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I Cor. 14

February 25, 2017

One can discern a lot of circumstances from the way Paul reads in some of his letters. For one the phenomenon of tongues and prophecy was clearly emerging. It appears there was real and counterfeit, zeal and ignorance, clarity and haze. Added to this was the unpredictability of what was unfolding: hitherto an outcast people, the gentiles, were clearly being welcomed, not necessarily through the then leadership but even through sporadic incidents from without; Paul himself had emerged as a phenomenon quite outside the knowledge or control of the early church leaders; the Spirit of Truth would guide a fledgling church on His own terms, again not always in conjunction with the apostles but directly through prophecy, revelations, words of wisdom, tongues and other phenomena (e.g. probably dreams and visions). Added to this were implications being drawn from Jesus’ own conduct/teachings that went against accepted modes of life: slave/master relations; men/women balance of power; authority and equality among others. It appears that the early assemblies were starting to border on chaos and disorder, for in the name of being spirit-filled there was now disorder, now competition, even outright disregard. All at once several were breaking out in unintelligible sounds (tongues), even declaring messages they’d ‘received from God,’ and women (or possibly more precisely a few aggressive ones among them tending to drag along the rest) were clearly emerging as a nuisance to the orderly conduct of worship (apparently for attention than edification). So finally after much thought and examination Paul had to stand up and take charge, even crack the whip. For it was the same God working through all (not just among the vocal or pushy Christians but even among the more mature of them), the God of order, not disorder. So was born I Corinthians 14.

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