Thursday, 19 February 2015
Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 1 Corinthians 14:36
Paul’s two questions form a scathing rebuke of the practices of those in Corinth. The entire chapter has obviously been one of repeated instruction, and the emotion has only increased in him as the ink flowed from his pen. He may have been thinking, “I’ve told them all of this already!” But they didn’t heed.
He first asks, “Or did the word of God come originally from you?” It is a note of indignation. He is asking if they think they are the source of what should be considered church doctrine. Are they somehow the church which should establish doctrine for all the others? Paul is letting them know that it is he who brought them the word of Christ and established the church among them. His words of instruction demonstrate that they had fallen away from that. Instead they were involved in illicit practices. They very fact that he is writing instructions to them shows this to be true.
They have misused the gift of tongues; they had been disorderly in the preaching of the word, talking over one another; and they had allowed women to engage in these activities rather than having them remain silent as he had previously instructed them. In essence, he is showing that they have held in contempt the word of God and attempted to establish their own parameters for church conduct. If that doesn’t sound like many churches in the world today, it’s hard to see what else could! The word is ignored, women are ordained and speak openly on matters of doctrine when they are not authorized to by Scripture, and congregations spout out false tongues and false prophecies at will.
Paul was fed up then and we should be fed up now! And so he continues, “Or was it you only that it reached?” It is a second line of indignation. “Suppose you don’t feel you are the source of the word of God. Well then, the only other explanation is that you feel you are the only recipients of it; the only valid church.”
They were acting as if they alone held the authority to interpret Scripture and thus their interpretation was however they saw fit. But the word had gone out to many churches. The message was consistent and it was clear. Other churches had properly followed the practices as they were received. But somehow, this dysfunctional church at Corinth had gone out on its own, teaching aberrant guidelines that were not in sync with the rest of the churches. Paul’s lengthy letter demonstrates this.
But it must be understood that if this church wasn’t so dysfunctional, there would have been no letter to the Corinthians and then there would have been no written set-doctrine for later churches to follow. God, in His wisdom, allowed the church at Corinth to depart from Paul’s sound instruction in order to give all of us a sure word, in writing, which is understandable and clear. With it, combined with the other Pauline epistles, we have right doctrine to lead the church. And yet… we ignore it and continue with the same dysfunctional problems that Corinth faced.
Can one not see the absolute importance of the Word of God when reading this letter to Corinth? How precious a treasure and yet how ignored it is! Let us leave misguided passion, emotion, and self-seeking ostentation at the door and enter into the church with the desire to honor the Lord by following His word!
Life application: Find a church which doesn’t follow the crazy practices Paul outlines in his letter to the Corinthians.
How precious is the wondrous treasure! It is a gift from God beyond all measure. It is a sure and sound word for us to obey; and yet we ignore it and disobey it, day by day. Women preach; false prophecies are spoken; exhortations are ignored and commands are broken. We find more pleasure in twisting this superior word, than we do in being obedient to the Lord. O God, forgive us for our arrogant attitude towards this book. From now on, into its pages we will look. And then in obedience we will walk, and of its precepts we shall talk. Thank You, O God, for this right word of instruction. Thank You for Your superior word. Amen.