For the next few days, my son and I will be hiking and camping part of the Appalachian trail in Pennsylvania. While I’m away, I’m going to re-publish some of my older posts – posts that many of you have not read. As you can tell, I wrote some of these during my earliest examinations of the church in Scripture. Feel free to comment or discuss the posts among yourselves. I’ll try to reply to your comments when I return.
Is an activity appropriate during the meeting of the church if that activity edifies only one (or a small number) of individual(s)?
In 1 Corinthians 14:1-25, Paul discusses two spiritual gifts: speaking in tongues and prophecy. First, it must be noted that Paul has already revealed in 1 Corinthians 12 that both of these activities are gifts provided by the Holy Spirit. But, in 14:1-25, Paul states that speaking in tongues (without interpretation) is not suitable for the gathering because only the individual speaking in edified. Paul acknowledges that the person speaking in tongues is edified, and that the person speaking in tongues is speaking to God. However, he states plainly that this is not an appropriate activity for the meeting of the church.
William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther [1 Corinthians, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1976), 306.] comment on this aspect of Paulâ€™s instructions when they state,
It is surprising that Paul regards speech addressed to people more highly than speech directed to God. The reason is the scope of edification; speech in a tongue builds up only the speaker. He seems to be saying that private devotion has its place; but it is not as important as public devotion, which builds up the entire group. The life of the church is more important than the religious development or expression of a single person.
According to Paul, during the gathering, the spiritual health of the church takes precedence over either the devotion of the individual or the spiritual health of the individual. Therefore, based on this passage, activities that only edify the individual are not appropriate during the meeting of the church.