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Studies in 1 Cor. 12-15, Power From On High:
Study #6: More That Ye Should Prophesy
In Addition, Prophesy More
In the previous studies on 1 Corinthians 12-15, we have seen that we are not to be ignorant of spiritual things or spiritual matters. We have learned that among these spiritual matters lies the truth that when spirit affects the natural realm, it will be manifest, or "easy to be perceived by the senses," in nine ways, depending on the operation of the spirit taking place.
Speaking of the resurrection, Peter, on the first day of what we often refer to as the Christian Church, had this to say in the very first sermon of this Church:
Acts 2:36: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Of course, he spake this to many who a few short weeks before had been instrumental in demanding Jesus was crucified in the first place.
Acts 2:37: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
That is a good question. What shall we do? Peter answers.
Acts 2:38-39: "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call."
Repent. Romans 10:9 states, "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
Peter had just preached Jesus resurrected, Peter had just preached Jesus as Lord, now he is saying "repent," which literally means, "change your mind about it."
Change your mind. Before you thought, "Jesus died like every other man." Now you change, now you think, "God raised him from the dead."
Before, your opinions were your lord.
Now, you realize that the Lord, God, has made Jesus lord over all His creation. Jesus is now ruler, and as you accept this truth, you realize that makes Jesus your lord too. That is what confess means, that what you say actually does line up with what is true anyway, whether you accept it or not.
But when you accept that truth, and believe God did raise Jesus from the dead, you are saved, and you receive the "gift of the Holy Ghost."
What is "the gift of the Holy Ghost?"
Peter and the eleven with him had just received the initial outpouring.
Acts 2:4-8: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
"And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
"Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
"And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?
"And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? "
These apostles had already just received this gift of holy spirit, it had filled them.
Now Peter is telling those who have just witnessed this, that they too would receive the gift.
The texts read, “lepsethe ton dorean tou agiou pneumatos."
"Receive the gift the holy spirit."
Brethren, Sisters, the gift is not the Holy Ghost, it is not God. Rather, the gift is holy spirit, a gift to us, life that is created in the image of God.
It is the "spiritual DNA" that makes us the children of God.
It is the huiothesia, the sonship spirit, incorruptible seed, and it is a gift to us, to as many as the Lord our God shall call.
And when we walk in the spirit, and therefore act in the spirit, these actions are only manifest nine ways.
This section in 1 Corinthians is telling us how to act accordingly in the Church.
We are told to "covet earnestly" the "best gifts," which we have seen is what is necessary at any given time.
We are told that as wonderful as all this is, we are hollow and shallow if we are motivated by anything other than to bless God and to bless the people we minister to.
With these things in mind:
1 Cor. 14:1: "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy."
See? In this love, desiring spiritual things. ("pnuematika" again, no words for "gift" is used here in the text.) But we are to rather prophesy than follow in love or desire spiritual things?
When we think of "rather," we think of a preferable alternative.
Is prophesy a preferable alternative to love? Not according to the previous chapter. There we see we need the love when we prophesy. And prophesy is a spiritual thing.
What is the confusion?
First, the way this section we are studying is broken up in the English, we forget we are still dealing with the context set in chapter twelve of 1 Corinthians.
There we see that one of the ways spirit is made manifest is prophesy.
We forget we are dealing with the greater context of Corinthians, which is how as a group Christians are to behave.
We think of prophesy, we think of a prophet foretelling something that will happen in the future. Prophesy may well entail that.
But among believers, prophesy as we will see is more likely to be simply words from "the Comforter" of edification, exhortation and comfort, with no word of wisdom, of knowledge or discerning of spirit revelation involved.
This word "rather" is translated wrongly. The Greek word is "mallon," which simply means "more." In fact, it means "to add to" rather than having any connotation of preference.
"But more that ye prophesy."
Don't stop following love and desiring spiritual things. Please keep doing them.
But more than you have been, prophesy. Add prophesy to the tongues you are speaking. Use that manifestation more in the church, among believers.
When To Speak in Tongues
1 Cor. 14:2: "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."
Remember, this book corrects errors. Among the believers, desire more that you prophesy. Why?
Because if you speak in tongues, you are not speaking to men, but unto God.
What is this tongues stuff, that appears to contradict?
Why doesn't Paul explain himself better here?
Paul drops the phrase casually because in the days of the early church, speaking in tongues was a common, everyday occurance that all the Christians did. In fact, it was common for believers to speak in tongues until at least the so-called "Great Persecution" near the end of the Second Century AD.
Irenaeus wrote in 177 AD, ""Those who are "perfect" are those who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he, Himself, used also to speak."
So Paul writes as though we are familiar with the nature and use of speaking in tongues. It definitely did not, as scoffers and doubters like to claim, "end with the apostles" or "end when the Bible was finished."
Otherwise we could ignore this whole section.
Speaking in tongues is speaking as the spirit gives utterance, it is speaking in a language that the speaker does not understand. It is not an ability to learn new languages. It is not limited to the few rare occasions like on Pentecost when there were people who understood the languages being spoken of in tongues.
It is speaking in the spirit, i.e. inspiration, unto God, whether anyone around understands or not.
It is, in other words, prayer.
Have you received the spirit of God?
Did you confess Jesus as Lord?
Then you too can speak in tongues.
But here it says that you should more in the church desire to prophesy, because if all you do is speak in tongues, no one will understand you.
1 Cor. 14:3-4: "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 edifieth the church."
When we prophesy, we prophesy unto men. Tongues are prayer, up to God.
Prophesy is God to man, and when we are speaking of the believer's prophesy that is listed as a manifestation, it is words that build us, that remind us of what God has already given and promised us, these words exhort us to do what we already know we should do, and it reminds us of what God does to care for our needs.
For example, the song of the prophetess Deborah recorded in Judges ends with "let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might."
Did that not encourage Israel?
1 Cor. 14:5: "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."
This word "rather" is again the word "mallon," "more."
Remember the context? This is among the believers.
Among the believers, Paul wanted all them to be speaking in tongues, and we'll find out shortly the ways we are to do this.
But among the believers, "greater," that is, more important when among the believers is he that prophesies so that the Church is edified.
But there is an exception: "Except he interpret, that the Church may be edified."
You see, this is one of the ways we are to speak in tongues in the church, if we speak in tngues and then interpret.
See? It says here "...he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret..."
See how the man who speaks in tongues also is to interpret?
So many places we see someone speak in a tongue, and then someone else will supposedly give an interpretation.
Why doesn't Paul say here that greater is a prophesier than a tongues-speaker in the church, unless someone else interprets?
Because that is not how it works. You pray in the tongues, for speaking in tongues is indeed prayer, then you believe God to spew out the same words you just spoke in a tongue in a language you are actually learned in. For most of us, that would be our native tongue.
You pray by speaking in tongues, then you say the same prayer in your native language.
You do not understand what you just said in tongues, so the interpretation has to be inspired as well.
Then the Church will be edified. Why won't the Church, the Body, be edified by one of us simply speaking in tongues? Tongues is a tool of prayer, not of missionary work. The exceptions are by grace, not design. Chances are, unless a gift of grace occurs, no one will understand.
1 Cor. 14:6: "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?"
God may tell one of us to speak in tongues to the assembly without interpreting, then surely there will be profit, though we may not know what it is.
Or maybe we will know that the context of the meeting allows it. Maybe, such as on the day of Pentecost, a phenomenon takes place, and to someone of another language, our tongues will be prophesy rather than a prayer.
Maybe we are simply doing it to give example as we expound on the doctrine regarding the use of tongues.
But these are exceptions, not the rule.
As a rule, we don't simply speak in tongues aloud unless we are going to interpret.
1 Cor. 14:7-12: "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."
We are to do things out of love, right? We are to covet the charismata, the grace, that is best for the moment, right?
If you or I simply start to speak in tongues aloud in the Church, as many seem to do even to this day, it will be like music with no rhythm or melody.
If we speak in tongues in the Church, it will be like giving an unfamiliar order in battle. It will be like asking directions from someone who doesn't speak a common language.
1 Cor. 14:13"Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret."
There you have it again. He who speaks in a tongue aloud in the Church, outside of the aforementioned and occasional exceptions, is supposed to say the prayer in a tongue to the end that he may interpret the prayer, so that the whole gathering is edified.
1 Cor. 14:14: "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful."
See? Speaking in tongues, speaking in the spirit, is prayer.
Why do we need prayer we do not understand? In Romans chapter eight, Paul explains this prayer in the spirit thusly:
Rom. 8:26-27: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
"And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."
And so, tongues is a vital prayer tool the Christian has been given as part of the spiritual package, but in the Church, unless interpreted, or used in the aforementioned exceptions, it will not edify.
Knowing this, what then?
1 Cor. 14:15: "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."
In the Church, Paul says he will "pray with the spirit, and...will pray with the understanding also."
In other words, he will by speaking in the spirit pray in tongues and interpret the prayer also. He is simply rephrasing the same message over and over again so there can be no mistake, but Brothers and Sisters, how we have ignored or twisted this simple message as a Church!
Paul also says he will sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also.
What is the context?
Well, every verse in this chapter so far has been about prophesy and/or speaking in tongues, and these verses are specifically about tongues with interpretation.
He will sing in the spirit, which is singing while speaking in tongues, and then he will sing with the understanding also.
In worship, he will manifest tongues and interpretation of tongues as a song!
When Deborah sang in prophesy, was that so much different?
In our worship, are we not told in Ephesians:
Eph. 5:18-20: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;"
In the first century and a half, this truly and literally inspired singing in the spirit, these "spiritual songs" that were done by singing while manifesting tongues and tongues with interpretation were common.
While careful study of these verses makes it astoundingly crystal clear to us, reference to such a spirit-filled lifestyle were casual in the early Church and in Scripture.
These things were common and they were commonly understood.
So among the believers, if we speak a prayer in tongues he or she who does so needs to interpret. If one sings a prayer in tongues, the same one needs to sing the interpretation.
How much clearer can it be?
1 Cor. 14:16-17: "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."
See, among other believers, if you speak in tongues, how can he who does not understand the language, who has not learned it, say "Amen" at your prayer, at your giving of thanks?
They simply get nothing from the act of tongues itself, it is as meaningless as if you preached with your understanding in Chinese to a Kansas farm Church.
1 Cor. 14:18: "I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:"
Paul wasn't boasting, as is often read. He is simply adding to verse seventeen. Paul also gives thanks by speaking in tongues, in fact, as a statement of fact, he says he spoke in tongues more than any other individual in Corinth.
Why do you suppose Paul did this?
Because speaking in tongues is prayer that is not limited by our fleshly believing and understanding. Because there are listed in various verses many wonderful things that speaking in tongues is good for in our own personal prayer life.
But among the believers:
1 Cor. 14:19: "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."
Paul is clear that simply speaking in tongues in our personal prayer life is great.
Only in the Church, we need to use it so all are edified.
Decently and in Order
1 Cor 14:20-22: "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."
Do not think tongues stopped with the apostles, or are seldom mentioned in Scripture. Most of what we are reading in this chapter so far deals with separating the use of tongues in personal prayer and among the believers, where it is as a matter of course interpreted.
Tongues by itself can be a sign, because it is the evidence that something spiritual has taken place. It is a manifestation of the gift of holy spirit. It can even, by charismata grace, be like on Pentecost, where unbelievers heard their own languages spoken by people they knew did not speak them.
As a sign, it can also be rejected.
Many unbelievers both without and within the Church reject tongues as being spiritual.
But to the instructed believers, its no sign. Those who were saved in the early Church, who had the gift and instructed in its abilities, already spoke in tongues in their own prayer life.
This section is correcting error, right? These believers were walking carnally, not in love like they should have been.
There was great strife.
Paul wants to fix this.
He received revelation of Jesus Christ to do so, therefore it is safe to say Jesus Christ was wanting to correct it also.
1 Cor. 14:23-24: "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:"
Used properly, tongues is for a sign to unbelievers. But if all an unbeliever hears is tongues, with no rhyme and reason given for it, that person will really wonder about the tongue-speakers.
But is prophesy is used, that same person will think twice about what is being done.
"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."
If a person will be reached, prophesy reaches right into truth.
Through our understanding, we do not know exactly what is occurring in the life of a person coming to our spirit-filled worship for the first time.
The Comforter inside us is tapped into that, tapped directly into all truth.
That is powerful.
1 Cor. 14:26: "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."
Some of us have seen this. "Act any fool way you think is inspired." We enter a fellowship or Church, and people are hootin' and hollerin', falling over, wailing, speaking in tongues whenever they feel like it. Paul says, "How is this? Why are you doing this?
1 Cor. 14:27: "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."
We need to be respectful and purposeful.
1 Cor. 14:28: "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God."
If there be no interpreter, let him keep silence.
Let him, the one who will not interpret, keep silence.
Brothers, Sisters, we have the package. The only question is, do we have the will? Because remember, God divides as each wills, and we are to covet earnestly, we are to raise up and act on, the best charismata, i.e., that which is necessary at any given time.
1 Cor. 14:29-32: "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."
Ask yourself this: What is the context?
We are dealing here primarily with tongues, tongues with it being interpreted, and more that we should prophesy.
There are persons alive today with the ministry of a prophet in the traditional sense. If the Church was acting more like Acts, and 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Timothy, we would see more.
But we deal here with "more that ye should prophesy."
We do not need everybody speaking in tongues, everybody interpreting, everybody prophesying at any random time. We choose who will do this and when, or we set a time when someone inspired will do these things, or we have whatever prayer leader or minister is running the meeting pick and choose.
The details we can follow are endless, but the constraints are to as a rule prophesy two or three at a time for the edification to the body, or as we have seen substitute some of that with someone speaking in tongues and interpreting.
God may inspire different things. Maybe a bunch of people are called on to prophesy, or interpret. Maybe you have a meeting where mostly you take turns prophesying or interpreting prayers in tongues.
But these are the guidelines. Why?
1 Cor. 14:33: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
1 Cor. 14:34: "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."
The women of those doing the prophesying. Rather than disrupting the Church, and trying to pipe in their two cents every time hubby is called on to prophesy, let them bring it up later.
"Honey, that's true, but remember what we did in Cesarea? That was an exception to that..."
No, be silent.
(But are those prophesying always men?
No, those prophesying, even those with the ministry of a prophet are often female.
Then hubby needs to show the same respect and add the comments in private. For in the Body of Christ, we are one Body, and neither male nor female spiritually.)
1 Cor. 14:36-37: "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."
If any man wants to think he is tapped in to the truth of God's Word, let him acknowledge that these things Paul says do are indeed the commandments of the Lord.
Who is our Lord?
Well, who did you have to confess as lord to get saved, to receive the gift of the holy spirit?
That's right, Jesus.
If you want to think you are so right as a Christian, acknowledge these things are the commandments of Jesus.
"...Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but more that ye may prophesy" is a commandment of the lord.
"I would that ye all spake with tongues but more that ye prophesied..." is a commandment of the lord.
"Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret" is a commandment of the lord as much today as it was when written, and will be until we are gathered unto our Lord.
1 Cor. 14:38: "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."
Someone wants to argue? Fine, let them take it up with our Boss. We just accept what the Word of God reveals, we just accept that Paul wrote "the commandments of the Lord."
1 Cor. 14:39: "Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues."
So many forbid their denominational leaders, if not even their members, to speak in tongues.
Those who insist on speaking in tongues may be scolded, censored, even excommunicated.
Brothers and Sisters, if people choose not to speak in tongues, that is heir business. But God gave us these things so that we could rise above carnal limitations. Let no man forbid us.
1 Cor. 14:40: "Let all things be done decently and in order."
None of these abilities that we manifest of the spirit preempt the other. All of these aspects are simply part of the total package. Remember, "covet earnest the best gift," which is always that which is applicable to any situation, and always walk in love.
The gift of the holy spirit in each of us is a package. We have looked a little in depth of some of the aspects of this package in 1 Corinthians twelve, seen that the epitome of being spiritual is the walk of love, and seen how combining spirituality and love will result in desire to edify the Church.
In the final chapter that this study shall address, we shall look at a summary of how we became spirit beings, and a look into the future to see what is in store for us at the end of this spiritual administration.
For this administration, called the administration of grace, the age of the Church of the Body of Christ, shall end, and we shall be gathered together in the clouds to ever be with our Lord, ever basking in his love and grace.
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