Called By God, Compelled to Serve, Part 3: 1 Corinthians 14. 27-35

1 Corinthians 12-14 addresses various aspects of church life, including the importance and value of every person in the church, spiritual gifts, acting and responding to others with love, and disturbances during the actual church services that cause confusion and discord within the church body.

1 Corinthians 14.27-35 infers that 1) multiple people were speaking in tongues at the same time, 2) multiple people were trying to prophesy at the same time, and 3) multiple women were asking questions at the same time. In other words, what was originally meant to be a unifying experience at the church became a source of contention and discord.

In each of these components, Paul (who previously lived among the Christians at Corinth) suggests that the one who speaks out in tongues should also be willing to give the interpretation (if no one else does) and exhorts the Corinthians to limit these messages to three per service. For those who were interested in prophesying, Paul suggests that they give preferential treatment to each other by letting others speak first. For the women who were asking multiple questions during the service, Paul suggests that they remember their questions and ask their husbands at home. He argues that those who speak in tongues should be held accountable by the church, those who prophesy should be held accountable by others who prophesy, and the women should be held accountable by their husbands.

In all of these statements, Paul asks those who are causing disruptions to be silent and to consider how their actions are affecting the people around them. Not once in this passage does he suggest that speaking in tongues, prophesying, or asking questions is bad. Rather, disruptive excesses are the issue. Therefore, the principle…the truth that transcends time and space…is that consistent disruptions that promote disunity and discord during the church service need to be addressed in an appropriate manner so that everyone is truly valued, respected, and appreciated and so that God is glorified within the body of Christ.

Unfortunately, some have taken 1 Corinthians 14.34-35 to mean that women should not preach, teach, or lead areas of ministry that are over or include men; however, there is nothing in this passage to suggest that this type of thinking is plausible. Rather, Paul encourages women to learn in this passage and to prophesy and pray in 1 Corinthians 11.5, 13. Furthermore, several women connected to Paul were known for their leadership within the church: Priscilla was a teacher/preacher and tent maker (Acts 18.2, 18, 24-26, Romans 16.3, 1 Corinthians 16.19, and 2 Timothy 4.19). The four daughters of Philip were prophetesses/preachers (Acts 21.8-9). Phoebe was a deaconess (Romans 16.1-2). Junia was an apostle (Romans, 16.7). The list could go on.

None of these women were told to stop doing what they were doing. Rather, these women were encouraged to continue being who God called them to be and doing what God called them to do. The Church today would be wise to do the same for both men and women. May we be known for supporting and encouraging, not for discouraging and dissuading.

2 Comments

  1. My understanding of that portion of Scripture is that women were asking questions from their side of the room because they were not educated in rabbinical teaching; only boys were.
    I am thankful for pen and paper with which to take notes during the sermon, and which can be discussed later.
    I did not know Junia was an apostle; I thought only men were.
    Lastly, if men appropriately accepted leadership both in church and at home, women would not be in the position they are today; both in the church and at home. God’s body is to be unified, and in being such, bring praise to Him.

    1. In the first century Jewish culture in Galilee/Palestine, men, women, boys, and girls were exposed to teaching in the synagogue on a regular basis. Boys could be chosen by a rabbi to be trained to become a scholar or rabbi OR they learned their father’s trade (which is what Jesus did…he learned carpentry from Joseph). Jewish girls in Galilee/Palestine generally learned from their parents at home. In this passage (1 Corinthians), Paul is likely dealing with house churches and with Gentiles who did not grow up in a Galilean/Palestinian Jewish setting.

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