1 Corinthians 14:27-29

In 1 Corinthians 14:27-29 Paul continues educating the Corinthian church on the spiritual gifts. He doesn’t close the door on speaking in tongues in church, but he does make it clear that there are definite rules that need to be followed. “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.” The first consideration is that everyone should come to church with a heart to build up someone else, not to be focused on what they can get out of the Body. Secondly, tongues are not the main event and need to be limited, and if they are allowed, need to be orderly and done with interpretation so the entire church can benefit.

So Paul does not prohibit speaking in tongues in a church meeting, though we remember he primarily has in mind the meeting of house churches. He will not prohibit it, because if the tongue has an interpretation, there is a potential for blessing others. Yet, he will not encourage it either. If it happens there are strict guidelines for how it must be done. It’s not driven by the individual but by the availability of an interpreter. “But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.” Speaking in tongues in a church meeting that does not observe these Scriptural guidelines is wrong. It might be well motivated, it might be done with a good heart, but it is still wrong, because it goes against the plain teaching of the Bible.

Paul shifts to prophecy and also has some specific guidelines as to how that needs to be handled. Paul is more favorable to prophecy being part of what happens in church, but even then it needs regulation. The whole meeting should not be given over to prophecy, but only two or three should speak at any given meeting. “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.” And somewhat like tongues where an interpretation is key to it being of value to the Body, the gifts of the Spirit are never to be made the focus of congregational life. Worship and the Word are the focus, and the gifts flow under God’s direction around the focus of worship and the Word.

So it is critical that the words of prophecy be evaluated and measured by others. No “word from the Lord” should to be received without careful consideration by the leadership of the church present at the meeting. Even if an angel from heaven came with a message, it must be tested and judged. Everything has to go through the filter of God’s Word, as that is never changed. It should be judged according to God’s established, revealed word. God will never contradict Himself. It is wrong to assume anyone perfectly hears God, so it is also wrong to put too much trust and faith in a prophecy. Any word of prophecy is never intended to replace God’s written Word.

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