For an introduction to this series, click here.
Paul continues his discussion of how church meetings should be conducted during the era of spiritual gifts in the end of this chapter:
"What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace." (14:26-33)
I find it interesting that even in the era of spiritual gifts, the words of a prophet were not to be taken at face value. They were to be weighed by the other prophets. God has never wanted believers to be unthinking robots, just doing what they were told. God has always wanted us to think, compare and evaluate what we are told in light of what we know to be true. Preachers who demand unthinking obedience are violating the Word of God. Any teacher or preacher who is afraid of people learning for themselves and challenging what they are teaching is doing his people a disservice.
Next we have a very controversial passage:
"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church." (14:34-35)
This statement is very clear, but upon careful examination we can see Paul's purpose. In context, Paul is talking about corporate worship. For the most part, it seems first-century churches did very little else besides corporate worship. There were no Sunday Schools, no committees, no Vacation Bible Schools, none of the other programs that most churches operate today. It is one thing for a woman to teach the entire congregation, and it is another for her to take the lead in a class or in a ministry in which not everyone in the church is involved. I think the context limits Paul's instructions to just corporate worship, a general meeting of the entire congregation. A woman is not permitted to exercise spiritual or physical leadership over the entire church, but we are stupid if we fail to take advantage of the talents and the gifts that God has blessed different women in the church with.
Finally Paul wraps up his argument with a little bit of sarcasm:
"Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order." (14:36-40, ESV)
Paul says that the Corinthians were not the only ones to whom God revealed truth. It is important for us to realize that too. Too often we get too comfortable in our own little circle and get the idea that we are the only ones doing things the right way. God seems to like variety in lots of places, a lot more than apparently a lot of His followers do. There are of course numerous things that are non-negotiable, but when it goes beyond that, it seems the Lord is not as concerned about our differences as we are.