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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Paul's FIRST letter to the Corinthians

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FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 14

In this ‘Framework' we use our usual text PLUS comment style to enable you, as simply as possible, to catch the sense of his writing.


FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 14: Administering Gifts


v.1-12 Desire Intelligible Gifts
v.12-25 Be Eager for Gifts that Build the Church
v.26-40 Ensure Good Order in Meetings

[Chapter Synopsis: A powerful and comprehensive chapter which some unwisely write off through fear, as not being for the present day. In churches where these things are applied there is life and vitality. Paul repeats his call to eagerly desire spiritual gifts [in order to minister the love of Jesus] and clearly distinguishes the two most commonly used gifts – tongues and prophecy – pointing out the additional value to the church of personal prophecy. He points out that these are to build the church and so when they are expressed in the congregation there should be order. A challenging chapter which, when God comes in Revival or Renewal, will take on a new significance.]



v.1-12 Desire Intelligible Gifts


v.1(Let love undergird everything but desire gifts, especially prophecy) Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

v.2 (tongues are fine but as prayer to God no one else knows what you are saying) For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.

v.3 (prophecy on the other hand, strengthens, encourages and comforts [and we need that]) But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.

v.4 (tongues blesses the speaker, prophecy the church) Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.

v.5 (Paul wants all to have tongues but even more to prophesy because to bless the church tongues needs an interpreter ) I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

v.6 (if Paul came speaking in tongues that would not help them as much as if her prophesied or taught) Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?

v.7 (as with musical instruments there needs a sense of purpose and direction) Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?

v.8 (for example a trumpet call needs to be specific) Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?

v.9 (so with tongues people will be left clueless) So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

v.10 (human languages all have meaning) Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.

v.11 (but we need interpreters with different languages) If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.


[Passage Synopsis: Yes, start and finish with love but eagerly desire these gifts that bring blessing, especially prophecy. Great store is sometimes given to tongues speaking – and Paul does want us all doing it – but prophecy is much more useful and powerful in blessing people because tongues (which is prayer) blesses the individual but without interpretation leaves the congregation wondering.]



v.12-25 Be Eager for Gifts that Build the Church


v.12 (the key is seeking gifts (and asking God for them) that will bless and build the church) So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

v.13 (the tongues speaker needs an interpretation [from themselves or form another]) For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say.

v.14 (the tongue flows through the spirit, not the mind) For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

v.15  (I will seek to do these things with both my mind and my spirit) So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.

v.16,17 (if it's only in the Spirit, others are left out) Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

v.18 (Paul used tongues a lot) I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.

v.19 (yet with the church he would prefer prophecy to instruct others and build the church) But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

v.20 (we need to grow up in our understanding) Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

v.21 (Isaiah spoke of these things) In the Law it is written: “With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” [Isa 28:11,12]

v.22 (as a sign challenging outsiders tongues grab their attention more while prophecy is more openly received by the church) Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers.

v.23 (so unless we have a balance of both tongues and prophecy outsiders will be confused) So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

v.24,25 (… because although tongues will grab their attention, prophecy can convict them) But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”


[Passage Synopsis: Seeing these gifts as ways God builds and blesses His church is at the heart of this passage. Tongues is beautiful prayer but prophecy teaches and challenges. For outsiders tongues grabs their attention but prophecy can convict.]



v.26-40 Ensure Good Order in Meetings


v.26 (so when we come together let's see what God will give to each of us to bless and build up the church) What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

v.27 (if there are public tongue speakers [with faith to speak out their gift] limit the number and look for interpretations) If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.

v.28 (if no interpretation, for the sake of good order, no spoken out tongues) If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

v.29 (where there are prophets, only two or three should speak out) Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.

v.30   ( if God gives another revelation, the first should stop ) And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.

v.31 (many prophecies can come to bless all [note distinction between people with gift of prophecy and ‘prophets' – those mature in holding the heart of God) For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.

v.32 (prophets should be subject to one another) The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.

v.33 (for God is a God of order [implies the gift is available for the prophet but should not always be used publicly]) For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.

v.34 (women [as better able talkers? [i.e. relational building communicators]] need to restrain themselves) Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.

v.35 (possibly within the culture of the day, there was a cultural order to be followed) 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.

v.36 (are you the only church God needs to speak to) Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

v.37 (if you are Spirit-gifted you will know I speak the truth) If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command.

v.38 (ignore people who ignore this teaching) But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

v.39 (so finally, eagerly listen for God to speak His word through you and go for tongues as you are able) Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

v.40 (but just maintain an orderly approach to these things) But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

[Passage Synopsis: There are various issues that will be raised by this passage. i) everyone can have some gift [v.26] with which to bless and build the church, ii) although gifts are inspired by the Spirit, the individual can control the amount of their usage [v.27-33], and iii) culturally at that time men were seen as the leaders in the community and thus also in church. We should suggest the intended curbing of women's ability for disorderly chattering in their congregation there, should not exclude them from being either public tongue-bringers or prophecy bringers as Joel's prophecy applied by Peter on the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:16,17] included male and female. iv) the goal of blessing and building the church through gifts is subject to it being in an orderly manner and not creating chaos.]