1 Corinthians 14: Rules of Order

I Corinthians 14:  Rules of Order

 Before we delve into this chapter on gifts of prophecy and tongues, let us review three cases of tongues, language and hearing. 

In Genesis 11, we have the account of the Tower of Babel, which leads us to a time after the flood when man spoke with one language:  “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.”  Remember after the flood, Noah and his sons were told to ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’  Instead of obeying God, the people settled in the plains in the land of Shinar. There they build a tower to the heavens and said ‘let us make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ What we see is what sin is always about, man wanting to decide for himself what is right and wrong and not what God says.  We want to go where we want to go and stay where we want to stay.

“Lord came down to the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “ Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do ; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them .Come let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.”

Notice confusing led to their dispersing, scattering and filling the earth. Confusion scattered, which means God used confusion to accomplish His will. Confusion was used for judgment against unbelievers.  When it comes to believers, the church, God is not the author of confusion as Paul makes clear in this passage in I Corinthians 14: 33 (The difference is in the audience. For example:   My teacher in high school physics was my football coach, Walter Kilzer.  He wanted to make things as clear as possible in the classroom and to clear up any confusion.  As a coach, he developed plays and strategies on both defense and offense to ‘confuse’ the opposing team.  This is what God has done- He used confusion with unbelievers, opponents, who were in rebellion, to accomplish His will. In the church, the body of Christ, true believers, God is not the author of confusion. So any confusion in the body of Christ comes from the enemy, who is a deceiver and attempting to confuse the believer. The enemy loves for the church to get out of balance and emotional as he knows this will turn the unbeliever off.)  When dealing with the enemy God will use confusion and we see examples in battle with Gideon, Joshua and King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.

Now let us observe what happened on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. “

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. (There are listed some 16 nations and languages)  When then sound occurred, the multitude came together and they were astounded, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. “

Notice curiosity brought them together. They heard the sound of the mighty wind.  There was no confusion as they understood what they said.  The wonder was how did these Galileans speak and they hear it in their own language and dialect.  Could the miracle be in the hearing?  God uses language and hearing to accomplish His will. God will not use confusion to keep you away from Him, but use curiosity   to draw you to Him in curiosity to seek answers. This is why Jesus spoke in parables, they were easy to remember and created curiosity as to their meaning and they sought to understand. And when you ask, you will be given; and when you seek, you will find; and when you knock, it will be opened.

Remember Moses at the burning bush, told God he was not eloquent, but slow of speech and tongue. To which God replied, who made man’s mouth? Moses insists God use his brother Aaron and God tells Moses:  “And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.” If you are worried no one will listen when you speak, God says I will teach you what you should say and do.

Now what did they hear?  Acts 2: 11 tells us: “… we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”  They are hearing them praying and praising God.

In Acts 10 we have another incident of tongues, hearing and language.  Peter has been sent by the Lord to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile to present the Gospel. “While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the word. And those Jews with Peter were astonished, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” Magnify= praising.

Moses turned aside to investigate a burning bush which kept on burning.  Do you see what led him to this bush? Curiosity which came from this bush which burned, but did not burn up, was used by God to draw Moses to Holy Ground. 

The sound of the wind brought the onlookers on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came.  Curiosity led them to investigate. They wondered as to how these men could speak and they hear it in their own language fascinated them. Curiosity was given to mankind by God as we were created with intellect, emotions and reason.  Curiosity is how children learn. They ask question after question to learn how things work. They need teachers who can give them answers and guide them in truth.

The disciples were curious and their curiosity led them to ask Jesus questions about the parables and their meaning; about the future of the kingdom, of which Matthew 24 is all about; about what will happen in the future. We need to stay curious- because that is how we learn. When we stop learning, we will stop growing in the Lord. What we see today is the explosion of knowledge.  People every learning but never coming to the truth. We also see apathy and boredom.  Curiosity can also draw you to those things which God has forbidden.

Do people look at the lives of Christians and see a difference which makes them curious as to what gives us a sense of peace and comfort. Or do they look at us and see no difference in our lives or in our nation, which once used to be viewed as primarily a Christian nation.

Now let me remind you of what the gift of prophesying is and is not. It is not predicting the future. It is in fact, an explanation of what is happening in the present in light of revelation of God’s Word. It can be called ‘expository preaching’; or it can be teaching combined with exhortation- for its purpose is to edify, build up.

Paul says anyone who speaks in tongues (not known languages) does not speak to man but to God.  Indeed, Paul says, no one understands him.  When Paul says man speaks to God he is referring to in prayer and praise. Notice in Acts 2, what they heard was these Galileans praising God. What Peter and those with him heard at Cornelius’ house praising God. 

“But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. “

Notice the contrast:  men speaking in tongues speak to God.  Men prophesying speak to men. Those who speak in tongues edify themselves; those who prophesy edify the church. (vs. 4)

So if speaking in tongues is man speaking to God- then this seems to be something which would be more appropriate in our private devotional time rather than in church in a public meeting.

This is why Paul says I wish you all spoke in tongues- for this is the individual speaking to God and it edifies himself. But Paul says, I wish even more you prophesied for this edifies the church. (vs. 5)


“So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues and some who do not understand or unbelievers come in, will they not say, are you out of your mind?” (Vs 23)

“But( here is the contrast) if an unbeliever or some who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming God is truly among you!” (vs. 24, 25)

Paul concludes:  “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three- should speak, one at a time and someone must interpret. It there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. “(vs. 28) Just as I cannot understand a foreign language and need an interpreter, so does the unsaved person. The natural man cannot understand spiritual truths, for he lacks an interpreter, the Holy Spirit. How much more confused will he be if they enter a worship service where unknown languages are being spoken.

This is exactly what Paul says in verse 11 and it is simply common sense:  “ If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker is a foreigner to me. “ Paul is telling them what to do to avoid confusing and unbeliever who enters the worship service.

Here are Paul’s Rule of Order:

1.     If anyone speaks in tongues, two- or at eh most three- should speak, one at a time and someone should interpret. Notice Paul sets limits on how many should speak. And also only one at a time. Not everyone talking at once or interrupting.

2.     If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to God himself.

3.     In regard to prophesying, Paul says two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh (judge) carefully what is said.

4.     And if revelation should come to someone who is seated, the first speaker should stop.

Paul wants to maintain order- so that everyone is not talking at once. That speakers yield to someone who has had a revelation.  I had this happen once when I was teaching, a man interrupted me when I said something about a particular verse, the man said, “I have just received an answer to prayer regarding an argument I have been having with my son.”

Now as you have all probably discovered, sometimes there are speakers who go on to long and the mind cannot absorb what the seat cannot tolerate.

There are also those who have something to say, and those who have to say something.

Paul has told those who speak in unknown tongues must be limited to two or three at the most, speaking one at a time, and there must be an interpreter or else the speaker must be quiet.

Paul has said there are to be two or three prophesying, and the audience must weigh what they say. If someone in the audience has a revelation based on what they are hearing, they can share this and the speaker is to be quiet.

So it is in this spirit of establishing rules of order Paul says:  let women remain silent in church for they are not permitted to speak, but are to be submissive as the law says.  Let me remind you Paul said in I Corinthians 11 women could pray and prophesy and teach in church.  Here the word ‘speak’ in original Greek is the most common word for conversational talk, its equivalent to the English word-“chatter”.  This is side conversations and discussions going on during the church regarding what is taking place.  We have a time in the worship service when we greet one another; it often turns into friendly visits and chats with each other.  Then the music starts, which is our cue to be quiet. We do the same in class here, when we visit until I say let’s get started.  I have seen speakers lose control of a meeting when individual conversations begin to take place in the audience.  

In other words Paul is giving some rules for order and some common sense on how to maintain a church meeting and not get off track with discussions among the audience, people talking at once and debates taking place.  Paul has told the men as well as the women when to be quiet.

No one can be edified in this environment.

Paul says let all things be done decently and in order.


In Ecclesiastes 3, we read:  God has set eternity in the hearts of men.  Curiosity is a desire to know more, to be more, and to find out what we are supposed to be and do.  Desire can lead us to the life we were meant to live or desire can lead us into a heap of trouble.

Jesus says- ask, seek and knock- these very words invite curiosity and arouse desire. What do you want?  What are you looking for? Where have you looked? What have you found? 

Jesus said I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.

He did not say I have come to threaten you and whip you into shape and make you toe the line… I have come that you might live life to its fullest. 

Confidence in Him leads us today and He will lead us all the days of our lives. In fact this life we live in the power of the Spirit within us is just an apprenticeship for eternal living. 

The Lord Jesus is God’s doorway into the life that is truly life.  Will there be problems, trouble and trials?   Yes and He has told us to expect this. But He also told us He would never place more on us than we could bear; that it would strengthen our faith and in the end would work it all together for good.

Keep on: learning- for the Word of God must be active and alive in your life. It will awaken desires in your life, which God wants to give you.

Keep on:  loving- for you cannot give without loving.

Keep on: laboring- run with persistence and patience

Keep on: leaning on God and not your own understanding

Keep on: leaving behind the emotional baggage which is wearing you out.

Our God is alive- glorify Him. Our God is worthy- Praise Him. Our God wants to help us- Trust Him.



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