Reading for Thursday, Sept 13: 1 Cor 14
I love the way this chapter begins: “Pursue love…” (v1). Since love is the most excellent way (12:31), we should desire love above all. Paul offers an explanation of the superiority of prophesy (exhortation and encouragement, not predicting the future) over speaking in tongues. “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church,” (v4). Tongues require and interpreter, but the act of prophesy stands on its own. But whether we prophesy or speak in tongues or express some other spiritual gift, Paul would direct us back to the foundational principle upon which the church was founded: love. This is what we pursue.
These ecstatic utterances are also signs for unbelievers, not believers (v22). But the prophetic act is more accessible to insiders and outsiders alike. Perhaps this is why this gift has endured while tongues is no longer a mainstream matter that demands our attention.
Paul returns to propriety and order in worship and his comments deepen our awareness of the corporate event’s power to edify and encourage. “Let all things be done for building up,” (v26). Paul also addresses the matter of women’s role in vv34-35, holding up the practice of submission represented in “all the churches of the saints” (v33). We must balance Paul’s statements here (i.e., v35 – “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.”) with his earlier command for women to cover their head when praying and prophesying in the corporate assembly.
Paul draws the chapter to a close with a summary reminder: “But all things should be done decently and in order,” (v40).