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Ironside's Notes on Selected Books Ironside's Notes
1 Corinthians 14
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ isn/ 1-corinthians-14.html. 1914.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
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The Best Gifts
1 Corinthians 14:1-25
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifleth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 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? 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. (vv. 1-25)
Here we have love in exercise for the edifying of the body of Christ. We have considered already the many diverse gifts of the Spirit as set forth in chapter 12. He divides to every man severally as He will. In this the Holy Spirit is sovereign. No one has the right to demand that he be given any certain gift or gifts as an evidence of the Spirit’s baptism. What He gives will be for the edification of the church as a whole, not for the enjoyment or aggrandizement of some individual. While we are not told of any special limit, so far as time is concerned, yet we know both from Scripture and church history that most of the so-called miraculous gifts passed away shortly after the Bible was completed. They are not needed now as they were at the beginning. Yet, if the Spirit so wills, He might give them today under special circumstances. But we need not be surprised because we do not see them in exercise. They served their purpose, a very useful one, in authenticating the message as divine, when these signs followed the proclamation of the truth. Now with God’s complete revelation in our hands, we do not require signs to manifest it as the Word of the Lord. When preached in power, it authenticates itself.
Then in chapter 13 we have love, the manifestation of the divine nature, and this we know is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us. Apart from love the gifts are useless.
Now in chapter 14 we are told, “Follow after [love], and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” As a member of the body of Christ I should desire to be a means of blessing to my brethren and sisters in the Lord, and to be used of God in giving the gospel to a lost world. I can only do this right as I am filled with the Spirit and gifted by Him in some special way.
It is therefore quite in keeping with my Christian profession to seek to be at my best for God. Worldly ambition is obnoxious and unholy, but, on the other hand, there is a laudable ambition which I can consistently entertain, and that is to desire spiritual gifts. But I must be sure that I do this in love. Every gift is given for the blessing of the whole assembly, and not in any sense for the glory of the individual possessing that gift.
In the church of God as a whole and in the assembly of believers gathered together as a worshiping company, there is no place for mere fleshly display. If I am gifted of God in a measure in preaching the gospel, I am not to take advantage of that to exhibit my abilities ostentatiously or to gather people about myself. If I have been gifted of God to sing the fine old gospel songs that people enjoy hearing so much, I am not to use that talent to attract attention to myself or my voice, but I am to use it to give out a message which, winged by melody, will move human hearts that the spoken word might not reach. If I should be gifted of God to teach the Holy Scriptures, I am not to take advantage of that gift in order to exercise people’s minds about strange and perplexing problems, which would make them think, perhaps, that I am a more deeply-taught man than most, but I am to make things as plain and simple as possible, in order that the saints may receive edification. This is the standard for using the gifts that God has given. All are to be exercised in love.
The apostle singles out one gift as that which we should earnestly covet, “Desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” Take the great prophets of the old dispensation: read carefully the entire seventeen prophetic books of the Old Testament, and you will be surprised to find how small a portion of those writings is devoted to foretelling future events. There are, indeed, many most remarkable predictions which have been fulfilled with the utmost particularity down through the centuries. There are many more that are yet to be fulfilled. But, on the other hand, the greater part of the prophetic books is taken up not with future events, but with endeavoring to bring home the truth of God to the hearts and consciences of His people. There is a difference between the teacher and the prophet. The teacher expounds the Scriptures and illuminates the mind and understanding. The prophet brings the truth home to the conscience in order that it may exercise people before God. I might take this letter of Paul to the Corinthians and perhaps through divine help be able to expound it so that my hearers may thoroughly understand just what it is that the Spirit of God is teaching, and yet their consciences might not be exercised in the least degree. Their hearts might not really be lifted unto God, though they were edified intellectually But if I had the gift of prophecy, I might take exactly the same Scripture and, as the Spirit of God enables, I will press it home to heart and conscience, so that those who hear will go away into a secret place, kneel down and search themselves and ask God to enable them to go out to live the truth that they have been learning. That is the highest form of ministry.
This is brought out very clearly in the two verses that follow, where you have what may be called one of the show gifts, the gift of tongues. We read: “He that speaketh in a…tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” Suppose I had the ability, divinely given, without going to school to learn it, to speak the Chinese language in at least one of its many dialects, and suppose I should endeavor to exercise the wonderful gift the Spirit of God had given me and I should pour out my heart in public in Chinese. At once you would say, “We cannot understand a word that he is saying.” Yet I myself might be quite happy and perfectly self-satisfied to think I was able to use such a remarkable gift. But others would not understand, unless Chinese were present. So you see the gift of speaking in tongues is not for the Christian; it is for the heathen. Let that gift be exercised where that tongue is spoken. Do not get up in a Christian assembly and take the time of God’s people giving out something they cannot understand.
“But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” It is this gift upon which the apostle lays so much stress. Notice the three aspects of real spiritual ministry:
First, the man who is divinely gifted to give a message from God speaks unto men for edification. They get something from him that is for their spiritual good. If I am able to open up the Word of God to you in a way that instructs and feeds your soul, then you are edified. It is a great thing to build up God’s people.
Then, in the second place, the prophetic message is for exhortation. How you and I need the message of exhortation! We are so apt to slumber in our spiritual lives. That is the very meaning of the word exhortation, something to awaken, to arouse the one who has gone to sleep or become apathetic. How the Word of God comes home to the conscience in that way, to arouse people! I know some folks do not like that kind of Bible teaching. But the true servant of God will bring things home in a way to exercise the hearts of men to seek after God, and to show them their true state as He Himself sees it.
In the third place, true spiritual ministry is for comfort and encouragement, and how much you and I need comfort! Dr. Joseph Parker, the great London preacher, in addressing a group of young theologians, said, “Young gentlemen, always preach to broken hearts, and you will never lack for an audience.” How many broken hearts, and how many bereaved ones there are! Trouble and distress of financial circumstances, all those things that come home so cruelly to the heart-trouble in one’s own family! How much God’s people need the word of comfort and the word of exhortation. “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.”
“He that speaketh in a…tongue edifieth himself.” He enjoys it, but no one else does. You would understand this if I should try to sing a solo. If I get into the woods or out on the mountainside I just let myself out. I just love to sing. I delight in it there. If I were to do that in a crowd I might put someone else out of tune. Well, if I were to sing a solo, I might enjoy it thoroughly, but you would not, and there would be good reason. So, if one speaks in tongues he edifies himself, but others are not edified. Do not covet a gift that makes you as selfish as that. “But he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” So the apostle says he would not slight the gift of tongues. If anyone has it, let him use it to the glory of God; but he wishes “rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”
So we conclude that we should desire spiritual gifts; and the gifts of the Spirit are not for anyone’s individual enjoyment or glory, but for the edification of the entire church.
And now let me point out that the word unknown before “tongues,” as found many times in this chapter, is in italics, and so does not represent anything in the original text. Strictly speaking, the apostle was not thinking of unknown tongues, but of definite languages. The miracle of Pentecost consisted in the eleven apostles being empowered to preach the gospel in languages they had never learned, so that all who heard were able to understand them “in their own tongue wherein they were born.” We know of nothing like this today.
The next eight verses, as you see, are all very intimately connected, and in them the apostle resumes the subject which he began in the early part of the chapter. The Corinthians were very anxious for what may be called the “showy” gifts of the Spirit, the gifts that would attract widespread attention, particularly the gift of speaking in tongues. Through this remarkable gift the gospel was spread in a wonderful way in the earliest period of the church of God. It was nothing like the rhapsody which people give way to when they utter strange, weird sounds, which may in truth be called unknown tongues, for they are unknown to heaven or earth. But the tongues here referred to were definite languages, and one can see at once why the apostle should rebuke display of such a gift when there were no people present who could understand the language. The man himself would get a great thrill in speaking in a language that was strange and incomprehensible to others; but there would be no blessing to the church.
In the public assembly of the people of God everything should be done unto edifying. So the apostle says: If I myself should come speaking in tongues, speaking in various languages, “what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” We have no record that he ever had to learn the languages in which he spoke to the people. He spoke to the Greeks in their own language, to the Romans in theirs, to the Hebrews he spoke in their tongue, and to the various barbarians in the tongues to which they were accustomed.
Suppose I should come before the church and speak in those tongues, what would I profit you unless I should give you the interpretation of what I had said, or unless the Spirit of God should enable someone else to interpret it in order that you might understand? “What shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” If he is able to reveal the language in which he speaks, or if he prophesies to them, or teaches them, which we are to understand by the word doctrine, then they would be edified. With things that have no life, like the great organ or the piano, if every tone were exactly the same, what edification could there be? No one would understand what was being played. “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, if the trumpeter goes out ahead of the army, but gives forth notes that nobody can understand, the soldiers are unable to respond. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” Just in the same way, if a man stands up in a congregation and gives out sounds that have no meaning to the people, there is no edification. Here is a good rule: “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.” In this I think the apostle not only rebukes the vanity of ministers who delight to use the pulpit as a place to display their education and culture, but also the use of language that is far above the heads of the people to whom they are ministering. Charles H. Spurgeon said: “I am afraid that many of my ministerial brethren must imagine that when Scripture tells them to ‘Feed my sheep,’ it means ‘Feed my giraffes,’ for they put the food so high that people would have to be giraffes to reach it.” Scripture says, “Feed my sheep.” Always put the food down where the sheep can get it. It should be the ambition of the preacher of the Word to use language so simple and so plain that everybody can understand. A few months ago a lady brought to me a little boy about ten years of age, and she said, “I want my little grandson to meet you. I hope you won’t be offended about what he said. I had been telling him about you and he wanted to hear you. He said to me, ‘Why, grandma, he is not a great preacher; I could understand every word he said.’” I replied, “Well, my dear madam, I consider that a great compliment.” I hope you will always pray that when I stand up to minister the Word, I may do it in such a way that the youngest child, as well as the oldest saint, may understand every word; because if we do not, we are just speaking into the air.
The apostle says there are many different voices in the world, and all of them have some signification, but if the person listening does not understand the signification, they go for nothing. So if I speak in a tongue that others do not understand, I shall be as a barbarian to them and they shall be barbarians to me. He says, “Since you are so ‘zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church.’” Try to get from God that which will be the greatest blessing to the people to whom you minister. “Wherefore let him that speaketh in a…tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a…tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” I may have within me a great urge and a great sense of need, and I might express it in sounds, but my understanding is not praying, and the apostle repudiates anything like that. Suppose I am able to pray in Latin, but do not understand Latin. People went through long prayers in Latin in the early days. The spirit may have been praying, yet the understanding was unfruitful. The Reformation brought people back to use the common language of the countries in which they lived in addressing God and in the worship of God, so that the understanding might go with the spirit. “What is it, then? I will pray with the spirit.” Certainly I should pray with the spirit; my inmost being must be aroused; but “I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”
What he has said of preaching or public ministry of the Word is just as true of singing. Therefore the importance of singing hymns that express scriptural truth. There are many songs which we sing because we like the tunes; but sometimes the words are not in accordance with Scripture at all. Some people think that songs must be suitable if the words are from the Bible. Take the book of Psalms, which were written before redemption was accomplished. David sang, “Turn away thy wrath from me.” I won’t sing that. Why? Because divine wrath has been turned from me. It fell upon my blessed Substitute, and I know I won’t come into judgment, for I am saved from judgment. There are many lovely things in the Psalms in which all our hearts may go out in worship and praise, but we are to sing from the standpoint of people who have already been redeemed. There should not be any question as to our relation with God. If we do not understand this, we shall always be in confusion.
“Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” In the early church when a man gave thanks the rest were to say Amen. But they must understand then what he is saying; otherwise one might verily give thanks well, but the others would not be edified.
“I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all.” He did not boast of this, but stated a fact. “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in a…tongue.” Now you get the distinction between the two. I would rather, he said, speak five words in a language they can understand, than ten thousand words in a tongue. When he went out to the barbarians he was glad to talk to them in a tongue, but when he came into the assembly he would not speak to them in a tongue. I know some dear people who, I am sorry to say, would rather speak five words in an absolutely unknown tongue than ten thousand words in good, plain English. If they could only feel the thrill of some power taking hold of them, and speak in some weird language that no one could understand! Yet it is only selfishness. It is the selfish desire to have something that other people do not have. The apostle says, I do not want to attract attention to myself or my gift. “Brethren, be not children in understanding.” The folk that are running after these things are like children. “Howbeit in malice be ye children.” Have the sweet, kindly spirit of children toward one another. “But in understanding be men.” Then he goes back to the book of the prophet Isaiah. He shows how the prophet had to reprove Israel: “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak to this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” God said, “I will send Gentiles to speak to them.” And for more than nineteen hundred years, He has proclaimed the gospel to the Jews through the converted Gentiles. “For all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” One may have the ability to speak so as to reach the conscience, but that would not necessarily bring them to Christ. “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not,” a sign that the Spirit of God is working in power.
“But prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.” Then he says in effect: if therefore the whole congregation come together in one place and everybody is able to speak with tongues, one and another rising and speaking in strange languages, and there are unsaved people sitting about, “if…there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” People would say just that. They would go away saying, “What a lot of lunatics they were! I could not understand a word.” “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.” When the servants of God proclaim His truth in the power of the Spirit, we may expect the careless to be awakened, and the anxious to be led into assurance and to know that God is speaking through human lips to their souls.
Godly Order, In The Assembly Of The Saints
1 Corinthians 14:26-40
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. 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. 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. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 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. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. (vv. 26-40)
We are now to consider the practical working out of all this in the public assemblies of the people of God. Instinctively, we feel, I think, as we come to these verses, that they speak of conditions, of order in the early churches, of which we know very little today. This ought surely to lead us to search and try our ways, and to see how far we have departed from the simplicity of primitive Christianity.
I do not mean to imply that there is not a certain amount of liberty given in Scripture to adapt ourselves and the order of our meetings to the times in which we live and the recognized customs prevailing among different races and nations, because it is clear that we are not under restraint as to this. We are told in this very passage to “let all things be done decently and in order.” This might be rendered “respectably and by arrangement.” The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of liberty, and He does not seek to press everyone into one mold. He is the Spirit of a sound mind, and He expects us to use God-given common sense in carrying on the work of the Lord, and in the conduct of our assemblies.
But in these closing verses of this chapter He lays down certain principles which should govern us as we are gathered together for worship and the ministry of the Word. It is God who gathers His people around His blessed Son, our Risen Lord, who says, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst” (Matthew 18:20). While these words had reference originally, as the context shows, to a prayer meeting, they really apply to all assemblies of the saints of God, whether they come together for worship, for ministry, or for intercession. On such occasions all should be subject to the Holy Spirit’s direction.
You get the practical application of this in the verses that follow: “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.” Because of the liberty they had in Christ, those early Christians were in the habit of participating in the meetings as their own feelings prompted them. One would sing a psalm, another would speak in a tongue, another would interpret, another had a doctrine, someone would have a fresh revelation from God; and it resulted in sad confusion. The apostle shows that all things should be done in an orderly and godly manner and with the edification of the whole company in view, not the personal enjoyment of some gifted individual.
“If any man speak in a…tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course,” not several at one time, and let there be an interpreter. “But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” One might say, “But it is the Lord who has given me the gift of tongues, so I must speak out in meeting.” But this does not necessarily follow, for Paul says, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” It is plain that even if one has such a gift, if he could not interpret, he must remain silent in the church. This shows that a tongue is a definite language, which might be interpreted if another understood it, so that all might understand and be edified.
And in regard to prophesying, let them speak two or three, not a large number in one service, and let the others judge; that is, in the sense of discerning; they are to weigh all carefully before God and compare it with the Word. None of us has a right to say, “This is the truth of God and I demand a hearing.” Our Lord Himself urged the people to search the Scriptures. The preacher is to speak, the people are to listen, and then to compare what they hear with the Word. But if another would speak, let the first hold his peace; that is, wait until the other is through. Everything is to be done in an orderly way. “Ye may all prophesy one by one.” But not more than three in one meeting, lest there be confusion instead of spiritual edification. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”
And then in the next few verses we have something over which there has been a great deal of controversy in the church of God, but there should not be. If one would speak in tongues, but there is no interpreter, he is to keep silent. If a prophet is speaking and another would follow, let the first keep silent. Now the next verse: “Let your women keep silence in the churches.” Surely, “keep silence” means exactly the same here as in the other instances. But by “churches” he does not mean buildings. He is not telling us that no woman could give a testimony or offer prayer in a religious building. The word for church is properly “assembly”; and what he is saying is this: “When you are gathered together in your regular church service, let the women keep silent in the assembly, for they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” Now we need to remember this is by the Holy Spirit as truly as any other part of the epistle. He said it through Paul, the inspired apostle. Some have objected that Paul was an old bachelor and did not like women! He was the inspired servant of God and wrote as directed by the Holy Spirit. Now this does not touch the question raised in the eleventh chapter, where women, providing they had their heads covered, were permitted to pray and prophesy in some other sphere. But here the reference is to the official meeting of the church when all are gathered together as a worshiping company. If at such a time the women hear something they do not understand, do not let them interrupt the meeting by inquiring aloud nor by seeking to teach. Let them ask their husbands at home. “Well,” a lady said to me, “that is not meant for me; I have no husband.” The word for “husband” is elsewhere rendered “man.” Let them ask their men at home. Neither men nor women were to interrupt in a public assembly, but let them discuss things at home if there is something they do not understand. In these days, it is often the men that do not understand and they ask the women at home! It should be noted that in those early days only a few women, comparatively, could read or write. You have to take into consideration the time when the letter was written, when slavery and debasement of women were common. But I think the principle is clear enough. And then, lest there should be any misunderstanding, the apostle asks, “Came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” Well, the Word of God came to us. Very well, then. We are not to decide what we are going to accept or reject. God Himself speaks with authority. We are to do as He commands. “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.” What things? Why, the things we have just been reading in this passage. They are the commandments of the Lord. But if any one objects to this, Paul puts him down among those who are ill-taught. “If any man be ignorant,” just let him take the place of ignorance and say he does not understand, but do not let him pretend to be wiser than those who obey the injunction of the Lord.
He concludes this section with these words: “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.” So if there is anybody attending the meetings of the church who can talk in a language he has never learned, let there be an interpreter so that people may understand; but do not try to pass off something that cannot be interpreted. The apostle is speaking of definite languages.
And so from chapter 10 to the close of chapter 14, the Spirit has given us the divine order for the assembly of God, and he adds the words we have referred to already, “Let all things be done decently,” that is, “respectably,” “and in order,” or, “by arrangement”; that is, such as the Word of God authorizes, not substituting an order which it condemns.
I realize that this is a section over which there has been a great deal of controversy, but it is one that the Spirit of God has given for the edification of the whole church, and we shall always find our greatest blessing as we are subject to His direction. Sometimes we think that we can improve upon what God has commanded, but we may be sure of this: that His ways are always best. This is not only true in the assembly of God, but in all details of every individual life.
Women have a wide sphere for service and testimony outside of the worship meeting of the assembly. The home is preeminently woman’s sphere. In social gatherings too she has abundant opportunity to witness for Christ. No one is more peculiarly adapted to work among children and to help her own sex than a godly, well-instructed woman. In visitation work, in the sickroom, and elsewhere, her services are invaluable. If God has restricted her so that it is not for her to usurp the place of pastor or teacher in the public assembly, it is not to slight her gifts, nor to ignore the value of her services elsewhere. The true test of love for Christ is obedience to His Word. He knows best what each one of us should do in order to glorify Him. Our happiness should consist in acting in accordance with His revealed Word. This honors God and glorifies the Head of the church, our blessed Lord.
A Priscilla may teach an Apollos, a Mary Magdalene may be the risen Lord’s messenger to His faint-hearted disciples, a regenerated woman of Samaria may evangelize the men of her city, a Dorcas may serve by ministering to the comfort of the poor, a Phoebe may be a deaconess of the assembly, but a woman, no matter how gifted and godly, is not to take the place of the man in the assembly of God, but to set an example of lowly subjection to the revealed will of God, assured that He values devoted obedience above any possible form of activity, however much it may be approved by those who have never learned to let God’s Word be the supreme authority.