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. — 1 Corinthians 14:15
I love to sing. I sing in church, at home, driving in the car, in a choir, in a group, alone, with accompaniment, and without accompaniment. I also love to listen to singing, but on one condition: I MUST be able to understand the words! If I cannot understand the message of the song, I turn it off or tune it out. It is as simple as that.
Would your schooling or your job be impacted if you could not be understood? I have a co-worker who almost did not get a job with our company because it was suggested she did not articulate well enough to be understood over the phone. How important it is that others understand us!
As a soloist, when selecting a song to sing at church, I often ask myself: Do I truly know and understand the message of this song? Is it a part of my testimony? Will others recognize that I know the message on a personal level, even if they do not know me? There are many songs that I have decided not to sing because I have yet to experience what the words communicate.
A young family in our congregation has a unique way of making sure their two-year-old son understands what they are saying to him. When they want him to do something, they gently take his face in both of their hands and follow the instructions with, “Do you understand?” Only when he acknowledges that he understands do they take their hands away. Still, because of his age, his understanding is limited. They are not always sure that he did understand until he takes the proper action! A couple of weeks ago, he came to his mother and asked for her assistance. She did not jump to do what he was asking as quickly as he had hoped, and he finally reached up for her face and said very clearly, “Mother, do you understand?” How they laughed! But it clued them in that he understands why they have been asking him that question.
In today’s text, understanding was an issue. The way the Corinthians were speaking in tongues in their public meetings was causing confusion and helping no one. This beautiful gift of God was being misused. The main purpose of this gift was as a sign, but if the gift was exercised without regard for order or understanding, the result for an unbelieving observer could be just the opposite. Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to know that it was better to preach and be understood than to preach in tongues and not be understood. Everything done in a worship service should be beneficial to the worshipers.
Here is the point for us to consider: Does what comes from our mouths glorify God to others? Do they understand the real message we are trying to communicate? While it is true that God knows our hearts and all the languages of the world, those around us do not have that ability. How important it is that what we say in the Lord’s House be clearly understood by those who hear us, and be to the glory of God. Are we speaking and singing to be understood?
The first verse of this chapter refers to the preceding chapter, which highlighted the preeminence of love. Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that, while spiritual gifts are valuable, they need to be kept in the proper perspective. Thus, because prophecy would benefit the greatest number of worshippers, it was appropriate that this gift be sought above all the others.
It is important to note that the word “prophesy” in this passage is not used in the limited sense of foretelling the future, but rather refers to a pouring forth of Heaven-given speech.
In this chapter, Paul gave two guiding principles for orderly worship. First, worship should be conducted in a form that the assembled congregation would understand. Second, instruction was a most necessary part of worship. His directions spelled out that worship services were to edify, and that components of the worship service should be carried out in an orderly manner. He used the word “decently” to show that the dignity and gravity of the services should not be interrupted; and the words “in order” indicated that each part of the service should occur by design and arrangement, and not by impulse. The Apostle’s ideal was that a calm and simple majesty would characterize all solemn assemblies, which should not be marked by any impression of fanatical or frenzied excitement.
Paul’s instruction in verse 34, that women were to keep silent in the churches, did not mean that women should never speak in worship services. Reading 1 Corinthians 11:5 makes it clear that women did pray and prophesy in public worship. Seemingly, however, some of the women who had become Christians in Corinth thought their Christian freedom gave them the right to question the men during a worship service. Obviously, this would cause division and disorder — the very things Paul was cautioning the church to avoid. Possibly, the questions being asked could have been answered at home. Paul’s words were meant to avoid confusion and promote unity, not to be a declaration about the role of women in the church.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. Answers to inquiries
C. Concerning matters in public assembly
3. The use of gifts
e. The superiority of prophecy to tongues (14:1-40)
(1) Tongues do not edify the body, prophecy does (14:1-20)
(2) Tongues is the Spirit’s gift to convert Jews (14:21-22)
(3) Prophecy is the Spirit’s gift to convert Gentiles (14:23-25)
(4) The regulation of gifts in the assembly (14:26-36)
(5) Conclusion (14:37-40)
Worship is vital to the life of an individual and to the whole church. Let us do our part to make sure that every worship service portrays an anointed order and direction!