In most modern church meetings, the church leader speaks to all the people present. His sermon is a speech that, usually, he has prepared carefully for the occasion. Its purpose is to teach the people, or to help them in their relationship with God.
We would expect that something similar happened in the first Christian churches. That is correct: 1 Corinthians 14:6 shows that the people expected their leader to speak at their meetings. However, it also shows great variety in the ways that he spoke to them.
Paul uses 4 different words here to describe what the leader should say: revelation, knowledge, prophecy, teaching. They all mean either a message from God, or something that God has shown to the leader. So, the leader’s words must come from God. The purpose of his speech is not to impress people or to entertain. It is to give a message from God to the people.
A ‘revelation’ means something that God has shown. It does not come from the person’s mind or his imagination (2 Corinthians 12:1; Galatians 1:12; Revelation 1:1). However, he then uses his intelligence to teach the revelation to other people.
‘Knowledge’ can be a gift of the Spirit (12:8). However, here perhaps the word has its ordinary meaning: something that someone has learned (2 Corinthians 11:6). The leader has learned something, and he uses his intelligence to explain it to the people.
‘Prophecy’ means a message from God, which a person speaks by the power of the Holy Spirit (12:10).
‘Teaching’ is a lesson. In church, it should always be about the Bible and about God (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.