1 Corinthians 14:26-40
How is it then, brothers? when you come together, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a tongue, has a revelation…
This morning, in our coming together, we have this variety of living experiences and powers. We come into the Church out of a confused world — confusions of state, of science, of society, of the man himself. It seems as if we were in an orchestra in which every instrument is out of tune and every performer maintaining his performance to be the perfection of harmony. And what a confused Church it seems! What rival theories and speculations. Every point is disputed; all preach charity, but then it should be practised by the other side; every one hath an infallible standard, but then no one will submit to it. Every one hath a psalm, doctrine, tongue, etc., but little turns out to edifying. Yet this is not the intention of the apostle in the text. First, it is a voice to life, the description of the Church of the living God, and of the varied means of grace by which the spirit grows. It is the assurance that variety is no hindrance to edification, but rather the way to it, even as the various materials of a building do not interfere with the unity of the building, but help it forward. Then, second, it is an invocation to the sanctification of speech, with which compare Exodus 4:11. As speech distinguishes man from all the other inhabitants of the earth, so sacred speech especially distinguishes the Christian man from other men. Speech is the glorious endowment which constitutes the poet, the singer, the orator. Speech so Divine in its origin and use is to flow back to God; it is to be converted. The song is to be converted to the psalm. How dreadful is unconverted speech and its effects! When the physician visits the sick patient, one of the first things he asks him to do is to put out his tongue. He tests the state of the body by the tongue. And I am almost disposed to say to the professing Christian, "Put out your tongue." One of the first effects of holiness in the life is the purification of speech. "If a man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man." But we have in the text the constituent elements of a Divine service. Here are the five chords of a human harp, by whose charm life grows into fulness and proportion. Every one hath something; let no one be depressed on his own account, let no one be scornful on account of his neighbour.
I. Strike the first chord — "EVERY ONE OF YOU HATH A PSALM," the musical adoration. Every one of you hath a psalm that is the gladness of life — life realised as good, when the soul says, "O come, let us sing unto the Lord," etc. Even as a bird in a dark grove is heard in its sweet strain, so let your voice rise, the swell of your praise, the sob of your confession, of your grief. Say it first for yourself, "Bless the Lord, O my soul! " then say it aloud to all the congregation.
II. Then strike the second chord — EVERYONE OF YOU HATH A DOCTRINE. As there is a psalm of life, there is a doctrine of life. Man is a being of feet as well as wings. There is the practical aspect of Christian truth. Surely every one of you knows something; you have lines, you have laws and statutes, even as the noblest musician has his notes and bars and scale of melody! And the doctrine is the guide, the law of life. What is arithmetic without numbers? What is language without letters? So religion is intangible without creed.
III. And then strike the third chord — EVERY ONE OF YOU HATH A TONGUE, i.e., language that is especially his own. The accent is the soul. How different are real words, real prayers, and yet the accent is true. Some tongues are as if tipped with shafts of fire, and some distil as the dew. Some words swell with passion, and some flow like music. How varied are the accents of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, and John!
IV. Then there is the fourth chord — EVERY ONE OF YOU HATH A REVELATION. Every Christian has had his own satisfying vision; this is the story of his soul, as when Paul said, "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me"; but let us not make our revelation the absolute standard to another.
V. Then there is the fifth chord — EVERY ONE OF YOU HATH AN INTERPRETATION, and that is the consolation of hope; and as the revelation is to a man, so will his interpretation be; what I have seen and felt in the Bible is that which I shall draw forth from it. Every one hath his own interpretation, his own mode of reading his Bible, if he read it with his own eyes; and of what avail is it to me to read my Bible with the eyes of another man? Conclusion: And life does all this. Life is the spirit in which all is performed; no life then, no psalm, no doctrine, etc. On the other hand, a living psalm, a living doctrine, etc., that all may be done to edifying.
Parallel VersesKJV: How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
WEB: What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up.