Summary: Did you know that God has rules about talking in Church? There is an entire chapter in the Bible that addresses this. It is 1 Cor. 14.
Rules for Talking in Church
1 Cor. 14:1-39
When I was little, one thing I remember about going to church was that I was supposed to be quiet. My mom and dad made it clear that there were dire consequences for disobeying this rule. Even passing notes was considered breaking the rule. As far as I was concerned, church was a time to be quiet. Of course, it was ok to sing. You could even mumble an “amen” at certain places, but the general rule of thumb was, “keep your mouth shut and your ears open.” Now, you are looking at a talker. Maybe that’s part of why I became a preacher, so I could talk in church.
Did you know that in the Bible there are rules for talking in Church? God’s word takes talking in Church seriously. This 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians is all about talking in church. Let’s notice the things he says about appropriate talking and inappropriate talking in Church.
First, we find that there is an unusual feature in this Corinthian church that we don’t see here today. People were talking in other languages. Evidently many of the Christians here had received the spiritual gift of tongues and they enjoyed showing it off at church. What instruction does God’s word give about this?
1. Whatever you say in church needs to be understandable to all.
2. A better gift than tongues is the gift of prophecy, because it helps those that hear it the first time.
3. If a person is able to speak in tongues, but there is no one there to interpret what is said, he must be silent and speak to himself and to God. (vs 28).
Second, we find that the church in Corinth is full of people with something to say.
In fact, Paul says: When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation… (vs 26) Each of those five things has something to do with talking. It looks like everyone that came to church there in Corinth came with something to say or sing. This was a very talky church group. I’ve been in Bible classes like that at times. The teacher asks a question and it hits a nerve. Suddenly everyone in the class has a comment. We generally take turns, but if the subject is exciting enough, people start talking with the person next to them. But in order to get the picture of what the Bible is addressing here, lets use our imagination for a minute: just imagine that it is the middle of worship and everyone is talking at once. And let’s also suppose that some of the group are speaking in French, Russian, Spanish and Greek. With that in mind, let’s also imagine that you are a visitor just walking into the building when something like that is going on. What would you think about this church? Well, that is the picture we have of a Corinthian Church of Christ service according to this passage. It wasn’t just the men speaking out, the women seem to be joining in as well.
What does the Bible say about this kind of situation? Is it good? No! It is hindering them and not helping them at all. The picture we get is not of a group of people in a church building with a pulpit and pews, but more of a fellowship hall full of people all talking together or here and there, someone speaking in a tongue. It is chaotic. So Paul uses a word three times in this chapter that only occurs 10 times in the whole Bible. The word is sigao. (Occurrences of “sigao,” which means, be silent. Luke 9:36; 18:39; 20:26; Acts 12:17; 15:12; 15:13; Romans 16:25; 1 Cor. 14:28, 30, 34).
Twice about men and once about women, Paul says, let them be silent in church. Here are the rules of silence:
1. If you are a tongues speaker and there’s no one there to interpret, be silent. 28.
2. If you are speaking and someone else receives a revelation with something to say, be silent. 30.
3. If you are a woman in the assembly, you are not allowed to speak, but must be silent. 34.
In the church, there is to be one speaker at a time. And Paul says that two or three sermons is enough. Most of you would agree that two sermons per Sunday, spread out over two services are enough. For some of you, one is more than sufficient.
Now, when it comes to singing in church today, we all speak together at the same time, men, women and children. But we do it in unison as we follow the song leaders direction. It would have been interesting to see the singing in Corinth. They didn’t have song books as we do. While they may have had a copy of the Psalms, not everyone would have had a copy. For this and other reasons, they seem to have done singing a little differently than we do it. Very likely, the person who brought a psalm or hymn, who we might designate as song leader, sang it solo for the church to hear and learn. We know that they did sing songs together as well. But since singing was considered teaching, it is highly probable that a man would teach it to the congregation who after learning the song would sing it together by memory. Paul comments to another church… Col. 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.