This is an important chapter - so much so that it has a two chapter introduction. Look at the last sentence of each of the preceding chapters:
12:31 - Eagerly desire the greater gifts
13:13 - The greatest of these is love
Both of these introductory concepts are included in the first sentence of today's chapter:
Follow the way of love, and
eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy
It will be helpful to be reminded that 'prophecy,' as it's used here, does not just refer to predicting the future, as in Elijah foretelling King Ahab that there would be several years of drought. 'Prophecy' has a broader meaning of declaring the Word of the Lord, and in this sense, any preaching or teaching of the Bible and applying it to life is considered to be 'prophetic.'
It also helps to once again remember the context. These early Christians in Corinth did not have the complete Bible as you and I know it today, so the Holy Spirit would speak to them more directly through the mysterious use of 'tongues' and spontaneous 'revelations.' Once the New Testament was completed, God's revelation had been given in full, so these temporary manifestations of the Spirit came to a conclusion.
v1-19 - Follow the way of love by being zealous for Spiritual gifts,
especially the ability to teach and explain God's Word.
Other Spiritual gifts help you personally,
but teaching God's Word helps the entire church.
Be eager for gifts of the Spirit, and excel (zealously abound in) gifts that build up the church
v20-25 - Grow up and learn to think like an adult.
If unbelievers come into our worship and see nothing but emotional responses to the Spirit, they'll "say that you're out of your mind (v23)."
However, if you are able to clearly articulate what God's Word says,
even when that proclamation convicts people of their sin and lays the secrets of their hearts bare,
"they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you (v25)!”
v26-40 - Everything that is done in gathered worship must be orderly and "done so that the church may be built up (v26)."
As previously mentioned, God's mode of revelation is no longer through individuals spontaneously moved by the Spirit,
yet the underlying principle of this passage remains: our worship services must be ordered and not a free for all,
because "God is not a God of disorder but of peace (v33)."
As is the case throughout scripture, starting in the very beginning, men and women have different, complementary roles.
This becomes especially evident in the life of the church.
The gospels and the book of Acts make clear that Jesus' ministry and Paul's missionary trips were massively dependent upon women, so we can be certain that God does not have an inferior view of women.
As we interpret difficult passages like this, it's legitimate to ask whether this applies only to the Corinthians, whom the letter was written to, or to the church universal.
We saw a few days ago in chapter 11 that the provisions regarding head coverings in worship were limited to the ancient Corinthian culture, not ours,
because it doesn't seem to be a big deal elsewhere in the Bible.
Todays passage has elements that are both:
SITUATIONAL: The requirement for total silence on the part of women, like the head covering issue, is not given much emphasis in the Bible and is likely meant to address specific problems in Corinthian culture.
NORMATIVE: The command for women to submit themselves to the headship of men, even though women are fully equal partners. This is a principle throughout the entire Bible and more clearly articulated in Paul's pastoral letters.
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE:
In Zechariah 8, God promises to bless Jerusalem. Notice the effect this has on Gentiles in v23. This is the effect that prophetically declaring the Word of the Lord has had since Pentecost.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions:
EYE FOR DETAIL—From what you recall seeing in this chapter, try answering the following question without looking at your Bible: In this chapter the apostle Paul gives guidelines for how many people should speak in tongues at a worship meeting, and how many should prophesy. What are the numbers he gives for each one? (See verses 26–27.)
How would you respond to a friend who thinks the Bible has a low view of women?
Question 1 taken from The Complete Bible Discussion Guide: New Testament
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God is not a God of disorder, but of peace (v33)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will excel in building up the church (v12)
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: