The Manifold Wisdom Of God
The Holy Spirit in The Whole Gathering - 2
(ORDER, DISORDER AND ELDERS)
God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the congregations of the saints.
Towards the end of his letter Paul says: "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love," 1 Corinthians 16'13-14.
At this point he has said the greatest thing is love. So, with love in mind, and all that he has said in Chapter 12, he continues with "Pursue love, and desire spirituals, but especially that you may prophesy" (14'1).
"For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the Saints.
I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the Saints may receive edification," 1 Corinthians 14'2-5.
All that is plain enough, that is, to these Believers. However, Believers today do not understand the reality of, and therefore the practice of, spirituals as the early followers of the Lord did. Paul says to them (and to us?):
"... since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the Saints that you seek to excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret," verses 12-13.
In verses 22 to 24 he comes to the reason for his what he has been saying about spirituals. But to understand His explanation about tongues and prophecy, is a bit puzzling:
22. "Therefore, tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
23. Therefore if the whole assembly comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
24. But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all".
So he is saying that their disordliness would cause anybody visiting to think that they were out of their mind. They were causing confusion and hindering God's purpose for tongues and prophecy.
However, today's readers are likely to be confused for a different reason and that is that spirituals are not part of their thinking. These Believers knew what Paul was talking about because they were doing them. Even though, in a disorderly way.
2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
6 ¶ But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?
18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;
19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
In order to make sense of the tongues and prophecy referred to verses 22 to 24
1. Personal speaking in a tongue is given by God, usually at the time a Believer experiences immersion in the Holy Spirit. It is a means of intimate communication for His ears only and therefore spoken quietly.
2. The gift of tongues is given by God to be spoken out loudly and clearly because it is a call for an interpretation in the common language.
Being spoken out loudly and clearly it is likely to get the attention of any uninformed or unbelieving visitor. It paves the way for the interpretation in the common language that follows.
If these were to be spoken out loudly in a disorderly manner, any visitor would be justified in questioning the speakers' sanity.
Secondly, verse 24 refers to the gift of prophecy, which is intended by God for the Believers' edification, edification, or comfort. It is to be spoken out loudly and clearly in the common language to be understood by all.
And unbelievers who are present will also hear the prophecy and be convicted by it.
Firstly, verse 23 is referring to the confusing sounds made by those who are speaking out loud in their personal tongues and others speaking out loud with the gift of tongues (or both!).
More specifically, these two kinds of tongues are:
Paul asks these eager Believers as to why there is such disorder:
"How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation," verse 26.
All of these things are beneficial things. But the confusion of disorderliness cancels the spiritual benefit. So Paul goes on to introduce them to order:
"If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.
But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent.
For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.
And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the congregations of the saints," 1 Corinthians 14'27-31.
Paul was a man who encouraged the Believers. Instead of telling them to stop when things they were doing were disorderly, he directed them to do it a more exellent way. He wanted them to grow in their spirituals.
Showing his own enthusiasm, Paul said earlier:
"What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding," 1 Corinthians 14'15.
What a man! What an apostle!
Paul has written to help the Corinthians by putting them straight about several things. He is shepherding them to a more excellent way of behaviour regarding spirituals things.
It is useful to remember that, in the first instance, most of the New Testament letters are written to Believers, plural, "when you come together" Paul says, and not to individuals (1 Corinthians 11'18).
When Believers who are disposed to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit come together, desiring the Spirit to have His way in their gathering, their behaviour and orderliness are important. That's why Paul urges: "Let all things be done decently and in order," 1 Corinthians 14'40.
On the same subject, he says to Timothy:
"I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the Ekklesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," 1 Timothy 3'15.
"For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the congregations of the saints," 1 Corinthians 14'27-31.
Such a gathering would be upbuilding, comforting, inspiring and powerful to all present. And, carried on in Jesus' name, it would glorify the Father.
However, that calls for a certain general level of understanding so all is acceptable all are aware when spirituals are expresed.
It would be known that the Eldership would be overseeing and alert for things being out of line, both spiritual as well as physical.
This experienced ministry could provide helpful, loving ministry and, most of all, balanced authority to address any unacceptable behaviours.
Those present would feel assured by the wise, gentle, discreet and timely actions of the Eldership when needed.
"Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace
and the things by which one may edify another".
"... the same Spirit works all these things,
distributing to each one individually as He wills",
1 Corinthians 12'11.
"... Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," 2 Corinthians 3'16-17.