Prophecy and Tongues – Luther’s Sermon Blog (Part 1)

19 Sep

Prophecy and Tongues – Luther’s Sermon Blog (Part 1)

Here’s some of the questions I didn’t get to in our great question time on Sunday Night …

Can we be sure that prophesy and tongues still exist?

This is a great question and one I’ve been pondering alot recently and spoken to many people about.

Here’s a few thoughts.

Firstly, As I read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and the rest of the New Testament there isn’t anything in the text itself that suggests to me that the gifts don’t exist anymore.  I think the burden of proof on this question ought to be on proving that these gifts don’t exist not that they do.

Secondly, 1 Corinthians is written to a church in the exact same situation as us i.e. we live after the first coming and before the second coming of Jesus.  It was a church founded by Paul now lead by men who weren’t apostles just like ours!

Thirdly, In 1 Corinthians Paul encourages the church to ‘eagerly desire the greater gifts’ (1 Cor 12:30) having just listed tongues and prophecy amongst the gift list.  The greater gifts as he goes on to demonstrate in chapter 14 are the word gifts that ‘edify’ or build up the church.  That’s why he prefers prophecy over tongues (1 Cor 14:1).  Prophecy is more easily understood and therefore is far more useful in our corporate meetings than prayer tongues (languages).

Fourthly, we must remember that not all Christians have all of the spiritual gifts.  Paul says ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.’ (1 Cor 12:7) and so the fact that I don’t pray in a tongue (language) doesn’t bother me.  God has decided that I and our church don’t need me to have that gift.

Fifthly, it’s very difficult to deny the experience of others.  I’ve heard and spoken to others who claim to pray in tongues.  They say it happens on certain occasions in their private prayers and it is encouraging.  No doubt there are some who could learn prayer tongues off others and be falsely mimicking them.  But to suggest this is the case for everyone who claims to speak in tongues, as some do, seems very unlikely.   I think it’s much easier to prove that this gift does exist than that it doesn’t.

Finally, the existence of prophecy is harder to pin down given that it is harder to define.  In 1 Cor 14 Paul demonstrates that prophecy ‘encourages, strengthens or comforts’ (1 Cor 14:3) and leads to some turning to Christ (1 Cor 14:24-25).  So many conversations could come under this definition and so I wonder if prophecy is just a very broad category of God given speech that He gives to many of us to build up the church.  For this reason, I think from the text we can be certain it exists today.  There will be a time when prophecy ceases (1 Cor 13:8) which is the time when perfection comes (1 Cor 13:10) at the second coming of the Jesus!  On that day we will see Jesus face to face (1 Cor 13:12) and so we won’t need to be built up in Him any more because the church will already have been made perfect.

Does a woman have to submit to herFather when she moves out of home? And how, if he is a non-believer?

As Paul says in Colossians 3:20 ‘Chidren, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord‘ (HCSB).  The truth is that our heavenly Father is delighted when we respect the responsiblity God has given to our Fathers to care and provide for us.  The scope of Paul’s command is pretty broad isn’t it?  What are we to obey our parents in? Everything!  Also when do we cease to be children 18? When we leave home or when and if we marry?

The issue we face is perhaps slightly different to the 1st Century in that as a woman in the first century you were either married or you lived at home.  You would generally not have found a woman living outside of the family home as a single women unless she had been widowed.

That said –  he’s my 3 cents worth on a question I’ve been asked quite a few times over the years!

1. On the one hand, our first desire ought to be to maximise Paul’s command – at any age a godly women would want to bring glory to God by living under the leadership of her Father.  Our attitude ought to be ‘how can I maximise this?’ not ‘how can I get around this command?’ (not that I think you’re doing that) but it’s worth saying.

2. On the other hand, Fathers of daughters ought to show wisdom in parenting their daughters relative to their age.  The way I parent Hannah (6) and Maddie (3) now is I imagine quite different to the way I will when they are 18.  That will be different again when they are 30.  The space I give them over time will naturally grow.  After all Paul warns Fathers, ‘do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.‘ (Col 3:21 HCSB)  Fathers can really harm their relationship with their daughters when they become too overbearing!  Particularly when they are young adults living at home.

3. When a woman marries her primary relationship ceases to be with her parents and is now with her husband.  As God says in Genesis 2:24 ‘This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.’ (HCSB).  The day you marry your first loyalty is now toward your husband before your Father.  This is why Christian Dads want to be so involved in making sure you marry a godly guy.  He knows that your first allegiance is rightly now to your husband and not him!

4. Should daughters obey their non-believing Fathers?  Yes and No.  Yes – in that this pleases God just as much as when daughters obey their believing Fathers.  No – we ought not obey if this compromises our faith in Jesus.  Just as I would cease to obey our government (another authority we live under – Romans 13) if they asked me to do something contrary to the gospel.   This is often a tricky situation and takes much wisdom to know when to insist with our unbelieving Fathers that we love them and respect them but can’t follow their lead as it’s taking us away from Jesus.  I’ve lived through this exact situation as a young Christian with unbelieving parents and it’s not easy.

As much as submission during the weighing or evaluating of prophecy is a lovely symbol, what if women have some valuable contribution? Do they tell a man who will then put it forward? How does this work in a practical manner?

Silent submission during prophecy is indeed a ‘lovely symbol.‘   This moment in church life points to our little marriages which in turn point to the big and glorious marriage between Jesus and His bride (i.e. Us the church).  In the New Creation we won’t be married to our wives or husbands because the big marriage will be consummated (Matthew 22:30).  We won’t need our little marriages anymore – so to speak.  As a result, our only submissive relationship in heaven will be to God Himself.

In the meantime, that moment in our meetings when prophecy is being weighed (1 Cor 14:29-35) women are to remain silent.  Now of course this doesn’t mean that a woman doesn’t have a valuable contribution to make.  Not at all!  Paul’s reason here and in not allowing women to preach in 1 Timothy 2 has nothing to do with ability.    It simply means that in submission to the leadership of ‘her man’ (her husband or her Father) women should talk about the prophecy in question when they get home.  Her silence is a picture of her submission not that she has nothing good to say!

Therefore, I don’t think women ought to tell a man her contribution who will then put it forward for her on her behalf.  e.g. whispering her question in his ear so that he can ask it.  As an aside – this would have been impossible in Corinth given that it’s highly likely that men and women sat separately in church as they did in the synagogues.

A woman’s silence at this point really is ‘a valuable contribution’ in itself as in humility she points to the big marriage between Christ and the church.

In a practical manner I really think that God’s instructions for our meetings mean that a woman’s valuable contribution to the weighing of prophecy ought to be listened to well by her husband or Father at home after the church meeting.  Her husband might even then come back next week and say something different the next Sunday having changed his mind!

What do you think?



4 Responses to “Prophecy and Tongues – Luther’s Sermon Blog (Part 1)”

  1. Craig Swift September 20, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    Hi Luther,
    Just another question/comment if I may from your sermon last Sunday night. I am not sure if you want to comment further on it here or add it to the ones you will answer in your posts.
    You have always rightly encouraged us all (men and women) to evaluate your sermons, to test them according to the scriptures, not to just accept what you say blindly. This evaluation takes place by both men and women during question times after sermons, in discussions after church, in home groups as well as wives asking questions of their husbands at home. The Bereans (Acts 17) were commended for examining the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. The Thessalonians (in 1 Thes 5:19-22) were all encouraged to test prophecies. There is no indication in these passages that only the men were to do this.
    I think you agree that you in your sermons, and many others in the home groups, say things intended to strengthen, encourage, comfort or instruct (1 Cor 14:3,31) that could be described as prophecy. All these things that are said need to be evaluated and thought through as to meaning, truthfulness and application. Many women in our church comment at these times (e.g. during home groups) and ask questions like “where do we see that in the passage?”
    Church was often in homes during New Testament times much like our home groups.
    Given all these things, it would seem to me that either we need to change our practice drastically and silence the women during all these times, or perhaps the view of the passage you have expressed is questionable (after all, to my knowledge, it was only thought of/recorded as a possibility in the latter half of the 20th century), or perhaps I have misunderstood you somewhere. Any comments?

    • Luther Symons September 21, 2012 at 10:19 am #

      Hi Craig,

      I’ll post today about the differences between Preaching and Prophecy as I think this will help with your question above. Both come under the ultimate authority of the scriptures but come with different levels of authority in themselves.

      Preaching is more authoritative than prophecy a view that has been held long before the second half of the 20th century.

      I also think these passages have real implications for our home groups which are mini churches. But given that women clearly prophecy in 1 Cor 11 and yet he calls for a time a silence in 1 Cor 14 we need to think through what type of participation in our home groups is in the first category and what type of participation may be in the second.


  2. ptblowes September 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    We find ourselves with a lot of speculation and difficulty because we are trying to understand what it looked like for the Corinthians to “do church,” and to compare this to our own practices.

    What was Paul trying to achieve in writing 1 Corinthians 14? He wanted a church meeting where people were able to teach and be taught, to share and encourage and pray and praise, so that, as a body, the church was built up and God was glorified.

    Certain things stopped this from happening:

    – People speaking in tongues that weren’t translated which both confused the Christians and repulsed the non-Christians.
    – People speaking over the top of each other (either in understandable language or not) so that no one could either hear clearly or evaluate the content.
    – People not respecting the established leadership of the church, in which the final word of authority came from those men who were recognized as the elders of the congregation (this is comparing ch 14 with ch 11.)

    While the early church may well have met in houses (like that of Titius Justus in 1 Corinthians 18:7) it seems to me that we’re not just talking about the equivalent of our home groups. It certainly seems like lots more people are getting together. And there is a structure that includes all the things we do in our church meetings (and more!) There is a formality to it in terms of it being an authoritative teaching/learning time.

    Then, like now, there were lots of times when Christians got together formally and informally outside of that regular meeting. Lots of conversations would have happened and points of view aired. Men and women talking and asking questions. Things would have been a bit different because there wasn’t a crowd of unattached adults without the responsibility towards parents or of being spouses/parents. Also – they weren’t Aussies – with our internationally unique laissez-faire attitude to each other. We know both from the gospels and from Acts & Paul’s letters that there were women involved, ministering, sharing, participating in it all.

    But when they got together (however often it was, but definitely on the first day of the week) for their more “formal” meeting time the above structure was encouraged by Paul for the reasons I mentioned.

    To infer that this means that women were generally silenced or their ideas treated as if they were of less importance is to read the structure through modern feminist eyes. It is to assume that the women (outside of the meeting) were only speaking when spoken to, not respected, not encouraged, and not listened to. A little look at Priscilla and Aquila shows you that this wasn’t the case.

    As Craig has pointed out, both in the New Testament and in our own experience of church there is a lot that women can and do contribute, and this should never be exposed to disrespect.

    For a woman to submit to authorities (be they in marriage or in the church) does not mean she is silent or silenced. (See a helpful article by Mary Kassian at
    The Christian woman should use the gifts God has given her (including prophecy,) but it should be within the structure that will lead to an overall building up of the body – just like everyone else in the church.

    • Craig Swift September 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

      Hi Luther,

      You said,
      “Preaching is more authoritative than prophecy a view that has been held long before the second half of the 20th century.”

      Sorry if I was a bit unclear. The view that I was referring to (and I think you agree with) is that the prohibition on women speaking refers to the judging of the prophets. I may be wrong, but my understanding is that this view was first published in 1962. If you have information to the contrary, I would be glad to hear it. I do not believe that a new view is necessarily a wrong view, but it is still a factor in evaluating whether it is a correct or not.

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