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Fundamental Principles of Worship

1 Corinthians 14:1-25

Jim Davis

Paul reveals three basic principles of worship in the following verses.

1 Corinthians 14:1-5
14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified. NIV

The three basic principles of worship revealed are: edification, understanding and order. These principles can only be accomplished by following the way of love outlined in the previous chapter. The lack of love led the Corinthians to build themselves up while ignoring the needs of the church. The basic principles of worship were violated because of a lack of love.

Spiritual gifts given to build up the church were being used selfishly. The gift of tongues was given to help communicate the gospel, but it was being used as a means to prove one’s spirituality. We have heard it suggested that the gift of tongues is a mark of true spirituality. Supposedly it is a sign of a deeper Christian life.

The Edification of the Church

Edification of the church is dependent upon using God’s blessings to benefit others. The Corinthians were blessed with special miraculous gifts for the purpose of building up the church. They took pride in the ability to speak in tongues. However, they were using the gift in such a way that the unbelievers thought they were mad.

1 Corinthians14:22-25
Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" NIV

Unfortunately, the King James Version inserted the word "unknown," which has led to much misunderstanding about the gift of tongues.

Acts 2:4-12
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" NIV

On Pentecost the Jews heard the disciples extolling God in their own dialects. They understood the language for they were speaking in their own dialects. It wasn’t some strange heavenly language unknown to humanity. The purpose of tongues on Pentecost was to bring the Jews to Christ. The gift of tongues was to be a sign to the unbeliever, and were not to be used in a worship service where no one understood the language.

1 Cor 14:21-25
In the Law it is written:

"Through men of strange tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me,"
says the Lord.

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" NIV

In Acts 2, God gave the apostles the gift of tongues that they might share the Word with the Jews at Pentecost. It was a sign to the Jews that God was at work, fulfilling Isa 28:11-12. We find incidents involving tongues four times in Acts, and each time they give evidence to Jews present that God is working:

Acts 2; tongues are evidence to the unbelieving Jews at Pentecost;
Acts 8; evidence to the believing Jews that the Spirit had come upon the Samaritans;
Acts 10; evidence that the Spirit had come upon the Gentiles;
Acts 19; evidence that the twelve Ephesian men had received the Spirit.

But the misuse of tongues at Corinth would never reach the unbeliever for the Lord. It was another Babel! Far better that the unbelieving visitor should hear a message from the Word, something he can understand, and then make his decision for Christ, than hear a confusion of messages he cannot grasp.
 

The church is edified by how we use God’s blessings in an orderly fashion to benefit others.

1 Cor 14:6-12
Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. NIV

Speaking in tongues was a sign to unbelievers, but the gift also was used to convey the message of the gospel to those unbelievers. It is clear that speaking in tongues without an interpreter had no value in the church. Exercising the spiritual gift under such circumstances brought no personal blessing to the speaker or those hearing.

The Proper Order of Worship

The issue in this chapter is an orderly worship service. Men and women were misusing their spiritual gifts in the worship services.

1 Corinthians 14:29-33
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. NIV

This subject began in chapter 11. We have seen in 11:3-10 that women had the gift of prophecy.

1 Cor 11:3-10
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head-it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. NIV

This ungodly attitude had been manifested in the worship services at Corinth.

1 Corinthians 11:17-19
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. NIV

The biggest difficulty in the church at Corinth was not exercising their God given gifts, but how they were exercising their gifts.

1 Corinthians 14:33-35
As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. NIV

I don’t think these verses allow us to gag a woman when they walk into the assembly. The key word in the context is submission. If the women can’t remain in submission when they speak up, they should remain silent.

Another key word is "ask", for in the original language it virtually signifies demanding an answer to questions raised. It is the idea of demanding an answer from an attitude of disrespect toward the person being asked the question.

Paul is saying, "Go home and demand an answer from your own husbands." In the midst of all the confusion the ladies were probably grilling the men for answers. Paul is saying, in effect, "If you want to learn anything that way, go do it to your husband at home!" This helps us realize why the English translation sounds somewhat harsh.

"Go home and continually grill your husbands!" They were demanding answers in such a way that they were taking over the worship services. They weren’t simply asking for clarification. As we look at this attitude it went beyond the worship service. Their attitude as they prayed and prophesied in chapter eleven shows a general disrespect for their God given position.

1 Corinthians 11:11-16
In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice-nor do the churches of God. NIV

The idea behind the silence of women in the first century was self-control. The need for self-controlled is enhanced as you observe what took place in Eden. You can’t overlook the fact that Eve made the decision to eat the fruit without consulting Adam. We can only wonder that if they had made a joint decision would things have been different?

1 Timothy 2:11-15
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing-if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. NIV

The words quietness, submission and propriety are the key words in these verses. Propriety has to do with a sober self-controlled sane mindset that manifests itself in a spirit of meekness as the teacher is teaching.

The idea of quietness is not the ideal of sealed lips. It refers to someone with a quiet spirit. It was just as wrong for a man to display the same ungodly attitude in Corinth as it was for the women. However, it was essential that the women to be reminded of their submission to the men.

1 Corinthians 14:26-28
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three-should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. NIV

God gave women the gift of prophecy in the first century. Every spiritual gift was given for the common good of all (12:7). They were given to strengthen the church. To do so they had to be used in an orderly fashion. Women were not to seek authority over men in the exercising of their gifts. The question of women speaking in the church at Corinth had to do with submission in her God given role. Submission is not designed to muzzle the one in submission.

In the city of Thyatira Paul met with the women; there were no men. This was equivalent to a synagogue meeting. He met with them to discuss Jesus Christ. He met with them more than once, for he met with them after Lydia was baptized. It would be foolish to think that he was teaching women without them asking questions before they were baptized and after they were baptized.

Acts 16:13-16
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us.

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. NIV

As Lydia traveled back to the city of Thyatira she was under obligation to teach the gospel to anyone who would listen. It is ironic that there was a woman named Jezebel in Thyatira who was seducing Christians to fornication as John writes his revelation. The church had given her a prominent place, but she was usurping all authority as she called herself a prophet.

Submission was the key issue in many of the problems of the first century church. The twenty first century sees submission as subordination where one is treated with less value or importance.

1 Timothy 6:1-5
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. NIV

Some look at these verses and subordinate slaves to their master, but the text is not about subordination, but submission. The idea of submission reminds us of our equality in Christ.

Galatians 3:26-29
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. NIV

The Bible teaches us how to serve God in every situation even if it is less than idea. God set the standard for submission and exemplified the concept, as the He became flesh. He humbled himself to wash the disciples’ feet. The position one holds in God’s scheme of things is not nearly as important as the attitude of submission that must accompany the position. If God became flesh in submission to our needs, then what did he expect the Corinthians to do as they exercised their spiritual gifts.

The attitude of God allows us to serve in whatever situation we find ourselves, even if we are nailed to a cross. The key to spiritual freedom is not challenging the powers that be, but it is in learning to serve God in every circumstance, regardless of the circumstances.

Does Our Attitude Promote Understanding

Of course, these sensitive areas have a tendency to generate a lot of questions. The question is: are the questions asked to generate strife and division or to build the body of Christ through a better understanding?

Titus 3:9-11
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. NIV

Some questions are designed to raise doubt and share ignorance, which usually results in division. Some feel these types of questions reveal depth of understanding, but they usually reveal our level of maturity. I have seen Bible class teachers grilled by questions for the sole purpose of generating strife and division. Those situations are not healthy for congregations.
 

Jesus gave women a very prominent place in his life although there were no women numbered among the twelve. There were no women elders appointed in the first century, but we should never forget that elder’s wives were in a partnership with the elders as they served the congregation.

Developing the attitude of Jesus Christ toward each other as we strive for spiritual understanding would do more to enhance each other’s God given role than anything I know.

Ephesians 5:22-33
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church- for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. NIV

Paul tells the wives to submit to their husbands, but in the same breath he reminds the husbands of Christ’s submissive love for the church. Paul sets Christ up for an example for the husbands. Of course Paul is speaking of marriage, but Paul is talking about Christ and the church. If we love the church as we love ourselves we will submit to what is best for the church.

Conclusion:

The test of what we wish to do should revolve around three principles:

Does it promote God’s order of things?

Does it build up the body of Christ?

Does it promote understanding among the members?

 

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