Can you explain 1 Corinthians 14:36?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN 1 CORINTHIANS 14:36?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Why is 1 Corinthians 14:36 part of Scripture? Notice what it says: “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” It is best to look at this verse by pairing it with the next two: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

Paul the Apostle—or rather the Holy Spirit through Paul—is concluding a three-chapter discussion of spiritual gifts. Chapter 12, verse 1, had already introduced it: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”

The Corinthians have been led to believe that experiences and emotions are the validating criteria of spiritual truth. In other words, they are the Charismatics of today. They are abusing spiritual gifts, although they believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding them. Actually, their sinful flesh is operating in Corinth, not the Spirit of God. The Corinthians are immature in their thinking and behavior. “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20). “[1] And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. [2] I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. [3] For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Chapters 12–14 are thus written to correct the thinking of these “ignorant brethren.” After thoroughly outlining the operation of the spiritual gifts (chapter 12), and their temporary nature (chapter 13), the Holy Spirit takes much time and space in chapter 14 to address two particular issues. The Corinthians are ignoring the gift of prophesying (preaching) and focusing almost entirely on the gift of tongues. As that final chapter of the “spiritual gifts” section winds down, we come across some summary verses.

“[36] What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? [37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

This passage underscores the issue of authority. Who is the authority in Corinth? Is it the Greek philosophers that have misled these saints? Or, is it the women who are trying to take control? Perhaps the tongues-speakers are the authority? Those with the supernatural experiences and wild emotions? None of them! The authority is the Word of God, the Holy Bible.

“What? came the word of God out from you?” This rhetorical question is intended to make the Corinthians think. Did they originate God’s Word? No, Paul brought God’s Word to them (Acts chapter 18). They are not the authority; therefore, they need to pay attention to God’s Word here and reform!

“Or came it unto you only?” God’s Word did not come to them only. They were not the issue. The emphasis should not be on them, and yet they have been using spiritual gifts to draw attention to themselves. God’s Word is for the benefit of everyone, not just a select few who exercise “showy” spiritual gifts. They need to stop being so selfish and fleshly.

“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” If someone is speaking on God’s behalf (“prophet”), if someone is led by the Holy Spirit (“spiritual”), then he or she will listen to the inspired words of the Apostle Paul here. These are not Paul’s opinions; they are “the commandments of the Lord.” To refuse the advice in 1 Corinthians 12–14 is to snub God’s instructions!

Paul is God’s spokesman to us Gentiles, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). The Lord Jesus Christ directly selected him to be His speaker to us. Paul alone has been granted apostolic authority that we may know the things of God as pertaining to us outside of the nation Israel and her prophetic/earthly program. What is the Dispensation of the Grace of God to us? What about the mystery program and God’s purpose and plan for the heavenly places? What is God’s will for the Church the Body of Christ? We apprehend this information by listening to the Holy Spirit’s words found in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward” (Ephesians 3:1-2).

“But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Verse 38 is a stinging reproof. Although these three chapters of 1 Corinthians 12–14 were supplied to defeat spiritual ignorance, some Christians would still refuse to listen. They would choose to remain uninformed in order to continue doing what they wanted to do. To wit, they had already decided to keep their vain religion, and would not be persuaded—even by God Himself! They would keep claiming for themselves the authority that Almighty God had given to the Apostle Paul. Millions of Christians are like this even today. Once they see dispensational Bible study, they avoid it because it threatens their denominational system. So as to retain their preconceived theological traditions, they willfully ignore Paul’s apostleship. If they refuse to listen to us as we gently and lovingly guide them in the Scriptures rightly divided, the Bible says we need to leave them alone. There are plenty of other people for us to reach!

Also see:
» What is 1 Corinthians 12:3 talking about?
» Why do people get angry when we share right division?
» Must one be a “King James Bible Pauline dispensationalist” to have eternal life?

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