First Corinthians 14.23-40



1. This evening weíre going to examine First Corinthians 14.23-40. Itís a passage that is rather narrow in its focus but very broad and far reaching in its application.

2. Allow me to explain. Throughout First Corinthians Paul has been putting out brush fires, so to speak, in the lives of his beloved Corinthians. Divisions among you? You folks are carnal and immature. Judgmentalism in your midst? Better stop because itís the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the judge of us all.

3. Unrepentant fornicators in the Church? Kick 'em out. Uncontrollable sexual desires? Get married. And on Paul goes.

4. On he goes, that is, until we reach our text for today. Switching from the control of brush fires, Paul now lays the groundwork for preventing forest fires.

5. My friends, our text is concerned with the most important activity a Christian can possibly be involved in. It is an activity that is more basic than prayer, more foundational than Bible study, more edifying than fellowship, and more pressing than soul winning. You see, this activity of which I speak and to which Paul refers in our text is where Christians are taught and challenged to do those distinctively Christian activities I have just mentioned.

6. What activity do I speak of? What activity does Paul write about? The congregational service. The preaching service, if you will.

7. In the text of Scripture which is before us today Paul deals with three factors which which can rob the worship service of that which it must have to be blessed of God . . . that which the preaching of Godís Word cannot be without. Order!


We understand that spiritual gifts are divine enablements given at the time of the new birth and are to be used as tools to aid the Christian in his service to God in the Church. But, surprising as it may seem to some, God desires that these gifts be used with control and discipline so that order might be maintained during worship. To help us understand this Paul dwells on the two spiritual gifts that have the greatest potential for causing disruption; tongues and prophecy.

1B. Understanding That Our Text Is A Logical Follow-On To The First Half Of The Chapter, Letís Note Paulís Comment Regarding The Reasons For Restraint. That Is, Just Why Is It Necessary To Maintain Order?

1C. Verse 23: "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?"

1D. Understanding that his reference to the "whole Church be come together" has to do with the preaching service, just like the one you are now attending, letís examine a couple of important words.

2D. I want you to circle or otherwise note the words "unlearned" and "unbelievers." Both words are used here to describe unsaved Gentiles who might happen to be attending the Corinthian Church services for one reason or another.

3D. The word "unlearned" refers to that person who knows nothing of the Scriptures, while "unbelievers" probably refers to Gentiles who, while they do not know Jesus Christ as Savior either, are familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. Such a person might have attended a Jewish synagogue and be quite familiar with the basic teachings of the Law.

4D. But notice Paulís point. He seeks to show, in verse 23, what the reaction of a Gentile might be when attending a Church preaching service in which the unrestrained use of tongues occurs. Even if he has a rather broad knowledge of the Old Testament his reaction to the gift of tongues is predictably a negative one.

5D. Heís going to think those Christians are mad. And the word "mad" refers to someone who is literally out of his mind. Is God pleased when His children behave themselves in such a way that lost people think we are stark raving mad? No.

6D. So, tongues can have a very bad effect on lost people who attend a preaching service. I wish people were more sensitive to this reality.

2C. Verses 24 and 25: "But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth."

1D. We know what happens when unsaved Gentiles hear the gift of tongues exercised. But what happens when those same Gentiles hear the Word of God preached...and they can actually understand the words?

2D. According to Paul, the man will report that God is in us of a truth. Why? Because God will actually use the lives of the Christians in the audience to convict the man of sin and lay open the secrets of his heart.

3D. Buddy, you never read about such glorious stuff as this happening with the gift of tongues. And why not? No understanding. So you see, though both gifts can disrupt the order of a preaching service, tongues is much more likely to do so than is prophecy. Prophecy, therefore, benefits.

3C. Verse 26: "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."

1D. If I may paraphrase, Paul is saying, "If we have examined the two most prominent gifts in the Church and found the one to be most disruptive and the other to be most edifying, why is it that you continue to do your own thing in the Church? Why does one of you do this and the other do that and still another do some other thing? You need to do things in such a way as to "edify."

2D. Now folks, though various gifts can be used in turn during a public worship service, according to verse 4, which of the gifts most profoundly edifies the saints? Right. Prophecy.

3D. It only follows, then, that in order to let all things be done unto edifying some of us are going to have to just sit still and listen to the preaching and not disrupt the proceedings. Amen?

4D. This, then, is why order is necessary and restraint is called for.

2B. Now Letís Note Paulís Comment Regarding Regulations For Restraint. Here Is Where He Specifically Tells Us What Is Expected From Those With The Gift Of Tongues Or Prophecy, Keeping In Mind That This Is Not License For The Other Gifts To Run Amuck.

1C. Regulations for tongues are in verses 27 and 28: "If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God."

1D. This passage tells us that no more than three manifestations of tongues is to take place.

2D. Further, it forbids the exercise of the gift of tongues unless one with the gift of interpretation is present to interpret. And why is this? Because it is necessary that the congregation understand at all times. Amen?

3D. And contextual considerations require that an unsaved Jewish person also be present. For what reason? Because according to verses 21 and 22 of this chapter, it is properly for this person that the gift was given to exercise in the first place.

4D. So, a lost Jewish person must be present. One with the gift of interpretation must be present. And only then can the gift of tongues be exercised, three or fewer times.

2C. Regulations for prophecy are in verses 29-32: "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets."

1D. Prophets take turns as God reveals new truth to them, with the others with the gift of prophecy constantly checking on the one who speaks for accuracy.

2D. That there is a provision for checking the accuracy of the prophet indicates that his gift is not to be relied upon for communicating truth in an infallible way. Only Scripture communicates truth without error. Amen?

3D. And what happens when truth is communicated by prophecy in an understandable way? According to verse 31, all may learn and all may be comforted. No such statement is made about either tongues or the interpretation of tongues.

4D. By the way, can you read verse 32 and still honestly tell people that you just felt compelled to speak and couldnít help it because utterance was just given to you? No.

5D. The fruit of the Spirit of God is temperance, self-control. God would never, therefore, do anything that would reduce your ability to control your own actions. God never works against Himself in that way. For that reason, to blame God for your inability to keep your mouth shut, and to falsely claim that what you said came from God, is not true.

3C. And just why is it that there are regulations imposed on us by Paul for the proper use of tongues and the proper use of prophecy? Why canít we just exercise these gifts when we personally feel led to do so? Read verse 33: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." When each man does that which is right in his own eyes confusion reigns. God is not in that. God is not pleased with that. Where God reigns there is order, there is peace, as in all Churches of the saints.

4C. But do you want to know what real tragedy is? God needed to restrain those people a bit because they wanted to serve God and either didnít properly know when or how to exercise their gifts. But whatís worse? That, or the problem I usually face of not being able to get certain folks to do anything for God. Have we any place to look down on the Corinthians? I donít think so.


1B. First, The Apostolic Requirement (34a)

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak."

1C. Ladies, this is an extremely strong command from the apostle Paul.

2C. He might be forbidding women to talk, period, during a service. I say that because the word "silence," which also appears in verse 28ł in regard to tongues when an interpreter is not present, means to be quiet.

3C. Now, if Paul is not calling for absolute silence from women, he is certainly forbidding a woman from ever speaking in tongues in Church. The context demands at least that much.

4C. As well, he must be insisting that a woman never speak to any man or around any man, during a preaching service, so as to give anyone the impression that she is not in complete submission to her husband.

5C. Ladies, I am not totally convinced that Paul is demanding absolute silence. But based on this verse, when you speak during the course of a Church service you need to be very careful.

6C. If there is any doubt that what you would like to say is the correct thing to say at the correct time to say it, be quiet and donít say it. Much more is at stake here than you probably realize.

2B. Add To The Apostolic Requirement The Apostolic Rationale

Why does Paul urge such rigid self-control on the part of women?

Three statements:

1C. First, preservation of the familyís structure(34b)

"but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law."

1D. Though Paul quotes no specific verse out of the Old Testament here, he does point out the undeniable reality that Godís plan for the home has always called for male leadership.

2D. But since sin entered in, God saw fit to command man and woman to occupy roles that they ought to have occupied as a matter of course.

3D. In this verse Paul lets his readers know that man being spokesman for his home, not the woman, is helpful in the Church to preserve the family structure and reinforce it. And for a man to be the spokesman for his home, demonstrating his leadership thereby, the woman must needs be quiet.

2C. Second, provision for the familyís instruction (35a)

"And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home."

1D. Apparently, Paul does not want wives asking questions of the preacher in the presence of their husbands.

2D. And why is this so? Because when a wife asks the preacher something instead of her own husband she humiliates him, she undermines his position and his authority as the leader and the teacher in his own home.

3D. And practically speaking, it makes the preacher the smart guy and the hero instead of a child's own father. Your kidís hero ought to be your husband, ladies. Amen?

4D. "But pastor, my husband doesnít know anything." Thatís okay. You ask him and he will come and ask me. Then Iíll tell him and he will tell you.

5D. "But pastor, he wonít ask you anything." Not until he really believes you wonít find out any other way he wonít.

3C. Even in Corinth there were hard-headed women who were going to be their own man. Probably married to a man who could be his own woman. At any rate, Paul makes a pronouncement against such outspoken women (35b).

"for it is a shame for women to speak in the church"

1D. According to this verse speaking out is base, ladies.

2D. And for women, tongues in Church is also shameful.

3D. "Well, what am I supposed to do then?" Just be quiet and listen to me preach. You see, the word "shame" means low down and filthy.

4D. Women who have no more control over themselves than to talk while Iím preaching are described by Godís Word as behaving in a way thatís worthy of shame. And it doesnít speak highly of the way you were raised to not be ashamed of shameful conduct. Amen?

4C. Now, if women being quiet helps to preserve family structure and provide for family instruction, and if Paulís pronouncement is that violation of such conduct is shameful for a woman to speak out in a disruptive way, what about a child?

1D. Folks, matters of eternal consequence take place here.

2D. And since you canít keep your kids in a nursery forever you need to teach and train your children that disrupting Church worship is wrong.

3D. And part of that training process will involve discipline at times, correcting a child and allowing them to suffer the painful consequences of disturbing a preaching service.

4D. So, as you appropriately sit near the back of the auditorium during the training years of a wiggly and distractible child, you will actually be helping to maintain order when you take them out and swat them, not disturbing me or anyone else one bit when you do it.

5D. After all, how dare I demand that an adult woman sit quietly while a child, who ought all the more to show proper respect, is disruptive. Amen?


Know what a gink is? A gink is a nitwit. Youíll see what I mean.

1B. In Verses 36 And 37 Paul Refers To Pride: "What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord."

"Donít you like what Iíve written?" Paul asks. "Thatís okay. Just grant that what I have written are the commandments of the Lord." If a person is half as gifted as they think they are they will realize that what Paul has written is inspired of the Holy Spirit of God.

2B. In Verse 38ł He Refers To Presumption: "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."

"You like free-for-all worship that eliminates any hope of learning? If you want to be ignorant just go ahead and be ignorant." Of course, Paul is attempting, by referring to such people as ignorant, to change their pattern of worship.

3B. In Verse 39 He Refers To Practice: "Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues."

Tongues is okay, but prophesy! No one is forbidding the speaking of tongues, but every gift must conform to the Biblical guidelines.

4B. In Verse 40, Bottom Line: "Let all things be done decently and in order."

The principle that must govern Christian worship is "decently and in order." With "decent" referring

to gracious and with decorum and "order" referring to an arrangement, it seems that what is pleasing to God is a properly arranged order of service in which opportunity to express various gifts is given with, of course, an emphasis on the preaching of Godís Word.


1. Years before I began to preach I learned that preaching is where itís at for the dedicated believer.

2. Let me read what Paul said about preaching in First Corinthians 1.18, 21: "18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God . . . 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."

3. Paulís desire for order during the Churchís worship service reflects his high opinion of Bible preaching.

4. Do you highly esteem the preaching of the Word? Donít tell me that you mean business for God and then miss the preaching. Donít tell me that you even want to do right and then miss the preaching.

5. The preaching of the Word of God is so important that the exercise of spiritual gifts must be curbed so as not to diminish the impact of the preaching.

6. The preaching of the Word of God is so important that special instruction was given to avoid even the possibility that women would inadvertently violate the Scriptural chain of command and disrupt the preaching thereby.

7. Finally, the preaching of the Word of God is so important that Paul addressed special remarks to the nitwits among them to force them to admit that his remarks were the commandments of the Lord.

8. Is preaching important? Youíd better believe it is. So important that youíd better respond to it.

9. Ladies and gentlemen, until now I have refrained from saying anything about the tendency of some women to speak out in Church and to even ask questions of me during our question and answer times when your husbands are present.

10. I am sure that Paul prohibited the speaking in tongues of women in Church, which meant that their exercise of tongues would have to occur in other situations, and it is obvious that he greatly stressed the role of the husband as the spokesman for the family unit.

11. For that reason I want to urge you to exercise great caution when services are in progress. During question and answer time and during testimony time, let me urge you husbands to be the spokesman for your family, even to the extent of taking it upon yourself to share Godís blessings to your wife and children on their behalf.

12. And while you ladies who are not married are in a quite different situation, be very careful and extremely cautious each and every time an opportunity for you to speak arises...that what you say will be the right thing said in as modest and discreet a manner as possible.

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