Spiritual Gifts and Graces (4) – Spirit Led Worship


Understanding worship 101

What is worship?

  –A common expression

  –Worship (latreia) all the time (Romans 12.1-2)

  –Worship (proskyneo) when the church gathers (John 4:20ff; Acts 2; 1 Cor 12 11; 14:26)


What it isn’t!


–Acting (Psalm 22:3)

But it is associating with heaven’s worship (Rev 4:1-7:17)!


Worship Involves everyone (v26-35; 39-40)

Hymns and teaching and revelation and tongues and interpretation (v26-28)

Weighing and then accepting instruction and encouragement (v29-31)

Order and peace out of openness to the Spirit (v32-35) and respect for gifting (v36-38)


1 Corinthians 14 34-35 deals with an aspect of the participation of married women in worship.

These verses forcefully forbid women to speak in church. If they have questions they are to ask their husbands at home. They appear to directly contradict 1 Corinthians 11:5 where it is clear that women can and do pray and prophesy in church. A variety of explanations have appeared:

  1. A traditional explanation has been that verses 34-35 are Paul’s standard teaching and that the material of chapter 11 must therefore refer to prayer meetings or some small group meeting rather than the worship service of the whole church.
  2. The most popular explanation has been that the women at Corinth were involved in disruptive behaviour. According to this view, the principle of submission (v34) is being lost to a sprit of defiance (v35) and arbitrators of their own church order and doctrine (v36).

    The scenario supposes that the women sat together on one side of the room and the men were on the other. If women shouted questions to their husbands or defiant remarks such behaviour would cause a major disruption of the worship. Such an explanation is certainly possible but we do not know if women and men were seated separately in early Christian worship or not. They were in the Jewish synagogues, but first century Christians worshipped in homes rather than church buildings.

  3. Others suggest that the ‘speaking’ refers to nothing more than ‘chattering’; although Paul doesn’t use the word this way in other places. David Prior in his IVP commentary concludes that “these Christian wives had discovered a unique freedom in the life of the Christian community, and it is possible that this freedom had gone to their heads or, more precisely, to their tongues. This lack of self-discipline was causing confusion and disorder in the worship of the church”.
  4. Another recent explanation has been that verses 34-35 represent a quotation from the Corinthians. That would solve the problem of contradiction with chapter 11. It also explains the very unusual use of the Old Testament Law as a rule for New Testament Christians to obey in their practice of worship. Talbert argues that verses 34-35 represent the position of at least some at Corinth and that verse 36 is Paul’s “indignant reply.” However, the normal indicators of a quotation from the Corinthians are lacking in this passage.
  5. A significant number of commentators argue that these verses were added to 1 Corinthians sometime after Paul wrote the letter. Such an approach used to be labelled “liberal” but the recent massive commentary by the very evangelical scholar, Gordon Fee, takes this position.

The number of explanations put forth for verses 34-35 shows two things. Firstly, it is very difficult to understand these verses. They seem contradict too much of what we know Paul thought about women. And, secondly, no single explanation has been sufficiently satisfactory to gain general agreement.


We may never know with certainty the best way to explain why these verses appear in this place and what we are to make of them. In such cases, a spirit of grace and tolerance is better than one of dogmatic assertion.


Worship – You, me and God

•The body will mature as we desire and use the greater gifts (v12:31; 14:39)

•The body will mature as each of us engages 100% in worship (v12:31)


Cell Outline

  1. When you come together [as a cell group], 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”. How could you do that well in your group? What needs to change? Try and start today, by having a time of additional worship based on this principle.
  2. How would someone today know that God is present at a service at GBC (v25)? How would you summarise in a brief prayer what you would like God to do for your church in this area?
  3. What is the central advice given on worship in verses 26 to 40?
  4. Explain what the statement (verse 33), “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace,” means to you in the context of the way you worship at GBC.
  5. What application does verse 40 have for our worship at GBC?

Going deeper

  1. What do you think Paul had in mind in the instructions for a woman to not speak in church in verses 34-35? How does 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 influence your understanding of verses 34-35?
  2. What are verses 37-38 about? Is it fair? Is it right? Would a similar strategy by a pastor towards prophets in our time be appropriate? Why? or why not?


How can you use the witness of others in baptism this coming Sunday (17th May) to share about Jesus to those you know? Could you ask someone to come with you to experience this powerful event?

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