Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

Spiritural Gifts Part 2

1Corinthians 14:1-40

Chapters 12, 13, and 14 address a problem Paul had with how the Corinthians were acting in their church services. They had fallen in love with the spiritual gift of Speaking in Tongues. In Chapter 12, Paul talks about how there are a variety of gifts, not just Speaking in Tongues, and that the gift is given ?as He wills? (12:11). Some who exercised Speaking in Tongues apparently felt pretty superior to those who did not. So Paul makes sure they understand that each person in the body of Christ, no matter how humble their gift, is just as important as everyone else.

Further, Paul says that the greatest gift of the Spirit by far is not Tongues, but love. He spends a whole chapter decrying focus on the self and how impressive we can be, and instead talks about love being the attitudes and actions we have that are focused on the welfare of others, to see them come to Christ and be healed by Him.

So then in Chapter 14 he gets specifically to the problem of disruptions to the worship services?primarily by the rudeness of the overuse of Speaking in Tongues, the rudeness of prophets, and rudeness of some of the members of the church who couldn?t wait to get home to continue the discussion of that day?s Bible study.

Since the general topic is spiritual gifts, let?s talk about the four basic positions about the more supernatural ones, especial Speaking in Tongues:

  1. Ignorance is bliss
  2. The gifts left when the Bible came
  3. Speaking in Tongues ? do it early and do it often ? the louder the better
  4. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are tools for God to help spread the gospel, not for us to show off


Paul ties Chapter 14 into Chapter 13. Pursue love. Desire gifts. I guess maybe the Corinthians had that turned around. They pursued gifts and desired to be loving, but the gifts were of primary importance. Love should always be the motivation ? we are a tool in God?s hand, rather than God being a tool in ours.

Paul sets the stage. Wanting to be empowered by the Spirit in order to show God?s love is a good thing, but he corrects them because of the overuse of the ecstatic gift of Tongues.

Paul sums it up nicely at the end of the chapter?the theme: ?everything must be done decently and in order.? The Corinthians were so misusing Tongues that it threw their worship service into disarray.

Over the next 25 verses he is basically saying: ?say something people can understand and be edified by, or say nothing at all!?

What is prophecy, then? Pro-phe?-tes in its original form meant ?one who proclaims.? It can encompass a wide range of things from declaring God?s truth, to a spontaneous utterance (probably in view here) to actually predicting the future (because, after all, there is no future to God).

Paul?s point is that anything spoken in a way that could be understood was superior to Tongues.


This is probably not the Tongues used in Acts 2. There, the apostles spoke in languages that were understood and was used as a sign to them. Paul will get to that in verse 22. But this gift is of a language no one knows. It is directed toward God in prayer or praise. No one else can understand so you are not helping anyone. One rendering says ?it is all mysterious??meaning ?it?s all Greek to me!?


We come then to the heart of the matter?that our purpose in the church is to do three things:

  1. Edification ? it means to build something concretely. Is what you say going to make them stronger in the ways of the Lord?
  2. Encouragement?means to exhort someone to a future action?in this case, of course, to trust more in the Lord and become more like Him.
  3. Consolation?this word is related to encouragement but is looking back, comforting for what has happened in the past.

In a way you could look at these in reverse order. Prophecy can comfort for the failures and trials of the past, encourage to press on in Jesus to a good future, and then point to ways and means for that to occur. Prophecy can be future telling, but is not that most of the time.


It is true that using your prayer language, speaking in tongues, you do build yourself up as you spirit prays to and praises God. But our aim in the church should always be to build others up, and not just ourselves.


Paul again emphasizes that unless there is someone to interpret what is being spoken in tongues, then prophecy is ?greater? or of more value than Tongues. It is a real gift, however, and Paul doesn?t cut it down. Used properly it is a wonderful thing. Used improperly, it can break down and push people away from Christ.

6 ? 12

In verses 6 through 25 there are three key words: ?benefit? (vs 6), ?built up? (vs 12 & 17) and ?teach? (vs 19). That?s Paul?s point. If you can?t be understood you can?t help the other person to be encouraged and grow in their faith. He uses the illustration of a person playing a musical instrument very very badly. We all know what that sounds like?and hopefully not because of your experience here at Calvary Chapel Newberg. Have you ever heard a small child trying to play ?Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? on the violin? Just try to pick out the melody.

That?s the way Christians Speaking in Tongues sound to their fellow brothers and sisters, and to pre-Christians?like a bunch of kids who are trying to play the violin but nobody knows the song!

In ancient days, the Greeks thought that anyone speaking anything other than Greek sounded like ?bar bar bar? thus the word ?barbaros? which came to mean ?anyone who isn?t Greek.?

If you are speaking a language foreign to the hearer (which Speaking in Tongues does) then no one will understand you.

In verse 12 Paul commends them for being zealous for spiritual things?but they were all about showing off supernatural appearing gifts, rather than focusing on the real task, of preaching the gospel and building up the saints.

13 ? 20

Here Paul is not deriding the gift of a prayer language, but puts it in its proper place: silent unless interpreted. He again reiterates that he?d rather say a few words everyone can understand, than a lot of babble that no one can understand.

It is childish to be so focused on yourself that you neglect your real purpose. As Jesus also said ?be wise as serpents but innocent as doves.? (Matthew 10:16). It?s good to be childish when it comes to the knowledge of evil, but not okay to act like a baby when it comes to things of the Spirit.

21 ? 25

I think there is some confusion over this section. In my mind, it is easily explained by the difference between the ?sign? of speaking in a foreign language as happened at Pentecost in Acts 2, and the spiritual gift of Speaking in Tongues. The ?sign? was accompanied by either the speakers of those languages interpreting what was said, or by Peter explaining what it was all about. In Corinth they were apparently just babbling on in Tongues with no one to interpret and so became a turn off to an unbeliever.

The quotation comes loosely from Isaiah 28:11-12. The idea was that even when a ?sign? like a foreigner speaking the things of God to the Jews, they rejected it, so too Speaking in Tongues without interpretation will convince no one about Jesus.

True prophecy, however, can reveal things that the speaker might not know about the hearer, but God does?and in this way convict the person.

26 ? 32

Paul lays out some ground rules so that church services are conducted in a way that builds up and calls attention to the Lord, and no individual person. In the pagan cults, people were really taken over by demons speaking through them. That is not analogous to the Holy Spirit working through the believer, so that?s why he said ?the prophets? spirit is under the control of the prophets.? Some people might suggest that they are ?carried away? by the Spirit and just can?t help themselves. This is simply not true.

All of us have something to contribute, even if it just joining in with corporate worship, which is a sacrifice of praise to the Lord. But everything should be done in an orderly way. The Corinthians were just all going off at once with Speaking in Tongues. Paul tells them to go one at a time and if there is no interpreter present, then just sit down and be quiet.

Likewise with prophecy, no one prophet should dominate the meeting.

33 ? 35

This is a controversial section but we must take it in context. Paul has just said God is a God of peace and not disorder. Apparently, some of the Greek women, newly freed in Christ, were taking the opportunity to disrupt the worship services by asking questions?basically wanting to have their own private conversation in the middle of a worship service!

Paul tells them to be quiet and talk about it at home. This didn?t mean that women were never allowed to speak in church, but only when it disrupted the service. Verses 28 and 30 also contain the word ?silent? when it comes to not having an interpreter or when another prophet has a revelation. This didn?t mean the prophet was never to speak again, but should be quiet under certain circumstances.

We also need to keep in mind that in that culture, women were not allowed to question a man in public. We are all free in Christ, but as in Chapter 11, we need to make sure our cultural norms are maintained so that the gospel takes precedence, not our use of new freedoms. As for the reference to the Law, Paul doesn?t give a specific verse. This may have been the generally accepted interpretation of Genesis 3:15 which says that Eve?s desire will be for her husband, but her husband will dominate her.


Paul here is not talking to women, but to the church as a whole. The Bible was not given through them, and they are not free to reinterpret or reinvent it at will.

37 ? 40

It was important to recognize that Paul?s authority as an apostle was not to be questioned. It supersedes the words of a prophet. I think many people today should recognize this as well. Many churches contain supposed ?prophets? who are rewriting Scripture in order to support their doctrine. Many cults have been formed on the basis of a new revelation from a ?prophet.?

True prophets, Paul says, will recognize the apostolic authority.

So Paul finishes up on an encouraging note?recognizing that the people shouldn?t go all over to the other side and say ?well, if we can?t all Speak in Tongues at the same time then we won?t do it at all!? but that ?everything must be done decently and in order.?

Decently comes from a Greek word that means ?well formed.? Our worship services should feature intelligible, well thought out and prayed over words of exhortation, encouragement, and comfort?all designed to build up the body of Christ.

?In order? means to be arranged in a regular fashion. Though there is spontaneity, it should be done in a way that doesn?t cause confusion.


Mistakes Corinthians made:

  •  Spiritual gifts are cool
  •  Spiritual gifts make me feel important
  •  The more grandiose the gift, the higher I am on the food chain
  •  The gifts are the focus, not the purpose of them
  •  The more I use my gift the better, even if it means a ?free for all? at church
  •  In fact, the more church is about me, the better

Paul?s Correction

  •  Spiritual gifts are tools
  •  Spiritual gifts should lift up the Lord
  •  Everyone?s gifts are equally important
  •  The use of the gifts should be practically invisible
  •  All gifts should be used focused on thinking, speaking, and acting redemptively in the lives of others.
  •  When used in church, it should be about building the body and sharing the gospel