The Monastery at Mont St. Michel, Normandy

The Monastery at Mont St. Michel, Normandy

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Dec 1, 1 Cor 12-14

Today's readings are 1 Cor 12-14. Tomorrow's are 1 Cor 15-16.

Paul addresses the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor 12. This is apparently a big issue for the Corinthians. Paul tells them all the gifts are important, not just the spectacular ones. Each member has a gift that is of vital importance to the body. The various lists of gifts in these chapters are not meant to be exhaustive, just representative. One way to tell if a gift is authentic is whether or not it gives glory and honor to Christ (1 Cor 12:3). A gift that calls more attention to an individual than to Christ should be suspect.

1 Cor 13 says that none of the gifts, however spectacular they may be, mean anything without love. Love is the better way mentioned at the end of 1 Cor 12. The love Paul writes of is from the Greek word agape. It describes a godly love, the highest form of love, a love the originates in the lover without regard to the behavior, actions or demeanor of the beloved. It is a selfless love that flows from God to His children, not because they are lovable, but because He is God. This is the type of love a believer should express as he is being conformed into the image of God.

Love is pro-active and participatory. The descriptors of love found in the familiar verses (1 Cor 13:4-7) are actually verbs in the Greek. They are things we consciously do rather than feel. This is an eternal love that never fails and never ends. We make much of faith...and we should. Faith is what saves us. But of faith, hope and love, love is the greatest. This is because faith brings us to Him. Hope is what He gives us, But, love is the evidence we are being made more like Him. Love is the tangible evidence of our faith and hope.

Paul addresses tongues and prophecy in 1 Cor 14. Tongues is a cognitive language or speech outside the normal patterns of intelligible speech. They require an interpreter if spoken in public. Prophecy constitutes divine revelation. It can be of future events but is not limited to them. Prophecy can encompass teaching, preaching, foretelling of the future or "forthtelling" (proclaiming or speaking boldly) the will of God.

Both gifts, tongues and prophecy, are being used indiscriminately and by many during the services at the Corinthian church. Paul calls for an emphasis on prophecy and a de-emphasis on tongues. For both, he gives guidelines that are highly restrictive in order to bring things under control. People are to speak, one at a time, no more than three total. By this, we know that 1 Cor 14:26 is not an encouragement for everyone to come with some sort of song, teaching or prophecy. Vs 26 is actually an indictment on how the Corinthians meet and an admonishment for them to limit the number of speakers at their meetings.

In direct relation to those guidelines, in 1 Cor 14:33-34 we find one of Paul's most enigmatic phrases, "...women should keep silent in the churches..." There have been many interpretations of how these verses should apply in today's church. Whichever way we decide to apply it, a few things should be taken into consideration:

  • We cannot limit its application to Paul's time and situation. Paul is clearly giving guidelines for general church assembly. Starting down a slippery slope that claims "This does not apply to us." is not only being selective, it dangerously opens the door to ignoring large swaths of Scripture. 
  • This verse has to harmonize with 1 Cor 11 where Paul gives explicit directions to women who speak in the assembly. 
My interpretation of these verses is that they have to be taken in context with the preceding verses that deal with who evaluates the teaching of the church. The "others" in 1 Cor 14:29 refers to the prophets of the church that are charged with establishing and evaluating the theological and doctrinal direction of the church. In other words, the things that are taught by the church will be monitored by those in charge of the church. Paul says in 1 Cor 14:31 that they can "all" (this would include women as per 1 Cor 11) prophecy, one by one. Paul is calling for order in the service. He is calling for everyone, men and women, to obey the leaders. The leaders are the elders, who are to be men (1 Tim 2:11). Under their supervision, those who speak (those who prophesy) are to do so in good order. The leaders evaluate the teaching. Women, who are excluded from being elders, may speak but are not to be part of evaluating the teaching and determining the theological direction of the church. This would allow a woman to prophesy as long as she was in line with the theology and doctrine established by the elders.

There are those who will have other opinions. Ultimately, each church will have to decide how to apply these Scriptures. It is a non-essential of the faith. No one's salvation will depend on where they stand on this issue. It should not be an issue that divides us.

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