Troublesome Topic: Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 14:32-33a

1 Corinthians 14:32


Moreover, [the] spirits of [the] prophets is obedient

Go to footnote number

to [the]

Go to footnote number



Moreover, even when one who has the spiritual gift of exhortation is moved by the Holy Spirit to speak, he can and should control himself; he can keep his comments short and allow opportunity for other prophets to speak also. He is even capable of shutting down quickly if the Holy Spirit moves on someone else to speak.


It appears that another abuse going on in Corinth was that someone would start exhorting the congregation and go on and on for a very long time while claiming that “the Holy Spirit made me do it and I cannot resist the Holy Spirit.” They claimed that when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and commands you to speak, you lose all control, and you cannot resist the Spirit’s flow. To the contrary, Paul lays down the rule that all gifts, spiritual and otherwise, must be exercised under the control of one’s will, for the Holy Spirit does not take that away from us.

Go to footnote number

We are expected to exercise spiritual gifts by being very sensitive to the Spirit. We can say “yes,” or “no” to the Spirit’s urgings. We must choose. We can even start by following His lead and then take over and speak thoughts that are ours instead of His.

Here are a couple good quotes about the verse above. “A holy self-restraint must characterize the Christian” even when using the gracious gifts of the Spirit (From the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges). “An unruly prophet is therefore no genuine prophet; he lacks one of the necessary marks of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling” (From the Expositor’s Greek Testament).


The best illustration I can think of for this issue is that of a horse being guided by the reins in the hands of a rider. The horse can choose to obey or disobey the commands of the rider, although there will be discomfort if it disobeys. The rider appears to be in control; he is telling the horse what to do. But the horse still has the use of its will, so the control of the rider is not 100%. When things go well, the rider’s control should be very close to 100%, but anyone who has ridden a cantankerous, head-strong, obstinate horse knows that sometimes the control of the rider is close to zero! What kind of horse are you?

1 Corinthians 14:33


for He is not the God of disorder

Go to footnote number

but of wholeness.

Go to footnote number

As in all the assemblies

Go to footnote number

of the saints,


for our God is not a God who accepts, promotes, or causes the instability that comes from tumult, rather He is the God of healthy wholeness. As in all the churches of the ones God has purified,


Even if the Holy Spirit were inclined to take control over someone so powerfully as to negate the person’s use of free will (which He does not do), the Spirit would not create disorder, confusion, and strife because God is not the author of disorder. To do so would violate His character. We can surmise that the situation in Corinth was way out of control, therefore Paul felt the need to remind them that our God is not the author of the kind of chaos they brought to their worship services. They claimed that what they were doing was coming from God. His answer was: “That’s impossible!”


Does my life cause people to say “Surely God is in you”?

Am I consistently seeking to build others up?

Do I gladly seek to help people who are different from me to accept the Gospel?

Or does God have to do something special to persuade me to accept those who are different?

Am I a source of chaos for those around me?

Or, am I a source of calm for those around me?

Am I sensitive to the Holy Spirit as I strive to serve others?

Are there aspects of my life in which I need to work hard to bring order where I had caused or allowed disorder?

If any of the questions above revealed some things you need to work on, write them down right now, then prayerfully make a plan for how to bring such changes to fruition.


I have explored that possibility, and I now believe that it very well may have been the same person because it would explain some of the things Paul said in I Corinthians and it would cause several things to have a place where they fit nicely. However, my answer is too long to place here. Instead you can find it under Troublesome Topics/Tongues/Additional Subtopics about tongues, or you can click on this link WAS IT THE IMMORAL MAN OF I CORINTHIANS 5 WHO STARTED COUNTERFEIT TONGUES?


Beginning with the second half of this verse, Paul interjects comments about another source of chaos in their meetings; it has to do with women speaking out whenever they wanted to, taking control of the meeting in order to say their piece, refusing to respect the leadership of the church, ignoring the rule about orderliness in their meetings, and disregarding the rule that all things must be done to help others grow.

The last lesson in the Full Series on Tongues is: Precepts about Tongues from I Cor 14:33b -35

The next lesson in the Mid length and Short series on Tongues is: Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 14:39 & 40


1: "obedient”:

This word often means “subject to, in submission to,” but in the middle/passive voice, which is used here, the meaning is “obedient to” which is all the other meanings in action.


The lack of articles in this verse probably means that the nouns are considered in a general sense, not a specific sense, i.e. prophets in general, with no certain ones in mind.

3: Does the Holy Spirit Control Us?

While trying to make things clear to a modern audience, many Christians, including myself, talk and write about the “control” of the Holy Spirit in our lives. However, this is not the term the Bible

uses to describe it. The New Testament calls it being “filled with the Holy Spirit,” or being “in the Spirit.” Our phrase “controlled by the Holy Spirit” is not completely wrong, but it is not completely right either. Ephesians 5:18 compares being filled with the Holy Spirit to being intoxicated with wine – which takes control of a person. But I Cor 14:32 teaches that the spirit of the prophets (their inner being) should be obedient to (controlled by) the prophet himself. This tells us that God never expects us to give up our decision-making capability altogether. So there is tension here. Does the Holy Spirit control us or not? The teaching of the New Testament appears to answer that question with a confusing “yes and no at the same time.” Yes, He sometimes controls us, but without violating our free will, without changing our personality, our speaking style, or our normal use of vocabulary. It is still you or me speaking, just controlled, to a large degree, by the Holy Spirit. If you can recall a time when the Holy Spirit did something special through you, the degree to which the Spirit controlled you in that moment was so strong that it felt like it was 100% control, but I Cor 14:32 shows us that we always have the freedom to say “yes” or say “no” to the Holy Spirit.

4: "disorder"

The word used here has a root meaning of “instability.” It is a compound word made up of the words “down” and “standing,” or we would say, “to not stand,” i.e. something unstable. Such instability is the result of tumult, disorder, upheaval, revolution, war and possibly anarchy. Thus it is a very strong word. It includes the causes and the result.

5: "wholeness"

This word is usually rendered “peace.” To us the word “peace” means the absence of war and strife, but that is extremely narrow compared to the way Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek expressed it. This Greek word means “oneness, wholeness, to join, tie together into a whole”, or “when all essential parts are joined together.” The Hebrew word meant “wholeness or wellbeing” with an emphasis on health. For the Jew, it was an all-inclusive picture of mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. For my translation I have chosen “wholeness” because it emphasizes health through unity, tying together the Hebrew and Greek meanings and addressing the problems that were present in the church at Corinth.


This is the word for “assembly or church;” it comes from the words “call out,” thus the church is made up of those who are called out from the world to the assembly of God’s people.