1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 101
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|We are talking about Order in the Church, and this is Part 2. The Corinthians needed to hear this message. You talk about chaos, it was a circus at their public worship services.|
1 Corinthians 14:29-33
Order in the Church – Part 2
I am so grateful that we are about to get out of the subject of speaking in a tongue, which we have been looking at in chapters 12, 13 and 14. We are just about through this and then we come to women speaking in the church. This is so exciting! I look forward to 1 Corinthians 15. In that chapter we will be looking at the fact that we are all going to die, but we can look forward to the good things that will happen when it takes place one day. Isn’t it amazing?
We are talking about Order in the Church, and this is Part 2. The Corinthians needed to hear this message. You talk about chaos, it was a circus at their public worship services. We saw a little bit of that back in chapter 11 when he talked about when they came together for the Lord’s Supper. He said the rich people were full and drunk and the poor people were hungry. It was a sham when they came together publicly for what they called worship. But isn’t it amazing how close each of us are to living like a Corinthian?
Now, if you haven’t been studying the church of Corinth, you don’t know what I mean by that. What do I mean by “a Corinthian?” All over Greece when somebody would act in a perverse way or sinful way, they would say, “Look out, look out, you are acting like a Corinthian.” That is the kind of reputation this city had, but listen, the church didn’t have one much better. My definition of a Corinthian is a person who confesses to know Christ but a person who was upside down. They had been taught by the Word of God, the best-taught church in scripture because they had Paul as their first pastor and Apollos as their second pastor. They were well, well versed in God’s Word. Why did they act the way they did? Because they lived their lives attached to fleshly things and not to Christ. That is my definition of a Corinthian. It is a person who comes to church, professes to know Christ, a person who studies the Word of God or at least has studied it and knows the Word of God but is not living it. Their walk doesn’t match their talk. It is a person who has attached themselves to fleshly, sensual things. That is the church of Corinth.
Paul said back in 1:12 and in 3:4, “Some of you are of Paul, some of you are of Apollos.” In other words, you are attaching yourselves to preachers. You are attaching yourselves to things that you can see, touch and feel. You are not attaching yourself to Christ. You are not living as a vessel attached to Him through which He now can enable and do through you what you cannot do for Him.
Well, we know so much today in the 20th century just like they knew so much. But if we are not living what we know, then we are not far from being a Corinthian. Our purposes are no longer God-centered, they are self-centered. That begins to filter right into when we come to worship. May I ask you a question? Who are you attached to and why do you go to worship on Sunday morning? Are you a Corinthian? Are you looking for something that will make you feel better, or do you want to learn and grow in the word of God? You see, everything becomes self-centered when we are not living surrendered to Christ, even when we come together for what we would call worship.
Well, if you are that way and you are not surrendered to Christ, you are not allowing Him to do through you, you are not coming to Him daily and saying, “Lord, yes, I am wrong, I agree with you that is sin in my life,” and changing your confidence to no longer being in the flesh but to being in Him, then what I can truthfully say to you is welcome to Corinth. You know exactly now what we are studying in the book of 1 Corinthians.
Evidently the public worship service of Corinth was just a sham, as we said earlier. It was chaotic and confusing. From what Paul has to say and the way he addresses this chapter, there were people standing up and speaking in a gibberish that nobody had ever heard before. They were calling it a spiritual gift and even relating it back to the Pentecostal tongues that were spoken there. People would not only speak in that gibberish but they would speak at the same time. Can you imagine? He says earlier in chapter 14, “A lost person comes into the church and they think you are nuts. They think you have lost your mind. What are you doing? Nobody understood anything.” The people speaking didn’t understand it, and the people listening didn’t understand it. And then when somebody did get up to speak, and spoke intelligently, they were speaking heresy.
Paul is trying to put order back into the church. He wants them to know when somebody stands up to speak, he is accountable. He is accountable so that he might be understood. He is accountable with the content that he says because he is speaking before God. His first audience is God, the second audience is the people that are there. He is accountable. So that is what he is trying to bring back to their attention.
When we meet to worship, it is not to see what man can do or what gifts man has. We are here to hear from God, to learn and to grow in the Word of God. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 it says that God the Spirit gives the gifts, God the Son gives the ministry and God the Father gives the effect. So therefore, the glory then from all of that is that it doesn’t come back to man in any way. It doesn’t draw attention to man. It comes back to God. It draws attention to Him. God shares His glory with no man. I don’t know why we can’t understand that. He is not interested in what experience we have had. He is interested in us standing up and being a vessel and letting God use us to speak His Word which brings peace to people’s hearts.
Paul is addressing those who were doing the speaking in the Corinthian church. In verses 26-28 we looked at how he talked to those who were speaking in a tongue, speaking in that gibberish. You may say, “I disagree. I don’t think they were speaking in a gibberish. I think they were speaking in another language.” Well, you can take it any way you want to take it. Paul says, “Unless you have an interpreter, then sit down and be quiet.” Verse 28 gives that very strong admonition there. He says, “If there be no interpreter, let the man be silent.” So the chaos of the church has got to be felt before we can get into this. You’ve got to realize the sick services that they were going through. Everybody is standing up at the same time. Some people speaking in a gibberish. Others said they had a word of prophecy and all this kind of stuff. It was nothing but a total mess.
Well, in verse 29 he addresses those who speak the things that could be understood. He says in verse 29, “And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.” Now that little word “and” in the New American Standard there, transliterated in the Greek, is the little word de. It is an adversative. It expresses a contrast. He is contrasting something in verse 29 with what we just found in verse 28. What is the difference? In verse 29 there is no “if.” In verse 28 it says, “If there be no interpreter, let him keep silent.” You don’t need an interpreter when a prophet speaks because when a prophet speaks, he speaks something that is known, understandable and intelligible. People can hear him. People can understand him. There is no “if” in verse 29.
Paul’s point is even if one is speaking clearly so that he can be understood, then there has got to be accountability not only the way he says it, but what he has to say. You’ve got to remember, we have covered so much of this in the past in our context. Back in 12:3, he alludes to the fact that when people were teaching in the church, they were teaching heresy. It says, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says Jesus is accursed.” That word “accursed” is anathema. Paul wouldn’t be saying that unless somebody was doing that. Anathema means under the curse. Somehow their false doctrine had gotten into the church that Jesus was nothing but a mere man. Like us, He was under the curse. This was part of the Docetic heresy and all the things that happened back in those days. And it was error.
Paul is wanting to make sure when a man stands up to speak, it is not just that he speaks understandably so that people can hear him and understand in their language, but it is what the man is saying. Is the content the word of God? You see, they were speaking heresy in that church. And so we have got to remember some of the context of what is going on.
The definition of prophet
Well, let’s get into verse 29. There are fourth things I want to show you. First of all, we see the definition of the term “prophets.” Now what does he mean when he says, “And let two or three prophets speak”? Who is he speaking of when he mentions prophets? There are two schools of thought here that we have got to look at and I don’t really care which side you take. I can see the first one a little bit better than I can see the second one because of the time that this was written. The first one is that the prophets refer to the New Testament prophets upon which our faith is built upon.
Remember, Ephesians 2:20 says, “Having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” Now these were extraordinary men used in extraordinary times. These men spoke in one of two ways. One, they would foretell the future, such as Agabus when he went to Paul and said, Paul, “I’ve got a prophecy for you. When you get to Jerusalem, they are going to put you in shackles.” Sure enough, that is exactly what happened. Two, they would give instantaneous revelation. In other words, God would evidently reveal something to them and they would stand up and speak it to the church as the prophets of the Old Testament.
These extraordinary men, however, were phased out in the early part of the early church. You ask, “Why?” Because we have the complete canon now. The canon was being completed as the history is unfolding throughout the New Testament. As a matter of fact, when Paul wrote his pastoral epistles, he mentions much about those who do the speaking. He talks about pastors, about teachers, about elders, about deacons, but he didn’t mention at all prophets. And remember, when he wrote 2 Timothy, that was when he was in prison, about to be martyred for the faith, so that was at a later time in his life.
So taking the idea that these were those extraordinary prophets who we don’t have anymore, it would make sense that what he is dealing with here was that the church at Corinth was one of those early churches in which would have been some of these prophets. Evidently, that was the way they went about their speaking to the people, the revelation that God would give to them.
Now, that is one view of who these prophets are. The other view is, and I don’t really care which one you take, the other view is he is simply speaking to the preachers of that day. The third meaning means to tell forth the Word of God, to declare forth the word of God. He is simply referring to those who prophesied in that day, telling forth the word of God. If he is, it is rather different than the way we do it today, but that is alright. Either way you look at it, the responsibilities are the same. One responsibility, do what you do in order. Don’t you dare get up and make chaos out of this. Secondly, you don’t do it then at the same time, but one at a time. Thirdly, you do it with respect for one another. If somebody else stands up, you sit down because you respect one another and the word of God. Fourthly, do it with accountability as to what you have just said. And the latter here is the main focus that Paul has. He doesn’t just talk about how you do it, but it is what you do, what you say when you get up. Paul is very much interested in that. The main thing would be, be accountable for what you speak. If you are going to speak the word of God, make sure you are accountable to others who know the word of God and there is no error mixed in with truth.
This has got to be the same even today. Today we would call these prophets preachers of the word of God. And preachers of the Word of God, James says, are going to be held in greater judgment when they stand before God one day for what they have taught. Peter says, the Bible is of no private interpretation. If there is a difference in interpretation, somebody is wrong, period. And that is where we are going to stand before God one day. Paul told Timothy, “When you preach, you preach before the council of God, the audience of God. God is the first one that you ought to be concerned about. If you are going to stand and speak, you be concerned about Him first because He is going to judge you for how you taught that which He spoke.”
So accountability to what is being said, that is the main thing. But who are these prophets? They are either the extraordinary prophets of the early New Testament or they perhaps could be the preachers of the Word of God, but the responsibility is the same. Be accountable to what you have said.
The duty of the prophets
Well, that leads us right into the second point, the duty of the prophets. He says in verse 29, “And let two or three prophets speak.” I don’t think he means just two or three, as he did with the ones who spoke in a tongue. But the idea is, everybody doesn’t speak. That was what was going on at Corinth. Everybody who walked in the door said, “I’ve got a word from God for you.” He says, “No. If you are going to have any speakers, maybe two, maybe three.” And then he says, “And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.”
Now the word “others” is the word others! It is the word that means that there was more than one. Paul allowed for more than one to stand up and speak. But not only that, it comes from the word allos, which is the word from which we get “ally.” It means another of the same kind. In other words, you don’t have one of one doctrinal persuasion over here and another of another doctrinal persuasion over here. You’ve got people of the same mind who are standing up, who are preaching the same thing.
I so appreciate the heartbeat of or church because we have a divergent doctrine statement. We are not going to force what we believe down your throat, but if you teach in our church, you are going to teach what we teach so that everybody is saying the same thing. That is exactly what he is talking about here, another of the same kind, doctrinally sound, based. If you stand up, somebody else is not going to stand up and say something entirely different to refute what God’s Word has to say. Paul allows for more than one to speak. The number is not really that important. It is the fact that everyone is not to speak who comes to worship. That is the key, as we said earlier.
The prophets are to pass judgment. Now what does that mean? I have been in some meetings where that meant to criticize the guy who is speaking. The apostle Paul doesn’t mean that. That is not what it is. I have had to confess that so many times that God is probably sick of me doing it. He just says, “Would you just stand up and say what I told you to say and quit trying to compete with anybody? There aren’t going to be any prizes given at the end of this conference.” I go through that. I am just honest with you that my flesh responds that way many times.
But the word “pass judgment” is not that at all. The word is diakrino, and it means to judge between something. This is this and that is that. I’ll go ahead and give you the short of it: this is of God, this is of the flesh. You need that kind of accountability with prophets who stand to speak God’s word to God’s people.
Now look at that with me. Hebrews 5:14 uses that word diakrino. I think he uses it in Hebrews 5:14 exactly the way he uses it in 1 Corinthians 14:29. Look at Hebrews 5:14. The author of Hebrews is talking about the fact that the people had been taught but they wouldn’t respond to it, so now they have to be taught again. They were not accustomed to the word of righteousness. Look at what he says in Hebrews 5:14. This is important. He says, “And solid food is for the mature,” those who have reached the goal of hearing. The goal of hearing is responding and obeying: “who because of practice,” the word is the word we get the word “gymnasium” from, “have their senses trained to discern,” diakrino. So the idea is of discernment. A prophet is sitting over here listening to another prophet preach and he has got the ability to discern, “Is this of God or is this of his flesh?”
He says, “to discern good and evil.” The word “good” means that good that only God is, because Jesus said only God is good. And then the word “evil” has to do with the evil that comes from our flesh. Be able to draw a line and say this is of God and this is of flesh. Paul is saying it is very, very important that the person speaking is held accountable to not only how he says it, but what he says, the content of what he says.
You see, we must realize that at the time of this writing there was not a complete canon, and there was no body of doctrine that had been strictly formulated. It was being written and formulated, so they needed discernment above all. They needed men who knew God and men who could hear from God and discern when error was trying to be mixed with truth. The other prophets who were sitting while another one was speaking were listening in order to protect the integrity of the message. They were to protect the integrity of the messenger, to make sure that what was said was of God.
In Corinth there wasn’t anybody checking anybody. As a matter of fact, do you remember Judges? The theme of Judges was every man does what is right in his own eyes. A New Testament comparison is 1 Corinthians. That is exactly what is going on there. Paul says, “No, it can’t be that way. You just make sure that people are held accountable for what they say.”
I have gotten a lot of letters. I got one this past week, whew, seven pages and they didn’t even sign it. They never do. But I want to tell you something, seven pages and not one paragraph addressed textually anything that I have said. That is where people are today. “Don’t tell me what God says! You are denying my experience!” Do you realize what we have been teaching from chapters 12-14 absolutely blows a hole in some of the major denominations of our country? But if you don’t say what God says, what in the world are we doing? Everybody does what is right in their own eyes. That is the point.
The principle of accountability still holds today. And I am grateful it holds today. You talk about somebody holding me accountable. I was preaching one day and was trying to get to a point. Sometimes that is when we get in trouble because you are trying to run through something to get to something else. It was in the study of the book of Revelation. I said, “Right here, right here, the two and a half witnesses go up!” And I said, “It is right here, the sovereignty of God is finished.” I meant the mystery of God. How do you finish the sovereignty of God? It didn’t take long for the prophets to come up and say, “You missed it!”
How many times I have come up the next Sunday and said, “Excuse me, but I missed it last week.” I have tried to do that over the years. When I am wrong, I will tell you I am wrong. We’ve got people out here who know the Word of God, and they hold me accountable.
That is what Paul is saying to the church of Corinth. Nobody is holding anybody accountable. Thank God for a church that grows up under the Word and a church that can be accountable to the Word and hold their preacher accountable. And by the way, one of these days when I am out of here and a new man comes in, hold him accountable! Grow with him. Don’t criticize him. Love him, exhort him, come alongside him. Teach him. Help him to learn and he will walk with you. That is what it is all about, folks.
Well, there is accountability and there is order in what God does. He is not in the business of having an entertainment center. There is no circus here. There is integrity. And when you preach the Word of God, it is in context to what the Word of God says. That is what the church is supposed to be all about. The opposite is happening at Corinth. God had nothing to do with what was going on at Corinth. Paul is loving them and trying to jump right in the middle of a mess and trying to straighten it out.
So we see the definition of a prophet is one who speaks the Word of God to people. However you want to take that, whether the extraordinary prophets or the preachers, it still bears the same meaning. Then the duty of a prophet is to make sure he passes judgment, discernment, to make sure that the one who speaks is held accountable to what is being said. It is the Word that is the authority, not the person who speaks. That is why there has got to be accountability.
The discipline of the prophet
But then the third thing I want you to see is the discipline of a prophet. Now here is the whole key. To me it holds the real key of what Paul is saying. A prophet, one who speaks God’s Word to the people, is to be so under control of the Holy Spirit of God that he is in control of everything he says to the people of God. In other words, he has to be in control of what he is saying.
Look at the flow here in verses 30-33: “But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of the prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” Now the key here is in verse 32, “and the spirits of the prophets are subject to prophets.” Now, let’s ease into it.
First of all, let me say one more time, it is impossible, literally impossible in the 20th century to reconstruct the scene in the church of Corinth. We can’t do it. Our services are different. We have the completed canon. We have the complete doctrinal direction. We have all these things they did not have that were being formulated at that time. All I can say is, it was one of extreme chaos, nothing like anything we have experienced here. So Paul is unraveling this, trying to put order back into it.
Now, in the old Jewish synagogues, they had a style of teaching that really he points to. Remember in the synagogue, not only the Jews could go there, but also the Gentiles. It was sort of a meeting place in the town. And they had a style of teaching at that time that Paul alludes to in these verses that must have gotten into the church. It must have carried right on it. They wouldn’t have just one speaker, they would have two or three. And while one would be speaking, the others would be sitting. Somebody would say something over here and he would just about be ready to say something else, but this one over here said, “Whoa, whoa, I have something to add to that.” And he would stand up. Well, this one would sit down. And so he would give his revelation. Or if there was some correction to make, one would stand up and the guy would sit down. You had to always give deference to the person who wanted to speak.
Now that was the process of the synagogue and the way they would teach. Paul does almost identically the same thing. In verse 30, it seems like this is their practice there. Someone would stand to speak, probably these early extraordinary prophets that we talked about, they would have a revelation. Another would stand up and say, “Well, now let me add to that.” And then another one maybe would stand up and say, “No, that is wrong. This is what is right,” or whatever. That is not the way we do it today. Thank God, but that is the way they did it then, so you’ve got to be very careful here. We are walking in out of culture, alright. There was no complete written word at their time, so they did it differently.
Verse 30 reads, “But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent.” Now that little phrase “another who is seated” tells you immediately that somebody is standing and somebody is sitting down. Only the one speaking should be standing. The others should be sitting down. You have to admit again that it is different. “For you can all prophesy one by one,” it goes on to say. Now “one by one” means exactly that. Don’t do it at the same time. Remember, the chaos at Corinth was everybody was speaking at the same time. He said, “No, no more of that. One at a time can speak and prophesy.”
Again, Paul shows that the content of what is being said is so important. He says, “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted.” Now we need to camp out right there just for a few seconds. Why do we go to church? Why do we come together for worship? We come to learn and be exhorted. The word “learn” is the word manthano. We get the word “disciple” from it. Now that is what we are supposed to be. Everybody who claims to be a Christian is supposed to be a learner, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if you come together, you come together to learn of Him, to learn through His Word.
The word “exhorted” is the word that means to be called alongside. And in this text it means the word of God, you come so that you might learn as the Word preached is put alongside the problems you are facing in life. And the wisdom that comes from that counsels you so that when you walk out, you have a better understanding of how to walk and to live the Christian life. That is what you come together in public worship for, not to just have some emotional experience. You come to learn and be comforted with the Word of God.
Years ago someone told me, “Spend your time in that Word and when you step in the pulpit, you not only teach people but you comfort people with the word. Counsel from the pulpit. Let people know by application, don’t just observe, don’t just interpret, but apply the Word of God, apply it.” I was very encouraged when I found in scripture that is exactly why people come together, to hear a prophet that they might learn and that they might be comforted or counseled with the Word of God.
Well, you don’t learn and you are not comforted when everybody is speaking at the same time and when most of what they are saying is a gibberish that nobody can understand. You see the chaos at Corinth? What he is trying to do? Turn that thing around. The purpose of worship is for learning, for exhortation. In order for learning and exhortation to take place, a prophet must be in control of what he says to the people.
In verse 32 look and see how it flows: “and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” Now, it is the prophet of God who must be in control of what he is saying if the people are going to learn and be comforted by the Word of God. Those who were speaking in a tongue (verses 26-28) were said by the lost people earlier in the chapter to be mad. You are crazy. In other words, you are out of control of what you are saying. Are you with me? What is a prophet to be? In control of what he is saying. He has first of all got to understand it and then secondly, be in control of relating it to the people he is speaking to. How does he do that? He is under control of the Holy Spirit of God, and then he can be in control of what he is speaking to the people of God. That is the way it works. So he is to be in control.
Now “the spirits” there is used in many ways, but in this text it refers to that part of man where he thinks and where he wills. That part of man must absolutely be under control so that he can be in control with his motive, with his thoughts in teaching the people so that they might learn and be comforted by the Word of God. Those who stand up and speak in an emotional frenzy, gibberish that nobody understands are not in control of what they are saying. And people who sit around them are not learning, nor are they being comforted by God’s Word. But when the man is teaching and admonishing with the revealed Word of God, under control, he is in control.
Why would Paul bring this out? Look at verse 33. Just keep reading. It just teaches itself: “for God is not a God of confusion.” Now, was there any confusion going on in Corinth? As a matter of fact, was there anything that wasn’t confusing going on in Corinth? Everything was confusing. Was God in charge of it? Absolutely not. It was pure flesh. Educated flesh is what it was, because they knew a lot, but it was all flesh.
So what Paul is trying to say is, “God is not the God of confusion.” The word for “confusion” there is the word that just beautifully outlays the chapter. It refers to a state of instability. Anything that is unstable is not of God. A state of disorder, or a state of disturbance; all of these things were characteristic of Corinth. And he says, God is not the God of that kind of thing. God is the author of peace, not of confusion. He goes on and says, “but of peace.” And the word there means the absence of conflict.
You’ve got to see what he is saying here. When you hear God’s Word, you can look in the context and you can understand, yes, this is exactly what he is saying. I can see it. There is something of peace that strikes your heart. Remember, as God takes the Word and puts it alongside your life, there is wisdom. And God’s wisdom is gentle and it is peaceable. So there is peace in a person’s heart when he hears the Word of God.
There is something about truth that grabs the heart and settles it and puts peace in it. That is what Paul is saying. You can’t stand up and speak in a gibberish and expect anybody to have peace out of that. You can’t stand up and everybody speak at one time and expect to have any peace out of that. You can’t teach error and expect anybody to have peace out of that. But when you are held accountable for what is being said and you speak that which is what God has to say, then God becomes the author of that peace that comes in your heart. Now it may not be peaceful very long because if you choose not to receive it, that is going to cause more chaos. But God is not the author of that. God is the author of the peace that He puts within your heart. God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.
Look at the next phrase, “as in all the churches of the saints.” Now that is a picture. Go back to Philippi and ask, “Philippi, is that statement he just made right because you all had a problem with peace, didn’t you?” Paul had to address it in the second chapter of Philippians. He said to esteem others as higher than yourself. Have this attitude in yourselves which is also in Christ Jesus. He had two women in chapter 4 who couldn’t get along with each other and he had to straighten them out. Was God in charge of that confusion? No. No. It was people who hadn’t responded to the word of God, as in all the churches.
Look at the church of Galatia. You know that Galatians is Paul writing Romans mad. Have you ever noticed when you are mad, you say what you want to say real quickly? Galatians is six chapters and Romans is sixteen. It didn’t take him long to do it in Galatians. Oh, he was royally hacked. He walked in and said, “You foolish Galatians. You got saved by grace and you think you are going to be sanctified by the flesh? What are you doing? Who has deceived you? Who has bewitched you?” In other words, false doctrine had gotten in and disturbed the peace that is in the church. There was confusion and chaos.
Go to Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians they were worried about the bodies of the righteous dead and they didn’t know what was going to happen to them. He says, “No, no, no.” He gets in the fourth chapters and tells about the day that Jesus is coming and the body will be resurrected and glorified and changed. And he says, “Comfort,” the same word we are looking at here, “comfort one another with these words.” You are not going to be comforted by error. Peace comes when you are comforted with the word of God.
You see, in all the churches it was the same. If there is confusion, it is not God. That doesn’t mean you won’t be bewildered from time to time in your life, walking with Him. But the confusion that comes is not God. God speaks clearly and when He speaks peace comes in the person’s heart. That is why you come together, to learn and to be comforted with the Word of God.
Well, when the word is taught so that people can learn and people can be exhorted and comforted, knowing what to do and applying God’s Word in life, there is peace, not confusion in the congregation. A prophet, or as we would say, a preacher, is responsible to God for teaching the Word of God. Now that is not the first time he has said this in his epistle. Back in 4:1, he says, “Let a man regard us in this manner,” talking about himself, “as servants of Christ.” And that word “servants” is the word for under rower. They had ships and the rowers would be down on the bottom deck. When the guy would say, “Row!” or whatever, they would pull and pull, all at the same time, keeping their eyes only on him, “pull, pull.” That is the way they would row. He said, “We are servants of Christ.” In other words, we answer to God first. We stand before Him first, not answering to man but answering to God.
But then secondly he says “as stewards of the mysteries of God,” and that is the revealed Word of God. Mystery is something that has to be revealed. And so what is the purpose of a prophet, what is the purpose of a preacher? Is to preach the Word of God and be accountable for what he says and if he does, people can learn and be comforted by the Word of God.
So the definition of a prophet, one who speaks God word to the people; the duty of a prophet is to be discerning, to make sure God’s Word is taught, to keep accountability there; the discipline of a prophet is to be under the control of the Holy Spirit so that He can be in control of his own spirit as he teaches.
The delight of a prophet
Look over in Exodus 18. We have the definition of a prophet, the duty of a prophet, the discipline of a prophet, but now here we go, the delight of a prophet. What is the delight of a prophet? Now that is not Paul’s emphasis, but let’s take it to the Old Testament. This is when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came to him and told him he can’t do it all and told him to break them down into groups and put judges over them. But look in Exodus 18:19: “‘Now listen to me: I shall give you counsel, and God be with you.’” That is a good word. I have had a lot of people give me counsel and I want to say, “And God be with me,” because I don’t know what is coming next. “‘You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do.’” Now drop down to verse 23, “If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”
There is your delight of a prophet. When a prophet preaches God’s Word, which is peaceable and gentle, when the people receive God’s Word and the prophet sees the people living in the peace of God’s Word, that is the delight of a prophet. When he sees people actually respond to what God has actually said.
Well, I hope you can see what Paul is saying. Sometimes when you read this stuff it is awfully difficult. Just take it down one step at a time. Yard by yard, life is way too hard, but inch by inch, life is a cinch. That is right. That is the way we are going through 1 Corinthians.