Friday, July 25, 2014

"If You are a Prophet or Spiritual Man..." (1 Cor 14,37) Finale

I want to end the series on women's ministry by looking at the climax of Paul's teaching in 1Cor 14, 37. After listing several proofs and arguments why a woman is not allowed to speak in church (the Law says so, tradition in all the churches, Corinthian church has no claim to uniqueness and therefore should not innovate or deviate from received teaching), Paul concludes this section on spiritual gifts by issuing a challenge to his readers and hearers, if anyone thinks himself to be prophet or spiritual let him acknowledge what I am writing is the Lord's commandment. Paul is not giving his opinion as he did in 1 Cor 7 about the virgins and whether to stay single or married. Paul is stating the Lord's command, like in ch 11 where he said that his understanding and practice of the Lord's communion was by revelation of the Lord. Paul is putting his apostolic authority on the line here with regard to women's role and ministry in church. And Paul claims an authority higher than prophets and prophecy (1 Cor 12, 28 where apostles are first, then second prophets in the pecking order of leadership). In fact, any prophecy is subject to the test whether it conforms to apostolic teaching. If he is a genuine prophet, he will know (by the Spirit) what Paul is saying about women not speaking in church is the Lord's commandment. There is no two-way about this. If that person does not know or acknowledge apostolic teaching, that person is ignorant and therefore cannot be a true prophet. Paul's advice is not only given to the prophets or prophetesses, but directed to all men and women who claim to be spiritual.
The idea of the spiritual man is expounded upon by Paul in the earlier part of his letter (1 Cor 2). Paul discusses three kinds of believers. Those who are of the flesh, sarkikos, those who are soulish, psyuchikos and those are spiritual, pneumatikos. Only those who are spiritual can receive the things of the Spirit as the Spirit interprets spiritual things to the spiritual. In contrast, those who are soulish or the natural man cannot accept the things of the Spirit. Thus ultimately, the test of true spirituality is whether you are able to accept apostolic teaching and the test is set towards the end of 1 Cor 14 that if anyone is a prophet or spiritual, he will be able to understand and having understod obey Paul's teaching on the exercise of spiritual gifts in general and women's role in church in particular, failing which that person is not recognized by the Lord who desires everything done decently and in good order according to His Word through the apostles.

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