1 Corinthians, Lesson 24: Worship is to reflect the orderliness of God

stk18682svnEarlier in chapter 14, Paul told the Corinthians Christians to be infants in evil. Paul was pointing out that they were not infants, but adults, when it came to evil. The only negative topic of chapter 14, the evil to which Paul referred, was speaking in unintelligible tongues. Paul was not against speaking in tongues—but he was against unintelligible speech. Paul, then, used God’s Old-Covenant people being defeated and exiled to testify against their unbelief and unfaithfulness. Israel’s conquerors spoke Assyrian, a language the Israelites did not understand. Those unintelligible utterances testified to Israel’s unbelief. In the similar way, unintelligible tongues-speaking in public worship is also a sign of unbelief. Paul now shares what he is willing to tolerate in worship.


Peace and Order, not Chaos

Read 1 Corinthians 14:26

  • What was happening in Corinthian congregation?


  • What was the result of such individualistic activity?


“building up”: “Building up” is a noun in the Greek, not a verb. Let everything be done for the “building” (feminine gender!) that is the congregation, the Church, the Bride of Christ.

Read 1 Corinthians 14:27-28


Lesson 24, Requirements for Tongues-Speaking in the Congregation


  • How can tongues-speaking take place if someone wants to speak but doesn’t know if another is there to translate the meaning of what he will say?


  • In effect, what is Paul “sneakily” doing?


  • If someone is speaking to himself and to God, who does not hear what he is saying?


  • May God still choose to bring about tongues-speaking? How?


Read 1 Corinthians 14:29

“weigh”: diakrino, verb: The idea behind this verb is to judge and then separate, if needed. In the same way that a translation was to follow tongues-speaking, judging was to follow prophecy. This judging is to see if what was said was true and, if not, to be separated, that is, called out as false. If the prophecy was God’s Word, it would match apostolic doctrine, the content of the faith (Romans 12:6).

Read 1 Corinthians 14:30

“revelation”: Here, the Greek text does not say revelation (a noun). Paul did earlier mention “revelation” as a noun in verse 26. So, this is referring back to that. But, if we don’t note Paul’s verb usage, we miss the point he is making. Paul used a subjunctive passive verb: “might be revealed.”

The subjunctive points to something in the future that may or may not happen; it is uncertain. The passive is meant to show that what the person is speaking originates, not from himself, but from God. Here, Paul is contrasting what the Corinthians Christians claimed (speaking in tongues, prophesying God’s Word) with what God might actually do through someone intelligible speech!

  • If God chooses to use someone to reveal something, what are others supposed to do?


“the first”: protos: Means “the first” but also who or that which came earlier.

  • Who is to be silent if God chooses to reveal something?


Read 1 Corinthians 14:31-32

Paul acknowledges that all Christians can speak the Word of God to another. But he moves from there to bring out two aspects of prophesying, of speaking God’s Word.

  • What is prophecy supposed to do?


  • What if learning and encouragement doesn’t take place?


  • Discuss “spirits of prophets is subject to prophets.”


Lesson 24, Spirits of Prophets are Subject to Prophets


Read 1 Corinthians 14:33

“confusion”: disorder, turbulence, unruliness

  • If God in not the author of confusion, who then was behind the chaotic worship practices in the Corinthian congregation?


“peace”: harmony, tranquility; the parts that make up the whole are in all harmony

  • What should such God-originated (authored) peaceful and harmonious worship look like?


  • What does it mean that such harmony should be in “all the congregations of the saints”?


Lesson 24, As in all the Congregations of the Saints


The Role of Women Speaking During Worship

In these couple of verses, Paul doesn’t explain why he says what he says about women not speaking during worship (we’ll get into what that means more fully in a moment). Paul doesn’t need to: he explained why earlier in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (Sunday School Lesson on this). 

Read 1 Corinthians 14:34

  • What is the context of Paul’s words for “women to keep silent”?


“keep silent”: This is not an absolute restriction. Earlier, Paul said that women may pray and prophesy during congregational worship—as long as it was done in a way where it testified to our fall into sin and need for redemption (see 1 Corinthians 11:5 and the rationale behind women wearing veils). Paul later wrote to Pastor Titus and encouraged women to teach in other circumstances (Titus 2:3-4). Paul spoke positively of Priscilla (a woman) and Aquila privately teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26).

Paul is prohibiting women from speaking authoritatively during worship. Such speaking would include preaching, teaching, reading the Scriptures, and leading congregational worship (see 1 Timothy 4:13). The reason for this goes back to the fall into sin. Eve took upon herself Adam’s role and chose to “watch over” Adam instead of the receiving from Adam, his care and protection. Adam was to be a reflection of God to Eve, watching over and protecting Eden, which included Eve (Genesis 2:15). Eve was to be a reflection of the Church, receiving from God, through Adam, and then responding back to such love.

During the worship of God, God now tells men to take a leadership role, to be responsible where Adam had sinned. God also tells women to receive from a man, a pastor, where Eve chose not to receive from Adam. Both roles testify to the fall into sin and our need for salvation.


Lesson 24, Pointing Us to Creation


This is the third time where Paul told others to be silent. If no one is there to translate (or interpret) unintelligible tongues-speaking, then the speaker it to be silent (11:28). If God chooses to reveal His Word through someone, then the one who was speaking earlier is to be silent. And women are to be silent where Eve misspoke (and conversely men are “forced” to become pastors and speak where Adam had been silent).

  • Paul says that women are not permitted to “speak.” What type of speaking does he not prohibit based on what he doesn’t say?


“submission”: hupotasso, to be in one’s place. Hupotasso simply expresses that a line of authority has been established, with one person being in authority and another being under that authority. Hupotasso carries no implication of inferiority; it simply states the sphere in which one serves.

  • When Paul says, “Let them be in submission,” to whom does Paul refer when he used the word “them”? Who then is responsible for women being in submission?


When Paul used hupotasso as a passive, writing to the congregation at Corinth, the passive showed that the congregation was not to force women to submit. The pastor there was to teach this truth and women were to be brought into such a role: “Let them be hupotasso-ed.”

Read 1 Corinthians 14:35

“let them ask their husbands at home”: The word for woman and/or wife is the same Greek word, gune. The word for man and husband is the same Greek word: aner. If Paul meant for wives to ask their husbands at home, then, in vs. 34, he meant for wives to keep silent, not women. The ESV translators may not have it both ways, for Paul clearly has one meaning in mind. Your pastor holds that Paul meant, “Let women ask their men at home,” which could be a father or husband.

  • Why would it be “shameful for a woman to speak” (think of Eve and her speaking during the fall into sin)?


Paul’s concluding Words on Improper Speaking during Worship

Read 1 Corinthians 14:36-40

  • Is what Paul wrote his opinion, something only cultural for his day, of the command of the Lord? (vs. 37)


“If anyone does not recognize this [Pauls’ Apostolic teaching], he is not recognized”: “not recognized” is a passive. It is an indirect way of speaking about God not recognizing someone who refuses to accept apostolic doctrine.

  • Summarize 1 Corinthians 14:39-40.


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