Interpreting 1 Cor. 14:26

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
— 1 Corinthians 14:26

Regarding the first sentence of the verse above, do you understand this to be descriptive or prescriptive? Should our worship services be marked by each member of the congregation bringing these things to share with the rest, or was the Apostle simply describing the state of affairs in Corinth?

To ask the question more pointedly, is a church being neglectful to the whole body by not providing opportunity for each member to exercise their gifts during the worship gathering?

If a member comes to worship without bringing “a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation” is this member demonstrating a lack of faith/lack of obedience?


I think, from the immediate context, that the only interpretation is descriptive. This is part of an entire passage in which Paul is condemning their worship, and telling them that it instead needs to be done “decently.”

This is answered in vs 27.

If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn,

This command limiting the number who may speak is repeated in vs 29, then again in vs 34 when Paul forbids the women to speak. Paul is saying their services are a confusing jumble, but God is “a God of order.”

I am fairly sure, although not positive, that this is also the consensus of the good majority of non-Pentecostal commentaries as well.

On another note, however, your question above is important, as all the congregation needs to be participating in the worship service. This is why corporate, congregational worship(and I don’t mean just in singing), as opposed to a concert style, is so important. Everyone needs to be involved.


How would you answer an objection along the lines of:

“Well, I understand Paul was emphasizing order to the church in Corinth, but we have the opposite problem today. In conservative evangelical churches, very few come bringing their gifts and even fewer are willing to use them publicly–even when opportunity is given. The Corinthians were overdoing it, sure. But Paul’s vision of the worship gathering was that of each member bringing their gifts to edify the body as a whole (decently and in order), not the majority coming to observe the gifts exercised by the hired pastors and a few volunteers.”


I would say that isn’t really Paul’s focus in this part of the book. However, it is important, as seen in the fact that it was addressed earlier in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, and it is addressed in other passages like 1 Peter 4:10-11 for example.

I don’t think we necessarily have the opposite problem, so much as our modern problems tends to manifest themselves a little differently- usually in a desire not to make anyone feel “left out,” or through an inability by leadership to say no, we countenance all sorts of “indecent” or “disorderly” things in worship. One obvious example that comes to mind is the now infamous Reedemer Church ballet during offertory a few years back.


Also, sorry I took so long to reply again. It’s been a busy day.


Thanks for interacting. It was helpful to get your thoughts.

1 Like

I would respond: “That’s a really good point.”

1 Like

So does that mean our churches need even more reforming than Pastor Tim calls for? Because I don’t know if I agree that that’s a particularly good point. As a lay person, what of my gifts could possibly be of any use to the gathered congregation? It’s not to say that that’s not what spiritual gifts are for (that is, the edification of the body), but I can’t even conceive of a church service in which my “gift of knowledge” (according to the spiritual gifts inventory I took at a church leadership retreat in college) could be of use.

Do we need to create the church office or “ex post facto fact checker” where I shoot the preacher an email with all the stuff he got wrong in his sermon in a given week? I know this is snarky, and I don’t mean my snark specifically for you, but I am supremely skeptical of all teaching I’ve ever heard of spiritual gifts and get frustrated by these calls to Bruderhof-esque church order.


Laypeople should very much be involved in the work of the church – developing budgets, interacting with missionaries, welcoming visitors, teaching children, preparing meals, etc., and our Session tries to delegate as much as it can. But this happens outside the corporate worship service.

What are you looking for? I assume you are not recommending that laypeople preach sermons, administer the sacraments, lead corporate prayers (elders do this in our church), and collect the offering (deacons do this in our church). Members actively participate by listening, singing, speaking responsively, etc.

1 Like

I’m floating out a set of arguments that have been put to me to see how you all would respond. The argument is something I half agree/half disagree with, which sounds about where you all are.

According to the one who put this argument to me, this doesn’t actually count as participation. At least not enough participation. That’s not my position, though.

I’m probably going to make a thread in HH later that will shed more light on this.

Hey brother! I don’t disagree with you I just think the traditional Presbyterian approach is not prescriptive. I currently serve in a church that is similar to what you’ve described. I have also served with much blessing in churches that are far more open to the congregation participating (Scripture reading, music, etc). It’s a question not of esse but bene esse.

According to how the line of thinking has been put to me, your question demonstrates a lack of faith in the Holy Spirit’s ability to use you to build up the church and is informed not from scripture, but from unbiblical traditions about what church is. (I don’t agree with this point of view.)

“We got the results back from your gifts inventory, and it looks like you’ve been assigned to the parking lot ministry.”

I thought every church had one of those already. Is that not the case? :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m with you. But I’m at a loss for how to interact with those who hold up the Bruderhof–or something similar–as the ideal. I sorta-kinda understand the appeal, which is a focus on community. But I don’t agree that its necessary (or even helpful) to disparage most of historic ecclesiology to have intimate community.


Finally, I’ve found my calling.


For what it’s worth, I’ll share what my church does (reformed baptist).

The elders preach on any given Sunday. However, there may be an occasion from time to time where a layman in the church – one being raised up for eldership – will be asked to preach.

As for corporate prayer on Sunday morning, the elders lead this, with the exception that they select one layman from the congregation each week to pray as well. Typically this prayer centers on meditation from a particular psalm that is read that morning.

For our Sunday evening services, the elders select a layman in the church to give an exhortation based on the morning’s sermon – basically just a 5-10 minute address to the congregation regarding something they gleaned or would want to highlight from the sermon. I believe the elders use this as an occasion to encourage and develop men in the church who have a teaching gift, as well as to just encourage all men in the discipline of being able to discuss the things of God with their own families.

The elders administer the Lord’s supper and baptism. We practice closed communion, and do this on Sunday evenings.

We do have a time of public prayer in our Sunday evening services, where any member of the church (not just an attendee) may pray publicly.