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1 Corinthians 14:36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?



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The backdrop to 1 Cor 14:36 instruction is given just a few verses earlier in V29-33(BSB):

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is seated, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace—as in all the churches of the saints.

Thus, Paul is encouraging the church gatherings (services) to be orderly and conducted in such a way that people do not try and shout over one another. Apparently, some thought that because God had revealed something to them, they were very special and should be heard in preference to all others. So Paul tries to dispel this notion in V36 when he says (BLB) rather literally:

Or has the word of God gone out from you? Or has it come to you only?

In more modern idiom, "do you think you are the only person who has the truth?" Paul is also reminding the members to recall that it was Paul who taught them (and many other churches) and not the other way around.

Paul is encouraging the local congregation to value the contribution of all members and what they say in their meetings. Let everyone have their say and contribute their opinion. Paul concludes this passage with the very sage advice, V40:

But everything must be done in a proper and orderly manner.

Ellicott reaches a similar conclusion in commenting on 1 Cor 14:36 -

The church at Corinth had on some of these points acted at variance with the practice of the other churches, and in a manner which assumed an independence of St. Paul’s apostolic authority. He therefore asks them, with something of sarcastic indignation, whether they are the source from whence the word of God has come, or whether they think themselves its sole recipients, that they should set themselves above the other churches, and above him?

Matthew Poole is similar:

These words look like a smart reflection upon divers members of this church of Corinth, who thought themselves wiser than all the world besides; and the apostle might foresee, that out of the high opinion they had of themselves they would much contemn and slight his directions. He therefore asks them, what they thought of themselves? Whether they thought themselves the only churches in the world, or were the first that believed in Christ, so that the gospel went out from them, and they might give law to all churches? There were churches at Jerusalem, and in several other places, before there was any church at Corinth, so as the gospel came unto them from other churches, and did not go out from them to other churches.

  • 1
    I like Ellicot's term 'sarcastic indignation'. Very apposite. (+1)
    – Nigel J
    Aug 21, 2020 at 10:33
  • Thank you so much @Dottard Aug 21, 2020 at 10:43

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