“For God is not the author of confusion but of peace…” (1 Cor. 14:33). That statement pretty well summarizes the message of 1 Corinthians 14. It is quite significant that Paul deals with this subject, in such detail, in this chapter. He is finishing up a long context (chapters 12-14) on miraculous gifts. In chapter 12, he addressed what seems to be apparent disunity in regards to their attitudes toward miraculous gifts. In chapter 13, he told them that the miraculous gifts would cease when the purpose for which they were given was fulfilled- the full revelation and confirmation of God’s will. In chapter 14, he uses logical reasoning to help them view miraculous gifts from the proper perspective.
It appears that, for many of the Christians at Corinth, having been blessed with various miraculous gifts had gone to their heads. They seem to have become arrogant over having the gifts, and they appeared to be misusing some of them to some extent. In chapter 14, Paul sets in order what their attitude should be as to the use of the gifts.
He especially stresses the proper perspective in regards to speaking in tongues (foreign languages). It appears, from his repeated and detailed references to it in this chapter, that some of the members were speaking in tongues during the assembly, without an interpreter. Nobody, apparently not even they themselves, knew what they were saying, thus creating confusion in the assembly. It appears further that in some cases a number of them were speaking in tongues all at the same time, creating even greater confusion.
Paul emphasizes that prophesying was more beneficial than speaking in tongues, unless an interpreter was present, for prophesying was teaching: “…for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (vs. 5). He continually drives home the importance of teaching, which could benefit all who heard (vs. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 19, 22, 24, 31). The emphasis on teaching in this chapter goes hand in hand with the focus of the previous chapter, wherein Paul emphasized their incomplete knowledge.
Paul admonishes, “yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (vs. 19). He states further, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (vs. 15).
Christianity is a taught religion, and it is a religion that teaches. What is done in the assembly, when the church comes together, should be for the edification of all assembled. Understandable teaching can achieve that goal. However, when people are speaking unintelligibly, then those present cannot learn and therefore cannot be edified.
God is a God of order. As followers and worshipers of Him, we need to respect His will and conform our will accordingly. His standard needs to be our standard: “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace…” (vs. 33).
Gary L. Hutchens