Study Sheet for I Corinthians 14:20-39 (click here for Study Notes)

Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the Law it is written:

"Through men of strange tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
But even then they will not listen to me,"
Says the Lord.

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three-should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

As inb all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.

Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (NIV)


Day 1

"Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults," Paul says in this passage.

1. In the context of this chapter, what does "thinking like children" mean? (see I Cor. 3:11; Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:12,13; 1 Peter 2:2)


2. What does it mean to be an infant "in regard to evil" while simultaneously thinking like adults? (see Jer. 4:22; Matt. 10:16; Romans 16:19)


Day 2

Paul refers to Isaiah's prophecy in Is. 28:11,12 that Israel would be conquered by a foreign nation who spoke a language they could not understand.

1. For disobedient Israel, strange tongues were a sign of what? (see Deut. 28:49; Is. 28: 11,12)


2. Paul takes the OT example of disobedient Israel experiencing strange tongues and gives it a NT application. In the New Covenant, how are tongues a sign for unbelievers, and what do they signify? (see Acts 2:4-12; 10:44-47)


3. Why and how is prophecy for believers, not unbelievers? (see Matt. 13:11-16; 16:17; Acts 28:25-29)


Day 3

Paul continues by admitting that even prophecy can be impacting for unbelievers (v. 24, 25).

1. What is it about prophecy that convicts unbelievers? (see Romans 2:16; Acts 10:42; Romans 16:25)


2. Paul says the unbeliever will "fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!' " How is this prophecy both similar to and different from the prophecies of heathen nations praising God when they observed Israel? (see Psalm 102:21,22; Isaiah 2:2,3; 14:1; 45:14; Zechariah 8:23)


3. In what ways is the Holy Spirit the fulfillment of God's prophecies to Israel?


Day 4

Paul explains the orderly fashion in which believers are to exercise their gifts in public worship.

1. Everyone has some praise or word from the Lord to contribute. (v. 26) What does Paul mean when he says, "All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church"? (see Romans 14:19; 15:2; 2 Cor. 12:19; Eph. 4:12, 29)


2. Paul gives specific restrictions on speaking in tongues in church. What are they, and why do you think Paul gave these?


3. He gives similar instructions for the exercise of prophecy in church. What does Paul mean when he says prophets should weigh each other's words? (see 1 John 4:1)


4. What point is Paul making in his instructions on being orderly when he says, "The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets"? (see v. 40; Romans 15:33)


Day 5

Paul again instructs women how to behave during worship. "They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says." (v. 34)

1. What does it mean to be in submission? (Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 2:11,12)


2. To what "Law" is Paul referring when he says women must be in submission, "as the Law says"? (see v. 21; Gen 3:16)


3. How does this instruction fit with Paul's acknowledgment that women both pray and prophecy in public? (see 1 Cor. 11:2-11)


4. How does this instruction mesh with the New Covenant position that in Christ there are no divisions, neither "Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus"? (Gal 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:11, Eph. 5:22-33)


Day 6

Paul ends this passage on spiritual gifts with a summary saying believers should be eager to prophesy and should allow speaking in tongues. The governing principle is that everything should be done in an orderly way.

1. Have you ever observed or experienced a disorderly expression of spiritual gifts? What happened?


2. Have you ever received from a believer a message or instruction that you believed was prophetic? Explain.


3. Have you ever had insight you believed to be a prophetic message from God for others?


4. What are your greatest uncertainties or fears about the gifts of the Spirit, especially of prophecy and tongues?


Day 7

1. In what ways do you think you are spiritually immature and need to grow?


2. What holds you back from experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?


3. What fear, arrogance, or bitterness do you need to present to Jesus, asking Him to take it and to replace it with his forgiveness and his Spirit?


4. Ask God to show you what he wants you to know, to teach you what he wants you to learn, and to change what he wants to change in you. Praise Jesus for his Spirit which is already your promised Seal, and ask Him to help you to be responsive to Him.


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