Be A Peaceful Church !
1 Corinthians 14:26-40
By Paul Robison

The apostle Paul admonishes in Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body; and be thankful.”  The Jews will greet you, even to this day, with the word “Shalom”, which means “peace”.  What the Jews mean by this short expression is this: “May God take your chaos, provide you with order, and bless you with peace.”  As Christians, we have seen God do exactly this in our lives!  His has brought order and peace to us.  In our last sermon, we saw how the Corinthian members had really messed up in their worship services.  They had gone against the blessing of peace and were having chaotic services.  We saw in chapter 12 how members were boasting about their spiritual gifts and were misusing them, so Paul then corrects them in chapter 13 admonishing them to put love for other members above their boasting.  Now in chapter 14, Paul gives more instructions regarding miraculous gifts and worship.  So what was going wrong in the Corinthian worship?  A brother gives this answer: "Compromising Christian worship with idolatrous rituals and the experiential practices of the mystery religions brought disorder and confusion into the Christian assemblies.  Paul rejected this cultural compromise ...  The Corinthian assemblies must be been something to witness.  Some people would be speaking in foreign languages, and some would be prophesying 'in the spirit.'  Women were vocal and aggressive [just as they had been in both Grecian and Roman pagan religions].  No one really cared or understood what was going on.  The church had excitement [and noise], [but it also had] confusion and disorder. ... Neither the tongue speakers nor the listeners understood what was being said. ... The speakers got so caught up in their actions that they did not care if they were edifying others. ... [Such confusing] activities were not authorized by God" (Jividen). Paul wants this church and us to be a peaceful church.  Today, we are not in the age of miracles, so much of what Paul says about miraculous gifts doesn’t apply today.  But there are some practices about worship that are applicable to us today.  Let's focus on four ways that Paul wants to help us to be a peaceful church.
First of all, contribute to worship to edify all.  Notice what Paul writes in verse 26: “How is it then, brethren?  Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.”  In the previous section, Paul lays down some principles, but in this section, he starts giving some practices that should take place (Oster).  “When you come together” means “when you assemble as a congregation”.  During the assembly, there are five spiritual gifts which are distributed among the members: a song, a teaching, a foreign language, a revelation, and an interpretation (of the foreign languages and perhaps the revelation also). Paul is saying that these gifts already exist in the worship services at Corinth.  All these gifts can be beneficial to the whole congregation when handled properly.  What is the guiding practice?  As we saw in the previous part of chapter 14, Paul uses the concept of edification about five times.  And here it is again; here is the guiding practice: “Let all things be done for edification, for the building up, for the strengthening, for the fortification of the rest of the members.”  Whatever the gift the Holy Spirit had given them, each was to use it to build up all the members who were in the assembly.  We don't have such gifts today, but we can follow Paul's guiding practice: contribute to worship to edify all. Whatever our talents are and whatever our role might be, we are to contribute to worship to edify or to strengthen all the other members. Isn't it amazing what medical science can do these days?  Did you know that there's a chemical compound that looks like toothpaste and can be injected into a bone.  It hardened in about 10 minutes, and in twelve hours it has the compression strength of a natural bone.  Weeks after this, that cement is the replaced by the real bone!  Our worship services should be like that compound; it should help people to get through their pains and strengthen them to walk closer with God (Larson).  Contribute to worship to edify all.  Be a peaceful church!
Next, help others understand.  Let's read verses 27-33: “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and God.  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.  But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent.  For you can all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all may be encouraged.  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 the churches of the saints.”  Paul spelling out some practices here, isn't he?  It looks like the Corinthian members have had numerous people speaking in foreign languages all at the same time, which would both look and sound chaotic.  So Paul gives three directives here: only let two or three speak, have them take turns, and then have someone who can interpret what they are saying so that all the rest will understand.  Otherwise, if there is no interpreter, let that person who is speaking in a foreign language be silent before the assembly.  He or she could silently continue their utterance with God. Now this passage clearly shows that those who spoke in tongues in the first century church did not get some kind of irresistible impulse from the Holy Spirit that drove them uncontrollably into some kind of ecstatic boisterous gibberish.  If there no interpreter was there and the rest of the assembly could not understand meaning of the language, could not be edified by the message, then the speaker was to remain silent.  This shows that they could control themselves.  Help others understand.  Paul next practice is addressed to those who were prophets.  Again, it looks like numerous members may have been prophesying.  So notice how Paul gives some directives again: reduce the number to just two or three, and then let those who have the gift of discernment render a judgment on the truthfulness of the message.  The word for “judge” is the same word as found in 12:10 where the discernment of spirits is described as a gift.  If while one person is prophesying, another gets a prophecy, then let the first speaker be silent so that the second speaker can be heard.  Each of the prophets, whether male or female, should speak orderly so that all may be edified by their messages.  Someone made this good observation: “Verse 32 clearly indicates that our spirit should be subject to us, not that we should be subject to our spirit.  However, some in today's [charismatic groups] excuse themselves by saying that whatever they do in the meetings is according to the spirit.  For example, someone may shout aloud and not care for anyone or anything else.  Should someone ask him why he shouts so loudly, he may reply: 'This is not up to me; I am carried away by the spirit.'  This is contrary to Paul's word.  He says strongly that we should not be subject to the spirit; rather, the spirit should be subject to us” (Lee).  Paul wanted the prophets' messages to be understood.  Why?  Paul replies: “Because God is not the author of confusion, but the God who desires peace, especially in all the congregations of His people.”  Paul wanted to see shalom in congregations and not chaos!  Thus, his practices are to help others understand.  If you are visiting with us to day, and you don't understand why did something in our assembly this morning, then feel free to question us about it.  You can talk with me, or with one of our elders, or with any member really.  You might notice some things in our worship that are done a little differently.  Now let me assure you that we aren't trying to be different just for the sake of novelty.  No, we usually have reasons and scriptures to support what we do, and we'll be happy to explain them to you.  We want you to understand.  Someone else provided this food for thought: “... if we are to reflect the character of God, we should conduct ourselves in 'peace' toward one another.  [If God is the God of peace, how well do others see peace among us as a congregation?]  We might ask in passing how our corporate worship might display other divine attributes.  How do our gatherings manifest the holiness of God? Or what about God's joyfulness?  Is our worship truthful? Do we behave graciously toward one another?  The fact that Paul could not charge too many contemporary churches with raucous disorder does not guarantee that our worship does any better at reflecting God's character” (Fisk).  Help others understand (with our actions as well as our words).  Be a peaceful church!
Next, being silent can be helpful.  Let's read verses 34-35: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.  And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.”  Let's notice some things about these verses. The word for women and wives is the same, and the word for men and husbands is the same.  The way it is translated here creates confusion because it starts off with women and then says they should ask their husbands.  It would be better to translate it women and then say let them ask their men, meaning, let them ask a male relative at home.  They are to keep silent in the churches.  Now the word for silent here is the very same word that we have already seen applied to those who speak in tongues and those who prophesy.  The tongue speaker was to be silent if there was no interpreter, and the prophet or prophetess was to be silent if another prophet received a revelation.  The same word for silent there is applied here.  Being silent can be helpful.  Well, does this mean that all the women were to keep silent in the assembly and say absolutely nothing?  Listen carefully.  No, those with the gifts could speak if they followed the proper conditions laid down in chapter 11 and in this chapter.  So, which women is Paul making reference to?  These are Christian sisters not exercising any spiritual gifts who are bringing further pandemonium to the assembly by blurting out questions.  There may be some cultural carry over going on here.  Not too far from Corinth was a place called Delphi, and at this place was a pagan site where a prophet would give you a message from the god Apollo.  But do you know how you would get the message?  That's right, you'd ask many questions.  Paul seems to be letting the good sisters at Corinth know that they don't need to prime the pump when it comes to godly prophecies (Witherington). Their speaking out in the assembly was violating the submissiveness that God wanted women to have to men seen in the law, going all the way back to Genesis.  And this is exactly what Paul argues in 1 Timothy 2:11-14: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. [Now notice the scriptural basis that Paul gives.] For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”  So Paul's advice to these sisters is to satisfy their curiosity and desire to learn at their homes where they can ask their questions to their male relatives.  Some would consider women's speech in gender-mixed company 'shameful' (14:35), just like public display of wives' uncovered hair (11:5-6).  So, Paul is arguing that it is both scriptural and culturally inappropriate for these sisters to be asking their questions while in the worship services.  Being silent can be helpful.  Listen to what Job said after God had spoken to him: “What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further” (40:4-5). Note what the prophet Habakkuk admonishes in 2:20: “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”  Silence in God's presence is noble posture.  Sisters, keep on learning in submission, and show us brothers what great hidden strength you really possess!  Being silent can be helpful.  Be a peaceful church!
Next, worship should be done decently and orderly.  Let's read the closing verses of chapter 14: “Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached?  If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.  But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.  Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.  Let all things be done decently and in order.”  Paul is being rather firm here.  He could be paraphrased in this way: “God's people in churches everywhere, including Corinth, should worship God in peace, not in disorder (v. 33); that is, unless you Corinthians are the sole originators or the sole recipients of God's word (v. 36).  In that case, you should feel free to set your own rules. Otherwise, smarten up! ... 'Paul is urging them not only to conform to the character of God, but also to get in step with the rest of his churches'” (Fisk and Fee).  Notice particularly, that Paul says that these practices he has given are commandments from Jesus.  Now Paul restates the theme with which he began this chapter: the gift of foreign languages is fine, but the gift of prophecy is even better.  Whatever the gifts are being employed in the worship services, let all the activities be done decently and orderly. This will bring about shalom and edification rather than chaos and confusion.  Worship should be done decently and orderly.  Someone has called this the golden rule of worship services for congregations in all ages, and it was first announced in a situation where it was badly needed (Coffman).  Conducting worship services decently and orderly will help to bring about the edification of all who attend.  Our worship services should be time of sweet communion with God and with like-minded members who we call brothers and sister in Christ because of the closeness and spiritual blessings that He has brought to us.  Worship in a decently and orderly manner.  Be a peaceful church!
You know “our participation [in worship services] is a barometer indicating the genuineness of our commitment and the state of our spiritual maturity. [In those services, we both build up and are strengthened at the same time.] The Christians assembly is not a time to withdraw in emotional ecstasy or [to exercise inappropriate] spiritual assertiveness. It is a time [to work hard together to cause all members to leave that assembly stronger in their faith, in their hope, and in their love for God and for His family than when they entered]” (Jividen). Edify all, help others, exercise silence, and worship decently and orderly. These practices will promote shalom.  Be a peaceful church!
Let's pray: “Holy Father, we thank You for the apostle Paul’s inspired words.  Thank You for being a God of order.  Help us to be a peaceful church!”
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).  The author of peace wants you to know His peace, and that peace is offered by the Prince of Peace. Is there any chaos or confusion in your life?  Let God bring shalom to it by bowing before His Son, confessing Him before this audience, and being immersed in His name for the forgiveness of sin. Or maybe you've forgotten that worship is more about building up others and not exalting yourself.  Like those Corinthians brethren, maybe you've even created some chaos and confusion yourself.  Despite that sin, Christ didn't give up on the Corinthian brethren, and He won't give up on you either if you'll admit your error and seek to contribute to making a peaceful church from this day forward. Let the Prince of Peace help you!