is praying, but I don’t know what I am saying.” (TLB)
Having thus established his point, he goes ahead to advise the church to be zealous for those gifts that were most for the church’s edification this way it will become commendable zeal, be zealous to edify the church, to promote Christian knowledge and practice, and covet those gifts most that will do the best service to men’s souls. But if you are gifted in speaking in tongues, you should beg of God the gift of interpreting it. He then enforces this advice with a proper reason, that, if he prayed in an unknown tongue, his spirit might pray, that is, a spiritual gift might be exercised in prayer, or his own mind might be devoutly engaged, but his understanding would be unfruitful, that is, the sense and meaning of his words would be unfruitful, he would not be understood, nor therefore would others join with him in his devotions. It should be the concern of such as pray, preach or sing in public to do so intelligibly, not in a foreign language, nor in a language that, if it be not foreign, is above the level of his/her audience. Language that is most obvious and easy to be understood is the most proper for public devotion and other religious exercises.
Verses 15-19 STRIKING THE BALANCE
“Well, then, what shall I do? I will do both. I will pray in unknown tongues and also in ordinary language that everyone understands. I will sing in unknown tongues and also in ordinary language so that I can understand the praise I am giving; 16 for if you praise and thank God with the spirit alone, speaking in another language, how can those who don’t understand you be praising God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don’t know what you are saying? 17 You will be giving thanks very nicely, no doubt, but the other people present won’t be helped. 18 I thank God that I “speak in tongues” privately more than any of the rest of you. 19 But in public worship I would much rather speak five words that people can understand and be helped by than ten thousand words while “speaking in tongues” in an unknown language.” (TLB)
Paul once again creates balance in his letter! He does not forbid their praying or singing as led by the Spirit, or when they were inspired for this purpose, or had such a spiritual gift communicated to them; but he would have them perform both so as to be understood by others, that others might join with them. He enforces the argument with the following reason; it fosters agreement and participation in prayers, thanksgivings, and worship.
How would someone say “Amen” to prayers in an unknown tongue? How should they declare their consent and concurrence?
The intention of public devotions will be destroyed if they are performed in an unknown tongue. Although the person may pray well, and give thanks well, but not in that time and place, because others are not, and cannot be edified. Paul uses his own example, to make the greater impression; that he did not come behind any of them in this spiritual gift (so they will not think that it is because he didn’t have the gift he held such convictions). He spoke more language than they all. Yet, he’d rather speak five words that people can understand and be helped by than ten thousand words while “speaking in tongues” in an unknown language.”
Parts of this study was culled from Mathew Henry's commentary on 1 Cor. 14