1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 100

By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998
We are going to be talking about “Order in the Church.” It is humanly impossible to reconstruct the chaos that was going on at the church of Corinth in their public worship services.

Audio Version

Previous Article

1 Corinthians 14:26-28

Order in the Church – Part 1

Some people may be saying, “Will you ever get out of this chapter?” Well, I want to tell you something, this is not an easy chapter, as you already know. The slower you go, the safer you are. So for your benefit and my benefit, we are going to ease through it.

We are going to be talking about “Order in the Church.” It is humanly impossible to reconstruct the chaos that was going on at the church of Corinth in their public worship services. You say, “Why is that?” I will tell you why. We have not experienced anything like it, particularly here. They had not experienced anything like it in Ephesus or in Philippi or in Thessalonica. Why? Because Corinth was the only city affected by the Oracles of Delphi 30 miles down the road. Of all the letters that Paul wrote, they were the most affected by this. And the pagan idolatry had crept in and the emotional frenzy that went along with the pagan worship had now crept back into the church and they thought it was something spiritual. It was a circus. No order in their worship whatsoever, just chaotic. Paul even says, “People will come in and see what you are doing and they will think you are crazy. They think you are mad.”

You know, it is interesting that there is nothing new under the sun, is there? Nothing new under the sun. I was watching a television program several years ago when I watched people get down on their hands and knees and start barking like dogs and roaring like lions. The pastor would stand up and try to speak while people were laughing so hard, it actually became a distraction to him. Several times he had to correct himself. He couldn’t even keep his own attention. And me, looking at that program, I thought the exact same words that Paul said, “Are these people crazy?” Nothing new under the sun.

You have to understand Corinth. If you don’t, then you miss everything Paul is dealing with in chapters 12, 13 and 14. The offending obstacle, however, that Paul is dealing with in chapter 14 is this speaking in an unknown language, gibberish that no one could understand. They called it spiritual. They called it all kinds of things, but that is the problem Paul is dealing with.

He goes about it in a very subtle way to get their attention. He is trying to correct them doctrinally. He has already shown them that speaking in this gibberish was not only wrong, but the whole premise was wrong. As a matter of fact, the Bible does speak of speaking in foreign tongues, languages that are understandable, which are not your own. It speaks of that. Now they weren’t doing that; they were speaking in a gibberish. But Paul says, “Hey, come on, guys. Your whole premise is wrong. Even if you were speaking languages that people could understand, your premise is wrong. It is not a spiritual sign for believers. It doesn’t prove anything about your spirituality.”

I remember years ago, I went to a Romanian village that had never heard the word of God. A national pastor came to me and said, “Would you mind going and we will translate for you?” I am thinking, “I am just not the evangelist that some people think I might be. I am more of an equipper.” I would rather take a guy after he gets saved and build him up in the faith. That is where my gift seems to be. But I said, “Hey, the opportunity is there. I will go. I certainly know the gospel.”

We went in and taught and preached to these precious people, one hundred plus. I don’t remember the exact number, but they had never heard the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ in that village. They told me it had never been preached in that little village. I am in a hall that was once owned by the Communists. And here I am and I am trying my best to teach the word. I am scared half to death because I don’t know if I am doing it exactly the right way. I am going through an interpreter.

At the end of the message, I gave the invitation. When I give an invitation, friend, you are going to think it through. I mean, I did it so many times, they had to think it through. I make it difficult. I make it very difficult. Are you sure you understand what you are doing? I walk them through step by step. And I said, “Now how many of you would like to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” Every hand in the room went up! And I am thinking, “No, no, no. You don’t understand.” I went back and walked through it again. I said, “Do you understand what I mean by this?” And I walked through it. I mean, I am very tough on that. I am not like some people, this easy stuff, I put it down. They all raised their hands again. The pastor said, “They understand, Wayne, they understand.” And I am saying, “No, no, no. I am going to do it again.”

I did it a third time and the third time they all raised their hands. Tears just gushed out of my eyes and I am thinking, “Lord, you actually used me! You actually took what I shared with them and use it.” It was like God said to me again, when I was studying this, “Son, stand up, preach the word of God and men’s hearts will be convicted. Men will come to know Me because it is Me honoring My Word. Whatever you say, preach the Word of God.” That is what Paul is saying.

Now what in the world is going on in Corinth? You can hear the frustration in his voice. You can feel the frustration in Paul the apostle, trying to get this church to think straight for once. It is the Word that changed people’s hearts, not some emotional frenzy. When people walk into that, they will think you are absolutely crazy. What a difference when the word of God is preached.

Well, Paul is going to put some order back into their worship. Now remember this or you are going to get lost. He is still dealing with that one obstacle of speaking in a gibberish in an unknown tongue, a tongue, singular. We have already identified that when it is in plural, it means languages that are understandable. When it is singular, it identifies an unknown gibberish that they were speaking in that church.

So he says in verse 26, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.” Now hear: you don’t understand any of that until you understand the last part of that verse. The last part of the verse is where he is driving at. He says, “Let all things be done for edification.”

Now you’ve got to see something here or you are going to miss everything. This is a difficult passage, but if you can hold on to the fact that that is the driving force of everything he is saying, you will be okay. The key is, let all things, when you come together for worship, all things must be done for edification. That is the key to everything he says in these verses.

By the phrase “What is the outcome then, brethren?” Paul is saying, “Okay, what is the outcome of my discussion with you so far? I mean, okay, have you learned anything?” You have to go back to the 25 verses of what he has just been telling them. He said, “Have you learned anything at all?”

Then look at the term he uses. “What is the outcome then, brethren?” What a beautiful thing. “Brethren” is the real wonderful term used for a brother. He says, “You are my brothers.” It kind of brings back to mind 4:14 when it says, I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. There is a relationship here, and you tell the people that you love the hard things. Paul is willing to do that. Paul is standing right in the middle of their emotional frenzy and experience and saying, “You are wrong, you are wrong, you are wrong. But I love you by telling you that you are wrong.”

Verse 26 reads, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When [not if] you assemble;” now what did that tell us right there? It tells us right there the necessity of coming together for worship. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some.” Now I hear some people say, “Well, Christ lives in my heart and I can worship God wherever I want to.” You are exactly right. But that in no way negates the responsibility you have of coming together for corporate worship.

I hear a lot of hunters and fishermen do that a lot of times. They come up to me and they say, “I tell you what, out here in the woods, I can really hear from God. And when I am in a bass boat, I tell you what, I can worship out here.” Well, sure you can; the spirit of God lives within you. But does that have anything to do with what the author of Hebrews says, don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together? You find a person who forsakes the assembly, you’ve got somebody who has got a problem in his walk with God because when you love Him, you will love His people and you will want to be with them. You don’t have to drive it down. It hasn’t become a law. There is nobody here checking your church attendance.

You know, somebody told me recently, “You are the craziest preacher I have ever been around in my life.” Sometimes I will say, “Go home and ask God, ‘God, do you want me to go to church tonight or do you want me to sit in a chair and act like a goof off?’” I just tell the people to do whatever God tells them to do. Somebody said, “Man, you’ve got to be meaner than that!” Why? I am not keeping score. He just says if you love Him, you are going to love being with His people, period. You are going to love assembling yourselves together. So he says, “When you come to assemble.”

Paul is saying a lot more than what meets the eye here. He is addressing their public worship, stuff that is going on in their public worship that is a sham and bringing no glory to God whatsoever. As we enter into their public worship now, let’s just see how Paul is going to put some order back into it. Now remember, remember, that’s his whole key. Everything must be done for edification. He said that back in 12:7, didn’t he? He said, everybody is given a manifestation of the spirit for the common good. So whatever you do has got to be for the benefit of others or don’t walk out and tell somebody you are spiritual because you have had an emotional experience. It means nothing. It is done to edify the body of Christ.

The purpose of worship

There are two things basically we are going to look at. First of all, Paul teaches them the purpose of a worship service. Now that is good to know. Why do we come together? What is the purpose of coming together? He says, “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.” Then he wraps it up in what the purpose of the worship service is. Aorist middle imperative. This is a command and it is in the aorist tense, “do it.” It is in the middle voice, “don’t make me have to tell you, you make your own choice to do it.” Let all things be done, let this be your motive, let all things be done for edification.

Now, one more time, the word “edification” is the word that means to build a house, to build somebody up in the faith. The only way to build them up is in the word of God. So whatever you say, whatever you sing, has got to be for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. That is the purpose of a worship service when you come together.

Now let’s look and see how he arrives at it. He is so good. When you study Paul’s letters as much as we have, certainly you have picked it up already, particularly Romans. What a lawyer this guy is! He builds a case and you think, “Hey, there is your answer.” He says, “Good, I was going to say that next.” Then he leads you right to where the answer is before he even tells you.

Well, he starts off and says, “When you assemble, each one has a psalm.” Now you have got to decide, are you going to take this inclusively or are you going to take it restrictively? What do I mean by that? If you take it inclusively, everybody comes with a psalm, you are missing I think what he is saying. However, he has already alluded to the fact that this was the kind of chaos that they have there. But I don’t think that is what he is saying here because of that last phrase of the verse, everything must be done for edification. I think he is doing it more in a restrictive sense here. In other words, there were people who had the gift of singing and had the gift of music and they prepared in their coming, to put some order in the church.

So here he is not speaking inclusively, everybody comes in and wants to get up and sing. That is the chaos that was already going on. He says, “No, no, no.” The word “psalm” first of all is the word that Liddell and Scott says, means a song that is sung to the accompaniment of a harp. So he is talking about a song here. Man, it would be better translated, when you assemble, each one who has a psalm or a song. The word “has” would imply that they have prepared to sing it.

You know it is interesting to me that he starts with singing. That is the way their services probably started, just like ours, with singing.

Then he goes on and says, “has a teaching.” Now that would be sort of chaotic if everybody came with a song and everybody came with a teaching. We would be here a while, especially if they did it all at the same time. There are two words for teaching. This word has to do with the content of what is taught, didache. The word didaskalia is the word for the method of teaching, didache is what is taught, and boy, that fits right exactly with what he is saying. If you are going to stand up and speak in a gibberish, how in the world is anybody going to understand anything? There is no content to what is being taught.

So again he speaks of one who teaches and the content that he teaches. Of course, that must be the word of God to edify the people. Paul may have used this word to do exactly that, just to bring them to the point that everything you say, everything you sing, in order to edify the church, must be understandable, in a language which all can comprehend. If they thought that speaking in tongues was the predominate thing, speaking in these ecstatic utterances, Paul just popped their bubble by choosing that particular word (didache). Didaskalia would be the method, didache has to be the content. There is no content to gibberish and a language that nobody can understand.

Then he says, “has a revelation.” Now the word “revelation” is a word we are very familiar with, apokalupsis, that which is a disclosure of something which uncovers something. You see, we want to make it mystical. Everybody loves to read into this, but it is not mystical at all. When you sing and when you teach, you are revealing what God has given to you. And so, he who sings, he who teaches, and he who has a revealed word from God that identifies with the word of God. He will go onto say every prophet always measures the other prophet. In other words, you just can’t get up and say, “God gave me a word this morning.” No, the other prophets are sitting there. If it doesn’t match the word of God then sit down. It is not edifying anybody, it is just making you feel better that you thought you had a word.

We used to have a sign out front of our church that said, “Be careful, when somebody comes to you with a word from God about you. Make sure you have a word of God about you first, because you need to compare the two.” It may have been pizza that he had the night before.

Now, if you stop and go back for a minute, remember the context. Paul has already covered these bases. It is not something that we are bringing up that is new. We are just pulling in what we have already learned. In verse 19 of chapter 14 he says, “In the church I desire to speak five words with my mind that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.” That still holds true in what he is saying right now. That is what edifies people. That is when people are built up. It is the next two areas that Paul is really concerned with. He subtly brings in singing and teaching and the revelation of that which God’s Word will bring, but then he brings in the next two. Isn’t it neat the way he just sort of fits them in and hasn’t said much yet about them.

Verse 26 says, “What is the outcome then, brethren, when you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation,” then it says, “who has a tongue, who has an interpretation.” Remember that little “who” I am inserting because it would be a better way of translating that.

Now here we go, here we go, here is where we jump into deeper waters. He just eases it in. He says “a tongue.” Now, is he talking a tongue in the sense of a language that people can understand? I don’t see why he would be because every time he does that he puts it in the plural. Or is he talking about that gibberish that is going on in Corinth which he has identified all the way through the chapter in the singular which it is here, a tongue. Now you have to make up your own mind. I am not the authority on anything. The word of God is its own authority, but my opinion is, my mind has been made up. I think he is talking about that gibberish and he just eases it in. What a tactic. What a tactic. I believe that we have identified that when he uses the term “a tongue” he is referring to the gibberish at Corinth. I think he is referring to this point.

Look at the last phrase again, “Let all things be done for edification.” Already you are beginning to see, wait a minute, wait a minute, there is something in here that is not working. This is inconsistent. Hang on.

He says, has an interpretation. The word “interpretation” is hermeneia. We get the word “hermeneutics” from it. The word is a restricted meaning, to take it out of one language and putting it into another language to where they can understand it.

The first thing that has got to come to your mind is a little bit of a problem here. Hold it, Paul, you are losing me. It has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, but now I am confused right here. We would say to him, “Every time you have used the word “interpretation” from chapter 12 through chapter 14 it is tagged to the plural, tongues. There is a gift of being able to understand languages, a linguistic gift and if it is a language that can be understood, then somebody is going to have the gift and the ability to translate that language. But Paul, what are you doing here? You have associated “interpretation” this time with the singular, which means that gibberish. Paul, that is an impossibility.” Paul would look at you and say, “You’ve got it!” You see his subtlety. Do you see what he is doing? He is an incredible man, gifted of the Holy Spirit of God. He has got a way of doing it that you just can’t get around. There is no interpretation for this gibberish.

Isn’t it funny, he starts off the chapter and says, “Hey this stuff is nonsensical.” Then he comes and says, “As a matter of fact, it is baby talk.” He is trying to get at them. Remember he says, “Wherefore, alright, I give up. I will go at it another way. It is baby talk.”

Paul said, “It is cute when you are little, but it is not cute when you are supposed to be grown up. Quit acting like little babies.” You say, “It is an impossibility.” And he says, “You are right! That covers it!”

Now you say, “Wayne, you are stretching this.” No, no, you haven’t read far enough yet. hang on. He’ll show you. Paul has just singled out the offending element of their worship services by just easing it in. And he is saying, “Hey, this guy has got a song. Isn’t that great? And this guy has got a teaching and a revelation. And look here, this guy has got a tongue, and this guy has got an interpretation? That’s odd. How do you interpret a language that is not a language? That’s interesting.”

Now watch. He teaches them the purpose of worship. The purpose is that everybody be edified. You don’t come together to hear a gibberish with no interpretation for that gibberish. Now, again, I know some of you are thinking, “Wayne, you are pushing this, you are pushing this.” No, I am not.

Look at the second point. Now Paul tightens the noose on the practice of speaking in a gibberish. Look at verse 27. Look at what he goes right to. He goes right to the throat of the issue. “If anyone speaks in a tongue.” He didn’t say, “If anyone teaches, if anyone sings, if anyone gives a revelation.” That is not his point. His points are those last two. He says, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and let one interpret; [Now watch] but if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and speak to God.” But don’t you let him stand up in church and do anything.

The little word “if” there is another word for concession, giving a concession. The word is eite, which is a little different than most of your words for “if.” It means to give a concession. It is like you feel the frustration. It is humorous to me. It is like Paul says, “Alright, alright, alright. You are not going to listen to me anyway, Corinth. You are so smart, you don’t need somebody to tell you anything. Alright, alright, you are going to do it anyway? Then you had better do it this way.” Paul puts an order to it.

Now watch his order. Again, he raises a hypothetical, impossible situation. He said, it should be by two or at the most three.” What was going on? Man, they were all getting up and speaking this thing, and he said, “People are walking in thinking you are nuts, that you are crazy. If you are going to do it, narrow it down to no more than two or three.”

What is he saying? He is saying, “My concern is you are killing your testimony in this community. Lost people think you are out of your mind. So at least narrow it down to two or three.”

He doesn’t leave us hanging. He knows what he is doing. He says, “and each in turn,” not at the same time. No, no, no. Two can’t do it at the same time, and three can’t either. One and then another and then another, but no more than three.

Then comes the clincher, “and let one interpret.” Now boy, when you read that in English, you say, “I got it, I got it, I got it.” Go a little deeper than that. When you take one language out of another one, which is what we are doing, explaining what that language means, sometimes it doesn’t come out as clearly as you think you have it. The word for “let one interpret” normally would be a specific word with the gift of interpretation. Is that not correct? We saw that back in chapter 12, and every time there is a gift to that. But not here. This is not the word. The word here is “let anyone interpret,” because we are not talking about the gift of interpretation now. If anybody in here can interpret it, then interpret it. If you are going to do it, you are going to have to do it my way, Paul says. If you are going to do it, then not more than three of you are going to do it at the same time. By saying not more than three of you, that was already popping the bubble of everything that was going on in Corinth. They were all getting up and doing it at the same time. He says, “No, no, only three. And if you are going to do it, after each one has done it, let anybody who thinks they can give an interpretation.”

Again, the question comes, “I thought you said if it is a tongue, there is no interpretation.” There is not. And look at what he does. He says, “but if there is no interpreter.” That is a hypothetical “if.” It is like he said, “What? You mean there is no interpreter?” I wish we could get the feel of this. It just loses something when it is just written in the way it is written. We kind of lose something here. “You say there is no interpreter? Then I tell you what you do: keep silent.”

Now I hear somebody already raising an objection. “Hold it, hold it, hold it. I don’t think it means that.” Well, that is fine. I am not the absolute. That is just my opinion. That is the way I see scripture. But let me ask you something. Let me throw it right back in your face. Alright, alright, stand up and give an interpretation. Who checks the interpretation? If you can answer that for me, then maybe I will listen to what you have got to say.

I had a friend who memorized the 23rd Psalm in Hebrew and went to a meeting like this and stood up and gave the 23rd Psalm in Hebrew. A man got up and gave an interpretation, but it wasn’t the 23rd Psalm. Immediately they realized the embarrassing situation and escorted him out and never missed a stride, went right on doing what they were doing.

Now folks, think. As Paul said, “Grow up in your mind, reason it out.” “Oh, I heard them give an interpretation, Bro. Wayne.” Well, good. Did you check out the interpretation? How do you know that is what was being said? How do you know that? By the way, every time I have ever heard anybody give an interpretation, it is right out of the word of God. I don’t know why in the world we just can’t come to the word of God. Isn’t that what Paul says. Just preach the word of God. Why do you need somebody to stand up and tell you what God has already told you? Does this do something for us? Is it a fix? What is the deal? Nobody is being edified.

Just look at the chapter again and look at the different approaches he uses. Can’t you see it? Then he comes around this way. And he says, “Okay, let’s do it this way.” He is trying to get them to think that he has come at it from every approach you could possibly imagine. But the conclusion is, the whole emphasis of what he is saying, the whole emphasis, whether you agree with me or don’t agree with me, the whole emphasis is, when you come together for an assembly of worship, it is for the purpose of edifying, building up. And there is only one way to edify people and that is in the word of God, whether it is sung, whether it is taught, revealed, whatever it is, it is only in the word of God. Now, take the scripture any way you want to take it, but if it is not edifying and building up the body of Christ, it has missed the purpose for which worship services are for.

You may say, “You are awfully tough.” Well, sometimes I am. Have you forgotten the church that we are dealing with here? I think sometimes we get into this and lose total sight of what we have studied for 104 messages. This is a sick church. It was well taught, but it was upside down. They won’t even deal with known sin in the church. Paul said in chapter 5, “Oh, you are so spiritual and yet you will sweep sin under the rug. You are so spiritual doing this stuff; yes, that is really a manifestation of God when you sue each other at the drop of a hat. You are so spiritual that you can’t even keep away from the immorality of Corinth and I have to tell you to run from it. You are so spiritual, your families are upside down. You even think that sexual intimacy in marriage is a sinful thing. What is wrong with you people?” In chapters 8-10 he said, “You have grace in your head but you don’t have it in your heart. You are walking all over your weaker brother.”

As a matter of fact, that would be a good argument. If you are going to stand up and speak in a gibberish, what are you going to do with the weaker brothers who just came out of that idolatrous practice? Walk all over them. They wonder what in the world you are doing.

Then in chapter 11 Paul tells them, “Every time you come together, you desecrate everything God represents.” And then we get into chapters 12-14. You have to feel the heart of the weight of the matter. The problem is, the gibberish that is going on there is nothing more than an emotional frenzy that they get themselves into and yet they are calling it of God.

Years ago I had a situation occur in my life. We had gone to a meeting and it was so great. All the different denominations were called together and the singing was wonderful. It was beautiful, just like it is in our church every Sunday. And the preaching was good. Everything was just so uplifting and edifying. Right at the end of the main sermon, a man stood up in the middle of everybody and began to spout off something he, I guess, thought was a sign that he was spiritual. I mean, it was just a babbling is all it was. And he was loud. I mean, he overshadowed the speaker. The speaker had to be quiet. And everybody there just froze. Even the people who came with him froze, so it wasn’t a matter of us not being used to it.

As a matter of fact, the pastor who was speaking was one of the pastors of the church he represented. It just totally humiliated him that this man did that. Chaos came into that meeting. There was a lack of a sense of the spirit of God. Everything was just broken, ripped apart by that one man’s fleshly, emotional experience that he thought would tell everybody he was really spiritual before God. The pastor who was speaking had to call him down and shut him up.

Welcome to the church of Corinth. That is what we are dealing with. Pitiful, pitiful, pitiful. Now if I can say it enough to get you to get into the context and to understand how sick this church is, then you can begin to understand why Paul takes so many different approaches, trying to get across the very same thing. He says it over and over again, but in a different way. “You’ve got somebody who can’t interpret? Is that true? Are you kidding me? Then let whoever it is that spoke in that language be quiet, shut up and if he is going to speak at all, speak to himself or speak to God, but don’t let him speak in the assembly. You are bringing confusion to everything God represents.”

Remember years ago, when I preached on 1 Corinthians 12 I said if you don’t agree with me that that somehow is a spiritual, whatever you want to call it, that is fine. I can’t make you think anything. I can just try to tell you what I believe God’s Word says. But I tell you what, if you do disagree with me, whatever you do at your house is between you and God. You are going to have to work that out with Him. You will stand before Him one day and you will answer it one day.

But I said it then and I will say it now, don’t ever bring it into this church. Don’t ever, don’t ever, as long as I am standing up here, bring it into this church. I will publicly nail you from the pulpit in the sense that I am going to identify you, and I am going to have our ushers escort you out of here. You have just disrupted that which edifies the body of Christ.

You say, “Well, what if you are wrong?” If I am wrong, I am going to be wrong. If you point in five different directions, folks, you point in no directions. We are going to point in a direction that what we do when we come together is going to be to edify people in the word of God, whether we sing, whether we teach, whether we preach, it is going to be the revealed word of God. That is where we are going to stand.

“Well, if I am in your church and I disagree with you, can I stay?” Hey, you can stay as long as you want to stay. I am not the last word. But on this subject, I am. That is just the way I see it, as strong as I can say it. And I see it stronger today than I have ever seen it. By the way, we are not through chapter 14 yet. Paul has a lot of other things to say before we finish that continues to drive the nail deeper and deeper and deeper. When we come together, it is to edify from the word of God, the people of God, whether we sing or whether we preach.

Read Part 101

Leave a Comment