Last Sunday, July 15, 2018, we opened to 1 Corinthians 14 and discussed two hot potato topics: speaking in tongues and women teaching in church.
Thanks Paul. I could have gone the rest of my life in ministry not having to discuss these topics in church from the pulpit, but we are committed to a verse-by-verse approach to teaching God’s Word.
Really, I’m fine with Scripture forcing us to deal with hot potatoes because it’s God’s Word, not my opinions, personal rants, or even denominational spin.
So, I thought it may be helpful if I just bullet the points (or at least as I recall the points from my notes and memory) as we discussed while prayerfully and honestly dealing with 1 Corinthians 14, so here it is:
On Speaking in Tongues…
• The gift of tongues is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28 also as “various tongues” and “interpretation of tongues.”
• In 1 Corinthians 14 the word Paul uses as “tongues” is used in both the singular and the plural. The general accepted interpretation says the singular-use of tongues is referring to an “unknown” tongue (as translated by the King James Version) or as an unintelligible/unrecognized language. 1 Corinthian 14:9
• Romans 8:26 may be the key to understanding tongues as an unknown language. Often this level of “groaning” in prayer is an experience of any believer in deep grief or pain. It may also be the experience of one who has the spiritual gift of praying at such a deep spiritual level that is more frequent than just being in a periodical place of grief or pain. It may be that some – and I should say that some have described this to me as their experience – have the ability to engage in prayer at this level or degree of intercessory communion that is beyond intelligible recognition. 1 Corinthians 14:14
• The gift of tongues is not the same as the gift of prophecy and Paul indicates that speaking in tongues is not meant for the church gathered but for the individual in prayer. Paul also states that if it is exercised in public there must be or will be the gift of interpretation along with it. 1 Corinthians 14:2-5, 19, 28
• 1 Corinthians 14:28 tells us the true manifestation of the gift of tongues is not an uncontrolled event as we sometimes see on religious television, but that Paul clearly deems the gifted believer as having self-control to be silent and mindful.
• 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 offers us the context of the Corinthians gathering as a party atmosphere and states that everyone was outright trying to out speak others and ignoring the orderly principle of “one at a time” when it comes to exercising spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 14:12, 31, 33, 40
• If asked if I speak in tongues or have the gift of tongues, my answer is no. (Although I do know some Hungarian words but none of those are appropriate for church or my prayer closet.) I have had the experience of Romans 8:26 a few times in my life, but as I stated last Sunday I have not found myself praying or being able to pray on a regular basis at that Romans 8:26 level for others.
• We do know that all the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 are distributed by the Holy Spirit selectively given and individually assigned. Thus there is no corporate process of distribution to a church gathered, as we sometimes see on religious television. 1 Corinthians 12:11
• We also know that the gift of tongues is not evidence of being baptized or filled by the Holy Spirit, but the supreme evidence of the Spirit filled life is love for one-another. Galatians 5:22; 1 John 4:7-8
On Women Teaching…
• The subject of women teaching in church came out of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and I shared these 3 popular belief systems on this topic among Christian congregations:
1) Men and women are equally, without gender consideration, able to serve in any or all church authority roles;
2) Men and women are able to serve in complementary roles in church authority that are distinguished by qualification of an elder’s role;
3) Men only can serve in church authority roles but women are only able to serve in roles of authority over children or other women.
• 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is a reflection of a culture where women were in some cases, second-class people, treated more like property, forbidden to engage in civil activities, but the deep lesson here is that Paul was attempting to shut down the yelling and disruption from the women side of the church to the men side of the church. A bigger picture here, that is often unaddressed is the flip-side of this coin implying that husbands ought to be “priest” and spiritual leader in his own home.
• It’s important to remember that Christianity has elevated women to the role that God gave in the Garden of Eden, as a help mate and equal in God’s image, but yet complementary in functions. We read in the gospels and the book of Acts that women were recognized and counted among the men in fellowship and ministry. Acts 1:14
• I happen to favor the #2 view above as the most biblical: “Men and women are able to serve in complementary roles in church authority that are distinguished by qualification of an elder’s role.” In other words, if God has called and gifted a women for ministry roles I want to recognize that and empower them to serve. This view takes 1 Timothy 3:1-7 in consideration that God’s ideal since creation has been male headship and in the church congregation I interpret that to be the roles of an elder or overseer, like a senior pastor. 1 Timothy 2:12
• This view uses the standard of a biblical elder/overseer by asking if this is a role that requires an elder/overseer to fulfill? And yes, an elder or overseer is required to be male according the principle of male headship. In fact in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 you’ll find the pronouns “he,” “his,” and “him” occurring 10 times. But if the role in a local congregation does not require an elder to fill it, and a women who is recognized by that congregation as gifted for that role is available and interested, than there is no biblical reason to prevent them from filling that role.
• A supporting principle of the Apostle Paul’s 1 Timothy 3:1-7 passage is the fact that Jesus appointed only men to His apostleship and basis of those in church leadership and authority roles. It is important to remember that male headship does not or should not mean that women have no voice in the church local or universal.
• Last Sunday I shared the story of a church in Philadelphia that has a women pastor with 2 women elders filling those roles, because its in inner city church with no men able or qualified to serve. I’ve heard this story from Southern Baptist missionaries who mention similar circumstances when men have not stepped up to serve as God has called them to and women fill these roles. I think it is not the ideal, but better to have a functioning church for God’s glory until the ideal is achievable. It is a common case similar to a single mother struggling to make up for a male influence that just isn’t there – the mother does what’s best for her child until the ideal is a reality.
• Acts 18:26 is where we have an example of women teaching men. Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apolos in Ephesus. This kind of throws out the window the arguments of those who say a women can not even teach from the pulpit or a Sunday School or a small group if men are present. Has not God designed women with the wisdom to teach their child – whether boy or girl?
• We know that in the Old Testament, in Judges 4 we learn that Deborah was both a prophet and Judge. A Judge at that time was the highest role national leadership. In Acts 21:8-9 we learn that Philip had four daughters that were prophets. In Romans 16:1-2 we learn that Phoebe, a women, is a deacon or we would say a deaconess as some translations do.
• I understand from Scripture that it is God’s ideal for godly gifted men to be in such local church leadership roles as senior pastor and even elder boards. At this point we don’t have an elders board because of our size, but I think a local church can have various pastoral care roles or department leaders, whether as a volunteer or paid staff, that does not require the qualification of an elder, and I do not think that there would be a biblical reason to prevent a capable gifted women to serve in those capacity.
Our discussion last Sunday was a good one and I hope these notes have done our conversation justice. Of course, if you have any questions, please ask.