1 Corinthians 14:26 – Encouragement or Exhortation?

coin_flip_sOne of the most referenced verses in the New Testament in support of a “Spontaneous Church” or a “Totally Participatory Church,” is 1 Corinthians 14:26. In that verse the Apostle says to the church at Corinth;

“What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (NASB)

The King James version translates it this way;

“How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

These slightly different translations represent the tension that exists between two approaches to this text.

The first way of looking at this text is that Paul was encouraging the church to continue in like manner. Local congregations should have the liberty and opportunity to participate in gatherings as the Spirit directs with little or no liturgy. Many house/simple/organic churches function in this way. The sense in this view is that it is the true rule to be observed in the use of gifts. It is the natural outcome of what happens when the congregation comes together and lets the Spirit lead. This seems to be most natural understanding when considering previous contextual passages like 1 Corinthians 14:15;

“What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.” (NASB)

In other words, “as the result of” certain conditions… these things will naturally happen.

The second way of looking at this text is that Paul was exhorting them to “get things in order.” There are more than a few commentators like Locke, Stanley, and Hodge, that regard Paul here as exposing a state of things which needed to be corrected. The thought is that these eager and passionate believers were being hasty, bringing confusion and dissonance into the local gathering, and detracting from its purpose. To not allow everyone to participate in a local gathering is the trend of most “churches” today. Many institutional churches function in this way.

So, which do you think is the better way to look at this passage, as an encouragement, or an exhortation? Why?

0 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 14:26 – Encouragement or Exhortation?

  1. David Woods says:

    I think the answer is quite clearly revealed just a few passages down:

    29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

    Let two or three prophets speak? Let the others judge THE PROPHET? Let the first keep silent if anything is revealed to another? The first prophet? Let him keep silent in preference to another? How do you think that would go over in most churches today? Prophetic churches or traditional? Neither would take too kindly to it, I imagine. The prophetic churches because they gather around one prophet usually, and the others for obvious reasons. Why does Scripture say this is important? So “that all may learn and all may be encouraged”. Not exhorted to more orderly conduct, but encouraged.

  2. Trevor Hartwig says:

    Paul was exposing the ‘church’ which had begun to replace the life of Christ as shown be 1 John. The ‘anti-Christ’ was at work even in the first century…..anti meaning ‘in place of’……..so anything done that replaces the life of Jesus Christ is ‘anti-Christ’ in nature and will surely lead to destruction as promised by Jesus.

  3. Marshall says:

    in 14:15, Paul jumps into his own apologetic. {grin}
    truly a “wild man”.

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