“We can ignore ... pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
1 Cor 11:4 “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head,” 1 Cor 11:5 “but every wife (woman) who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.”
We are talking about prophecy. It is evident that prophesying was being practiced in the New Testament church. Prophesying was not being condemned here anymore than prayer was being condemned, but it was being misused… and so Paul is instructing about the abuse. His intent is not for them to abandon the use, but to stop the abuse. To get on track, and to find themselves surrendered at the throne of Grace.
Let's look at factors that will help expose the biblical practice:
1. The Problem of Prophecy
In the Corinthian church, worship together was so new. The church was gathered so God could be experienced through the teaching of the Word and the exercising of spiritual gifts, and the singing and giving praise to God. But in these gifts…in Corinth, the gift of prophecy (among other gifts) was being misused, and abused. The new found freedom they had in worship in the church, was the cause of great division.
This is why Chloe’s people are inquiring of Paul…(1 Cor 1:11)
BF&M 2000 “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.”
a. They needed to hear from God on the issues. When there is a problem, it is the responsibility of leadership to consult the Apostles ...
b. 15 Jerusalem Council. The elders gathered and consulted with the Apostles. Acts 15:2
c. 2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2. The Principle of Prophecy (it’s meaning)
a. προφητεύω here refers to the New testament gift of Prophecy involves communicating something consciously, and spontaneously brought to mind that would not otherwise be known--To tell about something that is hidden from view, or tell, reveal some insight, even sometimes to foretell something that lies in the future.
“Giving prophecy is simply reporting something that God has spontaneously brought to mind. Prophecy is always listed as a separate gift from teaching in the New Testament, and prophecy is always to be subject to the governing authority of the elders and is to be tested for its conformity to Scripture.” — Wayne Grudem
i. προφήτης. A “prophet” is a male, or the collective, and (as in the case of Acts 21:8-9 it speaks of "Philip the evangelist ...[who] had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied” we would see the specific word for a female which is a “prophetess”.
1. Anna: Luke 2:36
2. Jezebel: Rev 2:20
a. Note: False prophecies were a regular occurrence in the Old Testament:
i. Jer 5:30-31 “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their [own] direction...”
ii. Matthew 7:22 “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’”
b. This gift is mentioned more than any of the other spiritual gifts.
i. Rom 12:6 “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;”
ii. 1 Cor 12:28-29 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?”
iii. 1 Cor 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
iv. 1 Cor 14:6 “Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?”
v. Ephesians 4:11-12 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,”
i. Mark 12:30 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
Worship is you surrendering the totality of your being in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit so that you can be a blessing to others, and in the process of blessing, you will be blessed.
e. 2 COr 9:8-11 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work... He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
3. The Priority of Prophecy
a. Some in the church may have been elevating the gift of prophecy to the level of Scriptures. The New Testament gift of prophecy is not the same as the Words of the Old Testament Prophet and not the same as New Testament Words of Christ and the Apostles:
1. Eph 2:19-20 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone...”
2. 2 Pet 1:19-20 “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.”
ii. Apostles were distinguished from those gifted in the Corinthian church:
1. 1 Corinthians 12:28–29 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets... Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? … ”
iii. Teaching and Prophesy are also always distinguished from each other.
1. Romans 12:6–7 “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;”
2. Ephesians 4:11 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,”
3. Acts 13:1 “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers"
iv. The word teaching is didaskalo, didache: the teachings...
1. Acts 18:11 Paul stayed 18 months teaching…the word of the Lord. Paul did not prophesy in every church--he taught, as to the Thessalonians.
Teaching would be the opening up and explaining and applying the words of scripture or the teachings of Christ or His apostles.
b. 2 Thess 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”
c. 1 Tim 4:11 “Command and teach these things.
d. 2 Tim 3:16-17. Scripture profitable for teaching not prophesying.
e. An elder is to teach not prophesy. 1 Tim 3:2 “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,”
4. The Apostolic Word was complete and inerrant like the words of the Old Testament prophet. It was the final and authoritative Word, but the New Testament gift of prophesy was not — it was subject to interpretation.
a. 1 Corinthians 14:29 “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.” (To evaluate, judge against a legal standard.)
b. 1 Thessalonians 5:20–21 “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” ( To make a critical examination of someth. to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine.”
5. Prophecy and teaching are two different things. We have to establish this so we can see that Paul doesn’t contradict himself in 1 Tim 2 when he says I do not permit a women to teach, or have authority over a man… and in this passage where it seems that a woman can could prophesy, and further in chapter 14 where Paul says women should be “silent in the church” where there is a unique context.
Rom 16:17 “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”
Gal 1:8 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
4. The Practice of Prophecy
The gift had become a discouragement to the church. It may have been that when someone got up to speak, everyone groaned. This is not what the gift was intended to do. Clear Character of the NT Gift:
i. Positive in purpose: 1 Cor 14:3 “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.”
ii. Public benefit: 1 Cor 14:4-5 “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”
iii. Purposeful: 1 Cor 14:26 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”
iv. The predictive element of prophecy was not even mentioned. Although, in rare times it seems in other places part of it, the end purpose was not just for the sensational… but for the strengthening of the church.
1. This is why paul says the women should not judge the prophecy given. It reinforces divine standards for family... 1 Cor 14:34-35 “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.”
2. If there is anything they desire to learn in the context of tongues, and prophecy, “let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”
3. This silence/speaking seems to be in the context of judging prophecy. This role is for the others to personally weigh, and for the elders who teach to explain.
Therefore, it would demand them to be silent in this context, but not in the prayer or prophecy itself.
So, it seems Paul can say to the Corinthians, women must practice prayer or prophesy but it must be an exercise guided by the Word.
c. 1 Tim 4:8-10 “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end, we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
What are we seeing here? That God has gifted men and women in the church so that as we complement each other, we can experience God together and grow stronger... we can create an atmosphere of harmony that makes beautiful music together.
Men you should be praying, and women you should be praying… men and women, you are to exercise your gifting in the church under the guidance of the Word of God. If we will just surrender to God’s Word, it will actually cut down on the division, it will actually edify the church, and strengthen the beauty of our testimony before the watching world.
““Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be...” Most christians don’t hear God’s voice because we have already determined in our hearts that we are not going to obey.” ― A.W. Tozer