1Co 14:37-40 “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Paul gives us a very important insight here: the carnal mind is not going to like what he has had to say. That is why he addresses himself to those that claim to speak by God’s inspiration or walk in His spiritual kingdom. Without God’s grace and the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we will not acknowledge that Paul writes to the church the commandments of the Lord.
In this Paul also makes another important acknowledgement. He is not claiming any wisdom from himself in these things. Paul clearly points the reader to the Lord as the true author of what he has written to the church at Corinth. The question then becomes for us today the same as it was for them: do we believe that the Apostle Paul wrote according to the will of God?
If we acknowledge that Paul’s words are according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, then it becomes us to follow his instructions. Even when our mind and social background might be reluctant, our God-given heart of flesh tells us that we should walk in this way because it pleases God. Should we choose to be ignorant of Paul’s instruction, then that ignorance will lead us into conflict.
The word translated as “ignorant” can mean to be unaware of some precept. It can also mean to “ignore” these precepts. If we read Paul’s letter with understanding, it is not a viable position to say that we are not aware of these teachings. The meaning that remains for us is that we choose to ignore them. According to Paul’s instruction, when we ignore these spiritual teachings we should expect to be ignored.
Paul admonishes again that we should have an earnest desire for prophesy because the church is edified with it. At the same time, he stresses again that speaking with tongues is not to be forbidden. If there is an interpreter, this may also edify the church. Even when there is no interpreter, the individual may be edified privately. He closes with the thought of all things being done honestly and with dignity.
The thought of all things being done decently and in order does not pertain only to the focus of this fourteenth chapter. Paul has given instruction on a great many facets of worship in this letter up to this point. He has covered the unity of Christ, not going to law before the unbelievers, eating meat offered to idols, etc. He charges those who are spiritual to be mindful of all these things.
May God give us the grace to humble ourselves before Him and trust His instruction to be pertinent and valid for us today as it was for the saints in Paul’s time!