Guidelines for Speaking/Teaching in Church
1 Corinthians 14
When we come across the situation where someone claims to have an anointing by God and wants to preach or teach in our church, the main passage of Scripture that we should follow is 1 Corinthians 14. In this passage, Paul said all things, preached or taught, must be done for the edification of the church and it must be done in an orderly manner. We must also consider 1 Corinthians 13 as it also teaches about prophets. Chapter 13 says each of the services must be done in love. These three things - done in love, done for the edification of the church, and done in an orderly manner – must be the overarching guidelines for anything taught or preached in the church.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:3-4, “One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in tongues edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.” The word “edification,” according to Thayer and Smith’s NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, means “to build up or promote someone’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, and holiness.” Paul spoke of edifying the church in this chapter in verses 4, 5, 7, 12, and 26. Prophecy is for the edification of the church, not to bring acclaim to one’s self. If it is not said or presented in a way the church will understand, then is does not edify and does not need to be said. Prophesying or speaking/translating is only good if it edifies the people of the church. In verse 7 and 8, Paul spoke of instruments as a metaphor for prophesying. The tone that is played must be recognized, likewise the prophet must be recognized as being from God and having a word from God, and the hearers must understand (recognize) what is being said. “If the bugle plays an indistinct sound, who will prepare for battle” (vs. 8). Paul reiterates this point often. “So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear (definite, distinct, well marked), how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air” (vs. 9)? Paul said, “Let all things be done for edification” (vs. 26).
Edification of the church is not the only criteria that helps us determine if we should let a person stand up and proclaim/teach to the church what God has told him or her. We must determine if what the person wants to say is biblical. If it is not biblical, it should not be allowed. If the person says God gave them a new revelation and you determine it is not biblical, they may say it is something new God wants people to hear. What do we do with this then? We have a few guidelines to follow. We could look to the Deuteronomic passages of Deuteronomy 13:1-3 and 18:20-22. These passages say:
13:1-3, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known ) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
18:20-22, “But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken ?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing, which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
To sum this up,
- He or she must claim to speak what God has revealed to him.
- The true Old Testament prophet of God must predict the future and it must have come to pass exactly as prophesied.
- His or her message must be in harmony with the revealed word and will of God. If the message contradicts other Scripture, the speaker and his or her word is to be rejected.
- His or her message must be true and he or she must lead people toward God, not away from Him.
Should these two verses not be enough and the person insists it is a new revelation, we can rely upon four other passages to guide us through which we can explain to them about God’s revelations. From the Old Testament all the way to the end of the New Testament, in Revelation, God said that only that which He says is revelation is to be considered from Him.
Deut. 4:2, "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
Deut. 12:32, "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.”
Prov. 30:6, “Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”
Rev. 22:18-19, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
The book of Revelation records the final revelations from God to humankind. It tells of revelations in the past, present, and to come in the future. Should this not be enough to quiet a supposed prophet who wants to speak in our church, but is not found to be biblical, the pastor can remind the person of the passage in 2 Timothy 3:16, which says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration from God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." The Scripture, the Bible, contains all of God’s revelation, teachings, commands, and the message of the Gospel and hope for eternal life. Nothing more is to be added. If what the person wants to proclaim is not in the Bible or is contrary to the teachings in the Bible, it should not be allowed to be spoken to the church.
The final thing to be considered before allowing a person to speak “an anointed message” to the church is will it lead to chaos and confusion. Paul said in verse 33, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” Paul closes with this thought, too. In verse 40, Paul said, “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.” Given that a prophet is a person who exhorts, teaches, instructs, comforts, encourages, rebukes, convicts, and stimulates their hearers, foretells of Jesus, and is filled with the Spirit of God (Thayer and Smith Greek Lexicon), a pastor of a church is a prophet to the church from God. He is a shepherd of a local church who proclaims the Word of God, just as a prophet does. Since this is the case and since the preacher is the shepherd of the church, the “anointed prophet” who wants to speak should first meet with the pastor so the pastor can determine if the word the prophet wants to speak to the church follows the guidelines above, that is, it does not add to or subtract from God’s Word, but expounds on what is in the Bible. Paul said this in verse 29 also. He said, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.” Judgment, in the Greek Lexicon means to make a distinction, to determine, separate, and to discriminate if the prophecy is from God. Hence, the judgment Paul spoke of in verse 29 is to determine if the prophet’s words are biblical or if it is counter to the revelation of God, the Bible. The pastor is the other prophet who will judge the one wanting to speak “an anointed word.”
Paul further stated in verses 32-33, “And the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” This “confusion” means instability, disorder, and disturbance. Confusion in the Bible is likened to sin in James 3:16, wars and disturbances in Luke 21:9, beatings, tumults, imprisonment, labor, sleeplessness, and hunger in 2 Corinthians 6:5, and strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, and disturbances in 2 Corinthians 12:20. Confusion is not from God, but from Satan. God does not want confusion and chaos in His Church and puts His shepherds over His churches to judge the words of others as to the source of their revelation and if they are biblical. The pastor is the prophet to the church from God who helps maintain order in the church for God.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul spoke of prophets and tongues and gave guidelines for their use in the church. What the prophet and speaker of tongues must ensure is that the word they speak is edifying and that it is biblical. If it is not biblical, it is not from God. Additionally, the method to use to speak what you feel is a word from God must be done in an orderly manner. The person must speak with the pastor, God’s prophet for that church. The pastor will determine from the Deuteronomic guidelines and his own biblical studies if the word to be shared with the church is acceptable according to God.
Finally, this chapter is secondary to 1 Corinthians 13. In chapter 13, Paul said, “If I have the gift of prophecy…but do not have love, I am nothing” (13:2). When a person speaks to a church or pastor, what they say must be done out of love for the hearers. If it is not, then the person is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (13:1). Because the gifts of prophecy are “done away” and love never fails, love for God and His people must be the overarching requirement for a prophet/speaker. Biblical teaching is the second requirement for prophets, which includes edification of the church. The final requirement is that the prophet go about getting to speak and speaking in an orderly manner, from the first talk with the pastor to presenting the teaching to the church in a way they understand – considering language and method. A true prophet today will teach or preach what God revealed in His persevered Word, the sixty-six books of the canon