36 “Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Now we turn to Paul’s conclusion of his study on gifts with a call to focus on the Word of God as the norm for critiquing spiritual gifts.
Or did the word of God come originally from you?
The Greek expects a “no” answer to this question. Human standards are not the norm for church services. The Corinthian church did not possess unique revelation to itself. No church should think of itself as the sole guardian of truth or special privilege over other churches. This question of Paul’s is dripping with sarcasm.
Or was it you only that it reached?
Again, the Greek expects a “no” answer to the second question. The Corinthian church was not the only church in God’s domain. Paul gave revelations of other New Testament books to other churches in Greece, such as Philippi and Thessalonica. God revealed to him New Testament books sent to Ephesus, Colossae, and other cities. The Bible was not the Corinthian church’s exclusive possession.
If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual,
Paul struck at those who supposed themselves prophetic or spiritual types.
let him acknowledge
The point of the word “acknowledge” is that the Corinthian church needed to accept the fact that Paul wrote inspired Scripture.
that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.
Paul’s commands are God’s commands. Paul’s writings are the result of direct, divine inspiration. Submission to apostolic authority is central to God’s way of doing things because only apostles or their direct associates had the right to write Scripture. The Holy Spirit never works contrary to the written Word of God.
But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.
If self-styled prophets do not recognize Paul’s writings as inspired, then there is no further argument. Anyone who does not accept apostolic authority remains in ignorance. There is no point in arguing with them further. If they wanted to reject Paul’s authority from God, then there is no further appeal that he could make. Once negative volition is entrenched, no one can make an appeal to it. This is culpable ignorance.
The “therefore” draws a conclusion to chapters 12-14.
“Brethren” is an appeal to the Corinthian church as part of the family of God.
desire earnestly to prophesy,
The phrase “desire earnestly to prophesy” repeats the first verse of this chapter and emphasizes the superiority of prophecy over tongues.
and do not forbid to speak with tongues.
Although prophecy is superior to tongues, the Corinthians were not to forbid speaking in tongues. Speaking with tongues was legitimate for the first-century church before the completion of the canon.
Let all things be done decently and in order.
Everything in the church service should be done decently (properly, becomingly) and in order, because God is not the author of confusion (14:33). The word “order” is a military term for falling in rank. There is such a thing as authority in the local church.
If we set aside Paul’s teaching, we set aside God’s teaching.
If we set aside Paul’s teaching (about the role of women, for example), we set aside God’s teaching about the subject. In no case do we show ourselves more exposed to our mental flank than when we go off half-cocked and talk about things we know nothing about. This is especially true if we preclude the Word of God in our discussions.