1 Corinthians 14:1–40: Orderly Public Worship: Part 3

by Oct 5, 20200 comments

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Since 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul has been working through a wide range of issues that have troubled the public worship of the church at Corinth. In the first half of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul focuses in on one more major question, namely about whether untranslated tongues (foreign languages) should be used in worship. Then, in the second half of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul addresses a number of general issues related to the details of their worship. Together, this rich chapter gives a strong argument for the centrality of God’s word in worship, since worship is a dialogue between God and his people.

Discussion Questions

1. How does Paul understand the relationship between love and gifts (1 Cor. 14:1)? What is the difference between pursuing love and earnestly desiring the spiritual gifts? Why does Paul put such a priority on love? Why does he relegate gifts to a secondary role, in relationship to love? What should we make of the distinction Paul makes between the broader category of gifts (charismata), compared with the smaller subcategory of spiritual gifts (pneumatika)?

2. What are the various possibilities for understanding the one “in the position of an outsider” (1 Cor. 14:16)? For whom do you think is Paul concerned when he writes this? Why does Paul care that the “outsider” should be able to say “Amen” to the prayers offered? What implications does that concern have for our goals in our own worship? What principles might we adopt toward achieving those goals in our worship?

3. What does the text Paul cites in v. 21 from Isaiah 28:11–12 communicate about hearing tongues as a sign of judgment toward unbelief? What do the texts from Isaiah 45:14 and Zechariah 8:23, to which Paul alludes in v. 25, describe about the role of clear prophecy as the means of drawing the nations to worship the true and living God? How does Paul reference the basic structure of the story of the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 in this passage? What might we learn from all these Bible references, taken together, about God’s plan to save people from every tribe, language, people, and nation?

4. What do we mean when we talk about the elements of public worship? How are the list of elements of public worship in 1 Corinthians 14:26 similar to the elements of public worship that we employ today? How are they different? Which other biblically-commanded elements does Paul leave out of the list in v. 26? Where do we find biblical support for those other elements? Why does God want his own word to take center stage in our worship? Why should we limit our worship to only the elements that God explicitly commands in his worship?

5. What do we mean when we talk about the circumstances of public worship? What examples can you give about the kinds of decisions for worship that would be about circumstances, rather than elements? How much information does the Bible give us to guide those decisions in the church (WCF 1.6)? Why is it important to keep in mind that questions about elements are biblical faithfulness questions, while the circumstances of worship are only wisdom questions?

6. Do you think about worship as a dialogue between God and his people? In what ways does it change our approach to worship when we recognize that worship is a conversation between God and us? How does Kenneth Campbell justify his assertion that “Silence participates in this essence of worship just as much, if not more, than the audible expressions of worship”? Do you agree with this idea? Why or why not?