Friday, October 10, 2014

Speaking In Tongues (part 31)

Along with these things, in an act of preferring one another and valuing all participation equally, though it will be subject to evaluation by the whole of the assembly as they mull over the words within the framework of what they have been taught by Paul and the Jesus tradition that is to shape their modeling out of the kingdom of their God, Paul adds “And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude” (1 Corinthians 14:30), giving no thought to their own honor or standing. 

With thoughts of selflessness and a shame-embracing love ringing in the background, one can then read “For you can all prophesy one after another” (14:31a), with the now ubiquitous and completely expected directive in regards to the exercise of spiritual gifts, “so all can learn and be encouraged” (14:31a), and presumably strengthened.         

Paul reinforces the social leveling that he desires to see happening within the church when, after putting brackets around the usage of ecstatic speech and again encouraging prophecy as something that is encouraging and strengthening, by adding “Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (14:32a).  When encountering this, it would behoove an observer to focus less on the “spirits of the prophets,” as this most likely is simply a reference to the Spirit being at work within the assembly through those engaging in body-strengthening words of prophecy, and more on the side of being “subject.”  This subjection serves as a reminder that one person is not going to vaunt themselves over or be vaunted over the community of believers. 

Any type of movement related to the activity of prophecy being used as an elevating factor within the body, as glossolalia was apparently being inappropriately used, wherein those that prophesy began to be afforded certain honors or by which a certain class of individuals within the church body began to appear, would be very much out of order.  Thus, rounding out his thought about the mutual subjection of those that engage in prophetic activity (which Paul hopes to be as widespread as reasonably possible in the assembly because of the purpose that it serves --- reminder: prophesy is NOT about predicting the future), Paul concludes with “for God is nor characterized by disorder but by peace” (14:33a). 

It cannot be repeated enough that honor competitions had no place in the church that is to be the visible representative of the One who eschewed being honored at every turn, and instead embraced suffering, shame, and the lowest places (including the lowest place ever devised, that being the cross).  These honor competitions, as can be gleaned from this letter to Corinth, were conducive of animosity and productive of factions.  This would unfortunately and decidedly militate against the order and well-being of the body of Christ, damaging its ability to engage in true fellowship for and among believers, while also damaging its ability to witness to a King and a kingdom to which all are subordinate. 

Indeed, if the members of the body of Christ are pre-occupied with participating in social systems that result in the subordinating of one believer to another, is there going to be a focus on all being completely subordinate to their Lord that subordinated Himself by going shamefully to a cross?   

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