God is Not the Author of Confusion
1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth, Greece from Ephesus, Asia (present day Turkey) in A.D. 54-56, during his third missionary journey. These teachings while written to the first century church in Corinth are applicable to all Christians.
Paul has been writing of the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy. It is believed that these gifts ceased at the end of the first century with the completion of the writing of prophecy, the Bible (Jude 3).
In this passage Paul is writing of the proper order for prophecy and tongues to be kept in the church service. In the church service, and in all things, God is not the author of confusion.
In the first century church in Corinth there were abuses in how the worship service was conducted. The lack of established order in the service caused confusion and division between those who believed that speaking in tongues should dominate the service and those who did not.
Paul begins by stating that speaking in tongues should not dominate the service. The service should include ”a psalm, ….a teaching, ….a tongue, …a revelation, … an interpretation” (v. 26a). The Psalm, in the form of a song or hymn, and teaching should be part of the service and all should be done for the purpose of edifying the church (v. 26b).
Paul set down four rules for the use of speaking in tongues in church. The purpose of these rules was to avoid confusion in the church service.
The first rule was that the use of tongues was to edify the church, just as was the Psalm and the teaching. The second rule was that the use of tongues was to be limited to three speakers (v. 27a).
The third rule for the use of tongues was that the speakers should speak “in turn” (v. 27b). They should speak one by one and not interrupt each other. This command indicates that the speakers are able to control their speaking in tongues.
The final rule was that the speaking in tongues must be interpreted (v. 27c). Either the speaker or someone else in the service must be able to interpret the speaking in tongues.
If there was no one present to interpret the tongues they should not be spoken at all (v. 28). The speaker, in that case, should only speak in silence to “himself and to God” (v. 29). He would only create confusion in the church service if he spoke in tongues out loud without an interpretation being available.
As regards the speaking of prophecy in the church, the teaching, there should also be order. Paul also gives four rules of order that apply to prophecy.
The first rule is that the prophecy, like the Psalm and the speaking in tongues, must edify the church (v. 26b). The message must be of benefit to the church.
Secondly, the prophecy must be limited to three speakers, just as those speaking in tongues (v. 29a). The congregation should “judge”, discern, the teaching (v. 29b).
The third rule is that the speakers of prophecy should also speak in turn, not interrupting one another (v. 30a, 31a). Those waiting to speak or who have completed speaking should “keep silent” (v. 30b). The church will learn and will be encouraged when such decorum is observed in the church service (v. 31b).
The fourth rule is for “the spirits of the prophets” to be “subject to the prophets” (v. 32). The speakers of prophecy should be in control, just as those who speak in tongues.
In conclusion, the worship service should be one of “peace” and not “confusion” (v. 32). For God is the God of peace and not the author of confusion.
Online Bible Commentary