sundays at 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, & 4:30 PM

Doctrine of Religious Worship - Regulative Principle in Worship III

September 18, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14

Review/ Introduction – 1 Cor. 14

Last week we continued our review of the Doctrine of Religious Worship and how the Regulative Principle affects our practices in worship.

Remember, last week, we started in Ch. 12, to try to get a feel for what the apostle is saying?

  • What is meant by the term “spiritual gifts”?
  • What does the body look like?
    • the comely members
    • the uncomely members
    • those that are up front
    • those that are not in particular positions of giftedness and office

Let us consider something before we continue…

If we are going to say that there belongs in the church

  • those who were particularly inspired by the Spirit of God
    • to speak in languages not yet learned
    • to speak by way of spiritual utterance in a language that everyone could understand
  • Then we need to be clear on this point
    • there is no distinction between those people who are doing that and the inspired utterance that belongs in the Bible.
  • If there are people speaking in tongues, by the Spirit of God
    • and then there is another who is interpreting that speaking in tongues today
    • that these come directly from the Spirit of God
    • that these are therefore infallible utterances
  • Of course, people that hold to an unbiblical expression of speaking in tongues do not understand this
    • there are many who would say that it is indeed from the Spirit of God and therefore an infallible utterance
    • but those utterances are not saved
    • but those utterances are not written down
    • but those utterances are not kept and treasured as infallible utterances

So, we have tried to lay some background with Ch. 12

  • and understand what the spiritual gifts
  • and understand that spirituals or spiritual things are tying the officers and the gifts together
  • and that we have to put our understanding of the context within the public worship service

Chapter 14

There are basically 3 views of this passage with regard to the speaking in tongues


The view that is supported by many churches today.

  • In the Corinthian church there are people, not officers, just regular church members
    • that are from time to time, being induced by the Spirit of God to stand up and speak a word in tongues
    • that the worship service does work and look like a kind of whack-a-mole game


The view that there are officers in the church standing up at various times to speak

  • basing on understanding of a first century architecture with regard to the synagogue
  • that the teachers of the church are sitting together in one location on a type of bench
  • that there is a bit of a competition between them as they are interrupting one another
  • that they are seeking preeminence over one another in the worship service.


The view that speaking in tongues is a remnant from old Synagogue worship being conducted in Hebrew

  • Bishop John Lightfoot of the 17th century describe this
  • that the Spirit did give utterance to men, in officers in the Corinthian church
    • but the utterance that he gave was in the original Hebrew.
  • that what was going on is they were they were following those patterns of the synagogue that they had known since the earliest days
  • that some of them were standing up and wanting to pray, preach, and read in Hebrew
  • that the rest of the congregation was not able to understand having been brought up on the Septuagint, being Greeks

And so, there was no edification going on.

But this has a lot to be commended.

  • There is a synagogue type of architecture, where all of the teachers in the church are sitting at a bench up toward the front of the church.
Luke 4.16-20
  • Jesus went into the synagogue and sat down
  • He sat in a particular spot
  • He probably would have worn his Rabbi outfit.
  • At the appropriate time in the worship service, He stood up to read.
  • And the President of the synagogue, the one who was presiding over the worship service, delivered to them the scroll
  • And He purposely turned to Isaiah 61 read it, rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the President and then sat down to teach.

Think about that for a moment while considering 1 Corinthians 14

  • There is a similar type of scenario
  • At a particular point in the worship service Jesus stands up to receive a scroll.
  • Now, if He were in the back of the church, how would that have taken place?
    • Yes, this is an inference.
    • It is not explicitly stated in the text, but we do know some of the history there.
  • So here He is up in the front of the church
    • sitting where the prophets would normally sit
    • sitting by other prophets
      • we need to understand that as we use the term preacher today, they use the term prophets or teachers in that day,
Acts 13.15

Consider: the apostle goes into a synagogue, sits down, and is asked if he has a word of exhortation.

  • A stranger walks into the congregation wearing a Rabbi’s outfit
  • He sits down at the Rabbi's bench
  • He is asked if he has a word of exhortation for the people
    • He is speaking from an office
  • So, he stands up in the synagogue and preaches the gospel
  • The leaders give Paul allowance to speak because of his obvious office.

And we have the same thing going on here

  • There is a particular place or spot in the worship service where the prophets are sitting.
  • So, when the Apostle says
    • If one prophet is speaking, and there is another prophet to some who is sitting by…
    • What does he mean?
      • There is one prophet sitting next to the original Prophet because they are all sitting in the same place, where they should be
      • Permission is not going to be given to just anyone in the congregation to stand up and speak.
    • These men are here at the prophet’s bench for a particular reason.
    • They are teachers
    • They are recognized teachers/ prophets
  • And then there is something revealed to one prophet sitting by another one
  • and the first prophet is supposed to give way to the second Prophet that he may speak as well.
  • The other thing he says is, about 2 or 3 prophets
    • let 1 or 2 speak and let the rest Judge
      • let them approve of what has been said
    • So, where there was a multiplicity of Prophets in one church, there was also a proving process that went on.
      • And if we are taking a look at utterances that are supposedly inspired by the Spirit of God,
      • Some type of approval process would be quite necessary.

These are little historical bits that help us to understand 1 Corinthians 14 rather than reading the 21st century into it

  • having a service that looks like a whack a mole game
  • having people standing up in their seats and speaking whenever they want.

But rather having what is set forth as an orderly and respectful worship service.

Now, if we immediately concede that speaking in the Spirit is speaking by the Spirit of God.

We should ask ourselves -> Why would the Apostle Paul be opposing that?

Why would the apostle be saying to the Corinthians – You should not let these people speak in the spirit?

If it is indeed the Spirit, who could stop the Spirit?

But we have the apostle saying this very thing.

  • The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
    • Do not let that guy just stand up and speak in tongues.
    • Paul says if there is no interpreter, let him sit down and stop talking.
  • That is what Paul is saying here.
    • If there is no interpreter, let him keep silent.

So, we have to look at the whole passage and sort the whole thing out and not just pick out an isolated passage here in an isolated passage there.

  • The spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets
  • But what are those spirits?
  • What does he mean by spirit?
  • Well, as we move through the passage, we will try to define that.

Verse 1

Remember in Chapter 12 that it is the Spirit of God that divides these gifts to whomsoever He will?

  • Why is he telling the Corinthian church to desire spiritual gifts and then to desire prophesy?
    • Doesn't that seem kind of contradictory?
  • If the Spirit of God is the one who is distributing the gifts as He wills
    • then why would he be telling the Corinthian church to desire spirituals?
  • The Apostle says to follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts
    • but rather that you may prophesy

There are several possibilities


The first possibility is that the apostle Paul is simply telling them to be sensitive to what the Spirit is calling them to do especially if we are talking about church office


The second possibility is that the apostle is telling them to desire that their church would be fully furnished with officers.

In other words, he is not telling every one of them to desire to be a prophet.

  • he is telling them that should desire that their churches might be fully furnished with the right kinds of officers.
  • to desire men to teach the Word of God.

That is really what we are after here.

  • This whole chapter is about understanding and about edification.
  • And what we should desire is that our churches are completely furnished with everything needed so that we as God's people
    • can understand the word of God
    • can be edified by the word of God
    • can put it into practice can live it out

This could be what the apostle is addressing

Verse 2-3


“Unknown tongues”

Let us deal with the question of whether or not this is some sort of spiritual gibberish or liturgical Hebrew or some other real language.

Much of what the New Testament has to say about speaking in tongues refers to a real language.

  • Once we get down to about verse 20-21, the apostle quotes from Isaiah 28
    • I believe he does this to tell us what tongues is really about

If we really understood what tongues was about then it would be the last thing we want in our church.

  • It would be the last thing we would want in our church because tongues are a sign of judgment.

When God starts speaking to you in another language so that you can not understand, you are in trouble.

When God starts hiding His word from you, you know you are in trouble.

When God takes away His lampstand from among you, you know you are under judgment.

When God starts speaking to you in a language that you cannot understand, remember judgment is near.

Let us keep in mind that we are still in the context of a worship service and the folly of speaking in a language that cannot be understood.

If we are speaking in an unknown language

  • we are not speaking to men because they cannot understand us
  • but notice we are speaking to God because only He can understand
    • this is not meant to be a mark of something special as many take it

This is the impropriety of speaking in tongues in the worship service.

  • It is improper because no one is understanding

Howbeit in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries.

More in Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

September 17, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgment - The Finality of Judgment

September 10, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgement - The Great White Throne

September 3, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgment