Enjoying the Riches of Christ for the Building Up of the Church as the Body of Christ, by Witness Lee

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It is greater to prophesy than to speak in tongues. To prophesy is to exercise the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. Verses 23 and 24 of chapter fourteen say, “If therefore the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak in tongues, and some unlearned in tongues or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are insane? But if all prophesy and some unbeliever or unlearned person enters, he is convicted by all, he is examined by all.” Verse 23 discourages speaking in tongues, while verse 24 encourages prophesying. In chapters twelve through fourteen of 1 Corinthians Paul’s intention was to encourage the believers not to exercise more speaking in tongues but to exercise more of the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. In this matter we should not follow the traditional teachings. We have to come back to the pure Word.

First Corinthians 12:29 asks, “Are all prophets?”, but 14:31 says, “For you can all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” Not all are prophets, yet Paul says we can all prophesy. This is clear. Forget about the traditional teachings we received from Christianity. They are not accurate. There is a proverb which says, “A little knowledge is dangerous.” The traditional teachings we received from Christianity are a little knowledge. They are not adequate. Rather, they are dangerous, so we have to drop them. We must come back to the Bible, the pure Word.

“Each One Has”

Paul’s intention in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 was to encourage us to function in the meetings. In 14:26 he said, “What then, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” Each one has. Do not say that you do not have. Many in Christianity teach people to wait until they have an inspiration; without inspiration, one should not take any action in the meetings. Many of us have heard this kind of teaching, but Paul did not say, “Whenever you come together, you must wait until you have the inspiration.” Rather, he said, “Each one has.” He did not even say, “Each one will have,” but “each one has.” Each one already has. In 14:26 tongues are not first, but rather a psalm. We may not have a tongue, but we can have a psalm or hymn. Following this he speaks of a teaching and a revelation, then a tongue and an interpretation. However, what each one has is not only of these six items. Again, this list is simply an illustration, and in this illustration Paul put tongues and interpretation as the last items. Tongues and interpretation are always the last items. The first item is a psalm, that is, the singing.

Ministering Christ by Prophesying with Clear and Plain Words

Verses 23 and 24 say, “If therefore the whole church comes together…if all prophesy.…” Paul’s intention was to encourage us all to function, but not all to speak in tongues. Rather, he expected that all would prophesy. In verse 31 he says, “For you can all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” To function in the meeting is mainly to prophesy. The traditional teaching of Christianity is strong to tell us that to prophesy is simply to predict, to speak something beforehand. We must understand the meaning of prophesy in 1 Corinthians by the whole context of the book. To understand a word in a composition, we have to take care of the context of the whole composition. It is a mistake to define a word in isolation.

Verses 1 and 2 of chapter two say, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, came not according to excellence of speech or of wisdom, announcing to you the mystery of God. For I did not determine to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and this One crucified.” Verse 4 continues, “And my speech and my proclamation were not in persuasive words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” In these three verses there are two main points. First, Paul determined not to know anything but Christ, and second, his preaching was not with enticing words but in demonstration of the Spirit. Christ and the demonstration of the Spirit are the two main points of these verses. Then, verse 6 of chapter fourteen says, “But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you, unless I speak to you either in revelation or in knowledge or in prophecy or in teaching?” By putting all these verses together we can see the way in which Paul functioned in a meeting. He functioned in a meeting by ministering Christ to others. In his ministry he determined to know nothing but Christ, so no doubt the way he functioned was to minister Christ to people. Second, he did not speak in tongues in the meetings. Rather, he spoke the clear and plain word. Third, he spoke by prophesying in the meetings.

(Enjoying the Riches of Christ for the Building Up of the Church as the Body of Christ, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)