Lesson 46

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

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. 14:16 Otherwise if you bless with the spirit, how will he who fills the place of the unlearned say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, seeing he doesn't know what you say? 14:17 For you most assuredly give thanks well, but the other person is not built up. 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with other languages more than you all. 14:19 However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language.

14:20 Brothers, don't be children in thoughts, yet in malice be babies, but in thoughts be mature. 14:21 In the law it is written, "By men of strange languages and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people. Not even thus will they hear me, says the Lord." 14:22 Therefore other languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelieving; but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to those who believe. 14:23 If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together and all speak with other languages, and unlearned or unbelieving people come in, won't they say that you are crazy? 14:24 But if all prophesy, and someone unbelieving or unlearned comes in, he is reproved by all, and he is judged by all. 14:25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed. So he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.

Today's Lesson 

In Today's Scripture Paul continues to discuss a problem that plagued the Corinthian church. One of the things that divided the Corinthians was their use, or rather misuse, of the gifts of the Spirit. The misuse that Paul discusses here is their overemphasis on the gift of tongues. In their attempt to surpass each other, the Corinthians were causing confusion in their gatherings from the overuse of this gift. Many of them would speak in foreign languages whenever they gathered, creating a cacophony of confusing vocalizations that disrupted the proceedings.


Paul's solution was to encourage the Corinthians to desire to prophesy rather than speak in foreign languages. He reasons with them that if an unbeliever were to come to their assembly and hear people prophesying, the unbeliever could feel convicted and say "Amen" to their prophecy. To press home his point, Paul writes to the Corinthians that he would rather say five words that could be understood than speak ten thousand words in a foreign language that no one could understand.


Paul is not opposed to the gift of tongues. In fact, Paul writes that he speaks in tongues more than any of the Corinthians. But he also understands the larger picture. The gift of tongues was given to the church as a sign for unbelievers. It is a powerful sign when unbelievers hear the gospel preached in their own language by those who do not normally speak that language. The gift of prophecy on the other hand is given to the church to express the will of God to those that believe. Therefore the gift of prophecy should be given the priority in the gathering of Christians so that God may communicate to His children.


Paul gives the Corinthians an excellent admonition. He cautions them to be wise and mature in their thinking. Yet, at the same time, he encourages them to hold no malice in their hearts for one another -- just like a baby. Through the exercise of such wisdom, Paul is sure that the Corinthians will be led by the Spirit of God into acting rightly. Paul has absolute confidence in God's ability to lead His people. That's why he encourages the Corinthians to pray for the gift of prophecy. Through the gift of prophecy God leads His people.


The world does not hear God speak. Paul quotes Isaiah 28, "By men of strange languages and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people. Not even thus will they hear me, says the Lord." Only those that are of the Lord hear His voice. To all others, the voice of the Lord is as confusing as the gifts of tongues to those that do not understand. They do not respond to God's voice because they cannot understand what He says. But through discernment and with the gift of understanding given from God, His people can hear the will of God. It is thus that God leads us through His spirit.


Do you pray to understand the will of God for your life? Are you willing to speak the will of God to others?


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